The Outliers of 2014

There is something interesting about the movies that don’t make everyone’s top ten lists at the end of a given year. Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood and more made well over fifty-percent of all critics’ lists. Films like Nightcrawler, Enemy and Under the Skin cracked their fair share too.

But what of those outliers? What of those movies that received extra love from only one person? I gathered up those films for the below list from a variety of local Seattle critics. In many ways it will be these pictures that live on further than the obvious ones that define 2014. A lot of the movies that garnered top ten nods came from noted auteurs; established voices making another classic. Their 2014 efforts will be just a spot along a deeper resume. Surprisingly, the movies gathered here almost all come from newer voices, either making that next step into greatness or making their debut. For many of them, 2014 will be the year where the breakthrough occurred, thus making it’s relevance all the grander.

Without further ado, here are 2014’s Outliers.

Cheap Thrills & Obvious Child (As picked by Sara Michelle Fetters of Moviefreak)

On Cheap Thrills : “Talk about ballsy, director E.L. Katz and writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga deliver a midnight adrenaline shocker that goes far beyond its exploitation roots becoming something visceral, smart and altogether unforgettable in the process. One of two masterful motion pictures that dissected the dark side of the American Dream (Foxcatcher being the other) with exacting circumspection, this night of escalating terror between friends (Pat Healy and Ethan Embry, both excellent) facing off against one another for cash is a numbing, cold-hearted descent into madness that’s beyond unforgettable.”

On Obvious Child : “Star Jenny Slate and writer/director Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child is an out of this world comedic spellbinder that is as funny as it is nervy, going places and asking questions so fearless, so far-reaching, I’m still astounded they both had the combined courage (and talent) to ask them. Beautifully scripted, expertly acted, this romantic wonder about unintended pregnancy and its consequences has more laughs and more tears than any other film released in all of 2014.”

How to Train Your Dragon 2, Life Itself, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night & Love Is Strange (As picked by Michael Ward of Should I See It)

On How To Train Your Dragon 2 : “As the story unfolds, How To Train Your Dragon 2 quickly becomes something engagingly special. Somehow within its 102-minute running time, DeBlois finds a way to make everything matter, each scene rooted in importance and you are never quite prepared for where the writer/director is going to take you this time around. His writing is so well reasoned, his characters so richly developed, his action sequences so wonderfully executed that How To Train Your Dragon 2 almost seems plausible; as if the animation becomes more and more invisible and these characters and this fantastical tale manifest into something we can connect with on an profound emotional level.”

On Life Itself : “Life Itself is a definitive encapsulation of that mind, that spirit, and that unfortunately faltering body. When we see Ebert having his trachea cleansed on screen, in a shocking reveal behind the curtain of what he was experiencing in his final years, he sent an e-mail to James praising him for capturing the footage. At the prospects of this footage making the documentary, Ebert was elated, signing his e-mail, as all of his e-mails were subscribed – “Cheers, R.” Cheers, R. Life Itself is everything you could have hoped it would be and more.”

On A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night : “With Ana Lily Amirpour, we have a new voice that is immediate and her talents are immense. Born in the shadows of Quentin Tarantino, an acknowledged influence not only in interviews but in moments found within the film, Amirpour is a remarkable discovery. Her film is intoxicating and you cannot take your eyes off of a film I fell instantly in love with. It becomes a slippery slope heaping such high praise on a new filmmaker a lot of times, as the side of the road is lined with incredible talents who either lost their way, were one or two-hit wonders, or never could recapture the lightning in a bottle that made them stars in the first place. Here, I am comfortable to say that for these first 105 minutes, Ana Lily Amirpour more than earns the highest praise possible and I cannot wait to see where this career goes from here.”

On Love Is Strange : “Director Ira Sachs has created a modern masterpiece, a film whose entire plot should not even exist, but sadly is still an all too true state of affairs for many couples in America. Never angry, Sachs smartly realizes his film doesn’t have to be to get its points across, Love Is Strange is an achingly beautiful and bittersweet story of true love, torn apart for senseless reasons. There is more love and beauty shared between Lithgow and Molina than you will find in almost any other romance this year, and Love Is Strange is a film that deserves to be in the conversation for this year’s Oscar race. That it has been ignored and relegated to the bottom of the screener pile is a sad indictment on a culture that says all the right things about equality for everyone, but then looks the other way when afforded the chance to celebrate art that champions that message. Love Is Strange, much like George and Ben, deserves better.”

The Drop (As picked by Tim Hall of The Peoples Critic Blog)

St Vincent (As picked by Adam Gehrke)

On St Vincent : “First and foremost, don’t allow the half hearted effort of the film’s poster dissuade you from this diamond in the rough. Written and Directed by Theodore Melfi, this well balanced comedy dips from light to dark, hot to cold, and absurd to real, all punctuated by the masterful comedic stylings of Bill Murray– he’s a force of nature. In fact, playing to Murray’s strengths, McCarthy’s straight (wo)man delivery operates as the perfect springboard to launch downright hilarity. Furthermore, dashes of reality and a failing medical system fit squarely into the crosshairs as a fine subtext. This is a must see in 2014 for laughs alone.”

Begin Again Coherence (As picked by Jason Roestel of Examiner)

On Begin Again : “Call it a character flaw, call it a defect in my appreciation of the art form, call it a chink in my masculinity, but John Carney movies charm the pants off of me. I was all geared-up to hate Begin Again with its cutesy, A-list cast – some of them reprobates from NBC’s The Voice – and its exchange-Dublin-for-New York retooling of Once, but then, damnit all to hell, this movie ended up winning me over with its infectious naivety and optimism. In Carney stories the ills of the world are quickly diagnosed – our hearts are broken too easily. As luck would have it, the cure to our fragility is a quick fix – we can pick up a guitar and make music. I remember back when Cameron Crowe made films like this one. All heart and invincible sentimentality. Fun, feel-bluesy films where the characters don’t always end up together, but they do end up drowning their melancholy in wine and song together.”

On Coherence : “If I were to tell you that the most mind-bending and worthwhile science fiction film this year wasn’t Interstellar, but happened to be a small, independent puzzler of a motion picture directed by the guy that wrote Rango – would you believe me? I wouldn’t either. Though some folks have compared Byrkit’s Coherence to the 2004 film Primer, I don’t believe it’s a comparison that gives enough credit to how great Coherence is on its own. Unlike Shane Carruth’s film, Coherence doesn’t ever lose sight of its identity as an entertainment property under the onslaught of science. It’s a much more fun, drafty film than either Primer or Upstream Color. It takes care of the viewer even as it puts their concentration and intellect through their paces.”

The Babadook Blue Ruin (As picked by Drew Powell)

On The Babadook : “Like the best horror films Australian director Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook gradually builds tension and a sense of madness without relying on gore or easy jump scares. As the movies rumbles on, the viewer can feel a claustrophobic dread slowly closing in on them. Essie Davis gives a fantastic performance as single mother Amelia who—along with her young son—is haunted by the unseen, top hatted creature. A performance that gets increasingly insane and sleep deprived. Kent also manages to avoid the usual horror movie clichés and wisely keeps most of the action contained to Amelia’s house, making the movie feel even more claustrophobic.”

On Blue Ruin : “There are some pretty gruesome scenes but Saulnier doesn’t overdue the violence, keeping the picture realistic in feel. Something that usually can’t be said for revenge flicks. And newcomer Macon Blair as the wannabe Charles Bronson is an acting revelation. Giving one of the most underrated performances of the year. All of this makes for one of the most innovative revenge movies I’ve seen in recent years.”

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The Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2015 (My Weird Edition)

This isn’t a criticism of those that run most anticipated films lists. I’m game to them myself, both the writing and reading of them. We in the movie watching world tend to consume movies on a January through December mindset, getting all amped up for what’s to come, knowing full well that half the best pictures to come out in a given year are on very few radars in the opening weeks.

What I’m trying to say is no blog or critic really is made up of only the new movies that hit theatres. Most of my favorite movies I see tend to be older works that are hitting my eyes for the very first time. We can all jot down that a new Scorsese, Bigelow or Linklater movie is something to get amped about. What I want to know is what are the features which are going to be crack into personal favorites from yesteryear.

Personally, I’m making an effort to dig into a number of auteurs whose only works I have seen are their undisputed classics of (Ozu) or recent works (Hsiao-Hsien), plus filmmakers whose efforts I’ve never been truly taken by (Tati). So, might I present a slightly askew most anticipated list; my top ten films I’m most anticipating that aren’t coming out in 2015.

Equinox Flower (1962)

Of history’s most cherished directors, Ozu is probably the one I love the most whose work I’m only a beginner at. Usually, once I find someone whose releases hit the mark, it’s all binging all the time. Perhaps it’s the delicacy of Ozu’s tales, but I’m fixing this and doing it with a quickness.. It begins with his first color feature.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Other than Carrie, I am entirely unfamiliar with Brian de Palma’s 70s filmography. A crazy looking cult classic that restructures the Phantom of the Opera story seems a good of place to start as any I presume.

Jour de fete (1949)

Heretical as it is to say, I’ve never quite “got” Jacques Tati. I respect his playfulness and eye for visuals. I also have never been able to find his movies as more than well-staged set-pieces. Perhaps starting where it all began will be the key to it all.

Yi Yi (2000)

Not a single person I’ve ever met has said Edward Yang’s Yi Yi is anything less than masterful. The shame has dug too deep. This wrong will not endure.

A Summer at Grandpa’s (1984)

Every picture by Taiwanese legend Hou Hsiao-Hsien that has entered my radar has been a pleasure. However, all of those blips into my vicinity have been in the back-half of his thirty-five year career. A Summer at Grandpa’s is typically cited as his first major achievement, so a wandering I shall go.

The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Regularly cited as a major influence on Bergman (who I love uncontrollably) and with a classically gothic flare (which I love with minor control), this silent film by Victor Sjostrom seems ripe for a gloomy evening.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

I’ve already begun my year of Cassavates, watching his debut Shadows already. The plan is to dig through his entire directing career, though it’s the epic A Woman Under the Influence that has me especially giddy.

The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

I’ve checked this out from the library once a year since 2009 and never have the time to watch it/make the time to watch it. 2015 this will occur; the watching part of it I mean.

Pather Panchali (1955)

By all accounts the so-called “Apu Trilogy’ is one of the great cinematic achievements. I haven’t seen one, let alone all three. No day like today to fix that.

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Somehow, I’ve seen the enchanting Agnes Varda documentary but none of her many films, which are right up my alley. Come on me, get with it.

The Top 50 Films of the Decade So Far

Hey 2015, what’s going on with you? Yeah, I know only half of the decade is over, but figured this was as good a time as any to check how the 2010s are going for movies. I’m not throwing out any grand theses or anything, other than the notion that a good movie is hard to find can only be said by those with their heads in the sand.

More than anything, this is a primer for who I am. I don’t rank my top tens each year because the numbers are arbitrary; most movies seen once and maybe just days earlier. The following fifty is an example of what I love about films, those that I watch on repeat and a rundown for those that know me to show when I say I love a movie, this is how much.

Thank you all for reading this, what I’ve written before and what I will jot down tomorrow.

My 10 to Watch to Close 2014

TIFF has come and gone. Fall is officially beginning. It is the best time of year for movies. Festival favorites, Oscar hopefuls and holiday blockbusters all comingle in the most wonderful time of the year.

There will be dozens of worthwhile movies hitting theatres from now until December 31st; these are the ten that I am looking forward to the most. The ten are a combination of foreign films that have garnered heavy acclaim at Cannes, Venice or other notable venues to date, new works by major auteurs and possible greats in the making. So, on the eve of fall and the rush of the upcoming season, here we go.

A Most Violent Year : Coming out on the very last day of the year, A Most Violent Year hopefully continues the rise of writer-director J.C. Chandor, whose first two films (Margin Call & All is Lost) were tightly wound dramas, despite having little in common on the surface. This time Chandor has two amazing leads (Jessica Chastain & Oscar Isaac), an intriguing supporting cast (Albert Brooks, David Oyewolo) and a tale of crime in early 80s New York City.

Birdman : Having already shown to glowing reviews, the new picture by Alejandro Inarritu (Babel) looks gorgeous from the trailers and has a stellar cast. That said, it’s all about Michael Keaton getting a – supposedly – worthwhile role for the first time in ages as a down-on-his-luck actor hoping to reignite his career after it burned out post-superhero films. Keaton is an actor who can go big and bonkers, which is exactly what Birdman appears to be; hopefully.

Clouds of Sils Maria Fact; Oliver Assayas is amongst my five favorite directors. Fact; Juliette Binoche is amongst my five favorite actresses. Nothing else is necessary.

Duke of Burgundy Word out of TIFF and Fantastic Fest is that this yarn of two women who test the boundaries of their emotional and physical love is gloriously nutso. When the words giallo and romance are thrown together, consider me pumped.

Foxcatcher : Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are the stars of the possible Oscar frontrunner. It’s the true story of an Olympic wrestler, his trainer and those around him. It’s also said to be dark, brooding and terrifying; i.e. this ain’t Rudy. Bennett Miller directs it, a man whose only two pictures to date (Capote & Moneyball) have worked non-fiction into excellence, able to nimbly take years of info and naturally cram it into one linear effort.

Gone Girl : David Fincher doesn’t always hit a homerun. When Fincher does though, he makes films that are amongst the best of the past twenty-five years. Fingers-crossed for more Zodiac/Fight Club/The Social Network and not a Panic Room/Benjamin Button.

Inherent Vice : After a pair of pictures by Paul Thomas Anderson with big themes, ideas and moods, he may be heading towards a more narratively loose realm again with this Thomas Pynchon adaptation. The 70s, drugs and detective work all show their faces, with Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and an apparently resurgent Reese Witherspoon leading the way. PTA has been on an almost unparallel streak and I have little doubt it will continue.

Mr. Turner : Mike Leigh made this movie. That’s enough.

Two Days, One Night : Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have made six great movies in a row. The kind of great where that word doesn’t even seem sufficient. With Hayao Miyazaki retired, I’ve been trying to determine who my favorite filmmaker/s are working today; these two are the answer. So yes, I want to see a movie that they made.

Winter Sleep : I’m a bit late to this whole Nuri Bilge Ceylan fandom. I’ve only seen Once Upton a Time in Anatolia and Climates, each quiet, meditative features that are quite masterful visions. His newest won the Palme d’Or at Cannes early this year and his most knowledgeable followers have said its his best work to date. Considering how stellar what’s been done so far, that is high praise.

Mid-Year 10

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So, we’re six months through 2014 and the movie have been impressive so far, based if anything else on the movies I really enjoyed tht didn’t make my mid-year top 10. It’s right here and is probably predictable to anyone who follows me elsewhere.

Top 10 Lists I Will Not Post

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1. Top 7 Hugh Jackman Wolverine Performances

2. Top 5 Last Acts In Christopher Nolan Movies

3. Top 10 Michael Bay Helicopter Shots

4. Top 10 Ryan Reynolds Performances

5. Top 25 Ways That Comic Book Movie Has To Be More Like The Comic

6. Top 5 Movies My Cat Prince Should Cameo In (Even Though He’d Be Excellent)

7. Ranking the Ocean’s Eleven Eleven

8. Top 5 Underrated Cars 2 Scenes

9. Top 10 Actors Snubbed For An Oscar In The Lead Actor Category This Year.

10. Top 9 Moments In That New Teaser Trailer For That Movie Coming Out In 2 Years