Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Films of 2014 (in alphabetical order)
Each film is accompanied by an italicized excerpt from the original review. Feel free to click on the title to read the full review
COLD IN JULY Dir. Jim Mickle
Dane (Michael C. Hall) hasn't even had time to get out of his station wagon when he arrives at the cemetery. Then again, nobody would ever know he's been the lone witness to the tail-end of the burial. No one, that is, save for Russell (Sam Shepard), the lanky, grizzled and grimacing old man with a grey buzz-cut atop his dome and a pair of shades he's removed to reveal his piercing eyes. The old man, seemingly appearing from nowhere, towers above Dane, dwarfed only by the big, old Texas sky. He leans into the open window, burning holes into the killer of his only son. "Come to watch the shit go into the hole, huh?" quips Russell with a half smile. "Mighty Christian of you."
FOXCATCHER Dir. Bennett Miller
Brilliantly and with great subtlety, the film’s sense of optics and propaganda amongst the nobility feels infused to a point where non-Americans and certainly discriminating American audiences will sense that Foxcatcher is itself propaganda, though it is, in fact, a scathing condemnation of it. As the tale progresses and John du Pont’s inbred eccentricities give way to his becoming slowly and dangerously unhinged, so too does the film shift gears into critical territory. The perception of the American Dream sours and leads to a sad, shocking and downright tragic film about delusions of grandeur transforming into psychopathic proportions – not unlike America itself.
IN HER PLACE Dir. Albert Shin
A daughter, whose child can never be hers. A mother, whose daughter is everything.
A woman who has come between them. A baby that binds all three for eternity.
Director Albert Shin's stunning sophomore feature-length outing is evocatively photographed, wrenchingly and beautifully scored and peopled with a cast as perfect as any director (or audience) would want. Paced and directed with a sensitivity reminiscent of Robert Bresson, you'll experience as haunting and touching a movie as any of the very best that have been wrought. This is great filmmaking, pure and simple.
KUMIKO THE TREASURE HUNTER Dir. David Zellner
Fargo, the movie by the Coen Brothers, is not just an instrument which inspires Kumiko's desires, it's like a part of Kumiko's character and soul and represents an ethos of both America and madness. Kumiko is no mere stranger in a strange land, but a stranger in her own land who becomes a stranger in a strange land - a woman without a country save for that which exists in her mind. There isn't a false note to be found in this gorgeously acted, directed and photographed movie. It is not without humour, but none of it is at Kumiko's expense and when the film slowly slides into full blown tragedy, the Zellners (director David and writer Nathan) surround Kumiko in the ever-accumulating high winds and snow under the big skies of Minnesota. We get, as she does, a bittersweet taste of happiness - a dream of triumph, a dream of reunion, a dream of peace, at last.
LIFE IN A FISHBOWL Dir. Baldvin Zophoníasson
A whore, a writer and a banker all search for redemption. They live out their lives separately after the horrendous Icelandic financial crisis and eventually intersect. The film features a sequence of debauchery on a Florida yacht which clearly rivals the antics of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill in Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. Director Zophoníasson contrasts Scorsese by capturing the exploitation with a documentarian's eye. Brilliantly though, the screenplay allows for a series of subtle directorial movements into territory that borders on another sort of dazzling style - one that is eventually tender and romantic, but eventually dovetails into something else altogether. There's a denouement to this sequence which occurs a few scenes later that is as maddening as it is heartbreaking.
MR. TURNER Dir. Mike Leigh
In a sense, JMW Turner captured the qualities of light and motion on canvas in ways I always felt are what led to those same properties finding their way to be emblazoned forever upon celluloid to capture the heart, soul and visual radiance of illumination, of nature, of life itself. Not unlike insects drawn to amber to be sealed and preserved for all time, Turner's brilliance was creating work that could live forever and inform all visual arts. In his own way, he might well have had the soul of a filmmaker if technology had somehow moved its way up to meet him halfway. Thankfully, we have Turner's legacy of genius, and now we have Mike Leigh's glorious film.
NYMPHOMANIAC VOL I and VOL II Dir. Lars von Trier
As Rammstein slashes our oh-so delicate tympanic membranes to shreds, we're introduced to Charlotte Gainsbourgh lying bruised and bleeding on wet pavement. We accept that she's positioned like Christ on the Cross. It is, after all, a film by Lars von Trier. The imposing, hulking Stellan Skarsgård, with a full grocery sack no less, discovers the pulverized waif on the filthy, clammy cement. She doesn't want an ambulance or the police, so the gentleman suggests, rather sociably, that she at least come back to his place for a cup of tea. I kid you not. Tea.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY Dir. James Franco
Franco plucks what he loves from William Faulkner's rich, stream-of-consciousness prose and splatters it Jackson Pollock-like on the screen. Before you know it, he's sharing delectable inbred territory with Anthony Mann's God's Little Acre and Elia Kazan's Baby Doll. It's pure, delicious Southern Gothic at its most compelling and utterly insane. Some might believe Faulkner would be spinning in his grave over this, but I'd like to believe he might have had himself as rip-roaring a good time as I did.
THE TRIBE Dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Set in a special boarding school in Ukraine, writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy paints an evocative portrait of students living within a tribal societal structure where adult supervision is minimal at best and even culpable in the desecration of youth. Living in an insular world, carved out by years of developing survival skills in this institutional environment, the kids have a long-established criminal gang culture and they engage in all manner of nefarious activities including, but not limited to thieving, black marketeering and pimping. The violence is often brutal and the film never shies away from explicit sexual frankness. Even more harrowing is when we follow the literal results of this constant sexual activity and witness a protracted, pain-wracked abortion on a filthy kitchen table.
WHIPLASH Dir. Damien Chazelle
"If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will fuck you like a pig," barks star J.K. Simmons as a jazz instructor at a tony private music conservatory in glorious NYC. This guy makes Gny. Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket look like Ward Cleaver. He believes his students are the best of the best, but frankly, for him, that's not good enough. He demands they push themselves harder than a prize studhorse slamming a mare in heat. He demands true force. He demands self-inflicted pain as well as the infliction of pain. He demands greatness.
2014 was a terrific year for movies and because of that, the following titles, in alphabetical order, are films which could easily be on a 10-Best list, but because there have to be ten, the rest of the best end up here as runners-up. Feel free to mush the following 20 titles with the aforementioned 10 titles and you'll have yourself a handy-dandy "Film Corner Top 30 of 2014 as selected by Greg Klymkiw" or, if you will, a simple "The Film Corner's Best Movies of 2014 as selected by Greg Klymkiw". So, here ya' go, the runners-up to the best of the year of Our Lord 2014:
THE BETTER ANGELS
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IN THE CROSSWIND
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT
MAPS TO THE STARS
ROAD TO PALOMA
SEE NO EVIL 2
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