A month into my challenge of watching a new film a day, I’m just glad I included shorts. While January didn’t offer many standouts, I thoroughly enjoyed most of what I watched.
I admitted to being a lover of pretty much any film with road trips or putting a band together in my review of Cas & Dylan (a film that falls into the former category), so my love for Alan Parker’s musical dramedy The Commitments was ultimately written in the stars. It’s dark, it’s rude, it’s appropriately rough around the edges, surprisingly lacking in cringing corniness, and is wildly funny with an extremely talented ensemble cast to boot. A real crowdpleaser that’ll make you want to belt out soul music for the rest of the day. Look out for a very young Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mrs S on Orphan Black) and Glen Hansard (of Once fame).
While it was certainly a lot more of a slog to watch and hasn’t necessarily improved in my mind, I’ve had much the same reaction to Terence Davies’s The Deep Blue Sea as I did to Take This Waltz, another eerily similar film about desire. While it’s an exercise in almost extreme, grating histrionics that encroach unbearable territory, the combination of the performances, the full-tilt charge to tragedy with absolutely no glimmer of hope (a rarity), and the melodrama, heightened by the foggy visuals make for a film that haunts. I’m starting to think that the dramatics are part of what makes it successful. My review.
After missing the screening last year and hearing that it was quite good, I walked into the big screen adaptation of Paddington with high hopes that were exceeded. Frequently hilarious and a perfect amount of quirky, it was a pleasant surprise.
John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole was yet another incredibly difficult watch. While as conventional as a Lifetime movie, the performances, which lack in melodramatics, make tears constantly only a moment away. My review.
A long time Coen brothers fan, I was surprised that I hadn’t already seen their reimagining of True Grit. From what I understand (my grandparents who I watched it with were quick to tell me this) it’s pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the 1969 version, but that kind of strait-laced, no nonsense approach is exactly what’s necessary here to achieve their objective of a good old fashioned western. Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon are great here, but overall the film is elevated by an excellent lead turn by Hailee Steinfield (who somehow was allowed in Best Supporting Actress when she’s in nearly every scene). It’s another wildly different entry in the endlessly surprising filmography that’s the Coens, and I think I need a full filmography watch in the near future.
My review of Ava DuVernay’s Best Picture nominee Selma will be up within the next week or so, so I’ll refrain from saying much here, but in a year where an incredibly conventional biopic (The Imitation Game) is in the Oscar race, it’s refreshing to see a film that tackles the genre from another angle.
Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild was one of most anticipated films of 2014, and it was well worth the wait, immediately leaping to near the top of my rather sad-looking rankings of last year. I’ve already written plenty on it, with probably more to come, so here’s my review.
Yet another entry in the well-worn indie drama territory, Cas & Dylan combines two of my favourite things – road trip movies and Tatiana Maslany – to create a funny, touching film that is subtly involving. Maslany in particular has terrific comic timing and is excellent. My review.
Monia Chokri’s Quelqu’un d’extraordinaire (An Extraordinary Person) may not be consistently engaging in its opener or closer, but has a killer battle-like climax for the ages that makes me wish someone would put Evelyne Brochu in a comedy right now, thanks. It’s like watching something self-destruct before your eyes, powerless to stop it. My write-up.
If Will Gluck’s Annie was the most inspired musical adaptation of 2014 with its casting of Quvenzhane Wallis as the titular ten year old and its modern setting, Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods is the most uninspired, with a traditional presentation and a cast of exactly-what-you-were-expecting names. But it’s in fact the dazzling performances that the entire cast bring that make this potentially bland, tedious film a gloriously entertaining watch. It was with a lot of apprehension I approached this film, a toned-down version of the non-PG musical, but instead I was thorougly entertained. It hits the ground running, and while the second half shift isn’t effective on film, lacking the distance an intermission provides, it doesn’t stop for two hours. Retaining the stage roots for film so strictly rarely works as well as this did. Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Pine are spectacular. Blunt in particular is a lead role away from becoming a big deal.
PES shorts rely on visual gags that begin to tire by the end of their usual 2 minute runtime, but are nevertheless a fun watch to see the inventive ways objects are used. My write-up.