LISTFUL THINKING: Top 10 of 2014 (The Self-Aware One)

31 12 2014

Boyhood stillAnother year gone by, and what an odd and largely unremarkable one (at least for me).  That’s not to say, however, that there were not plenty of good movies to see.  Between two years – this and last – packed with film festivals as well as a summer living in Los Angels, I have racked up a shamefully high film count for 2014.

The final tally: 154.  That’s a gain of over 50% from just two years ago.  And, mind you, I still have many left to see, although only “Selma” and “American Sniper” would likely have ended up on this list.  Impressively, I have actually managed to review all of them (including one for “A Most Violent Year” which irksomely has to be held another month).

I usually try to tie my year-end top 10 list around a theme or a unifying idea, and this year is no different.  At the beginning of the month, my films were essentially set (sadly), but I could not for the life of me find a correlation or angle.  Then, I read a rather snarky piece by Anne Thompson of IndieWire called “How to Make a Ten Best List in Five Easy Steps.”

Thompson is a highly regarded entertainment reporter, and I value her insight on industry news that provides more thorough coverage than the click-bait titles.  At times, though, I find her writing contains a certain aura of superiority that verges on haughtiness.  In this reductionist list, which I believe is meant to be in jest to some degree, here are some of her suggestions for top 10 building:

“1. Include a selection of brainy consensus critical faves of the sort that are likely to be Oscar contenders.

2. Add a few popular hits as well to show that you click with the mainstream.

3. Add at least one wild blue yonder arcane title, either foreign or up-and-coming indie, that will leave readers scratching their heads, impressed with your erudition. This proves that you saw way more movies than they did.”

Pike Affleck Gone GirlI dismissed the piece at first, and then I told myself that such blind herd mentality was something to which I was not susceptible.  I don’t normally drink the Kool-Aid and tow the critics/bloggers party line – I picked “Win Win” and “The Queen of Versailles” as my favorites of their respective years, for heaven’s sake!

Yet I could not shake Thompson’s piece off, for whatever reason.  I kept thinking about it and realized that my top picks for the year might not match up with a ton of external validators, but they did meet a certain set of internal criteria.  As it turns out, I do have a couple of favorite “types” that rear their heads in my annual top 10 list.  These are not necessarily genres or styles of filmmaking so much as they are experiences.

So, without further ado, my extremely self-aware top 10 films of 2014.  I hope no one is incredibly offended by me reducing these films to merely what they meant to me, but if you want to read a pure assessment of their merits, click on the title to be taken to my original review.

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Random Factoid #571

30 12 2014

2014, for me, was the year of the typo correction.  For whatever reason, I felt emboldened to act as copywriter for the world.  (Just not for my own work, which I often find full of errors upon reexamination.)  Much of my Larry David-esque perceived need to correct other people’s harmless mistakes or typos stems from an empowering NPR segment about a book called “The Great Typo Hunt.”  Yes, I am enough of a nerd to call an NPR story about grammar “empowering.”  Get at me, world!

It began as early as January, when IndieWire ran a story called “The 20 Best Films of 2014 We’ve Already Seen.”  This highlighted festival films from the previous year due for release in the upcoming calendar year, and the original list inexplicably omitted “The Immigrant.”  Foreshadowing (or stemming from) my being a warrior for this film, I commented about this egregious exclusion.

IndieWINNING

The post is now called “The 21 Best Films of 2014 We’ve Already Seen,” but the URL still says “20.”  Point, Marshall.

It continued with the website for “Obvious Child.”  I was trying to find a poster to add to my PowerPoint aggregating all the films I saw in a year (as chronicled in Random Factoid #200) on the website when I noticed a pretty egregious typo.  I emailed the admin listed on the Tumblr, and I wound up getting a personal response from the film’s producer, Elisabeth Holm.  The correction can be seen below.

Obvious Child Email

Then, as I am often prone to do, I was scouring the pre-order section of iTunes to see when I might be able to rent certain titles I missed.  I noticed that “Laggies” was up – and that its star, Keira Knightley, had her name misspelled on the cover.  I sent the studio a quick email and, sure enough, the cover changed!

A24 Laggies

 

And the gentle, metaphorical red pen did not limit itself to spelling errors.  I also tackled factual inaccuracies, such as one that I found in a piece by Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst at The Hollywood Reporter.

Feinberg

Now, just so we’re clear, I am far from perfect and actually made plenty a pretty embarrassing error while thinking I was correcting someone else’s error.  See that comment from The Dissolve?  It was in reply to a comment that I deleted, which was calling them out for misspelling “Slave” when it was referencing the video’s misspelling.  Had I watched the video, I would have known that.  Had I really been paying attention, I would have also noticed that they also “misspelled” Brad Pitt’s name.

Salve

I decided not to let the comment live on and shame me, like a coward.  Perhaps in the new year, I will limit myself in my quest to make the world a safer place for proofreading to only correcting errors which I am completely certain are wrong.  Or, rather, I can just shake my head in dismay at every typo I see online (cough, IndieWire – you’re the worst offender) and hope they feel the same shame that I experience when I realize a similar gaffe in my own work.

P.S. – How can I tell AT&T about this bad typo?

Gaurdians





REVIEW: The Immigrant

1 07 2014

immigrant_noquote_finalCannes Film Festival – Official Competition, 2013

Over a year ago, I had the distinct honor to attend a panel in memory of my hero in the realm of film criticism, the late Roger Ebert, in Cannes.  His widow, Chaz, was in attendance a little over a month after his passing.  We all took a “500 Thumbs Up for Roger” picture (if you like a good Where’s Waldo puzzle, try to find me in this picture) and signed a book letting Chaz know how much her husband meant to everyone who cherishes film.

But it was not the words that I left her that mattered that day; rather, it was the words she left me and everyone else in attendance.  Kicking off the panel, she remarked, “Roger said that the cinema expands your imagination.  And when it’s done well, what it will do is allow the individual to be transported beyond linear boundaries and to take you to a world that you hadn’t seen before and allow you inside and outside to become a better person.”

People that take the time to write seriously about these illusionary worlds of light, shadow, and pixel have most likely achieved this exhilarating narrative transport.  It’s a difficult and thus extremely rare feat for a film to pull off.  Yet the sensation feeds the soul in such a sublime manner that it’s worth seeking out even if it means wading through seemingly endless mediocrity.

By year’s end, I manage to let the awards hype delude myself into thinking I have experienced this transcendent feeling multiple times.  In actuality, however, these little miracles only occur every few years or so.  I’m overjoyed to report that James Gray’s “The Immigrant” is one such film.

Most movies nowadays return me to the same spot from which I departed.  This masterpiece, on the other hand, picked me up at one place and deposited me at a higher ground.  The story of “The Immigrant” alone left me feeling spiritually enriched.  The complete package assembled by producer, writer, and director Gray left me renewed and reaffirmed in the power of the cinema.  I remain so stunned in slack-jawed awe at this exquisitely beautiful work that few words can fully capture my strong sentiments.

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