One of the biggest challenges for film fans is striking a balance between checking out the latest releases and catching up with past greats. A glance at my viewing history shows the push and pull of these two groups throughout the year. This blog's structure makes it easier to stay on track, but it's still a challenge. The benefit in looking back is discovering incredible movies for the first time. Some have received tremendous acclaim, while others are recent but less recognizable. I've looked back at 2014 and identified five choices that stand out from the crowd. These films made a huge impression right away and have stuck with me throughout the year. I've included a quote from my original post about each pick, and they've been listed chronologically by release year.
The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)
“Clouzot finds moments of humanity during the journey, but the end result leaves a hollow feeling about our future. The changes of the industrial age will destroy the world, and even determined individuals can’t stop their inevitable destruction.”
Pierrot Le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966)
“Godard’s taking risks and pushing us out of the narrative, and that freewheeling style is enjoyable. On the other hand, his daring moves feel a little hollow since it’s all for show. It’s this contradiction that makes Godard interesting since we’re still in a recognizable film world.”
The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
“All of this has happened before, and it will happen again. The cycle of war and upheaval is harder to understand here in the States, but it’s a common trend around the world. This story gives insight into the challenges facing any nation under foreign rule.”
Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2013)
“How many of our friendships revolve around adoring movies, music, or another pursuit? It’s this passion that makes us human and brings depth to every connection. That nuanced enjoyment rings true and builds an intimate connection with this intriguing film.”
Drug War (Johnnie To, 2013)
“The bloodbath says plenty of the futility of pursuing the drug trade. The authorities are enforcing stiff penalties on crimes and doing everything they can, but the end result is a blitzkrieg of violence. Is there any point to the entire pursuit? To doesn’t give a clear answer, but it’s hardly an upbeat portrayal of this war.”
Beyond the movie reviews, I also wrote periodically about TV series and theme parks in 2014. Some of my favorite pieces were essays not specifically directed towards a certain film. I've included my two favorites below about the hate for Wes Anderson and the rise of contrarian thinking among film critics. I've also included my post about one of the best pop-culture events in 2014, the release of Whit Stillman's pilot of The Cosmopolitans for Amazon. I'm hoping that we'll see more episodes from that series next year. It's been another great year for this site, and I have exciting plans for 2015. If you've read my writing, commented or the site, or just dropped me a line on Twitter, thanks so much for taking the time to connect in the past year.
Wes Anderson Hate and the Case Against Filmmakers
“What irritates me about simplistic vitriol against Anderson and other filmmakers is that it disregards their ability to grow and evolve. The music world has similar artists like Belle and Sebastian that lost devoted fans because they weren’t following a certain path. Their reaction makes sense, but it also leads to one-note criticisms.”
The Contrarian: Resisting the Urge with Film Criticism
“Another factor is the impact of our expectations, particularly with older films. The best writers identify their biases and use them to craft their pieces about movies. There’s nothing less thrilling than reading a takedown of a classic from someone convinced they’re doing a public service to the dummies who love it.”
Whit Stillman’s The Cosmopolitans: Wit, Charm, and Loneliness in Paris
“Stillman lived in Paris for years as a writer, so he understands the mindset of these characters. He’s certainly spent time at cafes discussing art and trying to make sense of the world with friends. It’s that personal connection that makes this show more than an exercise.”
What were your favorite movie discoveries in 2014?