Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
I’ve been mentally drafting this entry since I saw this film back in April. It’s technically a 2013 movie but it was released so late and hit most theaters in 2014. It’s an art film, for sure. It had a limited release. It’s by Jim Jarmusch, who’s has had one of those careers I can only envy. I don’t think I’ve had such a visceral attachment to a film since David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2004). I think I would have loved it regardless of who was cast as the two vampires Adam and Eve, but Tilda Swinton is just such an otherworldly and beautiful creature that you don’t doubt for a second that she is an actual vampire. This is a strange film. I don’t really care about the story, or the mythology of vampires in this universe. It’s not about that. It’s a true film about the human condition, told through the eyes of a pair of vampires who consider themselves above humanity. And that’s the only way to analyze humanity these days. Short of being a satellite circling the Earth, it’s only cold, immortal creatures who can ultimately pass judgement on what the fuck is going on. Like all classic vampire films, it touches on the beauty and pain of being alive. I saw this movie as a matinee with my husband on some random weekday we both had off, disappearing into the cool dark theater while the world was buzzing outside. We both had the same experience in that empty auditorium, separately. When the credits rolled and the lights came on, he turned to me and said, yeah. And we walked wordlessly, hand in hand, into the hot Hawaiian sunshine.
Begin Again (2014)
I have a bias. I love Keira Knightley. I love her so much, I almost want to see her fail because it’s not fair that someone is this beautiful and talented. In this movie she is supposed to sing. I thought that was awesome because she’d probably be bad at it. She is not. She is, in fact, great. I now love her even more because I have accepted that she is perfect. I think I went into this movie blind. I didn’t even see the trailer. It’s about a British girl finding herself in New York because her musician boyfriend got a record deal (he is Adam Lavine but try not to hold that against him.) The success changes him. The movie is also, and maybe more, about an aging, idealistic record producer who just wants music to sound good again. Played by Mark Ruffalo, who is great, but you almost don’t notice because he’s great in most things in that way that he is still an actor and less a movie star. I do love this premise for a movie, and it’s really well executed. The emotional journey of the characters ring true, and it’s just cheesy enough to make you feel good. My favorite part is probably the soundtrack and the lyrics. I don’t know if I would like them as much if they weren’t attached to this movie and I’ll never know, but I like the songs a lot. I like the struggle for art to have more meaning and personality, and less commercialism. I don’t think this movie is on a lot of top 3 lists for 2014 but it’s on mine because it just stuck with me. I want to watch it again now.
I put off watching Boyhood for months because I thought I would like it just fine and that I would appreciate it for what it was – a 13 year long film journey and that’s different and new and deserves to be recognized. It’s all of that. I liked the first half hour. I really like the kid who plays Mason (the boy). I like watching him grow. I appreciate the less than perfect family dynamic. About an hour and thirty minutes in, my husband calls and I complain to him that it’s just so long. It somehow feels a lot longer than its 2:30 running time. I prepare myself to leave a not glowing review, but I’m still engaged in this story. Then Mason becomes a sullen teenager and I almost embarrassingly hear too much of myself in his voice and views of the world. I prepare to disregard all of this. It’s just a stupid film, it doesn’t mean my views are childish just because they are coming from a fictional teenager, etc. Then I think this filmmaker, Richard Linklater, has been doing these films for over 20 years. And I start to feel really good. Because that means, and I already knew this, that there are brilliant people and artists out there who feel exactly like I do. And one day, that might change the world, but in the mean time it is giving us great stories to connect us all. And then the last chapter of Mason’s journey begins, and although it is a happy one, I begin bawling and I keep doing that until the credits. Because life, man. Because life.
This has been such a good year for film. In between all the super heroes and remakes (that are good in their own way) there is some serious storytelling being told. I loved The Theory of Everything (Eddie Redmayne for Oscar!) Luc Besson’s Lucy (Scarlett!) and Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, and although I’ve yet to see some of the huge award contestants (Birdman, The Imitation Game) I feel pretty confident about my list as it is. Interstellar broke the mold on cinematography and special effects (that worm hole! Just leave me in it. That’s where I want to be.) The Hunger Games franchise is also quickly becoming my favorite dystopian tale, even better than the books. Jennifer Lawrence is magnetic and has all the qualities of a true movie star. I think the film world might be ok after all.