Jodorowsky’s Dune—The mad director narrates us his abortive ‘70s-era film version of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel, to the accompaniment of glorious conceptual art. This documentary is marvelously entertaining, probably more so than the movie Jodorowsky would have made back then.
The Imitation Game—Fascinating, inspirational, ultimately infuriating account of pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing’s code-breaking efforts during World War II, and his heartbreaking struggles after the war. Benedict Cumberbatch is moving and maddening as the off-putting genius.
Blue Ruin—Badly overlooked, this gruesomely violent, highly suspenseful revenge noir, made on a tiny budget by writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, doesn’t put a foot wrong. Macon Blair is startling as the homeless man roused to horrific action against the family he holds responsible for the murders of his parents.
Rudderless—Also overlooked, William H. Macy’s debut feature as a director is a painful and emotionally challenging drama about the power of music. After his son’s tragic death, a stricken father (Billy Crudup) discovers, and starts performing, beautiful songs written by the boy. Crudup does his best movie work since his (very different) performance in Almost Famous.
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me—James Keach recorded the final tour of the Alzheimer’s-afflicted country great. It’s a powerful document, and an artful, warm, occasionally funny piece of filmmaking.
Snowpiercer—After an apocalyptic Earth-wide freeze, a supertrain carries the remnants of humanity in an annual circuit of the planet—lower classes confined to the rear cars; upper class toward the engine. Movies don’t come much more elegantly weird than this…
Frank—…unless they’re accounts of a visionary punk musician who walks around all day wearing a huge papier-mache head that makes him look like Davy from Davy and Goliath, and keeps his band in cult-like semi-isolation while he strives for perfection. This bizarre, all-but-impossible-to-explain movie is funny, unsettling and unexpectedly poignant.
Guardians of the Galaxy—Critics can feel a little sheepish putting a big-budget smash hit like this on the list, but James Gunn’s sci-fi comedy really gave me a good time. Also, its soundtrack is full of wonderful ‘70s-era pop music. And also, it features a talking raccoon.
The Boxtrolls—This stop-motion fantasty about well-meaning subterranean trolls who wear boxes is pungently grotesque, with a tendency toward the gross-out. But it has a big heart.
The Book of Life—Maybe the most ambitiously-titled movie since The Tree of Life, this animated fantasy spun from Mexican Day of the Dead motifs feels both authentically traditional and vibrantly modern. It’s a visual knockout, and the music is beautiful as well.
And here are ten very-near-misses: the delightful Mike Myers documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Million Dollar Arm, Noah, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods, Wild, The Homesman, Chef, Unbroken and Tim Burton’s fascinating misfire Big Eyes.
And finally, there’s The Interview, which I heroically attended at Harkins Valley Art instead of watching on pay-per-view, in defense of our American way of life.