My favourite films of 2014, Part 3

4 01 2015

Did I say check back yesterday for my top films? Well, here they are a day late. Not that anyone was just dying to know.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

I love Wes Anderson’s whismy. I know it’s not for everyone — when I caught Moonrise Kingdom, I often found myself to be the only one chuckling in the back — but I love it and find it truly endearing. There’s no other filmmaker like him, and I like that he seems to know exactly what he wants to see. Grand Budapest feels like a film that has been a long time coming: Anderson’s ultimate Andersonian film. Bright colours, miniatures, Alexandre Desplat’s cutesy score, awkward moments, and Ralph Fiennes finally not being annoying, it’s a film that makes me look forward to whatever fantastic art this director is creating next, more than any other director on this list.

3. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Originally, I had planned to watch this at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It was surprisingly only showing on one day, and unfortunately, at the same time as a chapbook-making workshop that I really wanted to attend. So I sold my ticket to a co-worker (I really didn’t want to see it go to waste). When I saw her next, I asked her what she thought of the film.

“It was good, pretty good. Seven out of ten.”

I was disappointed. As possibly the last film to be made from the world-renowned animation company Studio Ghibli, I was really hoping for great things. I mean, the film is about a bamboo cutter who finds a little princess in a bamboo shoot one day and raises her with his wife. How lovely is that?

Fortunately, the film came back to Vancouver. I got a ticket, a bag of popcorn, and settled myself in for a meh movie.

This is not a meh movie. This is by far the best animated film I’ve seen this year, and one of the best Studio Ghibli films ever made. I’m not just saying that either. I wasn’t expecting such a joyful, exuberant, and ultimately heartbreaking film. And yeah, I’m a fan of heartbreak so maybe I’m biased, but even all that aside, this film is such a gorgeous film that will — should — convert you from bland American CG animation to the wonders of hand-drawn art.

(I haven’t seen the dubbed version, but needless to say, catch the original Japanese audio with subs if you can)

2. Under the Skin

What?? you may be saying. Under the Skin is so weird and overhyped and I couldn’t get into it at all!

And you know what? That’s fine. Not everyone can get into this film. It’s experimental, it’s bizarre, it’s got naked men with hard-ons in it (and not Ben Affleck either). What’s to like?

I found this film to be essentially what film should be: moving images. Film is a visual medium, and a lot of people (filmmakers included) seem to forget that. A picture should be carefully created, exactly like a photograph. Director Jonathan Glazer seems to understand this. Yes, there are so many weird things in here, but consider what it means before dismissing it as too weird. What else is going on in the frame? Does a tiny circle growing into a disc combined with mechanical sounds perhaps suggest the creation of an eye? Does it also not make you wonder how human eyes are even created?

For a film about an alien, this film oddly makes you think about what it means to be human. Maybe it is that simple.

1. Stranger by the Lake

So if you have penisphobia, you best stay away from Under the Skin (though it does feature naked Scarlett Johansson) and this film. I love that Alan Giraudie was able to create a genuinely thrilling thriller using only the audio recorded on location. Take that, crappy Hollywood films.

It’s daring, it’s erotic, it’s suspenseful, Stranger by the Lake is my favourite film of 2014.



4 responses

5 01 2015

It’s not that people couldn’t “get into” Under the Skin. It’s that the structure is flawed. It takes about an hour for her to decide to deviate (although it felt like several), and that’s just too long. So there’s the long stretch where it’s obvious what’s going on and even where it’s going to go eventually, but the audience is ahead of the film, waiting around.

5 01 2015

I agree that the film could feel long. Fifty minutes in, I had to check how much time had gone by, only ask myself, “Is Scarlett Johansson going to spend another hour killing more men?” Unless I’m bored out of my mind or I’m not enjoying what I’m watching, I don’t usually try to guess what will happen next, and in this case, the story and the atmosphere kept me hooked enough to just go for the ride.

Now Foxcatcher, on the other hand, moves at the pace of molasses and isn’t enjoyable, but that’s another post.

9 01 2015
9 01 2015

Yes, under the skin is not an easy film to watch. It’s not easy because it doesn’t spoon feed you the answers. The viewer has do to a bit of work to get through it and enjoy. If you don’t engage with further than a literal level chances are you won’t get much from it.

The ambiguity and simplicity of plot is it’s strength.

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