We are approaching summer blockbuster time (“It’s always dumber in the summer” as my husband likes to say), and while I am anticipating X:Men: Days of Future Past and Godzilla as much as the next person, I wanted to look back on the previous 5 months and celebrate some films I’ve enjoyed seeing this year.
For me personally, 2014 has been a fantastic year for movies. Some of the films I’ve seen this year have been the best I’ve seen in years. The husband and I also attended the Florida Film Festival for the first time–now we are vowing to make it out to Sundance one year (add it to the bucket list!) We sadly missed the Q&A session with Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from Breaking Bad) but we DID glimpse Gabriel Byrne while we were waiting in line to see Dom Hemingway (John knows Gabriel Byrne from Miller’s Crossing; I know him as d’Artagnan from The Man in the Iron Mask with Leo DiCaprio). He sat three rows in front of us! It was surreal to see a movie in the same theater as the Fourth Musketeer.
Here are some of my favorite flicks from this year, in no particular order:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I haven’t seen every Wes Anderson film (still need to hit up the second half of The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou and The Fantastic Mr. Fox) but this is certainly my favorite one so far. It’s a story-within-a-story-within-a-story about a flamboyant and loquacious hotel concierge named Monsieur Gustave in the fictional country of Zubrowka, mirroring the events of 1930s pre-war Europe. Each layer is increasingly charming and whimsical with lots of plot twists and turns (favorite scenes include an absurdly elaborate prison escape and a wild goose chase through a mountain ski resort). It is refreshing to see Ralph Fiennes in a rare performance that has equal parts comedy and tragedy. With all Wes Anderson films, there are lots of fun cameos and actors playing bit roles (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzmann, Owen Wilson, etc.)
A delightful little glimpse into chaotic, urban life in Mumbai. Universal themes of love and human connection play out in the spheres of work and food–the former will make you want to skip on out of the cubicle life; the latter will make you want to tuck away some Indian curry, basmati rice and naan in a hurry. I have to see a film in which actor Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) does not pull at your heartstrings in his unique, understated fashion. Oh yeah, and now I want to buy one of those lunchboxes…
I realize this film is not for everyone; however, this is genuinely one of the best films I’ve seen in years. The soundtrack is killer and the cinematography is a feast for the senses, beautifully lit and shot. Although I’m not generally the biggest Scarlett Johansson fan, I can genuinely say she really should have gotten nominated for an Oscar–her performance as the voice of a computer operating system is surprisingly complex, emotional and weirdly human. And Joaquin Phoenix is awkward, flawed, lovable and completely moving as the “he” to the movie’s “her.” This film stayed with me for the next couple of weeks after I watched it. It really explores human connection and the influence of technology on our lives in unexpected, thought-provoking ways.
The husband and I saw this film as part of the Florida Film Festival. It’s a mix of dark comedy and psychological thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska and it’s based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky–this was the selling point for me since I am a huge fan of his novels The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot. It’s a lot of fun seeing Jesse Eisenberg play two versions of himself. It definitely handles issues of identity in a disturbing way but the film is certainly unique.