There has been a lot of great films this year, but I’ve forgotten most of them or missed them for various reasons, never-the-less here’s a few of my favourites. (oh, and – Merry Christmas Eve!)
One of the best documentaries at the NZIFF Concerning Violence (Göran Olsson), also one of the most intense. A sad and violent reflection of the affect of colonial rule on African people. Adapted from an academic study on the subject, but put together with news images from a Swedish news archive. Doesn’t sound like the most entertaining prospect on paper, and it’s probably not, but it is intense, important and thought provoking. Also worth a watch was a documentary on South Sudan, We Come As Friends (Hubert Sauper). Friends is the more contemporary, following Sauper as he flies around South Sudan, interviewing the rich and poor, wealthy investors and impoverished locals. Also good example of how modern digital filmmaking techniques can be employed (such as using smart phone cameras to conduct covert interviews.
Nail biting, gut wrenching drama about something close to my heart – drumming. Through the story of the super-ambitious and talented Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) we are introduced to the world of academic music performance, and the sink or swim environment of the big leagues of Jazz. Neiman is enrolled in Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the states, and promptly becomes the pupil of it’s most famous conductor/teacher, Terence Fletcher. Neiman wants to be the best, like Buddy Rich, and Fletcher will help him get there, but the manipulative and abusive journey Fletcher forces him to take makes you wonder what’s the worth. Never the less, the film got me practicing drums for hours after viewing, and even those uninterested in jazz and music will find something to enjoy in this superbly scripted and shot narrative by second time director Damien Chazelle.
Wes Anderson’s latest was funny, beautifully shot with a great cast and littered with references to classic literature and cinema. Mostly just one of the most fun films of the year, with a touching script and lots of great Anderson visual ideas, such as the mixing of animation styles with live action.
This years Drive, Taxi Driver, American Psycho, Network – though closer to Drive than the others. An unpredictable thriller about a slightly unhinged man, his personality quirks never fully explained, who when unemployed and searching for work stumbles across his passion – freelance news footage capturing, or Nightcrawling. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the nightcrawler, Lou Bloom, who’s determination to get ahead in the modern capitalist world sees him sacrificing all those around him – and getting away with it. Bloom’s encouraged by the producer of a local late night television station, Ninia (Rene Russo), who relishes his voyeuristic footage and airs it to huge ratings – making obvious parallels with the state of news broadcasting in 2014, where we find for example the death of Eric Garner aired on a screens frequently. Darkly funny, morbidly brutal, the film features a stunning performance from Gyllenhaal, that is both creepy, scary and sympathetic in equal turns. The feature debut from Dan Gilroy, visually polished and thematically relevant, surely one of the darkest films to have been a success this year.
Shot over eleven years with the same cast, has any other mainstream director other than Richard Linklater attempted this? I doubt it, and the wikipedia page confirms my suspicions. I like this film so much, I’m not even sure how to praise it, other than that Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and the two lead kids Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater put in great performance, with the script adapter and tailored to suit the real life changes in the kids personalities, as well as the parents characters adapted from the real life families of Arquette and Hawke. The film is relatable, insightful and as Hawke put it in one interview – “it’s a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being”. Although the title and film do focus on the boy’s growth throughout 12 years, many more family situations are observed, marriages, divorces, graduations, first relationships. Worth a watch for any human being – probably my favourite film of the year if I had to chose one.