For the last few years, I’ve been saying that I feel like it’s been a bad year for film. This year, that trend continues, and I feel like I haven’t seen very many films. I missed the festival again, so that takes away yet another outlet. Many of the films I liked this year were released in theatres in late 2015, and one that made my “top 5” list is actually a 2013 film. But I’m into talking about movies that I’ve seen in 2016, and the release date isn’t as important to me.
This year, few films really stand out as films I will think about and love forever. But if I had to pick a top five, they’d be these ones.
I’m still pretty sure I’m not going to see the movie because of the whitewashing. If not for that, this movie has a lot of stuff that I’d be all over: amazing aesthetic, an interesting vision of future technology, a great female lead. I think it would have been exactly the kind of movie that’d work for me. But the studio ruined it with whitewashing. And I’m a bit sad about that.
Others have pointed out that the trailer is hella appropriative: “The ratio of cool-Japanese-stuff to Japanese people in the trailer is like 2000:1. There is nothing easier for Hollywood to do than disinclude the Asian faces, nothing.”.
The trailer for Valerian looks visually impressive, but I fully expect it to be narratively simplistic (which is sort of what I think of The Fifth Element: I really wanted the film to be deeper than it was).
Every year, I make a post about films I particularly enjoyed that year. This year seemed harder than most. Not a tonne of films particularly stand out, and I especially feel like I’m deriving much more enjoyment out of some of the really well-made TV shows lately. I was also really busy in September of this year, and didn’t manage to make it to the film festival, which is where I usually find one or two of my favourite films of the year.
I feel like it was a weak year for films. As I reflect on the films I saw in 2014, not many really stand out. I also feel like the whole “back-end loading” problem is affecting more and more every year. I’ve stopped watching films in theatres, and studios keep holding back their best films until the fall (when Oscar season starts), so I tend to see the best films several months after they’re released.
Anyway, here are my favourite films that I saw in 2014:
I’m a film fanatic. I love film. I have broad taste in films: I like films that are very popular, and I like films that audiences stay away from in droves. There are film genres that I avoid — mostly torture porn and misbehaving man-child movies — and, increasingly, there are films that I refuse to see on principle.
Here’s the thing. For almost as long as I’ve watched films, I’ve adored Woody Allen’s movies. I’ve included Annie Hall in my list of top three favourite movies for years(although, to be honest, I’ve been reconsidering each of the top three in recent years). I quote from it constantly. (“Keeps out the alpha rays, Max. You don’t get old.”)
I think I need to re-evaluate my fondness for Woody’s work.
2013 was a bit of a strange year for film, from my perspective. Whenever I think back on films I saw in a particular year, I’m always struggling with the knowledge that my movie-watching habits are skewed by the fact that I don’t tend to see much of anything in cinemas any more. So, for me, “films I saw this year” usually includes a handful of films that many people saw the year prior. And this year, a number of my top 5 come from the last quarter of 2012. Oh well.
Here are my top five favourite films:
Number 5: Looper (Rian Johnson). Yup, it suffered from wibbly-wobbly time stuff that makes no sense when you think about it. But it was surprisingly strong. I really enjoyed the vision of the future it created (clearly devastated by economic depression) — it felt like a fresher future and more interesting worldbuilding than I’d seen in a long time. The ending of the film came as a surprise (so many time travel tales are bogged down with the weight of oppressive inevitability), and the scene where Emily Blunt gets in the safe was such a wonderfully constructed scene.
Pariah is, I think, the best film that I saw in the year. The line Alike says, toward the end of the film — “I’m not running; I’m choosing.” — still stands out to me as one of the most simple, and yet powerful, lines I’ve seen delivered in a film the last number of years. In many ways, the film caught me off guard. I knew that it was going to be a queer coming of age story, and it touched on most of the standard tropes of that kind of story. But it was so slice-of-life-y that when the trope-y moments arrive, they just cut to the bone.
The Gatekeepers — which I saw at the festival — was an amazingly good documentary that interviews the 6 most recent still-living heads of the Israeli Shin Bet agency. The director gets them all to talk about their views of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and, given their jobs, what they have to say is really quite eye opening.
I also really enjoyed Take Shelter. In many ways, it follows a well-tread formula: man is having dreams of the end of the world. Are they real, or is he having a breakdown? I thought that this film did an interesting job keeping you guessing about which of those outcomes was going to be shown as “real.” (I haven’t really gone to look for it, but I’d be interested in any critique of how the film treats mental illness) A big part of what worked for me in the film was the dialog. There was something very real-seeming and fresh about the dialog and the delivery of that dialog.