For a look at what movies made my 10-6 list, click here..
5. Under the Skin
Johansson was a surprise for me here. The turning point in the movie, and one of my favorite parts, is when she's staring at herself in the mirror and we see her become self-aware -- something outside of herself, a being that does more than rely on animal senses and prey on the senses of others.
Also, it should be noted that this was the very first movie, first date, and the lead to the first great conversation that I had with a guy named Jeremiah so this movie will always have a soft spot for me.
Original review here.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Speaking of meticulous thought, can we please talk about aspect ratio? Shot in 1.33, 1.85, and 2.35:1 -- each for the different timelines of the movie, Fox Searchlight actually sent out specific instructions to theaters on how to properly screen this movie.
But more than the technical aspects of the movie, is the dual aspect of the outlandish versus restraint. Anderson follows much of the same formula of his former movies, making the slight deviations from it even more surprising. Like his concierge M. Gustav (played by a Ralph Fiennes I haven't delighted in this much comedically since In Bruges) who displays a polished sheen, we're surprised all the more when an expletive slips from his lips. Anderson's deviations made me gasp in surprise at times, whether they came in the form of suddenly severed fingers or not-so-suddenly severed head.
There's a thematic idea of nostalgia, recognition of bygone days, and also a consummate feeling of loss that threads the movie and I love that Anderson doesn't indulge in it to make his point. There are some memories that are too dear for the storyteller to share with us, and we see glimpses of this in the brief bicycle ride of Agatha and the beautiful shot of her on the carousel.
There was a lot for Anderson fans to crow over (I mean come on, Anderson kind of just threw Bill Murray and Owen Wilson in there to cater to us, right?). As for Anderson naysayers? I almost feel like Anderson heard all the criticism, took it, and exaggerated it so much in this movie it was practically a parody of himself at times. You do you, Anderson.
Original review here.
Let's talk about aspect ratio first, since it was mentioned with Wes Anderson. Ida is shot in black and white 1.37, giving it an almost boxy aspect while acting as a throwback to cinema days of old. The look and the religious wrestlings it offers is evocative of Bergman, who's also dear to my heart. Pawel Pawlikowski really brings life, light, and beauty to the subject matter and you can literally freeze any frame of this movie and capture a beautiful shot.
And of course on the note of beautiful, it must be said that Agata Trzebuchowska is perfect for the title role with her dark, almost animal eyes which shine innocent, accusatory, and fathomless at different moments. Pawlikowski reportedly had such a difficult time finding his actress, he asked friends to secretly take pictures of any strangers they might think appropriate...which is how Trzebuchowska was found in a cafe.
There's a simplicity and depth to the story of a novitiate who finds her beliefs thrown into question. Her quest isn't just one into her past, but also an examination of her heart and figuring out what it is she truly desires. The clincher for me though was the penultimate scene when she's sitting on the bed and asking Lis "And then? And then?" I think it's a question that many of us ask, whether meant religiously or not. What next? And is it enough?
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu deserves all the accolades for directing, but immense admiration should be heaped on all of the superb actors who were under tremendous strain to maintain the energy and discipline necessary for a movie that purposefully unravels in sanity from the get-go. And the topper is that absolutely stunning last scene with Emma Stone.
For me the reason this movie is number two isn't just because of the stunned gasped for air feeling it left me with, but the alter ego of Birdman. We all suffer from an alter ego that goads us into believing we're above what we're doing, that degrades us and discourages from who we might be, and even makes us believe we're going a little insane. What is the virtue of ignorance that Inarittu means from the subtitle? Is it the ignorance of reality that we all shed as we grow older and less naive? Is it the ignorance of our public image that makes us desperately grasp for a chance to be seen? Or is it the ignorance of a birdman that could cripple us from feeling fulfilled?
Inarittu makes nods to the hypocrisy we affect when we lose meaning to the very words we repeat in order to emphasize them. Maybe it all is in Riggan's head. But even so, wouldn't you like to know how it feels to fly like he does?
Original review here.
Whiplash comes closest to what I felt as a music student and what I feel as a musician today. It captures the driving need to not just play and not just be, but to be someone great. It's not just about self-recognition, but what it means to be an artist in a world that isn't gauged to understand or applaud what you do. And it even takes a look at that moment where you're tempted to give everything up because you can't accept plodding along as an average somebody that is merely passable.
It's not that Andrew doesn't want to have a girlfriend or anything outside of his music. You can see he does in the very first shots where he notices a girl folding hair over her ear and when he asks out Nicole with the first ounce of confidence he has. But what he wants out of life is much more consuming than that. His ego is so big, it looms larger than his self-worth.
His final moment in the spotlight is as much a triumph as it is a tragedy. He achieves a transcendence, but it might come at the cost of his self. Immortality is sometimes entwined too tightly to a sort of insanity, and to achieve something in this life we perhaps have to admit how much we want it, even at the cost of self-destruction.
I wish I could put to better words what this movie made me feel. I'll just say that I feel a burning desire to watch Whiplash every month, but can't help feeling that each viewing would be too painful.
Inherent Vice -- Ah, the other magnificent Anderson. This movie was so so close to making my top ten, borne along the waves of my love for Paul Thomas Anderson. Inherent Vice is a hilarious cromedy trip through the eyes of Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), shot on a beautiful 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the grainy beach shots give an old California vibe that's completely individual from The Master released only a year before. Anderson captures the paranoia and closeted meanderings of Thomas Pynchon with his slowly encroaching zoom-ins (that had me clutching the seats every single time), and Joaquin Phoenix has the most amazing control of his facial expressions ever known to man. At some point early on, you have to let the plot go, especially when the steps of the investigation reveal themselves in a parade of paranoid coincidences and let yourself enjoy the ride. Also a phenomenal closing shot...and Owen Wilson has the best "what the fuck" face ever seen.
Calvary -- Another movie solidly on my top ten list until the last rush of 2014 movies, Calvary is a keen look at modern faith and what people do when they lose it in the church and each other. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, the movie teeters over to self-awareness too often for me but it's refreshing and charming when done right. The movie asks what happens when we're unable to forgive, and again that last shot takes the cake. It really is gorgeous.
Annnd that's all she wrote. I'd love to hear what you think though! There were really so many more movies I enjoyed and several I considered while making this list!