It's good to take a look back at the year before it ends, before the needles fall from our Christmas trees. I've noticed the usual fervor of the year's rush to the Oscars recently. Rapid-fire new releases are upon us, ramping up in the final stretch to the Oscars. Which leads me to wonder: What movies did you see this year? What movies did you love? What movies did you recommend to friends?
There are lists and more lists out there that capture the year's finest in film, photography, art, exhibitions, fashion, designs, baby names, personalities, music, plays, and just about anything else you can think of. They are thorough and exhaustive. But today's topic is cinema, and so here's a short list for you: a personal list of three of my favorite films from 2014. They are in one way or another significant, and I'm recommending them to you. So butter up some popcorn and grab a Coke - it's movie time!
In the fictional land of the Republic of Zubrowka, a concierge - Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes - enlists the help of Zero, the lobby boy, to prove his innocence after he's framed for murder. The time period is between World War I and World War II; the era when grandeur had fallen into disrepair. The movie was filmed entirely in Germany between January and March of 2013. Ornate visual environments provide a lovely backdrop for deep emotional ideas. Fiennes delivers an incredible performance, and the rest of the cast is magic, as well. It's a thoroughly entertaining, witty, and charmingly whimsical move. But it is also sweetly touching, as we are drawn into nostalgia and our own mists of lost time.
The genius of Pawel Pawlikowski is fully showcased in this beautiful black and white film. The setting is 1960s Poland. Anna is about to take her last vows as a nun in the convent where she was left as an orphan years before. The Mother Superior of the orphanage orders Anna to visit her aunt in Lodz before she takes her vows. Anna is a beautiful young woman who has never left the convent, and when she does, she uncovers her own history, resplendent with vivid characters and surprises. Every element of the film captures the atmosphere of post-war Poland: constraint, starkness, and quietude. It's a masterpiece of silence and austerity, anger and mourning. It is quite simply a breath-taking film.
From Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, this movie is set in Antolia. The Turkish name of the movie, Kış Uykusu, means 'hibernation'. Not unlike the awakening of animals in hibernation, the story unfolds slowly and with deliberate pace, carefully famed. It's at once sweeping and intimate as it follows the relationship of a husband and wife who are wintering at a hotel inherited by Aydin, the husband. The story unfolds, examining the wide divide between rural and urban Turkey, the working class and the intelligentsia, the powerful and the powerless. Honor, pride, and morality are themes common to Mr. Ceylan's previous work, and they have a rightful place in Winter Sleep - as well as the ways we are and are not able to express love. The richness of the film draws from its subtleties, where no Hollywood formula or neat, packaged lesson can reside. It's a human study with all it's Chekhov-like melancholy and beauty.
Be on the watch for your
Oscar picks in the Reader Survey coming
in late January,
and mark your calendar: this year's Academy Awards
are on February 22, 2015.