Twenty Essentials, Continued
We’re not done with the essentials just yet. Here are ten more films that should be on your must-see list for 2014.
Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, Magnolia)
There’s an air of the disaster picture to this film, which uses a ski resort as the backdrop for a family with some big problems. Things get weird when the father of two children deserts his wife and kids when trouble looms, and then hi situation gets worse when he can’t face up to his own nature.
Boyhood (Richard Linklater, IFC)
Almost a year removed from the debut of Richard Linklater’s remarkable movie, we can start to get some distance from the backstory of its creation. What remains is the impressive performance of Ellar Coltrane in the central role, and the work of Patricia Arquette as the woman whose own very minor fortunes rise and fall as she balances raising her children, developing her own romantic life and finding career satisfaction.
The Overnighters (Jesse Moss, Drafthouse Films)
As workers flood a North Dakota town looking for jobs in a supposed new oil boom, a Lutheran pastor opens his church to the newcomers as a sort of temporary shelter for people who didn’t quite find what they were looking for. Trouble is, the pastor doesn’t exactly get what he’s after, either, and this documentary proves to be a powerful portrait of community, charity, and difficult economic times.
Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry, Tribeca Film)
Jason Schwartzman gets a chance to show his darker side in this sour and affectingly funny story about ambition and talent, and the effect that the abuse of those two gifts can have on a person. Elisabeth Moss provides an emotional center as Schwartzman bitterly and perfectly stomps through the film.
Life Itself (Steve James, Magnolia)
An old line says that writing about movies gives us the chance to write about everything. And so a celebration of the life of the late film critic Roger Ebert isn’t just about movies, or his love of them — it’s about his full life, and the interests and shortcomings that made him one of the most trusted voices in film.
Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho, The Weinstein Company)
A class parable comes to life in a violent sci-fi story that pits upper and lower classes against one another. Energetic filmmaking and grand visual embellishments mark Snowpiercer as a genre classic in the making.
FOUR RULE-BREAKING SCHEDULE CHEATS
OK, I lied at the end of the explanatory text on the last page. As part of the collection of 20 essentials there are four films I feel compelled to highlight as major 2014 movies, even if some of you won’t get the chance to see them until early 2015. So, going on festival release dates rather than actual openings, here are three more.
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Adopt Films)
Ceylan’s film won the Palme d’Or, which can’t be ignored. The stark Anatolian landscape is the backdrop for a slow-burn drama in which a wealthy ex-actor struggles with his place in the community over which he stands.
Mommy (Xavier Dolan, Roadside Attractions)
Xavier Dolan’s reputation has been building at festivals over the past few years, but here the 25-year old writer/director has crafted a film that seems likely to break out into much more mainstream visibility. Dolan comes full circle back to the subject of his debut film (I Killed My Mother) but now approaches his out of control characters with far more control of his own.
The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, IFC)
This is one of my favorite films of the year, a stunningly beautiful movie that explores an unusual romantic relationship. That relationship, strange as it may seem to some, is depicted with clear eyes and a real interest in the emotional balance and power dynamics that inform it, just as they inform any relationship.
The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, Drafthouse Films)
[trailer above is not safe for work due to nudity]
This is the most unusual and in some ways the most difficult film I’ve seen all year — a story in which all the characters are deaf, and their signed interactions are not subtitled. Ever. The “new kid in a rotten gang” plot seems routine at first, but the technique in The Tribe raises questions about how drama works as it showcases a handful of fearless performances. If you walk away with some curiosity about deaf communities and culture — something most of us know little about — all the better.
On the next page we’ll give you another fifteen films that offer something special.