Saturday, February 21, 2015

End-Of-Year: Favorite Films #16-35

So with 111 films seen, I wasn't just going to do a simple Top 10 list. Instead I narrowed it down to my Top 35, because I'm just an "everyone gets a trophy" sort of person. Plus I enjoy looking back at my ranked lists from time to time so why not include more films, right?

Here's the first half (#35-#16), with my Top 15 either being posted right before or after the Oscars tomorrow. I'm thinking it's going to be the latter. Onwards!

35. Only Lovers Left Alive - Casting Hiddleston and Swinton as vampires is the first highlight of this wonderful film. Making them wallow in the filth and ennui of our world longing for the good old days is the other. Such a weird and lovely film in all the similar ways its two main leads are as well.

34. Under the Skin - When I watched this six months ago, I had no idea what I was in for. It's as elusive, alien, beautiful, and scary as its main protagonist brilliantly played by Scarlett Johannson. Certain scenes are just seared into my brain.

33. Into the Woods - One of my most anticipated films of the year mostly lived up to the hype with good to great performances from many involved including my MVP Emily Blunt. I would've done minor tweaks and recast Depp, but that's me getting all nit-picky. It could've been a lot worse!

32. The Immigrant - The two elements that stuck with me were the magnificent cinematography and the Sophie's Choice-level acting from Marion Cotillard making its two-hour run time seem relatively quick despite the movie's deliberate pacing.

31. Life Itself - This superb documentary about Roger Ebert was illuminating in so many ways enabling this one fan of his to learn more about his early life, his journey after his diagnosis and surgery, and more importantly just how impactful the man really was after all was said and done.

30. Chef - Don't see this movie hungry, because apart from its charming cast and feel-good, easy-going plot about a guy traveling the road with his young son on a food truck, the beautiful food cinematography/pornography will have your stomach growling.

29. Begin Again - John Carney's Once is one of my all-time favorite films, but I think his sophomore musical film holds its own especially with Knightley and Ruffalo in the lead as well as some smart and unexpected choices (both musically and plot-wise) the movie makes.

28. Stranger by the Lake - It's been a wonderful year for queer cinema with this film being 1 of 5 on my list. This French film is probably the most erotic (French? Erotic? What are the odds?), but one of my favorite things about it was the continuous sense of not knowing what to expect all the whole still trying to be present at the moment.

27. Wild - Vallée, Strayed, and Witherspoon collaboratively brought forth a touching and contemplative film about finding one's self through journeys and revelations both big and small. The natural beauty of the surroundings didn't hurt at all.

26. The LEGO Movie - Everything is awesome... literally. This was such an unexpected gem in the early part of 2014 that even after all these months I'm still smiling. Perhaps I was amused by its novelty, but you could tell everyone involved had such a lot of fun and they did their best making sure their audience were a part of it.

25. G.B.F. - I'd like to say this was a gay version of Mean Girls, but that film was pretty gay all its own. That said this lightly satirical film is fast-paced, delightfully fun, and gives Michael J. Willett another kick-ass (though different) gay role (see him United States of Tara and Faking It).

24. The One I Love - This indie-love-story turn sci-fi romantic comedic is definitely one of the surprises of the year for me mostly because I literally was caught off-guard by the plot twist and then was thoroughly entertained by it through the film's final and serious scenes. It was also lovely seeing Elisabeth Moss in something contemporary for once.

23. Birdman - This film's "low" ranking belies my deep affection for it. After all, I saw the film on my birthday and was immediately enraptured by what Iñárritu, Keaton, and company managed to bring to the screen. Perhaps it's the kind of film that sticks with you, but also keeps you at arm's length. Still not sure that's good or bad.

22. Snowpiercer - My favorite part of this film, other than Chris Evans delivering a knockout punch acting-wise and Tilda Swinton delivering another unforgettable performance, was the impressive world building and unexpectedly deep social commentary (as only the best sci-fi films can deliver).

21. The Way He Looks
- Based on a beloved short film, this tale of a blind boy falling in love with his best friend is just the sweetest thing ever. Truth be told, I might have ranked this higher if I didn't LOVE the short film so much since a few of their changes slightly bugged me, but not enough to actually make me fall out of love. That would be impossible.

20. The Skeleton Twins - This film may have been the darkest comedy I saw all year with subjects as suicide and pedophilia mixed in with sing-a-longs and makeovers. Thankfully both Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who obviously excel in comedy, are experts in drama as well.

19. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- I really liked the first film and this sequel actually managed to be darker, smarter, more affective and just plain great. It effectively builds from the first film and rightfully focuses on the simian population on the brink of civil war. Thrilling stuff.

18. Belle - Gugu Mbatha Raw (who also excelled in Beyond the Lights) absolutely shines here playing an illegitimate mixed race daughter of a well-to-do man whose family raises her after his death. This period film is not only beautiful, but also manages to raise social commentary without feeling too preachy.

17. Big Hero 6 - Disney's animated ode to Marvel's The Avengers is super fun and surprisingly affecting effectively mixing in themes about found families, acceptance of loss with super-hero antics and humor. Baymax is a scene-stealer, but I think the secret MVP was the beautifully imagined and rendered world of San Fransokyo.

16. Obvious Child - It's tough enough to tackle a sensitive subject like abortion, but writer-director Gillian Robespierre managed to do just that while delivering a wholly charming film. It helps that Jenny Slate is just beyond good with every emotion/situation she experiences.

As previously mentioned, I'll probably post my Top 15 sometime after the Oscars tomorrow. I'm hoping it won't be too late like what happened last year aka four months after the Oscars.

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