Favorite Films of 2014

Stray Dogs

It is that time of the year when with a heave and a sigh I launch my top ten list out among all the others, knowing that mere moments from clicking “publish” it will feel like a flimsy record of a really interesting year in cinema.

I had more than usual titles floating around near the top of the spreadsheet I use to winnow the gems from the past year of film journaling. And I agree with Richard Brody that it is worth highlighting various formal pulses in American cinema against a new global market much quicker to capitalize on the appeal of “safe independent cinema and its [Sundance, e.g.] award winners.”

The new mainstream feels like a cinema we can easily embrace. It is post-Hollywood. It is post-Sony email scandal.  It has a “well-meaning tastefulness” that makes it easy to swallow. I would be curious to hear what films Brody had in mind when writing these paragraphs in his New Yorker piece, but I think the “Negative Ten” at the end of his essay offers a few clues. BoyhoodWhiplashBirdman, and The Homesman are all solid films. End of year list-worthy, even. But when set against cinema from other quarters... Read More

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Amirpour, 2014 – SLIFF, 2014)

I am not sure what A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night actually is. It emerges from the recent crop of vampire films cloaked in a lot of little genre hooks, but then defies easy description once fully unleashed. It is also undeniably beautiful, even alluring. It takes place in Bad City, an Iranian town bordered by oil pumps but filmed in a Californian desert. Its actors are Iranian expats, arranged initially around a pimp straight out of a Die Antwoord... Read More

Norte, The End of History (Diaz, 2013)

In 1989, Fukuyama declared the “end of history” in the “universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Norte begins with a similar mouthful, kicked about by Fabian and his law school colleagues as they muse over beers about class and inequity in the current Philippines’ economy. This theme of ideology looms large in the film, mainly through the periodic narrative nudge or buried... Read More

Classy and Fabulous: Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)

The following is an expansion of a Twitter-conversation the three authors–Ryan Holt, Evan Cogswell, and Nathanael Booth–had shortly after seeing Gone Girl. Spoilers should be assumed.   Introduction: Expectations and First Impressions Ryan: David Fincher and I have not always gotten along. For me, The Game and The Social Network rank among the best films of their respective decades, but too often I find that Fincher’s misanthropy tumbles... Read More