or Hollywood Shuffle 2014 edition
A mysterious outsider's quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
Blue Ruin knocked me out. This was easily my favorite film of 2014 (yes I know IMDB lists the release as 2013 but its theatrical run was in April of 2014.) I can't speak highly enough of this film. If I'm perfectly honest with myself... the main reason I'm compiling this list is to mention this film again. I don't really have anything new to add but you can find my full review here.
Two Days One Night
Sandra (Cotillard) has come out of the hospital to some very unwelcome news, during her stay in the hospital she has been fired. The infinitely wise and spineless management decides, the only way Sandra can hope to stay employed at the factory is to convince her co-workers to give up their much-needed yearly bonuses. Now, over the course of one weekend, Sandra must confront each co-worker individually in order to win a majority of their votes before time runs out.
You can find my full review here.
You can find my full review here.
Set in the early 1980's Pioneer tells the story of a deep sea diver. In looking over a list of films that focus on deep sea diving one thing became almost instantly clear, there have not been a great number of quality films made about deep sea divers. I found this surprising considering the claustrophobic nature of diving and inherent beauty of the ocean lends itself wonderfully to film. To make a thriller in this setting would be a challenge but after seeing this film I can say that it was a challenge worth taking.
You can see my full review here.
The best documentaries are the ones that can open us up to new stories or give the viewer a fresh perspective on a familiar one. This is not a film made for sports fans alone. Director Gabe Polsky tells a deeply human story and paints an emphatic portrait of these once American adversaries. The son of first generation Russian immigrants Polsky said he was "provided an opportunity both to explore my heritage and to examine the impact hockey had on the culture, politics and legacy of the Soviet Union."
You can read my full review here.
Dan Harmon (the creator of Community) hosts a weekly podcast at Nerdmelt Comics in Los Angeles. Harmontown is ostensibly about Dan Harmon taking his podcast on tour after he was fired from Community but the real story is that of the shows dungeon master Spencer. He is simultaneously the voice of the audience and the voice from the stage. A misfit who wanted nothing more than to play D&D with one of his heroes.
Harmon is one of the most honest performers I've seen. His material seems to come from a place of both self hatred and adulation, an insecure ego maniac who is self aware enough to realize his greatest struggle is to come to terms with the fact that he got everything he wanted. He is a brilliant writer who is known for his anger and public outbursts but if you look at the people he surrounds himself with and the shows he has created you get a much fuller picture of the man. A sensitive man whose feels the pain of the world around him while trying to find a place that he can call his own.
The Zero Theorem
This film is clearly a satire that pokes fun at Hollywood on the surface level but it really speaks to the way we treat women in our society and what we value as individuals. This is a film that works and plays on many levels simultaneously. It’s both a cautionary tale of where technology is taking us and a commentary on celebrity. When we value image and status over expression and heart what are we left with.
Its difficult to separate a documentary films subjects from its makers but I feel like you must do it with Alive Inside. The subject matter is heart warming, saddening, frustrating and strikingly urgent but the heavy handed approach of the filmmakers is distracting and shows a lack of faith in his subject. With that being said the subject is powerful enough to transcend its execution. When you are discussing dementia and alzheimer's have faith the viewer can understand you're point without having trippy slow-motion shots of grandma looking confused and scared. These moments are minimal but they do a disservice to the overall quality of the film and undercut its important message.
These are the immediate films that came to mind when I began writing two hours ago. Its in no way a complete list but these are the films that I feel may have been lost in the shuffle in 2014.