Friday, January 9, 2015


Time again for the film critic’s annual self-indulgence—as opposed to all those weekly self-indulgences—the Top Ten List. Admitting that there are still quite a few high-profile flicks I haven’t gotten to yet—The Theory of Everything, Selma, Get On Up, Boyhood, Calvary and Belle, among others—here are ten moves that, as of this writing, I’m willing to admit I really liked and found memorable:

Jodorowsky’s DuneThe 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 GameFascinating, 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 RuinBadly 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.

RudderlessAlso 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 MeJames 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.

SnowpiercerAfter 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 GalaxyCritics 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 BoxtrollsThis 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 LifeMaybe 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.

While I admit the excellence of its filmmaking and of Michael Keaton’s acting—I hope he wins the Oscar this year—I couldn’t quite bring myself to like Birdman, but other movies I wasn’t sorry I sat through this year included: Gone Girl, Interstellar, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Joe, Big Hero 6, Penguins of Madagascar, Top Five, Elsa and Fred, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jersey Boys, The Monuments Men, Stonehearst Asylum, The Lego Movie, Obvious Child, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Planes: Fire and Rescue, The Skeleton Twins, The Trip to Italy, For No Good Reason, The Hundred-Foot Journey and The Last Days of Robin Hood, with Kevin Kline, excellent as Errol Flynn on his last legs.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting list! Feel free to be as self-indulgent as you want. After all it's your blog.

    Frank just showed up on Netflix. Maybe the guy with the big head will have a chance to find his audience now.

    Je suis Frank,