Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Movies 2014: An Alternative Top 10 List

(Drivebycuriosity) - Here are my 10 favorite movies from 2014 which might be not really mainstream cinema:

My movie of the year is: Under The Skin (driveby). This is the most electrifying film I have seen for a while. Director Jonathan Glazer focuses on Scarlett Johansson as a sexually predatory alien camouflaged by a human skin. The camera follows "her" closely and shows how the alien tries to learn and to handle the humans. This leads to visually stunning allegories which leave room for the imagination. Watching Scarlett Johansson alluring her "prey" is breathtaking. The movie is almost a one-woman show - and highly erotical. The film benefits a lot from the outstanding cinematography which created pictures that are burning into the brain. Some scenes could make you fall in love with the Scottish landscape, others create surrealistic and other intoxicating optical effects even Stanley Kubrick would be proud off.

And there were at least 4 more cinematic highlights:

Only Lovers Left Alive (driveby) is a very modern interpretation of the vampire theme and one of the best movies of the genre. The film tells an episode in the "life" of a married couple, both centuries old vampires, living in nightly suburban Detroit and Tangiers (Morocco), which combines the dullness of American suburbs with the exotical flavor of Northern Africa. Their strange existence gets more and more complicated and challenged. I was fascinated by Tilda Swinton who realisticly impersonated a vampire. Her natural paleness, her androgenous style and her restrained way of acting made her to the most convincing exemplar of the bloodsuckers I have ever seen on screen.

 Nymphomaniac I and II. (driveby  driveby) A woman in the early 40s tells the story of her life. She calls herself a nymphomaniac, meaning she`s addicted to sex and the intercourse with a lot of men. This gives way to a rich analytical discourse and offers a lot of philosophy - about pleasure and female sexuality of course, but also about coming of age, life in general, the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach, the importance of Fibonacci Numbers and much more.  The movie has in both parts a lot of graphic sex scenes but it is also intellectual, very fresh, powerful, thrilling and sometimes humorous.

Force Majeure (driveby) describes a marriage crisis caused by an unforeseen and sudden incident. The film is a cinematic masterpiece about relationships, spiced with philosophy, humor and surprises. I enjoyed the perfect structure between casual family live, sudden dramatic and funny scenes. The spellbinding cinematography delivered stunning pictures from the awesome mountain landscape of the French Alps.

Tim`s Vermeer (driveby). This gorgeous documentary describes how a Texan engineer, software developer and inventor painted an exact copy of Vermeer´s "The Music Lesson". He used a self-constructed camera obscura and a mirror in order to prove the thesis, that the Dutch master, who lived in the 16th century, worked with a camera obscura, a precursor of a movie projector, to create his stunning effects. I was impressed how stubbornly methodical and painstakingly the Texan realized his obsession and enjoyed the beauty of Vermeer´s paintings which fanned my appetite to see more of his work.

The year had at least 5 more memorable movies:

"Nightcrawler" (driveby): The fast paced film is a mirror of the contemporary media mixed with thrilling elements: Louis is starting a career as a freelance video reporter on the streets of Los Angeles. He is intelligent, a fast learner and does anything to get exciting video material (footage) to sell it to the TV channels, what leads to dramatic developments. Watching this movie was an intense experience and breath taking. 

"The Trip To Italy" (driveby). The Britsh comedians Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon display their talents on a travel to Italy where they are reviewing 6 top restaurants for a newspaper. Most time the camera focuses on their faces and follows their dialogues and sketches. I enjoyed their laconic but humorous comments about the world around us and had the most laughs when they were imitating the voices and speaking in the manors of some Hollywood stars. I loved the gorgeous landscapes (mostly at the Italian Rivera coast). Some places justify even the cliché of "heaven on earth". And the served meals at the classy restaurants looked "mouth-watering".

"Gone Girl" (driveby). This is a dark comedy about a man who is questioned by the cops because his wife had disappeared. I really indulged in this roller coaster of feints & surprises and enjoyed how the movie dealt with various topics like romantics, adultery, deception, obsession and how they made fun of cable TV and the phenomena of mass hysteria. Maybe "Gone Girl" is a critical study about today´s society.

"Interstellar" (driveby) plays with the idea of wormholes as short cuts between different parts of the universe and other science fiction topics. Awesome pictures of space, the earth and other planets & fascinating images of space ships, extraterrestrial worlds and wormholes compensated for the fact that the producers targeted the mass market and an audience who doesn`t care much about science and science fiction.

"Inherent Vice" (driveby) is an complicated and ambitious work of cinematic art. But I enjoyed the film because it is an eclectic  roller coaster of hilarious, sometimes funny and sometimes dramatic scenes and ideas spiced with a lot of jokes and slapstick. The most entertainment comes from the constantly appearing and disappearing unanimously excellent actors (characters). The cinematography delivered a feast for the eyes. Even sleazy places look beautiful. And one of the hottest sex scenes of independent cinema also compensated for the challenges of the plot.

Honrable Mentions:

Birdman (driveby)

"Lucy" (driveby)

"Her" (driveby)

"Sin City - A Dame to Kill For" (driveby)

"Snowpiercer" (driveby).

"Life of Crime" (driveby)

"The Grant Budapest Hotel" (driveby)

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