This was a sad year for film attendance on my part. There were dozens and dozens of films I wanted to see but I simply didn’t make the effort. More’s the pity because there appeared to be a slew of fantastic new works. If we’re being honest here, if I wasn’t working on my own film I basically watched Twin Peaks repeatedly the entire year to the neglect of almost everything else. I have fallen into the trappings of “the Netflix” and “the hulu”. Understandably though, as television is as ambitious, daring, quality and cinematic as it has ever been. Peaky Blinders and Blackstone really grabbed my attention. Ill get around to Breaking Bad some day. The debate has begun if TV is now the eminent platform for adult entertainment. Still, I reach to the big screen for a truly transcendent experience. Keislowski’s Blue is nowhere near as resonant on my laptop as it was at the International House on 35mm. The David Lynch Film Retrospective was the unequivocal highlight of the year for me personally. Lost Highway (on 35mm as well), volume cranked and introduced by David Lynch himself? Yes please and thank you.
Ultimately, I feel that I cannot provide a comprehensive or fair Top 10, so I call this list my 2014 Films of Note. You will notice a lean to the East.
1. Why Don’t You Play In Hell by Shion Sono. Sign me up any time this nut makes a flick. My Favorite film this year by a mile and easily my favorite “film about film” in a long while. A ragtag group of devoted film buffs self-called F#ckbombers are dedicated to making a masterwork of their own and in the process get entangled with a Yakuza revenge plot. Hilarity, ingenuity and ultraviolence ensue. Sono is a generous and animated filmmaker that has yet to disappoint me.
2. Under The Skin by Johnathan Glazer. I think of this film about three times a week. An inimitable mood has been created. The film is thrilling for its ambiguities as much as it is with its bizarre and dark visuals.
3. Au Revoir L’ete. Koji Fukuda takes Ozu into slightly seedier territory while retaining a sense of the air and the freshness of small moments. A young woman of 18 spends some time at her aunt’s seaside home to study for her University Entrance exams and distracts herself with the emotional goings on of her family and acquaintances.
4. My Man by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri. Everybody loves a moody incest murder story once in a while. This one takes you on a dark and agonizing journey. Young Hana is an orphaned refugee from the 3/11 disaster and is taken in by her only remaining relative Jungo. As Hana grows up she and Jungo develop a sexual relationship that is neither easy to watch nor easy for the characters themselves to deal with.
5. Moebius by Kim Ki Duk …you cannot unsee this. Im not even going to summarize, but I will say that despite any degree of brutality or debauchery that Kim reaches, he always uses it toward something soulful. In that way he challenges us, always.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson as controlled and yet as unleashed as he has ever been. Bask in the glorious excess, relish the utter precision, and saturate yourself in the color.
7. Boyhood by Richard Linklater. This one was transportive. A piece of uncommonly dedicated cinema. Linklater treats the 2000’s with a sense of effortless recollection (probably because the film was being made in tandem with the actual time periods represented, but the fact that the subtle tones of those temporal shifts are discernible speaks to Linklater’s perceptivity), as does he articulate this Boy becoming a complex and thinking person with incremental savvy.
8. The One I Love by Charlie McDowell. Wears its contrivance well. Knowing too much would ruin the fun. I suspect re-watching would have a diminishing effect, but as a single viewing I was quite pleased. Duplass and Moss are fantastic and have both convincing chemistry and anti-chemistry.
9. Sendai Transmissions and Systole I by Gene Coleman. These companion pieces of cinema and experimental musical composition are syntactical loveletters to the complex architecture of Toyo Ito represented in the Sendai Meditheque building in Japan. Transmissions and Systole, experienced with a live score composed by Coleman and performed by his international Ensemble N_JP were riveting for all their visual and linguistic adventurousness . Among all the contenders for “best films of the year,” I see little to no non-narrative considerations. Here’s my vote.
10. The Great Passage by Yuya Ishii. Nothing groundbreaking here, just a sensitive story about people writing a dictionary. I appreciate the tactful depiction of a man who is clearly on the autism/aspergher’s spectrum who is given the opportunity to succeed, not in spite of his condition, but because of it.