This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Revisiting My Favorite Films Of The Past Year

The year 2014.  Number of movies watched: 107

This past year has been a busy one, but I still managed to keep up with as much of my movie-viewing habits as I possibly could.  Like many of you, I don't always have the opportunity (nor the inclination) to catch everything while it's playing in theaters.  More often than ever before, I'm watching my entertainment via Netflix or on my iPad.  Rarely do I resort to watching entertainment on my phone, however.  I just can't bring myself to do that-- not on a regular basis.  Call me old-fashioned or just plain stubborn, but I feel I have a moral obligation to myself as well as the filmmaker to watch films on a properly-sized screen.  

Below are my favorite films (and discoveries) from my personal 2014 movie-viewing.  There are many great films here and some that aren't necessarily astonishing as much as they are interesting, provocative, moving, and memorable.


(In no particular order)

*ALIVE INSIDE (Documentary)
Music is magic.  It can take us out of ourselves and create us at the same time.  It's linked to moments in our lives, memories we thought were long forgotten.  Alive Inside aims to show how personalized music can be used to salvage people from the brink of ailments such as Alzheimers and dementia and make them come to life again in ways you'll have to see to believe.  Directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett.  Featuring Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory.

A psychological thriller directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz.  Written by Kyle Killen.

A comedy directed by Wes Anderson.  Written by Stefan Zweig.  Truth: At best, I'm a lukewarm fan of Wes Anderson.  While I appreciate his visual style and the fairy-tale qualities of his films, sometimes these elements prove to be so visible that it takes me out of the story (which isn't necessarily a good thing.)  However, I loved Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel made me a believer again in the uniqueness that Mr. Anderson brings to the constantly evolving mosaic of modern filmmaking.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.  Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Yes, this is so last year, but I finally got around to seeing it and if you haven't, you should!  It's a heartbreaking tale yet it's a beautiful example of how a small independent film can make a huge impact when all the creative elements align in perfect fashion.

Written and directed by Woody Allen.  In my opinion, Cate Blanchett is one of the most underrated and brilliant actresses working today.  To see her perfectly melted into the persona of a New York socialite undergoing massive personal turmoil in a script penned by Woody Allen is in a word: exquisite.

*STORIES WE TELL (Documentary)
Written and directed by Sarah Polley.  We all harbor secrets, some of which are hidden within families for generations.  Sarah Polley is someone I hope to hear more and more about as years go by.  In what seems to be a relatively short period of time by filmmaking standards, she's proven herself as a blossoming talent with impressive potential.  If you see her feature film, Take This Waltz prior to seeing  Stories We Tell, it'll give you a different perspective on this very personal documentary about Sarah's family.  Raw, inspiring and altogether powerful.

 A film about the history of rap featuring Ice-T and Dr. Dre? This is not a film I thought I'd be highlighting.  However, it's a surprisingly well-done documentary about the creative process of writing music and poetry as it relates to rap.  Additionally, it tells of how rap came to become a prominent music genre and why rap is both culturally and artistically important in society.

I love baseball and I like any good underdog story especially a true one, as this one is.  The Battered Bastards Of Baseball tells the story of the surprising, yet short-lived success of the Portland Mavericks, an independent baseball team functioning outside Major League Baseball in the mid '70s.  Fascinating and inspiring for anyone, especially if your heart is filled with good old-fashioned independent spirit.

With a name like Rupert Pupkin, it has to be good.  1982.  Robert DeNiro.  Jerry Lewis.  Nothing more to say.  If you haven't seen it, watch it now.  If you've seen it before, watch it again.  Directed by Martin Scorsese.  Written by Paul D. Zimmerman.

A romantic comedy about sex addiction.  Funny, honest and entertaining, it covers a subject rarely addressed in feature films beyond the occasional punch-line.  Directed by Stuart Blumberg.  Written by Stuart Blumberg and Matt Winston.  Featuring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow.

A dramatic thriller about a Danish cargo ship hijacked by Somali Pirates.  In Danish with English subtitles.  Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm.

Showcasing the very best of Robin William's talents, he stars as a DJ who shakes things up at a US Armed Forces radio station in Vietnam.  A film worth revisiting-- especially as a tribute to the supremely talented and unique force that is Robin Williams captured on film.  Directed by Barry Levinson.  Written by Mitch Markowitz

An independent comedy about a failed writer who moves in with his ailing parents in Florida.  For anyone who has lovable parents that have the capacity to annoy the hell out of them, this is for you.  And really, isn't that all of us?  Written and directed by Michael Maren.

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy.  Jake Gyllenhaal at his creepiest-best playing Lou Bloom, a low-life who hustles his way into the underworld of seedy crime journalism.  Also featuring an outstanding acting turn for Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran local news anchor.

Reese Witherspoon portrays Cheyl Strayed, a young woman who tries to shed her own personal demons by partaking in the insurmountable: a solo hike along the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail.  Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.  Written by Nick Hornby.  Adapted from Cheryl Strayed's memoir, "Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail."  Powerful and inspiring, this film proves that even when we think we've reached our lowest point, nature can soothe us, become our companion, and  allow us trust that everything will be okay again if we simply put one foot in front of the other and believe in ourselves with every ounce of our being.

Copyright © 2015 by Kendra Liedle/@cococaffeine

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