Lists fever is fleeting, and it catches me at this time of year, as if I´m attempting to itemize my life suddenly before the bell of reckoning rings on New Year´s Eve. This list of films isn´t really even a best list of 2014, as some of them are from other years, which I´ve only discovered, or got around to seeing, this year. For me, movie watching has usually been an intensely private activity, and each film affects me differently and makes me think about something in an unexpected way. But these are share-worthy. Of the 1200, more or less, films released in 2013 and 2014, there are a few missing from this list, and there is probably a reason for that.
First, movies I haven´t seen that I am reluctantly excited about:
Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard)
American Sniper (Clint Eastwood)
Life of Riley (Alain Resnais)
Gaby Baby Doll (Sophie Letourneur)
Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
Thou Wast Wild and Lovely (Josephine Decker)
Diplomatie — Volker Schlöndorff 2014
A historical drama that depicts the relationship between Dietrich von Choltitz, the German military governor of occupied Paris, and Swedish consul-general Raoul Nordling. A fictionalized account of an important moment in history, when the world almost lost the City of Lights. Both actors are thrilling to watch, even as the ending of the story is already known.
Jodorowsky´s Dune — Frank Pavich 2013
The story of cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ambitious but ultimately doomed film adaptation of the seminal science fiction novel. A great account of the kind of eccentric the world needs as a guide through the creative void that is Hollywood. An incredible documentary.
The Grand Budapest Hotel — Wes Anderson 2014
A hilarious, perfectly cast, Eastern Bloc alpine fantasy made by Wes Anderson in all his stylized, curating madness. Ralph Fiennes is brilliant and the props and cardboard scenery form a perfect homage to past genres. Anderson in top form.
The Gatekeepers — Dror Moreh 2012
An honest, revealing documentary narrated by the voices that carry weight, featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets.
The Missing Picture Rithy Panh — 2013
Rithy Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979. Another rare documentary that is subjective yet effective and educational about human evil and appalling atrocities that are easily forgotten or never really known at all.
The Rocket Kim Mordaunt — 2013
A moving film about innoence amidst the ignorance of elders and the poison of superstition.
A Most Wanted Man —Anton Corbijn 2014
A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. One of the last demonstrations of Philip Seymour Hoffman´s impeccable abilities. An intriguing if slightly slow-moving story that rings true in today´s fatalistic political reality. It is complex and bleak, just as in John le Carré´s world.
Venus in Fur –Roman Polanski 2014
A delightful version of David Ives´ play, with just the right amount of perversion and plot twists. A great script, wonderful performance by Emmanuelle Seigner. Wonderful use of a small stage and minimal cast.
Under the Skin — Jonathan Glazer 2014
A cold, bleak minimalist movie about an alien who visits earth to seduce men to dark places in order to feed them to her unseen master. It may be beneficial to the viewer never to have heard of the book on which it is based. Set in dreary Scotland, the unnerving atmosphere is perfectly complemented by a soundtrack that drones and grinds you to a hypnotic state.
Locke — Steven Knight 2014
A one-man cast set in a driving car. I love movies with small casts and simple settings. Wonderfully suspenseful through a great performance by Hardy, who negotiates with, by all accounts, a flawless Welsh accent.
Only Lovers Left Alive — Jim Jarmusch 2014
A dark vampire movie, set completely at night. It never pushes itself to the ridiculous, as most vampire films do. The acting performances are perfect, although many looking to repress their faculties of imagination (an approach to film viewing that I´ve found disappointingly common) may find the story slow and without bite.
Ernest & Celestine — Stéphae Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner 2013
A sweet Belgian animated film about a mouse and a mischievous bear.
The Last of the Unjust — Claude Lanzmann 2014
An essential documentary with depth that doesn´t trim or edit details. Over three hours long, this film demonstrates that it is most often unwise to condense historical depictions to standard, audience-friendly formats.
A place: Theresienstadt. A unique place of propaganda which Adolf Eichmann called the “model ghetto”, designed to mislead the world and Jewish people regarding its real nature, to be the last step before the gas chamber. A man: Benjamin Murmelstein, last president of the Theresienstadt Jewish Council, a fallen hero condemned to exile, who was forced to negotiate day after day from 1938 until the end of the war with Eichmann, to whose trial Murmelstein wasn’t even called to testify. Even though he was without a doubt the one who knew the Nazi executioner best. More than twenty-five years after Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s new film reveals a little-known yet fundamental aspect of the Holocaust, and sheds light on the origins of the “Final Solution” like never before.
Nymphomaniac, Volume 1 — Lars Von Trier 2014
No one can gorgeously ruin your day like Von Trier. Notwithstanding a beautiful lead actress, a provocative title, and the director´s reputation for instilling simultaneous feelings of dread, arousal, fear and wonder (as with my similar view of Gaspar Noé, I divide my movie-watching life into two parts, the innocent and the tainted, divided by the trauma of Von Trier´s “Antichrist”) there is thankfully little that is sexy or lustful in Nymphomaniac. Instead, what is shown to us is an image of violence and hopelessness that is tied together (or should I say tied down) by beautiful imagery. What Von Trier does (as he does best, when he´s not pissing people off) is to weave a story out of seemingly nothing, using, some may say abusing, simile and metaphor in a way that renews the vitality of the process of storytelling. Still, there is plenty to be scandalized about in both parts of this movie. Apart from Charlotte Gainsbourg´s mere presence, Volume 2 is mostly a disappointment.