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.

“The King’s Speech” — Alexandre Desplat (from The King’s Speech soundtrack)

27 02 2011

Well, I don’t know what to write about tonight and though I could easily spew something random and post it under Random stuff, I’ll push myself to instead write about The King’s Speech instead, since the Oscars were tonight and all.

Alright, so Alexandre Desplat may have lost out to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network (I can’t criticize that decision since I haven’t seen the film nor have heard the score) but that doesn’t mean he did a bad job with TKS.  I’ve posted the main theme from the film, of the same title.  I like the simplicity of the production and the instrumentation that Desplat is so very skilled at doing.  In just under 4 minutes, I feel like he encapuslates the entire emotion, the experience of the film: from the opening, hopeful melody changing into more dramatic, then into the minor key, if you haven’t seen the film before, it’s a good preview of what to expect.

After watching clips of The King’s Speech at the Oscars and hearing the score, I want to see the movie again!  But alas, the confines of school and my so-called life prevent me from venturing out to the theatres.  Guess I’ll just have to listen to the soundtrack on repeat, and continue to want to see the film again until I implode.

Forbidden Frienship — John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon Soundtrack)

25 02 2011

Up against veteran composers like Alexandre Desplat, Hans Zimmer, and also Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman, John Powell’s resume is just as comprehensive and long as Desplat and Zimmer’s.  According to IMDB, his first break in scoring happened in 1989, so he’s been around for a while.  It’s just taken him a long time to get noticed by the Academy, apparently.

How to Train Your Dragon is an alright film.  It’s enjoyable, yes, and I haven’t seen Toy Story 3 so I can’t compare it to that one but it probably won’t win the best animated feature film at the Oscars on Sunday.  However, I think John Powell does have a relatively good chance at winning the Oscar for Original Score.  When I saw HTTYD, the melody and the score really stuck out to me, particularly the main theme that’s played again and again in the film.  I’ve chosen to feature a different track from the film titled “Forbidden Friendship” which I think is really moving and full of some wonderful stuff, not to mention it’s not as popular as the main theme.

I haven’t heard the soundtrack from Rahman or Trent Reznor for The Social Network but from the other three films I’ve seen, it’s between Zimmer and Powell for the Oscar for original score.  In the meantime, enjoy this track!