1 – Locke
I suppose this says something about myself that my favorite film for the second straight year features one male actor on screen by himself for the entire duration of the picture. Last year it was Robert Redford filling every frame of the screen in J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, a story of man vs. nature.
At least Redford moved around in his boat. In Locke, Brit Tom Hardy stars as a man who is in his car driving for the entire movie. There are other actors in this film – but they’re all off-screen, talking to him on his car phone. Locke is absolutely riveting as a story about a man who is caught in a particular point of his life where things are crashing down on him, yet he maintains. He simply maintains. I thought it and Hardy were a tour-de-force.
2 – Birdman
Birdman is Hollywood’s best film of the season; Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s vision isn’t always great, but it’s always entertaining, and smart. Great performances all around as well.
3 – Boyhood
Boyhood is the critical darling of the year, and Richard Linklater’s masterpiece after two decades of sometimes great filmmaking. The wonderful thing about Boyhood is that there’s nothing spectacular that really occurs in its two hours and 40 minutes. It’s sort of like real life, but not.
4 – Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler is the surprise Hollywood film of the year. Jake Gyllenhaal may not get nominated for an Oscar, but he should. He makes this film what it is, which actually isn’t a very original story. Also great is Rene Russo as the desperate news director.
5 – Whiplash
Give the Best Supporting Actor to veteran thespian J.K. Simmons immediately. He is incredible in a really, really original experience. Yes, very reminiscent of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket. So? And it features one of the best endings of any film of the year.
6 – Citizenfour
I wrote about Citizenfour a few weeks ago. This plays better than any spy thriller.
7 – Get on Up
Another actor who’ll probably get screwed out of an Oscar nomination but shouldn’t is Chadwick Boseman, who plays James Brown in the biopic Get On Up. Like Nightcrawler, it’s not a great movie, but it’s an invigorating experience, and Boseman is outstanding.
8 – Life Itself
This is the documentary on America’s most famous film critic ever, the late Roger Ebert. Ebert had an incredible life and career well before he became stricken with cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland. That led to his losing part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat. But instead of shutting down, Ebert went to a completely new phase, blogging more than ever. Life Itself captures all of that.
9 – Enemy
Enemy is a Canadian-Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Jake Gyllynhall in Prisoners. This movie is a psychological mind trip. I should probably see it again.
(not seen in Tampa Bay yet as of 12/19: The Imitation Game, Selma, A Most Violent Year)
Books (or reading experience)
1 –The Invisible Bridge Rick Perlstein
2 – This Changes Everything Naomi Klein
3 – The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner (new paperback release; originally published in 2013)
4 – Little Memoir Gary Shteyngart
5 – Against Football: One fan’s reluctant manifesto by Steve Almond
6 – The Last Magazine Michael Hastings
7 – Living with a Wild God Barbara Ehrenreich
8 – “Sixty-Nine Days: The ordeal of the Chilean Miners,” (New Yorker excerpt) Hector Tobar
9) “The Writer and the Puzzle: Richard Ben Cramer Could Crack A-Rod,” by S.L. Price, Sports Illustrated (Jan, 2014)
10) “Against the Grain: Should you go Gluten Free,” by Michael Specter, New Yorker (October, 2014)
Top 10 Music Experiences in 2014:
Damion Albarn Everyday Robots
Mac DeMarco Salad Days
Phantogram at Ritz Ybor, June 29
Real Estate Atlas
St.Vincent/ St. Vincent
Phoenix at Governors Ball in NYC , June4
Strokes at Governors Ball in NY, June 5
Interpol at Jannus Live, Nov 6
Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence