Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie Pleasures from 2014

In 2015 I became obsessed with watching as many movies as I could and reached over 330.  Naturally I tried to pick movies I would get some enjoyment out of and mostly succeeded, however there were a lot of time fillers and a few duds.  The ones listed below were ones I enjoyed the most and might give some of you a laugh, maybe a cry or a sigh of contentment.

"200 pounds Beauty" from South Korea.  was my most enjoyable movie--the characters were likeable, and the story had a moral about the superficiality of appearance and social skills.  Both the music and humour were well done.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJMkP69ua0c

"About Time" had an interesting dialogue and likeable characters.  We all wonder what if something in our past had been different would the outcome be different.  Using fantasy, this movie explored many options that were very simple, but very consequential.

"Enough Said"-got a lot of laughs from improbable circumstances, but struck me with human vulnerabilities.  James Gandolfino is often shown as a brute, but here he was very human and very well complemented by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.

"The Place Beyond the Pines" had a confusing trailer and I didn't look forward to the movie.  However it was a masterpiece of plotting and acting.   As in real life dissimilar events do connect.

"Prisoners" had good reviews and turned out to live up to them.  A psychological thriller with director Denis Villeneuve who I wrote about elsewhere as a Quebec artist.

"Gravity" was really a one woman show of Sandra Bullock although technically I understand it didn't qualify for some feminist category.  Directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Some other outstanding English language movies from my notes included "12 Years a Slave," "Her," "Captain Phillips," "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Frozen."


"The Hunt" with Mads Mikkelsen also got great reviews and lived up to them.  Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.  I now expect to see quality from Denmark.  Here is 2014 posting about Mads http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/05/mads-mikkelsen-helping-denmark.html

Another favourite Danish director, Susanne Bier did "All You Need is Love" with Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrhol who I had seen in two other Danish movies to good effect.  Kim Bodnia who I had seen in "The Bridge" as a likeable character is a despicable husband in this movie.   It was ok, but for me a highlight was one of my all time favourite songs by Ricchi e Poveri.

I have fallen in love with Bollywood, but the truth is they not only hit some of my longings, they turn out so many movies some of them have to be especially good
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"Queen" was one of the best Bollywood offered allowing Kangana Ranaut to really shine" as a jilted bride who decides to go on her honeymoon (to Paris and Amsterdam) alone.  She is better known for glamorous roles http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/07/kangana-ranaut.html "Gangster" was another good vehicle for Kangana

Decided I can like Akshay Kumar who previously mostly had seen in movies I didn't like.   "Holiday"and  "Special 26" changed that.  He apparently is friends with and has campaigned with Stephen and Laureen Harper, but I will even forgive that.
 "Mardaani" a crime movie giving former romantic lead, Rani Mukerji a new life.   More on Rani at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/rani-mukerji-maturing-actress.html

" 2 States"  was one of most enjoyable of the year. and you can read more at http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/07/2-states-new-favorite.html 

 Jolly LLB" paired off Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani to great comic effect (saw another one with the two also very funny).  "Hasee toh Phasee" was enjoyable with upcoming star Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malhotra. Another enjoyable film that won international acclaim was "The Lunch Box."

Classic movies are supposed to be the ones that set the standards.  We get spoiled by colour, modern special effects, sexual standards and don't always appreciate older movies.  The real essence is a story and perhaps secondarily an emotion.  I watched a Buster Keaton movie after a Jackie Chan special feature credited Keaton for inspiration.  On one special feature for Buster Keaton were descriptions of how he created fantastic scenes, but very simply.  Other classics watched included "That Hamilton Woman" (watched by Winston Churchill over 80 times and by me 4 times) Olivia de Havilland in "The Heiress," "The Best Years of Our Lives"   "Here Comes Mr Jordan," "Ben Hur"   Jack Benny in  "To Be or not to B,". Humphrey Bogart in "Dark Passage."   Remembering Glenn Ford as someone I used to watch with my father I re watched some and found a few I had missed.  One of my most popular blogs you can link to further down.

I was able to check out a few horse oriented movies.  "The Man from Snowy River"  was family entertainment with great horse action in Australia.  "The Horse Boy" helped me appreciate an important role for horses in the future.

I enjoyed a number of Chinese movies which are complicated by the fact of at least two languages and a few countries One favourite was "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale."  For others check  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/08/chinese-cinema-is-peek-into-their_1.html

Korean   Aside from my favourite of the year I enjoyed "The King and the Clown" and "Happy Life".    The link includes other Korean movies seen in previous years  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/04/a-slice-of-korean-cinema.html

French Canadian movies have kept Canada in the international movie spotlight.  Now more than ever Quebec directors are making their mark in English movies.  Denis Villeneuve had two English hits, "Prisoners" and "Enemy."  Philippe Falardeau directed "The Good Lie"  Jean-Marc Vallée did "Dallas Buyers Club."  Ken Scott had two of his French films brought to English versions , "Starbuck" and "The Grand Seduction."  to find out more about how they got to where they are:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/09/french-canadian-films-are-world-class.html



Dutch movies are not well known in North America, but I stumbled on a few really good ones, such as"Black Book" and "Twin Sisters.  You can read about more of them at http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/dutch-movies-are-hidden-gems.html





One Russian movie,  "The Return" got my attention.  Well worth a watch.
"Dancer in the Dark" from 2000 was another very enjoyable watch.



Paraguay with no reputation and little money produced  "7 Boxes"  Not glamorous, but an interesting story with interesting characters told really well.  Next year I hope to discover more gems from unexpected places.

Suggested by Thom Ernst on Fresh Air that sad movies are beloved by many and you can check some out at http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/08/the-power-of-sad-movies.html     and also a ghost movie project at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/12/my-favorite-ghost-movies.html


The most basic thing about a movie is the story.  It is difficult to tell an original story, but it is possible to see human interactions from different perspectives.  Stories boil down to relationships.  How well are they told.  I know there have been a lot of movies covered, but I actually saw many more and some of them would have an appeal to large numbers of people--maybe you.  Send me your favourite movies to look over for my next list.  Check out movie thoughts on 2013:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/12/movies-worth-sharing-from-2013.html

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