Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Best American Movies of 2014

Top Eleven (in Alphabetical Order)

Actress by Robert Greene

"Actress" as archetype, "actress" as manipulator. Like the title card (and marvelous poster) reads: "Brady Burre is: Actress", and any name might be substituted, either that of one who acts by profession, or that of anyone otherwise. A major work that examines the relationship between camera and subject, the relationship between director and document, motherhood, place, and domestic partnership. Essay forthcoming.

Approaching the Elephant by Amanda Rose Wilder

Captivating mind-reeler document of the inaugural year (2007-08) of the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, New Jersey, and a chronicle of the faculty's and students' attention to the freeform, occasionally "democratic" arrangement of the day's lessons and activities. I wrote about it previously here.

The Cosmopolitans by Whit Stillman

The 26-minute Amazon Prime pilot episode of Stillman's follow-up to his outrageously underrated 2011 masterpiece Damsels in Distress. The most beautiful, and funniest, and wittiest, American-depiction-of-Paris since the studio era. As of this writing still available for free viewing over at Amazon.

Dipso by Theodore Collatos

I can't remember whether this is a 2014 film proper or actually had a premiere in 2012, but whatever, the movie and its maker deserve to be better known. The best movie about brotherhood since Brad Bischoff's Where the Buffalo Roam from last year and Harmony Korine's Gummo. I wrote about it previously here.

For the Plasma by Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan

The American debut of the year, and like no other picture ever made. A film about plots, nature, the nature of narrative plots, and Maine. With the performance of the year, besides Jason Schwartzman, Jonathan Pryce, and Bene Coopersmith, given by newcomer Rosalie Lowe. I wrote about it previously here.

L for Leisure by Lev Kalman and Whit Horn

A sensual, sensorial, hilarious, and psychodramatic masterpiece – one of the most exciting films in all of recent cinema, American or otherwise – about the nightmare of The Loss of the Innocence of the '90s. I wrote about it previously here.

Listen Up Philip by Alex Ross Perry

Possibly the single greatest American film I've seen this year: a comic masterpiece of deviltry-in-the-details: from the nuances of the expert ensemble performances, to the thrust and twists of Perry's dialogue for his avatar/not-avatar Philip, and on to the graphic brilliance of Teddy Blanks' jacket-covers. Within the swinging frames of Sean Price Williams' camera, Schwartzman-as-Philip attains operatic heights of verbal violence (for comedy and emotional violence cannot be extricated from one another) that makes him, for me, the most likable character in recent memory, pure venom and spite, the rarely-depicted interior fully unleashed in barbarous words and fuck-yourself actions. I'm proud that we're releasing this theatrically in the UK, and on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Masters of Cinema Series, in 2015.

Louie: Season Four, especially "In the Woods" by Louis C.K.

The unstoppable brilliance and beauty of Louie permuted for the third time across seasons into yet another new shape, another new set of rhythms. The feature-length "In the Woods" alone inspired awe. I recently started going back to Louie from the first season all over again; what Louis has achieved in this project across four seasons so far is unbelievable and unprecedented.

Memphis by Tim Sutton

The images seem "made," "aesthetic," "pictorial," crafted by a definite author, but they are strong and not simply "pretty" or "arty" because they bind tensely the urban/exurban world (it's right to say that Memphis is a "city" but we need a broader conception of that word) with nature in discrete frames over and over. I wrote about it previously here.

The Mend by John Magary

At wits’ ends with their mutual drifts the lifelong opposites Alan and Mat go down, down together in a haze of alcohol and vapes and, intoxicated, as day turns to night and back, slide into new personas whereby these two brothers kind of get along. Time mends all wounds? or (Lennon): Time wounds all heels? I wrote about it previously here.

Person to Person by Dustin Guy Defa

Defa gets better with every film, and this narrative follow-up to last year's outstanding Lydia Hoffman Lydia Hoffman is perfection. A great portrayal of the character and characters of New York City that with every new month are slipping away. Person to Person is the concentrated portrait of Bene Coopersmith, for whom the old cliché "an axiom of cinema" should, must, surely apply. Now available for free viewing via The New Yorker, here.


Mentions for General Excellence (in Alphabetical Order)

Boyhood by Richard Linklater

Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater by Gabe Klinger

The Eric Andre Show: Season Three by Eric André and Kitao Sakurai

Gary Saves the Graveyard by Todd Bieber

Going Out by Ted Fendt

The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson

Happy Christmas by Joe Swanberg

Joy Kevin by Caleb Johnson

Life in Between by Stephen Gurewitz

Lucy by Luc Besson

Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories: Season One by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

Whiffed Out by Jason Giampietro


Haven't Seen as of December 24, But Want To Soon:

Appropriate Behavior by Desiree Akhavan

Christmas, Again by Charles Poekel

Ellie Lumme by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
(seen most of an early version, but not the final cut)

Heaven Can Wait by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie

Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson

It Follows by David Robert Mitchell

I Wasn't There by Skye Hirschkron

National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman

Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre

Sabbatical by Brandon Colvin

Summer of Blood by Onur Tukel

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely by Josephine Decker

Top Five by Chris Rock

Trouble Dolls by Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler

Uncertain Terms by Nathan Silver

Wild Canaries by Lawrence Michael Levine


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