Sadly, I won’t have the opportunity to include Seth Rogen’s The Interview in this year’s list. Of course, as I find Mr. Rogen about as funny a case of shingles, it probably wouldn’t have made the list anyway. Thanks, Guardians of Peace and/or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for sparing us all. Here, then, are my favorite films of 2014 (click on the title if it’s hyper-linked to read the full review):
1. The Dance of Reality As magical and mystical as anything he’s ever produced, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s autobiographical feature manages to blend surprising nostalgia with his uniquely surreal vision of the world. As close to perfect as a movie got in 2014 – and probably as close to perfect as a movie ever gets.
2. Borgman This deeply disturbing Danish psycho-thriller isn’t for all tastes, but it certainly scratched my itch. Perhaps not the best movie to screen over the holidays, though.
3. Omar The best ‘straight’ drama of the year, Omar is a tragic tale of a young man, the love of his life, and the damage done to both of them (and their relationship) by the continuing Occupation.
4. The Lego Movie So it was product placement on a grand scale: at least the product is a good one. The Lego Movie was awesome, hilarious, and surprisingly thoughtful. Fox News had palpitations about the film’s purported anti-capitalist agenda, so it definitely did something right.
5. The Babadook The best horror film of the year by a country mile. Or an outback mile, which I believe is considerably longer, and paved with empty tins of Foster’s.
6. The Rocket If you’ve never seen a movie from Laos featuring a character pretending to be James Brown…well, you clearly didn’t take my advice and check out The Rocket. A terrific little heartwarmer about life in the middle of the Vietnam War.
7. The Double Modern life is not only rubbish, it’s also an existentialist nightmare, as depicted in Richard Ayoade’s sterling adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel of the same name.
8. God Help the Girl I generally hate movie musicals, but made an exception for this one. The songs (penned by Scottish popsters Belle & Sebastian) are so darn good, I found myself anxiously awaiting — rather than fearing — the film’s musical interludes, which are seamlessly incorporated into the narrative.
9. The Galapagos Affair File this documentary in the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ department. A murder-mystery set on the titular isles, The Galapagos Affair is intriguing stuff bolstered by some truly remarkable home movies.
10. Interstellar I’ve never been a huge fan of director Christopher Nolan’s cumbersome think pieces – Inception was particularly annoying – but this time he strikes the right balance between brainy philosophizing and popcorn movie entertaining. Think of Interstellar as 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with more likeable characters (and, of course, a wisecracking robot/computer).
11. Art and Craft Proving that imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, this documentary takes a look at the works of art forger/savant Mark Landis. Museum archivists hate him, but you’ll love him – or at least find him totally fascinating.
12. Diplomacy Filmed plays rarely work well, but this screen version of Cyril Gely’s play manages to hold one’s attention thanks to outstanding performances by André Dussollier and Niels Arestrup.
13. Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me It’s sad seeing the legendary singer descend deeper into the abyss of Alzheimers, but his music remains magnificent.
14. A History of Fear Argentina continues to be a source of excellent cinema, and here’s further proof. A quiet ‘thriller’ of lurking threats that never quite manifest themselves, A History of Fear is quietly disturbing.
To find out what is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. And submit your own events: it’s self-serve and free.