What do you mean we’re almost out of December? Well, okay, then, I guess it’s time for the top films that I saw this year.
My criteria are sloppy. I can pick anything I watched for the first time this year, even if it didn’t come out this year. Strangely enough, though, for a change, more came out this year than didn’t. And when I say film, I mean something I watched with my eyes, so it could actually be a tv show or a short disguised on my film list. Here we go! In no particular order:
The Burmese Harp: (1956) This movie follows the spiritual journey of a Japanese soldier through Burma after WW2 has ended. It is full of interesting thoughts and philosophies about war and religion. A quiet and thoughtful experience.
Chef: (2014) John Favreau kicks some booty in this wonderful film about both a come back and a father/son relationship. There are some delicious food sightings all the way through and a cast of supports and cameos that keep the movie rolling. The movie is both funny and poignant, one of my favorite combos.
Crossbones: (2014) One of two pirate television shows that aired this year, AND the best one. Sure, it is hard to envision John Malkovich as Blackbeard, but he does all right. AND Richard Coyle pulls no punches as the upright, moral, and downright sneaky super spy Tom Lowe. Go buy it, because it ain’t coming back on television.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: (2014) So, you’re an Iranian vampire that is a cute as a button young woman. But you aren’t the only person in this film with a highly dubious morality. Shot in black and white in California by an entire Iranian cast, this small film keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is arty, funny, and emotional all at the same time, and I really like the ending. Not sure where you’ll be able to find this one. Check your local art houses and Netflix.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: (2014) Wow. This film is like a Russian nesting doll–a story within a story within a story within a story. If you don’t believe me, go see it and count the layers. The most fun is the number of high profile actors making cameos. The script is irreverent, the story both a farce and a tale of true friendship, and the quirkiness is my kind of quirkiness. Not for the kiddies, however, or those that dislike profanity. Costumes, details, everything are perfect.
Guardians of the Galaxy: (2014) I too thought that this spot would be taken by Captain America: Winter Soldier, and while that film is great, this one stays with me longer. It shouldn’t. It’s got a walking tree and a genius racoon in it. But perhaps it contains one of the best scenes of 2014–a psychopath comforting a grieving raccoon at the end of a battle. Honestly, it’s the love child of Heavy Metal and Star Wars. It’s not perfect, but there are perfect moments in it.
How to Train Your Dragon 2: (2014) I honestly didn’t know if this needed to be made, but it did. The family stuff in this film is great. The animation is rendered with love, and Gobber, well, Gobber surprises us. There’s also some interesting conversation around the themes of war and peace. I think kids should enjoy it, although tiny little ones might be bored.
The Mayor of Casterbridge: (2003) A lot of my favorite actors from Rome make this very memorable, and they illustrate that chemistry can work in more than one venue. Ciaran Hinds is Thomas Hardy’s ill-fated Mayor with many Victorian secrets. There’s plenty of drama and plot twists to be had here, but overall it’s a study of man and how he affects those around him. If you like costume drama, give this one a try.
Penny Dreadful: (2014) Speaking of costume drama, I finally decided I liked Penny Dreadful enough to include it on this list. However, there’s a lot about it that’s over the top. It’s like horror movie fan fiction, and it is grotesque in many ways. There are a couple of episodes so violent toward the female main character that even though they make sense in the plot, I will never be able to watch them again. I love how we, the audience, are clued in on certain things that the characters themselves are not, and we wonder when things will be revealed in the show. There’s a certain kind of delight in that. So, not for the squeamish of you, but if you like horror, give it a whirl.
The Portrait of Dorian Gray: (1945) If you would like to see Angela Lansbury be a sweet, young thing, here’s your chance. This version of Dorian Gray is more psychological horror than anything else, but there is violence and malicious acts aplenty. Hurd Hatfield is a bad man, but even worse is George Sanders, who eggs him on for the whole film, without realizing that Dorian is taking his suggestions to heart. You won’t be hallucinating when you see the famous portrait. It actually is in color, even though the rest of the film is in black and white.