I am not a fan of awards shows. I have always felt that they are little more than popularity contests and more about album or ticket sales than artistic merit. Far too many talented people and creative endeavors are overlooked because of the presiding committees’ politics, limited palettes or simple lack of awareness.
2014 happened to be an amazing year for both music and film and although I did not watch the Grammy Awards, I find myself slightly curious about the Oscars for once. I couldn’t care less about the show itself, but quite few of my personal favorites have been nominated this year and it’s great to see some very atypical films being recognized.
Generally, I don’t do a year end list of my favorite films because I am always so far behind on recent theatrical releases. This year is no different in that regard, but I would like to share the most notable ones I have seen so far, keeping in mind that this list will need to be added to over the next few weeks and months.
Finding Vivian Maier
I wrote a separate post about this documentary earlier this year. You should read my post and then you should see this film.
I was on the fence about wanting to see Frank. I honestly had no idea what to make of the trailer, but after hearing good things from numerous people, I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did. What seemed like to totally ridiculous concept turned out to be a really wonderful film. It somehow manages to make fun of eccentric musicians while simultaneously celebrating their creativity. What I didn’t expect, was the honest portrait of anxiety, depression and mental illness that is slowly revealed as the story develops.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I have always been intrigued by Wes Anderson’s films. They are always visually stunning and although they can be hit or miss story-wise, The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely a hit and my favorite Wes Anderson film to date.
A desperate man with questionable ethics, trying to break into local TV news in Los Angeles. It sounds straight forward enough, but I could not believe how far this character was willing to go to get the story or the shot. Jake Gyllenhaal is FANTASTIC in this film and Rene Russo is awesome as well. Nightcrawler does not paint a very flattering portrait of the TV news business or the people it employs and there are more than a few scenes that will make your skin crawl. The camera does not flinch and I guarantee you will need to take a shower after watching this one. Brutal.
The One I Love
This is a very unusual story that starts off with the basic premise of a couple in therapy going away for the weekend at the recommendation of their marriage counselor, but there is a very unexpected twist pretty early on. Other than mentioning the fact that the extremely awesome Elisabeth Moss is in this film, I can’t really say much else without giving it all away, so you’re just going to have to trust me.
The Skeleton Twins
The trailer made The Skeleton Twins look like a comedy, but there are some extremely heavy themes looming here. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader do an impressive balancing act between awkward humor and really uncomfortable, life-changing scenarios.
As impressed as I was with the acting and intensity of this film (J.K. Simmons is the man), I was also blown away by the musicianship that is on display here, including that of lead actor Miles Teller. The way this film was shot and edited made it very clear that Miles did most, if not all of his own drumming and that is no small feat. Even if you are not a musician or a jazz fan, this is a must-see. Whiplash is an exhausting ride, but damn is it worth it.