2014 Movie Highlights

Recommendations of Recent and Semi-recent releases

December 24, 2014

My favorite DVD and streaming releases of 2014 feature beautiful cinematography (or photography in one case) and stories of talented lonely, lost, loners.

The Double

Jesse Eisenberg stars twice in this mumblecore meets Brazil meets Metropolis movie. A meager clerk lives an almost invisible existence until his more confident doppelgänger arrives on the scene and hi jinx ensue. The cinematography is striking. The dark, cold settings, devoid of nature are surprisingly pleasing to the eye. If the protaganist was set in a mumblecore world, he might be enjoying a post-college Brooklyn-hipster arrested development. But in the dystopian world of The Double his awkward passiveness renders him lonely and lost, the world steamrolling over him. Yet despite the dark, depressive themes, the movie is quite fun to watch.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Chock full of Coen Brothers amusement, a down and out folk musician makes bad choices while cruising around (mostly) NYC and ruining friendships. The Mr. Kennedy scene is amazing.

There are also several great sequences involving a cat, which provide ongoing laughs, aahhhhs, plot twists, and a sense of urgency. The storytelling is lovely. SPOILER ALERT: the opening scene is actually at the end (chronologically) and when I discovered this it forced me to reflect on the movie and re-analyze all of the events afterwards. But ultimately, that scene fits at the beginning and the end, because Llewyn’s life isn’t going anywhere. While his friends are growing and adapting, he is stuck – unable and unwilling to change.

Under the Skin

This movie takes a basic plot (an alien masked as an attractive female that lures unattached men into alien goo) and piles on layers of intrigue, confusion, and unease. Just like the alien’s victims, I would follow this movie anywhere. The sparse dialogue, slow moving plot, and constant oddities make it all the more alluring. And yet, as the viewer I also felt like the alien. Not understanding the characters, I am forced to deduce the subjects’ personalities and proclivities from limited observations.

Finding Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier’s beautiful and prolific photography was discovered after her death. This documentary explores her art, her cryptic life, and the ethics of taking someone else’s work and publicizing it as ‘art.’

All is Lost

A man is lost at sea with increasingly dire circumstances. We see a protagonist whose life may be ruined, yet he is still in control of his limited surroundings. He moves slowly, with purpose. The movie unfolds with a series of beautiful scenes. Despite the constant tragic nature, the pacing, like the protagonist, is controlled. Alone on a boat, there is almost no dialogue or context and he shows only limited signs of panic. This storytelling is in direct contrast to more normative movies such as Captain Phillips which establishes empathy with the protagonist by showing him with his wife and kids.

What are your favorite movies that I should check out in 2015? Connect with me on social media and give me your suggestions.

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