A few nights ago I sat down to create a list of 13 films that I saw last year and would consider highly memorable. To my chagrin, I didn’t fill the list, but I did write out 13 films. So here they are with brief comments. It’s worth noting that I saw all but one of these films in the vicinity of Ann Arbor, and 2/3 of the titles were seen by me at either the Michigan or State theaters.
Definitely will remember!
In The House
A French refreshment seen in early June. Clever storyline and just the right European verve. Kristin Scott Thomas continues her strong streak in European cinema – not that it was ever broken.
Not the clearest or tightest storyline I’ve ever seen at the movies, but strongly overcompensated by exuberant performances from all five main cast members, most notably Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in the two lead female roles. Was disappointed that the shooting location of Boston (my home city) was not used as itself and actually stood in for locations in New York and New Jersey.
Much Ado About Nothing
Another summer refreshment, this time coming way out of left field from the mind of Joss Whedon – and filmed in his Santa Monica (or environs) backyard! Who knew Shakespeare could be so modern and fun?
In A World
I wrote about this in detail here on this blog; to recap, a clever comedy from Lake Bell that used the truth of the competitive voice over industry in a way that felt honest, likable, and real.
A brutally and comically honest study of modern relationships featuring mature, thoughtful performances from the central trio of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini and Catherine Keener.
Chapter 3 of a long running saga first seen in 1995. But this time, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy brought a world weariness to their characters that made them more relatable than ever, as the audience could pick up on their shared history as if it was (their) own life, and draw their own conclusions from a dramatically intense, realistic storyline.
12 Years A Slave
Also mentioned on this blog shortly after seeing it – not an easy film to watch, but an important tale.
How I Live Now
Probably the “sleeper” of the group, in that it was little – seen by a wide audience, but reminded me of a transcendent teen/young adult state of mind where nothing seems to matter besides what you are doing in the here and now. And with this story, that was exactly the point.
Maybe I’ll remember them, maybe I won’t??
The Place Beyond the Pines
This April release boasted a uniquely complex narrative and sterling performances from leads Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. However, it was almost too ambitious and could have been a tighter story.
Made a boat load of money in the fall and continued Sandra Bullock’s stellar second act twenty years into her career. But I wasn’t captivated by it when I saw it, though I did appreciate the effort put into the film and its tightness as just a 90 minute movie.
Impressive directorial debut from Joseph Gordon – Levitt with luminous co-lead performances from Scarlett Johannson and Julianne Moore. However, was also “slight” in the comedic way – not life changing or affecting.
I enjoyed this one the most for the San Francisco and Marin County filming locations, plus Cate Blanchett’s immersive and captivating lead performance, then the rest of the familiar storyline. I will remember that it name drops my two favorite places of Martha’s Vineyard and Marin County, and features cameo appearances from a few people I know through Bay Area theatre.
One of the most unsettling films I’ve seen in the theatre in several years, with incredibly committed work from Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Melissa Leo, among others… but so full of dread and dark and gloom and murky camerawork that it’s hard to single it out.