Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Middling 2014

This is not a roll call of meh, it's a list that either didn't have quite the push to get into the top but felt too complete to be put into the low list. All that makes it sound like mediocrity but I enjoyed everything on this list when I saw it and still feel the resonance of that pleasure.

I Origins
Full points for the approach of looking at a wishful belief through science. Diminishing score for subverting that as soon as the ideas ran out. Perhaps its a meta fable about confirmation bias.

The Double
Even if it didn't go quite as far as its Dostoyevsky source (which is a very nasty and very funny piece) Richard Ayode's adaptation captured the Russianness and added some Britishness which almost worked up to the wire. The ending felt like it belonged to something much smaller scale.

Gone Girl
Extended essay on our acceptance of our own roles is never boring through some fine dialogue and strong performances but still feels too long.

Hard to be a God
This is the kind of film that normally would go straight into the top list purely from the audacity of the commitment to its singular path. It's definitely difficult but it also definitely resonates and gathers depth in recollection as remembered sequences take on the sensation of one's own experience. So why love Werckmeister Harmonies and not this? Because this is more like Satantango which I admire rather than love.

Some very nice ideas and is well performed but so repetitive that the power of its notions are swamped by overstatement.

Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coens make a film that doesn't have to be a Coens film to be good. Too much else was better, this year, though.

In a World
Funny idea well conceived and performed by writer/director Lake Bell but kept feeling a little shy of sharp enough.

Computer Chess
Andrew Bujalski's retro by setting and medium micro epic of technology and the ancient game delighted but showed the way for future development rather than celebrated an arrival. He's moved on from self-cuting mumblecore, what's next?

12 Years a Slave
Strong Kubrickian effort from the persistently interesting Steve McQueen wandered beyond the empathy it had with apparently effortless grace established.

Dallas Buyers Club
Two fine central performances that began to outgrow the film's purpose and leave its otherwise functional remainder wan and waiting.

Terrific 70s style family buddy movie works a treat and doesn't aim higher than it needs. Perhaps it should have.

Zero Theorem
Flavoursome Gilliam piece about private and public life and their dangerous connection feels like an in-between project rather than a full statement.

In the first third of this film the original name of the monster, Gojira, is anglicised into Godzilla within one line and so the progress of this film from 80s style epic to popcorn actioner may be summarised. Why couldn't we have some of the brand name stars in the female roles get more screen time, particularly as their roles' expansion might have enhanced this cover version. Otherwise thoroughly entertaining.

An improvement on the already impressive The Guard was still not quite enough to lift it beyond good for me.

Venus in Fur
A very worthy and strong two-hander from the master of violent character/suspense mixes still couldn't get to the best. But what a good Saturday eve this was, in large part because of this movie.

Hell of a ride with a good sci-fi arc. Almost chokes on its cheese. Needed IMAX to work fully.

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