Archives for December 2014

Rounding Things Out, and Counting Down

Well, it is about to call time on 2014 here in the greater New York area, and I have decided to record some of my thoughts on 2014 in cinema.

As I mentioned to a friend earlier in the week, if I were asked if it was a spectacular year, I would probably say not; but let’s be honest – “golden” years are golden for a reason. That said, I do think that there were some interesting films that only time will tell. Here are some highlights (for me):

 

My luv for documentaries continues to hold strong.

Some top picks for me include: Keep on Keepin’ On, When the Garden Was Eden, Life Itself, Fed Up. It has been said before, but there is some really interesting stuff being done in the world of documentary currently and I know I have only touched the surface.

Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel

 

 

Probably over this genre, I guess …

Hopefully, I have some news to report on the comic book movie reviewing front in 2015, but as far as 2014 is concerned, despite some overall good viewing experiences (see Guardians of the Galaxy), I do think I am a bit fatigued.

guardians

 

Oops! I did not review this one, but I meant to …

The One I Love – this was a quirky in a good way. It is out on video now so check it out.

 

Maybe a breakout year for Gugu Mbatha-Raw? I sure hope so.

From the Regency era (Belle) to modern times (Beyond the Lights), Ms. Raw has put her versatility as a performer on full display. I hope this leads to bigger and better things.

gugu mbatha-raw, belle

 

Real life stories with awards-worthy performances

These are recent outings for me but I would like to point out a couple of noteworthy performances I saw in the past couple of months. Major props to Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game and David Oyelowo for his performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma (review coming soon I PROMISE).

selma

 

Boyhood: Really Good Film? Of course! Masterpiece? I will reserve comment on that front.

The novelty, or rather the director’s commitment to completing the project are definitely to be commended (recall my very positive review). Time will tell of Boyhood’s long-term staying power, especially in the mind of the general movie-going audience.

Boyhood Ellar Coltrane

 

Favorite Film of the Year?

All said and done, I do not think I can pin point it to a specific film. There is not one film that, if asked, I would say was bar-none the absolute best the year has to offer. In retrospect that could be a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose. That said, in addition to the aforementioned, here are some other films of note that I did enjoy:

The Trip to Italy, Sundance Film Festival 2014

Before I go …

Lastly, shout out to the vocal (and non-vocal) readers that have taken time to land in this space and hang out with me and my sporadic cinematic flights of fancy.

 

That’s all folks! Here’s looking ahead to 2015!

 

Meta ….

I mean there is a LOT of movie related news that has come across in the past couple of weeks. I mean LOADS. So instead of creating separate posts for each, I decided to aggregate those that piqued my interest the most. So here they go – in no particular order. Enjoy!

 

Sony Pictures Hacking Scandal

Many suspect that this is a cyber attack courtesy of North Korea, in ‘retaliation’ for the The result has been the trickling release of some very interesting emails that are equal parts, embarrassing, illuminating and hilarious. I suspect the overall impact will be minimal, save leaving a few tactless executives a little red-faced. Pro-tip: if you are using company email, it is not private. Save potentially incendiary commentary for the face-to-face meeting.

 

TCM Remembers …

The folks over at Turner Classic Movies get me every time. Their touching tribute is a wonderful homage to those in the world of cinema that have passed. Very classy as always TCM, very classy.

 

NYC Classic Film Retrospectives

  1. Starring Joan Bennett @ MoMA. Started earlier this month and running through the end of January, the films featured will cover Bennett’s transition from ingenue to smoldering femme fatale.
  2. Orson Welles at Film Forum. Ring in the new year with a five week retrospective on the filmmaker. Films in the series include Citizen Kane (of course), The Magnificent AmbersonsTouch of Evil (release and restored version) and many many other over the auteur’s decades-long career.

 

13288_Joan_Bennett_American_Stage_Actress

Sundance 2015

This past Monday, the films selected for narrative and documentary premieres (out of competition) were announced. Just looking through the list, ones to look out for include:

  • Brooklyn
  • I Am Michael
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

As it is still early days, stay tuned to this space for more updates.

 

Its Awards Nomination Season (Again)

It is now at the point where there are too many awards out there to count, so I will keep my general observations based on the SAGs and GGs. My reaction? Pretty meh for the moment, because I look at the list I see a few notables that I did have the pleasure of catching but then also a couple of films that regardless of the praise heaped upon them, I will very likely be a “miss” for me, film snobbery be damned. I am personally at the point where it is becoming fairly predictable which films/performances will be highlighted at year’s end and subsequently rewarded with awards recognition.

 

Speaking of Which …

Going to see Selma this Monday; look out this upcoming week for my thoughts.

 

Thoughts on any of the topics covered in this post? Hit the Comments section.

 

The Imitation Game (2014)

THE IMITATION GAME

The Imitation Game (such an appropriate title) is based on events in the life of computing pioneer Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Often referred to as the father of modern computing/artificial intelligence, the film shifts between:

  • The “far past” of Turing’s school days at Sherborne School and the close friendship he formed with Christopher Morcom;
  • The “recent past” – the real meat of the story – with Turing and Team Bletchley racing against the clock (and each other) to crack the “un-cracklable” German Enigma code;
  • And finally the “present past” – where detective (played by Rory Kinnear) investigates an alleged robbery at Turing’s home, only to discover more than he expected during the course of the investigation.

The world Turing operated in (professional and personal) was heavily reliant on cover-ups and secrecy. And even while most of the action centered on him, many of the supporting characters had their own burdens to bear, some self-imposed, some thrust upon them by others.

Now I love a good spy movie and have been particularly intrigued by this period in British military intelligence I think, ever since I saw another cinematic account of events in the Michael Apted-directed and Tom Stoppard-written early 2000’s feature Enigma starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet. As a result, I am naturally biased to like this one. Not that I want to compare, because there really is no comparison.

The Imitation Game, despite all of the meta-stuff going on (meta, like as in the war), still manages to tell a personal and insular story about the triumph and ultimate tragedy of a man who crumbled under the weight of society’s inability to deal with the truth of who he was.

There are many things working to the film’s credit, least of which are the performances. From the top down everyone delivers. Also kudos to Keira Knightley (as Joan Clarke) who continues to impress me with each new performance I see her in.

Although this is a serious, intense thriller, it is not without its share of good humor, mostly delivered through the interaction between Cumberbatch, Charles Dance and Mark Strong. For the audience, I feel like this breaks some of the tension and also nods to the social awkwardness that Turing had with his contemporaries.

While I am sure that many of the events of the film bear a resemblance to what actually took place, the film does almost too neat a job of making much of the “spy game” fall into place; I can get past this because the film covers so much territory in a reasonable amount of time, clocking in at just under the two hours.

The film also manages to cover the headier ideas of the film – including but not limited to Turing’s work that would be the foundations for what is now known as artificial intelligence – in a way accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Lastly as I mentioned earlier on, the story does play with time a bit. For me this non-linear structure works quite well and kept me engaged with the story, which for the most part I kind of knew while still feeling invested in witnessing the outcome.

In the end, The Imitation Game is a tight, well-performed WWII spy story that is also an interesting study of a man who is ahead of his time and who suffers at the hands of a judgmental society.

The Imitation Game is directed by Morten Tyldum, with an adapted screenplay by Graham Moore (based on Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges); it is now playing in select theaters.

THE IMITATION GAME

 

Photos credit: The Weinstein Company