Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Favorite 14 of 2014

The photo of Siskel and Ebert was a major influence on "Picture Show."

Now, on with the countdown!

Robyn's Top 10 + 4 Shows


I am married to a comic book geek and I love it! He has opened my eyes to the beauty and complexities that lie within the Marvel universe. 'Guardians' was fun! And funny! With an amazing soundtrack. It is also reflective upon many aspects of life, love, loss, and saving the galaxy. Chris Pratt is also a beautiful human man that I like to look at, so that doesn't hurt. Actually, I'm going to go watch this movie now for fun. Oh, and I am Groot. I think we all are.


I love Kathryn Hahn. She is wickedly funny, but also emotionally tender. She gives a desperately beautiful performance in this film, written and directed by (a ROCKSTAR female filmmaker among many that are on this list) Jill Soloway. Soloway is another personal hero of mine. I aspire to be a filmmaker of her degree. Another brilliant film filled with complicated, real life human beings. A great character driven portrait of modern day America. Soloway is also the creator of my favorite television show (maybe ever,) 'Transparent.' To me, it is perfect...every moment is so well crafted and I want to be a part of it. I aspire to create a TV show like this one day. It breaks my heart and fills my spirit. I highly recommend


The film wasn't what I originally thought it would be. I went in a little naive and thought I'd be taken for a fun journey through one life. I was astonished at the depth in the filmmaking and performances, but was mostly shocked by the impact of seeing life over 12 years and the effect it had on me. I left, after watching the final scene, feeling profoundly reflective and melancholy. I cannot wait to screen it again. Patricia Arquette deserves the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance. It is now out on DVD, so please see Linklater's most important film to date.


Incredible filmmaking and Michael Keaton is a rockstar. For me, the film actually plays out like a really awesome grunge rock album. It made me want to stand up and shout, "HELL YEAH." It's bold and complicated and I loved every minute of what seemed to be one long take. Inspiration levels are off the chart. I must mention Edward Norton's performance - I mean 'WOW' - but Emma Stone really blew me away. She is a profound artist and her eyes are piercing. If you haven't already and you're a little weird and a bit off beat, see this film!


Jenny Slate is one of my personal heroes and her performance in this film is funny, delightful, and deep. Thank you to 'Obvious Child' for making us feel all the feelings meant to be felt by real live human people. I love the script for this film and think it should be nominated for best original screenplay. I was really happy the writers stayed true to the short film version and the character of Donna went through with the abortion. Films generally take it in another direction, and this point of view needed to be explored. Director Gillian Robespierre is a new feminine force in filmmaking, and if you can't tell already by my list, women are taking over!


Michel Gondry weaves an imaginative, bittersweet story of love and the lengths of the earth we will run to in order to save the person who completes our soul. Performances by Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou are splendid, capturing that special state of mind and body we live in when we fall in love. I have been obsessed with Tautou since 'Amelie' and my mother is convinced I resemble her, which makes me so happy! In the film, her ChloƩ is diagnosed with an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs. Of course, this film lived with me on a personal level. I was pretty much crippled as I tried to walk out of the theater. However, it is beautiful and I love it. Another I'd love to create!


Thank you Roger Ebert for being you. You changed what it means to go to the movies and you made America think. And also feel. Thank you Steve James for directing this masterpiece of one brilliant man's journey. Through adversity and pain, Ebert goes on to do what matters most - watching and writing, observing and commenting. Whenever I view a classic film for the first time, I look back at Ebert's archives and read his review. 'Life Itself' is a legendary documentary about a legendary human being.


Even historical dramas can live as simple, poetic reflections in character and nature. This film, on the young life of Abraham Lincoln, spoke to me deeply and I helped me understand the soul within the man who changed our nation. A film full of grace. Never underestimate the beauty and simplicity in black and white filmmaking.


A poignant journey of life, love, loss, regret, and moving forward - one painful, heartbreaking step at a time - on the Pacific Coast Trail. I read the book by Cheryl Strayed and heavily identified with her plight. The film brought to life her struggle of redemption. I loved the intimate hand-held camera work and felt the director soulfully adapted the book. Witherspoon also gives her best performance to date - isolated, subtle, gritty, and simple. The treachery and beauty of the PCT, as well as the grief of losing a loved one, washes over the audience with grace and dignity. I also admired the editing and sound design, as well as the set decoration. Another film I so wish I would have directed!


To say I wish I had made this film is a total understatement. I aspire to this level of beauty in filmmaking. Josephine Decker's bold, earthy, liberating, original style of writing and directing has taken the indie film industry by surprise. The performances given by Joe Swanberg, Sophie Traub, and especially Robert Longstreet are poetic, sensual, and thought-proving. However, my favorite aspect of the film just might be the cinematography by DP Ashley Connor. It struck my heart. I would love to work with her one day.








Jonathan's Top 14


A summer blockbuster to start off the list. And why not? It was awesome. Plus, any blockbuster that can start with a scene involving cancer and be respectful is a film that deserves my respect. The film was bold in its scope and vision, yet emotionally engaging at its core. Plus... what's that Robyn? Oh, and Chris Pratt is a hottie, she says... Wait! What?

13. WILD

Beautifully directed and edited. Reese Witherspoon at her best. The story is told with immediacy and I appreciated how much care went into every moment. It's important to note that the director was also the films editor. This is a film built around the edit and I noted several astounding moments where montage and collage were created where normally you would have exposition. A film to be studied by directors and editors.


One of the most original films this year. Part documentary, part narrative. It's impossible to know which scenes are fabricated and which are real. This is because every scene is real and honest. This film is one of many great Southern films made this year.


A film that is not at all real, but tells its fairytale story proudly. Funny, inventive and, since it is Wes Anderson, quirky. His movies just make me smile.


Ignore any comments on the "bad" makeup. This is a film that is cold and still with something very heavy to say about the state of the American Dream and the men destroyed pursuing it. I am fascinated by the notion of the American Dream. Our modern society was built upon it, but somewhere along the line, the 1960's I believe, the dream became nostalgic. And now the dream is mostly found in television commercials, Norman Rockwell paintings and Branson, Missouri. The feeling of saudade, a beautiful word, is very overwhelming in this film. All three leads struggle to obtain the dream: Greatness, Glory, The Perfect Family, Dominance of Our Peers. Of course, nothing ends well and they all succumb to their own greed or ignorance and we, the audience, are left with the chants of "U.S.A.!" in our ears. Perfectly directed by Bennett Miller, a personal favorite of mine. Miller creates astounding sequences with little to no camera movement. I could learn a lot from this man.


Three environmental terrorists plan to blow up a dam for the better of the planet. Kelly Reichardt, another personal favorite, is a wonderful director and editor, I like it when director's edit their own films. She tells what could have been a mindless Hollywood thriller and presents it simply with no unnecessary fuss. Jesse Eisenberg is particularly strong as a young man thriving for good, yet seeing no alternative to his actions. I started watching this film at 4:00 in the morning and, before I knew it, it was over.


A tightrope of a film that is the best experience I've had at the movies this year. Michael Keaton is so good, as is Edward Norton and Emma Stone. A crazy story that leaves one feeling breathless and exhilarated at the same time.


Another profound American story that features a great performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. He's a true sociopath and dreamer. The story of a young man, a video camera and his pursuit of blood and violence for this evenings news. The depths to which he will sink to be the best is frightening, but also engaging and sadly true of our current YouTube nation.


I love ethereal science fiction. This year, Christopher Nolan attempted it and Jonathan Glazer mastered it. The story of an alien, played wonderfully by Scarlet Johansson, on a mission never fully explained. While seducing men and turning them into empty shells of skin, she discovers empathy and pain. This is not a film for everyone. It demands a lot of its audience and requires patience and a belief that not everything needs an explanation or resolution. Like "Foxcatcher," Glazer films with a steady hand. Rarely does the camera move and I was deeply moved by the simplicity of its beauty. Again, I have a lot to learn from this man.


Roger Ebert was a lover of film and a great writer. I learned so much about life, art, humor, and my own personal aesthetic from his website. He suffered, as so many of us have, and through it all he maintained his wit. He was a modern day explorer of the human condition and he found it in films, as Robyn and I do. Steve James has made a touching portrait that never leaves Ebert's side, just as Ebert wanted it, and we are all the better for witnessing.


There is no one cooler than Jim Jarmusch. His films are funny, enlightening and alive in ways so few films are. Here, he has made a vampire story that is not just about bloodsuckers, but a story of love, art, science, religion, and our very existence. And really, any film that can discuss the debauchery of Lord Byron, the forgotten genius of Tesla, the awesomeness of Jack White and still have time to fit in a reference to the fibonacci golden spiral is absolutely going to be in my top five. Jarmusch is a maverick filmmaker that never plays by the rules and we are all better for it.


Robyn has said so much about this already, I'll just add that the wandering and wild camera work in this film must be seen. The movie plays with our expectations and, just when things feel like they are on solid ground, the story and camera veer off course and finds a barking dog. The film also features the best opening to a film this year.


The most critically panned film on my list. Nevertheless, I love this film. It's my personal favorite film of the year. It speaks to me and my passion for filmmaking so directly. It tells the story of my favorite president in his youth. There is no plot and no real conflict (a character might be angry, but there is never confrontation). Instead, we are given glimpses of human emotion, as seen through many eyes. We witness beauty in nature and feel how it transcends time and space and alters our state of being. It's a poem put to film, just as I like it. I've grown weary of conflict and plot. I don't wish to write about it because it bores me. I make movies about the state of being. And I realize that this makes my work only appropriate for about 1% of the population, but that's okay. Films like "The Better Angels" need an audience and that is me.


As I've stated earlier, I am fascinated by the American Dream and the Myths it took to form it. This is probably because I grew up during the second Bush administration, a man (despite your politics) you must admit was a firm believer in the American Dream. As a youth, I was witness to bizarre political moments (starting with Clinton/Lewinsky, going through John Ashcroft losing to a dead man in my home state, the rise of Bush Jr. and there was still time for a shooting at the hands of the Vice-President, aka Scary Dick). I also had to see so many national atrocities in my early days. From the moment I saw OJ found not guilty during my lunch break in elementary school to the fall of those beautiful towers in high school. In these moments, I was defined. What does this have to do with "Boyhood?"

There is a young filmmaker and critic by the name of Tanner Smith. He listed "Boyhood" as the best film of the last five years, and for good reason. This is a film that speaks heavily to those that still remember what it was like to grow up and eventually find ourselves. This film looks at how our identity is born and the role Pop Culture, Drugs, Sex, Our Parents, Technology, Politics, and our Socio/Economic Environment plays in our development. This film, however, is made specifically about growing up NOW: the "Obama, Rise of Facebook, Fall of Myspace (good riddance), Twitter, Whorification of Miley Cyrus, YouTube Celebrity" generation.

Does this film then hold nothing for us older gents? Of course not. Richard Linklater is a filmmaker of such skill, he has created an entire catalogue of generational films for everyone: The seventies drug fueled, non-hippies in "Dazed and Confused," the grunge nineties in "Suburbia" and "Slacker," the existential millennials in "Waking Life" (my personal favorite Linklater film), and, of course, the grandest of all is "Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," and "Before Midnight," a trilogy of films that looks at how we so often lose ourselves somewhere in the quarter and again in the middle of life and our difficult struggles for rediscovery. The beauty of all these films is that they talk about one generation, but they speak for us all. "Boyhood" is an opus of a film that is funny, true and poignant because it reminds us of something that we always feel, but so often are afraid to say, "Time moves so damn fast." We feel our own life slipping by as we watch these characters age, and that sounds scary, but it's truly an amazing experience, one very much worth having.

For great movie reviews from a very talented young man, check out Tanner's website here: http://smithsverdict.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/boyhood-2014/


SPECIAL MENTION (2 films made in 2013, but seen in 2014):


Eric Steele, in adapting his own stage play, has made one of the most tense films I have ever seen. The film is beautifully written and perfectly directed, with a style that recalls the days of Sydney Lumet and Robert Altman. The film also features two fantastic actors. First, in a great supporting role, Robert Longstreet is tough as nails and could kick the shit out of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. And, in the film's lead, Barry Nash delivers an astounding, layered performance. He is vulnerable in ways rarely seen on film and you find new discoveries with each new scene because of his sheer honesty. The film is not yet available, but if you can see it, you absolutely must.


Wonderful southern filmmaking. Mark Thiedeman has made a heart wrenching art film that must be seen. Two young boys must come to terms with their eventual separation from one another and the struggle to find all the right words for how much they mean to one another. It's just a gorgeous love story. I knew from the very opening of the film, with it's haunting overture, that I was in the presence of a very talented filmmaker. The film is now available on Amazon and I highly recommend it.


Lastly, here is a list of films that we haven't seen, but could very easily be on our list:

Goodbye to Language
Inherent Vice
Theory of Everything
A Most Violent Year
The Immitation Game
Mr. Turner
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Love is Strange

And, Honorable Mentions:

Magic in the Moonlight
The Lego Movie
The Immigrant
Butter on the Latch
It Felt Like Love
The Cold Lands
Hide Your Smiling Faces
The Skeleton Twins
The Homesman
Gone Girl
Top Five

and there are so many more, we're sure...

Thanks for reading!

Jon & Robyn

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