The year has pretty much ended, only one Wednesday left to go. This is the time of year for reflection, so without getting too deep into rumination I will attempt one last discussion of the years cultural moments that resonated with me. There’s quite few albums and films I haven’t discussed throughout the year, so for the sake of conclusiveness I’ll write them up here.
In the previous post I discussed favourite films from 2014, but there were a few I missed. I’ve recently been catching up on missed films, which I probably should have included in that list. One of which is The Babadook, an Australian horror directed by actor and first time director, Jennifer Kent. This is a thinking persons psychological horror, heart felt as well as horrible and dealing with relatable themes. Critics loved this and it’s worth checking out, some very creepy moments and clever twists and turns. Comparable to classic horror/dramas like The Exorcist or Asian horror – it’s hard to discuss the narrative without giving away too much, so I’ll leave it vague. The acting of six-year old Noah Wiseman is notable as well, and credit to director Kent for getting such a performance from a child.
Another I enjoyed is the much raved about Under The Skin, from Jonathon Glazer, an unusual science fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seducing and preying on men in Scotland. The aesthetic is a mix of realism and fantasy, with hidden cameras employed in the driving scenes – some conversations unscripted with non-actors. This is juxtaposed with stylized scenes – once Johansson’s unnamed creature succeeds in seducing a victim back to a desolate flat in the middle of some Scottish city, we enter a surreal black environment where men are sucked into this infinite dark swamp. These unusual images contrast with the gritty bleakness of the Scottish normality, although there is also something I found quite appealing about the northern landscape. In many ways the film is Johansson’s, she dominates the screen, her sensuality subverted into something sinister. But this is certainly not a horror film, more of an observation on modern life and the search for human connection in our distant contemporary communities – through the eyes of a creature far from human. The narrative becomes more complex throughout the running time and the themes are subverted further. Probably a surprise it’s so successful given the strange combination of styles, but deserving of the critical response and a film that will outlast many other 2014 releases.
Upstream Color, the second from Primer director Shane Carruth was equally unusual and contained within it a wealth of themes ready to be unpacked by an undergrad film class. It’s entertainment value is arguable, and it is challenging, but the sound design is amazing, and credit to the skilled way the narrative is chopped up and gradually presented to the audience throughout the film. Worth a mention, but not my favourite of the years offerings.
Lastly, The Interview, which I have to mention as it’s last minute Christmas VOD release makes at least the last most talked about film of 2014. I enjoyed the film, not as much as Franco and Rogan’s previous This Is The End, but it’s not as bad as the pre-release reviews would have had me believe. There are lot of funny moments, it’s all immature as hell, but the script misses opportunities to properly critique American foreign policy, the media and the great dictatorship of our time. What we’ve got is a pretty good mainstream Hollywood comedy, which is better than the bulk of Hollywood comedies (but that’s not saying much). Rogan is likeable and there are some good performances from Randall Park as Kim Jong-un (giving a very Americanized performance) and Diana Bang as a North Korean minister and romantic interest Sook. I laughed a lot – at the repeated gags, slapstick scenarios and buddy-comedy situations, but the irresponsible elements of the narrative remained distasteful after the credits rolled. Although I initially enjoyed the gory shoot-out towards the end as a bit of comic fun, I can’t get with the killing of Kim Jong-un on screen – even if it is for the sake of a mildly funny Katie Perry joke (this context was not apparent when the footage was first released). The moral the filmmakers leave us with is that violence solves everything, an all too American approach, and one only has to take a look at the result of violence within the US to know this is false. It’s a film yes, and not something to be taken serious – it’s good the film was released, censorship is bullshit – but killing Kim Jong-un was not actually necessary to the plot of the film and there were many other less-arrogant ways the filmmakers could have ended things. There were more subtle options the filmmakers could have taken – a fictional dictatorship for example – from a capitalist perspective at least (one of making a profit that is), they’ve probably made the right choice.
I was going to end by talking about some of my most enjoyed music picks from 2014, but I feel I’ve talked enough now – so true to the title of this blog, I’m going to shut up. Instead I’ll let the tracks speak for themselves. I haven’t blogged a heck of a lot about music so this is perhaps something I’ll try to do more of next year. For now, here are some of the albums worthy of a bash from 2014.
Run The Jewels 2
The best rap album this year. El-P brings his best beats, and along with Killer Mike trade some great, angry, revolutionary and witty rhymes. No filler, all killer.
Ariel Pink – Pom Pom
A time warp to a musical age in between the 80s and 90s that never existed. Yet one that is really catchy, full of odd and interesting characters and much diversity.
Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste
Not necessarily a great album, but there’s a lot of diversity in the tracks and some inventive flows. She tries a bit hard at times, but this track bangs.
Jack White – Lazaretto
The best Led Zeppelin and Rage Against The Machine song released this year. Fat as hell guitar tone from Mr. White. Good ideas all throughout the album as well.
How will 2015 stack up against ’14? I predict it to be better music wise (new Kendrick Lamar and new Kanye will shake things up rap wise no doubt), but perhaps it’ll be a bit harder to match twenty fourteens film effort. Of course there’ll be a bunch more important things happening world wide in current events as well. Hopefully the world doesn’t end, and hopefully things in our personal lives go well also. I’m sure they will. On that note of positivity, see you next year!