They Came Together (2014, David Wain)

Goofy meta-romantic-comedy with half the cast of Wet Hot American Summer, full of delightful bits and ones that didn’t quite work (extended scene about Chris Meloni crapping his pants). Good cameos and minor roles, the best being a sword-wielding Michael Shannon, but it’s mostly the Rudd and Poehler show and they sell the whole fake-comedy thing perfectly. Oh and New York City, which is practically a character in the film.

La Mémoire Courte (1982, Eduardo de Gregorio)

U.N. translator Nathalie Baye (Détective, La chambre verte, DiCaprio’s mom in Catch Me If You Can) is hired for a job involving the nazi-investigation papers of a man played by Jacques Rivette in flashbacks. Gregorio cowrote many of Rivette’s films, and he’s joined here by Rivette, the Lubtchanskys, Hermine Karagheuz (Out 1‘s Marie) and Bulle Ogier (and I might’ve spotted Barbet Schroeder in a dinner party scene). Given the personnel it’s clearly a must-watch for Rivette fans, and now that I’ve finally found and seen a subtitled copy, it’s a must-watch-again, since I’m afraid I got lost in the multinational conspiracy. Then again, maybe that was the idea.

Double dose of Rivette and Karagheuz:

Rivette was seeking a nazi called Andros, possibly with help from a mysterious Holocaust survivor called Mr. Mann. Baye tracks down a woman of Andros’s acquaintance, but Bulle is unhelpful. Baye talks to a guy named Franck (Philippe Léotard of a couple early 1970’s Truffaut films), who provides elegant flashbacks about Bulle’s history with a general working for Andros, selling new passports to escaped nazis. But Andros may actually be Mann, who may have killed Franck’s parents, and he’s out for revenge. The movie ends with Mann unhurt and unexposed, Franck injured and police seeking his accomplice Baye.

Baye, cornered:

Nice shadowy conspiracy drama (Rosenbaum calls it “a film noir in color”) with good music (a nervous piano rumble) and stylish flashbacks. Gregorio and cowriter Edgardo Cozarinsky are from Argentina, a country known for harboring nazis after WWII. In their contemporary review NYTimes claimed Philippe Léotard played either the general or Andros – is that true?

Oh yeah look at that, they’ve got the same eyes.
Then who’s Eduardo Manet, who IMDB says plays the general in flashbacks?

In a World (2013 Lake Bell)

Writ/Dir/Prod/Star Lake Bell plays Carol, the lone woman in the voiceover business, competing against her dad (Fred Melamed, Larry’s wife’s new boyfriend in A Serious Man) and her one-night-stand (Ken Marino) to voice the trailers for a new fantasy trilogy. Since that’s clearly not enough plot for a whole movie, she also has a sister who decides to leave her husband, and one of the recording studio guys (Demetri Martin) likes Carol. Cute enough movie with lots of good comedians in the cast, and amusing clips of the fake fantasy trilogy, a sort of Mad Max dystopia starring Cameron Diaz.

I also showed The World’s End to Katy, which she did not enjoy, then I rewatched it a couple times with commentary tracks.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Hayao Miyazaki)

We watched this the same week as Princess Mononoke, and not long after Princess Kaguya, and it suffered by comparison. Also suffered by expectation, since it’s possibly the most beloved Studio Ghibli movie, providing the company their mascot. Surely it’s a good, enjoyable movie, but it’s simpler, more oriented towards kids. Gives a Coraline vibe, as kids move into a new house and find magic within. Coraline wanted everything to be more wonderful and centered around her, but these girls have real problems – mom in hospital with tuberculosis (see also: The Wind Rises).

The girls are excited about their new house, especially when the younger one crawls into a tree grove and discovers a Totoro (like a giant raccoon-bear that can fly on a spinning top and create massive temporary trees).

Then Totoro eats them.

No he doesn’t. An elderly neighbor tells them about the soot sprites (black dust balls with eyeballs) in the attic and the girls eventually meet the neighbor’s grandson, a silent, socially awkward boy. Gradually things get more real as we learn that their transplant to the country was prompted by a sick mom, and the youngest girl wanders off to visit her, but gets lost, prompting a search party and leading the older girl to seek out Totoro’s help.

Totoro summons the greatest thing in the history of movies: the catbus.

Then it eats them.

No it doesn’t.

Wild (2014, Jean-Marc Vallee)

Better than expected (because I expected Into The Wild with a happier ending). Reese Witherspoon goes on a life-cleansing solo voyage, encounters friends, admirers and dangers, a benevolent shoe company, potential-rapist hunters. Flashbacks to her mom Laura Dern dying of cancer and Reese’s ensuing descent were very well integrated into the present-day story. I am a fan of this movie’s editing. Vallée made last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, Nick Hornby adapted the memoir, and Reese might’ve won more awards if Julianne Moore hadn’t made an alzheimer’s drama the same year.

Princess Mononoke (1997, Hayao Miyazaki)

Final movie we watched in 2014, if we don’t count the disc of Brakhage shorts I put on for New Year’s Eve. Katy was impressed at how weird and non-Disney it seems. There’s a magical nature god with healing powers whom the title character tries and fails to protect, then a fight over its severed head, after which the movie’s main character decides to join the mining town whose leaders have been trying to destroy the forest and its spirits all along. With a more straightforward Avatar approach, the forest-destroying, spirit-killing factions of humanity would be the villains, but here everything is more morally complex.

Most distractingly recognizable voice in the English version: Billy Bob Thornton as a mercenary monk. Minnie Driver led the mining town, Gillian Anderson played the giant wolf that Mononoke hangs with, and Keith David (the guy who fights Roddy Piper for an hour before putting on the glasses in They Live) was the giant blind pig.

Memorable: the cursed boar Ashitaka fights at the beginning, setting him off on a journey to find where it came from and un-curse his arm. And especially the bobble-headed tree spirits.

Batman Returns (1992, Tim Burton)

The best Christmas movie we could find on netflix at the time. Katy had never seen this, did not know the joys of a flipper-fisted Danny DeVito and leather-suited Michelle Pfeiffer and fright-wigged Christopher Walken and Burton’s light-and-shadows pop-color photography and Elfman’s huge soaring music all stealing Micheal Keaton’s own superhero film out from under him. Batman has an undeveloped love interest in Pfeiffer, some last-minute heroism (diverting DeVito’s city-destroying rocket penguins into the zoo), obligatory Batman/Bruce identity crisis, but no major personality or emotion or story developments. And that’s fine with me – Batman movies could’ve gone on forever like this.

Totally missed noticing Paul Reubens as Penguin’s father, damn. Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in Hellboy) played a clown, and Jan Hooks (just-deceased SNL actress) Penguin’s mayoral campaign handler. Happy to see Michael “Tanner ’88” Murphy as the mayor and the great Vincent Schiavelli as Penguin’s monkey man.

Also watched the first 15 minutes of the first Burton Batman movie. Forgot that Jack Palance plays the crime boss who sends Nicholson into the Joker-backstory factory. Billy Dee Williams plays Harvey Dent, who does not get two-faced in this one.

The Movie Year in Review, 2014

It’s end-of-year list-making time!

The Lists

Favorite New Movies on Video, 2014
Favorite New Movies in Theaters, 2014
Favorite Older Movies on Video, 2014
Favorite Retrospective Screenings, 2014
Favorite Shorts of 2014
Some 2014 Movies I Missed
Previous year lists

Letting the new/video list sit on top this year. The new/theater list is what people think of as the “movies of the year,” and those top three picks were important to me, but since the blog was moving to Nebraska I didn’t make it out to the theaters too often, and on video I had a wider variety of movies available, so I feel the video list is more representative of my taste.


Movie Memories

Other viewing experiences that stand out:

Watching 99 minutes of The Clock from comfy couches at the Walker with Katy and Aaron.

Babette’s Feast long-distance with Katy (texting) on Valentine’s Day during an earthquake.

Getting into the stories from Breadcrumb Trail, spending the next month listening to Slint-related albums.


Television

Most enjoyable shows:

Dollhouse s2 and The Prisoner in the wacked dystopian drama department

Comedies Veep s2, Girls s1, Futurama s6, Important Things s2 and The Day Today.


The Year In Bad Movies

I try not to make “worst movies” lists, since I try not to watch bad movies (or to pick on Katy’s occasional bum pick), but I saw a few that deserve special mention – Bastards, The Maze, Poto and Cabengo, Witch Hunt and The Handmaid’s Tale were all foul in their own way. And usually I leave shorts alone, since they don’t waste much of my time, but The Legend of Hallowdega and Festi were pretty terrible.


SHOCKtober

Horrors watched in October rarely make the end-of-year lists, so sometimes I give ‘em their own lists just so they can feel special. This year brought the Polanski movies and Possession, so horrors don’t need an entire consolation page, but these were very good:

The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Antiviral
Metamorphosis
Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell
Kiss of the Damned


Rewatches

Watched/enjoyed for the first time in years (in no order):

A Man Escaped
Scanners
Brazil
Hellraiser
Dead Man
The Thin Red Line
Eyes Wide Shut
Minority Report
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Batman Returns
Princess Mononoke


Viewing Projects, Lists, Etc.

Added some directors to the sidebar: Bong Joon-ho, Jean Cocteau, David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Satyajit Ray, Tsai Ming-Liang.

I made a to-watch list for 2014 (which I didn’t share online because it overlaps most of my already-online lists) and only ended up watched 15% of those. No big deal… not getting hung up on any one list or project as long as I’m watching good stuff, just going with whatever catches fancy at the time. That said, I could stand to have a Criterion Blu-ray month… or year, since they keep putting out gorgeous editions of new movies that I act excited about then never watch. And I’ve created a way of keeping track of about a hundred movie lists, so when I complete any of those, whether by concerted effort or by accident, I plan to do an Inventory write-up like this one.


Happy New Movie Year 2015

Favorite New Movies on Video, 2014

1. The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
2. To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)
3. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
4. Alan Partridge (Declan Lowney)
5. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Cattet & Forzani)
6. Hard to be a God (Aleksei German)
7. The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zurcher)
8. Journey to the West (Tsai Ming-liang)
9. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)
10. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)


Eight more, to match the theater list:

11. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
12. Viola (Matias Piñeiro)
13. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
14. Watermark (Jennifer Baichwal)
15. John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli)
16. Passion (Brian De Palma)
17. Breadcrumb Trail (Lance Bangs)
18. Coherence (James Ward Byrkit)