2014 was an amazing year of movies for a number of reasons. There seemed to be more quality films than any other recent year – perhaps since 2007 or even 1999 – and more surprising still was that they weren’t all released in the fall and winter, but rather spread out across a whole year of cinematic richness (for proof check out the Best of Summer 2014 Arthouse and Blockbusters, many of which appear here). (more…)
This past summer turned out to have a surprising amount of quality blockbusters (read that here), but how fared the more limited releases? If the below list is any indication, then the answer is remarkably well as there was a wide variety of fantastic flicks being released in what’s typically the critical dead zone of summer.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll consider April 4 the start of summer. That means stellar efforts like Grand Budapest Hotel, Nymphomaniac Volume I and The Raid 2: Berendal were all spring releases and will have to settle for appearing on a slew of end-of-year lists. Without further ado, the cream of the arthouse crop:
Under the Skin
Scarlet Johansson has had a banner year and Under the Skin is a big part of that. Eschewing larger films for an esoteric sci-fi thinker helmed by Jonathan Glazer should win over the last few film fans in the world not already under her spell. Minimal almost to a fault and equally haunting, Under the Skin evokes an unnerving mood that stays with you long after the end credits roll. Utterly unique and uncompromising, the film rewards those who can stare at it long enough to unlock its pleasures. Full review here.
Secret Weapon: Johansson commands the screen in a lead performance that asks a lot of her, but let’s call out the sound design and score for their key roles in the movie. So much of the oddness and alien nature of the character and the story itself is conveyed through sound and repetition, that without the keen audio much would be lost.
Emerging filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier wrote and directed this striking thriller that wraps suspense and bloodletting around a meditation on revenge that stands tall with classics from The Coen Brothers and Chan-wook Park. Macon Blair stars as a bearded vagrant living a meager existence with seemingly no purpose to live. That purpose is found when the criminal who tore apart his family is released from prison and he sets out on a mission for vengeance. The initial storyline, which would be a complete narrative in other films, (more…)
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – an epic yet intimate tale of one boy’s growth from age 6 to 18 shot piecemeal over the course of 12 years – amazingly and improbably proves worth the wait. This is the work of a master filmmaker at the top of his craft – the result of a series of assured choices that leads to scenes that weave a tapestry of a young life. Maybe you weren’t born in 1994, as the main character and actor was, but the story itself is universal in its telling. This is the story of growing up and growing into oneself, and rarely has it been told so well.
The movie opens to the strains of Coldplay’s breakout song Yellow, a massive hit in the early 2000’s that nicely sets the time period without being overly obvious. Boyhood is full of these cues – music, videogames, political references – that signify each time period. Ellar Coltrane portrays Mason, the titular character, and he’s introduced (more…)