What I’ll Remember About the Films of 2014: A Love Letter


I started my What I’ll Remember posts in 2012 and have since expanded to include one for each year in my Top Ten By Year project. The idea is that while everyone simply posts a Top Ten to cap off the past 12 months, I want to remember and pay tribute to the little things, those indelible moments within (and outside of) the myriad of films any given year has to offer. Because no matter what anyone else says, every year is a great year for film; you just need to know where to look. So without further ado, below are some of the meaningful smatterings and takeaways from 2014 films I hope to take with me moving forward:

Previous What I’ll Remember posts: 1943, 1958, 1965, 1992, 2012, 2013

I forgot to post my favorite posters of the year in my Top Fives post, so this post will be interspersed with the poster designs that stuck out the most to me along with credit to the designers/illustrators.

Some Blind Spots: Love is Strange, Selma, Goodbye to Language, Dear White People, Norte the End of History, Closed Curtain, The Strange Little Cat, Mr. Turner, The Rover, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Beyond the Lights, Wild, Still Alice, Why Don’t You Play in Hell, Leviathan, A Most Violent Year, Laggies, Top Five, Begin Again, etc)

Philip Seymour Hoffman
2014 will always be first the foremost The Year We Lost Philip

2014 will always be, second, the year I got to see and hear Joanna Newsom on the silver screen (Inherent Vice)

Under the Skin, my favorite film so far this decade. This whole list could just be specifics from this, so I’m just giving it a uniform shoutout. Changes the way you see the world around you, and yourself. Challenges what narrative filmmaking is/can be capable of.

A banner year (comparatively of course) for female directors (Selma, Unbroken, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, CitizenFour, Obvious Child, Honeymoon, It Felt Like Love, Night Moves, Beyond the Lights, Belle, Palo Alto, Olive Kitteridge, The Babadook, Hellion, 20,000 Days on Earth, Thou Was Mild and Lovely, See No Evil 2, Abuse of Weakness, Endless Love, Step Up All In, Laggies, Fed Up, Last Days in Vietnam, Awake, Fort Bliss, etc)

Gutsy narrative decisions in mainstream children’s fare (Maleficent, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The LEGO Movie)

Jim Jarmusch, always distinguishing and foregrounding his own experience/sense of location, this time with Detroit and Tangier (Only Lovers Left Alive)

Angelina Jolie and (and her subtly digitally enhanced beauty) in Maleficent, showing us the potential and gravitas of true star power. Film itself aside, she did not get enough credit for her work here

Satirizing and/or communicating through media (Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Meta ruminations on the relevance of aging actors playing versions of themselves (The Congress, Birdman)

Designed by Jay Shaw
Designed by Jay Shaw

“Hate the sport! Hate the sport! Hate hate hate hate hate the sport!” (We Are the Best!)

Tyler Perry throwing gummy bears at Ben Affleck’s head (Gone Girl)

Just leave the music in your movies at the door and keep the rest, thanks (Into the Woods, Interstellar)

Michael Keaton isn’t playing himself in Birdman but Edward Norton certainly is

Oh how dearly I’d missed the Neptune crowd (Veronica Mars)

“Boy with Apple” and how long it takes Dmitry to realize its missing (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

The joys of watching actors actually act together in the same high-wire space (Birdman)

Realizing I’m a Gale/Liam Hemsworth apologist (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Painted by Laura Baran, lettering by Theresa Berens
Painted by Laura Baran, lettering by Theresa Berens

Bigfoot and the chocolate banana (Inherent Vice)

Movies that provoked controversy and lively if exhaustive and often reductive discussions: The Wind Rises, Gone Girl, Boyhood

Edge of Tomorrow’s narrative switcharoo, slyly putting Tom Cruise ahead of the audience halfway through. Now we’re playing catch-up. We’re Emily Blunt.

Lots of dog killings this year you guys (John Wick, The Babadook, Cheap Thrills, Cavalry, Joe)

Thinking The Wind Rises was the most beautiful Studio Ghibli film I had seen…and then seeing The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Nicolas Cage’s delivery of “Kristy, call the cops before someone gets kills. Would you do that for me honey?”, quite literally the only thing about Joe I liked

The second time I’ve seen trichotillomania depicted in a film (Starry Eyes)

Spaceship? Spaceship! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!!!” (The LEGO Movie)

If anyone can tell me who designed this, I'd appreciate it!
If anyone can tell me who designed this, I’d appreciate it!

Holy shit, Emma Roberts can actually act (Palo Alto)

Acting Winners of 2014: Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin, Lucy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Runners Up: Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights), Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant, Two Days, One Night), Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men” S7.1, The One I Love, Listen Up Philip)

That kiss. My God, that kiss. (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nina Hoss, A Most Wanted Man)

“Nothing in my hands, nothing in my hands” (The Babadook)

Jenny Agutter getting to kick so much ass in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Doppelgangers! (The Double, Enemy, The One I Love, Coherence, Muppets Most Wanted)

Bible Epics! (Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings)

Sheila Vand, serving up vampiric Winona Ryder and Jane Adams as The Girl (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)

The jarring experience of seeing dubbed versions of The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in theaters even though they are the most explicitly Japanese/engaged with Japanese history and culture films Studio Ghibli have ever released

Design and illustration by BLT Communications, LLC
Design and illustration by BLT Communications, LLC

Now that’s what horror can do. That’s why horror is the best (The Babadook)

Why oh why is Disney so committed to making everything look so visually ugly and/or flat? The mystery continues (Maleficent, Into the Woods)

The year that Scarlett Johannsson showed new levels of control, naturalism, and range in her craft. I’m convinced Broadway had something to do with it (Under the Skin, Lucy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Angelina Jolie making sure we feel the central violation/rape metaphor in Maleficent

Beginning of the end/end of an era melancholy that creeps up on you in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Inherent Vice

Whiplash throwing me for a loop by not being the competitive jazz drumming film I’d assumed, but a blistering sadomasochistic portrait of mutual destruction in the efforts to attain a futile level of greatness 

Marion Cotillard mastering the acute body language of depression (Two Days, One Night)

Realizing I need to listen to all the James Brown music (Get on Up)

Who would have thought a member of the Naked Brothers Band could unnerve me? (Palo Alto)

Designed by Brandon Schaefer
Designed by Brandon Schaefer

Red streaks in the sky; the descent (Godzilla)

Jake Gyllenhaal looking like Gumby in Nightcrawler, starring the whites of his eyes

“Play with my balls” (Birdman)

One last Philip Seymour Hoffman/Julianne Moore reunion for the road (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Matt Damon making surprise appearances (Interstellar, The Zero Theorem)

Edge of Tomorrow for being the biggest surprise of 2014, an outlier in its comparatively original/non-franchise status

Lucy calls her mother (Lucy)

Rosamund Pike in her skivvies, crawling across the floor like some sort of arachnid in Gone Girl

Designed by Jay Shaw
Designed by Jay Shaw

The more I think about the bizarre sound mixing in Interstellar, the more I’m okay with it. If I can’t hear crucial not-so-great dialogue in favor of Hans Zimmer’s score, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing?

The Tom Hooper school of framing; sometimes magical, often off-putting (Ida)

A death scene to end all death scenes (Gone Girl)

Michael C. Hall’s character taking an eventual backseat in his own film (Cold in July)

The pastel streaks on human faces in The Boxtrolls’s and the film’s admirable commitment to filthiness

Being basically the only person who loves Vampire Academy. You’ll all come around eventually

Living in an age of blockbuster spectacles in which the industry has no idea how to instill wonder…except, all its other misgivings aside, Godzilla

Most successful use of exposition: Oculus

Teddy Blanks of CHIPS with artwork by Anna Bak-Kvapil
Teddy Blanks of CHIPS with artwork by Anna Bak-Kvapil

Joaquin Phoenix going full-Brando at the end of The Immigrant

Overreaching doppelganger atmospheres (piss-yellow and wiry Toronto in Enemy, admirable but tiresome Gilliam copy The Double)

A question for the ages; who is scarier – Ben Mendelsohn or J.K Simmons? (Answer? You’re both wrong, it’s Peter Mullan) (Starred Up, Whiplash)

Tom Hardy’s velvety voice in Locke

It’s so nice to see you again!! Sheila Kelley (The Guest), Nicholas Brendan (Coherence), Sherilyn Fenn (Raze), Sheryl Lee (White Bird in a Blizzard), Taylor Nichols (Godzilla)

“Be a shoe” (Snowpiercer)

Having a new favorite Wes Anderson character in Gustave (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Tilda Swinton in lots of makeup (Snowpiercer, The Zero Theorem, The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Reunions! Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line/Inherent Vice), Zoe Bell and Tracie Thoms (Death Proof/Raze), Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung (The Host/Snowpiercer), the cast of Veronica Mars. I know there are others, but I’m blanking

Designed by Empire Design
Designed by Empire Design

That long take of Michel (Christophe Paou) coming out of the water as a killerthen he begins to put on his sneakers and puts himself back together as someone we, and Franck, recognize (Stranger by the Lake)

Reminder that Katee Sackhoff should be in everything (Oculus)

Inspired casting goes a long way folks (Gone Girl, Snowpiercer, Inherent Vice)

6 months later and I’m still wishing that Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” had been worked into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes somehow

Crying a lot during movies I’m lukewarm to because I’m a sap (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar)

And then sobbing at the end of The Wind Rises, knowing I had now seen all the Miyazaki there was to see

The first shot of Karen Gillan and her swinging ponytail in Oculus 

Watching Starred Up and having it gradually transform into the most invested narrative experience I had in 2014

Watching Tom Cruise play around with his persona and die over and over again (Edge of Tomorrow)

Designed by Neil Kellerhouse
Designed by Neil Kellerhouse

Realizing how attracted I am to ‘a mysterious man/woman enters the lives of etc.’ narratives (Borgman, The Guest)

Poor Ian (Only Lovers Left Alive)

Lyle Vincent’s black-and-white digital cinematography in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

The remarkable achievement of Space in Interstellar

The Robert DeNiro party (Neighbors)

Another age-old question: does Lucky McKee have another May in him? My hopes sink ever further (All Cheerleaders Die)

Coherence showing you can make an exceptional genre film with zero budget (and I mean zero budget)

Elisabeth Moss’s Ashley when Philip leaves her apartment, the most striking acting moment of 2014 (Listen Up Philip

Vin Diesel doing good by humankind for basically resurrecting his role in The Iron Giant (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Marion Cotillard’s coral pink tank in Two Days, One Night 

Seeing 20,000 Days on Earth in NYC with Nick Cave Q&A and solo piano performance, directors Q&A

More stuntmen who inherently understand the mechanics of action directing films please (John Wick)

Seeing There Will be Blood on a massive screen with live orchestral accompaniment and Jonny Greenwood was a year highlight for sure and my favorite theatrical experience of 2014

Films Seen in Theaters: 32
2014 Films Seen: 100

2014 Double Features I Had:
Birdman/John Wick
Only Lovers Left Alive/A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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