Back from Hiatus | Great films I’ve seen (so far) in 2014

“How many films do you average per year?” The Bear probed suspiciously, doubtful of the fact that yours truly qualifies as a cinephile.

Though my first instinct was reason that quantity does not imply quantity, failing which I would throw a violent punch if he eyed me suspiciously over that mug of steaming hot cocoa again; the superego side of me decided to let it slide for the time being. If a tussle did ensue, the odds are stacked against me.

Besides, the poor sod may have paid membership to some expensive bourgeoisie “local film interest group” but he’d never once attended a single group outing.

N would laugh at the silliness and absurdity of having to compete with some movie buff who thinks Vampyr is the greatest horror film ever made. But that’s another story.

And even though I have since decided to completely ignore The Bear’s nosy inquiry into some imaginary connection that I have with “Oooh you know Anthony Chen and the famous Ilo Ilo movie?”, the OCD in me remains compelled to rehash all films seen for the most part of 2014. I’ve included after thoughts on the ones that made an impression. Here’s my watched-list for all the ones rated Masterpiece.

The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza)

Ageing journalist takes stock of his life in a beautiful city where everyone is grotesque. I really admire Paolo Sorrentino’s compositional sense. Characters are often geographically assembled in visual hierarchies of arresting context. It is exactly the way a great movie should be.

LANGUAGE IN ITALIAN 

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Nebraska 

Story’s about elderly man Woody who received a mailer scam implying that he won the lottery worth 1 million bucks. He obsesses over it and keeps vanishing from the house, bent on claiming the prize money by walking from Montana to Nebraska. Worried middle-aged son David finally relents and accompanies him on the faux journey. The one million Macguffin drives the story, but this picture by Alexander Payne is really an eloquent feature on male disappointment, poverty and regrets. Everything may be monochrome, sparse and wintry but still, I think Nebraska is terrific because Woody is a convincing person, so is David. Characters inspire identification and authenticity is always a good thing.

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Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit)

There is a real sense here that the space and reality of Two Days, One Night has the relevance of modern social-political commentary. “Will you vote for me?” — the same question asked repeatedly, is illuminated by varying personal realities. Thus allowing the audience to consider the same situation with changing arguments and evolving perspectives. Every step of the way, the audience absorbs a broad spectrum of humanity as reactions toward Sandra ricochet between doubt and certainty: selfish and cruel, unapologetic and indifferent, defensive and guilt-ridden, conflicted and hesitant, kind and compassionate. At one point, it had me wondering if Sandra for the sake of some colleagues dangerously close to the margins of poverty, probably shouldn’t be appealing at all — after all, their knapsacks are so much tinier and more fragile than the sling bag draped across her hunched, bony shoulders.

All the above reflects just one, out of several thought experiments found in the plot design. One particular sub-plot examines Sandra’s level of resilience as a recovering depressive, and culminates in an episode involving a box of Xanax. Here, Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) turns in her role with master class technique — she applies subdued, matter-of-fact emotional tone with the kind of authenticity and resignation made possible only by an exhausted, dehumanized, defeated soul. Less is accurately more.

LANGUAGE IN FRENCH

Full review >>>

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Leviathan (2012)

Ingenious metaphors fill this experimental documentary about the North American fishing industry frame after frame. Absolutely stunning work by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel.

★★★★★

Other films I’ve seen that fall under this category: Michael Apted’s Seven Up! to 56 Up Series 

Movie Meter Count: 12

remembering excellent films of 2014…

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