28 December 2015

Knight of Cups

Director: Terrence Malick

Question: Is Knight of Cups:
A) 2 hours of random and pretentious images of nonsense. Bordering on self-parody.
B) A glorious, masterful and unique glimpse into the existnetial experience.
C) Somewhere it between.
While it's never really that simple (or appropriate) to put a film into such categories, that seems to be the general consensus I have found when reading reviews for this film.

Before I begin my review, I feel I should note as a disclaimer: I thought the Tree of Life was an modern day masterpiece, and To The Wonder, while not holding it in the same esteem, still a very accomplishment piece of cinema. I feel there is reason to immediately bring Malicks latests 2 films into consideration, as Knight of Cups follows on the similar polarising method with it's non-lineaer experimental narratives. There are many similarities between the 3 films apparent, whether its cinematic methods, concepts or visuals. The opening scenes, for example, capture the Northern Lights in a way that made me immediately think of the Galaxies seen in the Tree of Life or the sweeping fields and skies of To The Wonder. There even features another slow continuous shot of a young child running within a house.

Knight of Cups follows Rick (Christian Bale) as a screenwriter struggling for purpose as he fails to escape the clutches of a lush but hollow hollywood lifestyle. We witnesses him sharing the screen with one female to the next, yet hardly interacting with his co-stars in the traditional sense. This includes his ex-wife Cate Blanchett and a string of love interests (ranging from Natalie Portman and Imogen Poots to Teresa Palmer among others). While some may look at this, as one person cunningly commented in response to the films trailer on youtube,  as "white rich guy problems". It's so much more than that. It really is. The true marvel I find with Malick's films is that when you stop looking for answers you gain something profound in it. We linger in the troubled mindset of Rick and it's joyfully mysterious. Malick and Bale take you into Rick's world without giving you any sense of direction, whether it is his time spent with his female co-stars or his brother (Wes Bentley), father or friends (such as Kevin Corrigan). Much of this is spent of Rick dealing with loss, regret and, most significantly, uncertainty. Its not exactly an existential mid life crisis. Or dealign with the loss of a brother. It's the human condition. Its something we can find a connection to despite seemingly dissimilar experiences. Because Malick creates the perfect atmosphere of the human experience.
We are puzzled with whats going on because so is Rick. To be honest, watching the film made me   actually appreciate To The Wonder a lot more. I'm now fully on board with the concept that Malick isn't run out of ideas post Tree of Life. Instead, his pursuing the truly personal and mundane ideas we all face. But drawing on this concepts with different characters, underlining themes and more. It's quite extraordinary. Like Tree of Life we find our protagonist searching through beautiful scenery of landscapes and deserts, but in this case it is expertly juxtaposed with movie backdrops, stages and hollywood parties. Where the dichotomy of superficial surroundings and natural environment perfectly encapsulates Ricks crisis of how his has spent his life. We see a study of spiritual emptiness in a materialistic world but in which evokes a universal truth that most people can relate to. Furthermore, the symbolism of the ocean and water (reminding me a bit of Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander) where Bale and his co-stars all share at one point or another throughout the film is truly fascinating.

With Emmanuel Lubezki once gain at the helm, its no surprise that the film is gorgeously shot. The roaming camera work is extraordinary, whether it traces soaring freeways, deserts or Rick's working environment of movie studio backdrops. It's not just that its looks beautiful, but it successful evokes the feeling of a wondering and lost existence. Whats more surprising is how well the occasional GoPro footage was utilised, seen as Bale parties or drives for example. It supplements a very personnel and rampant approach, yet Malick smartly doesn't rely too heavy on it.
Where Knight of Cups does struggle is its length. As the film largely follows the sole perspective of Bale for 2 hours, it can feel a bit long. Even though we are subject to whispery voice overs other than Bale, you feel it is all centred solely on him. Whereas, in Tree of Life or To The Wonder, it felt like each family member or partner was part of the narrative. Further to this, there is less urgency to the plot. Despite all its glows visual and sound elements, there was a few times where my mind lost concentration, even though my eyes were constantly amazed. Having said that, I feel with a film like this that is actually not a totally bad thing. I believe, with this film, you aren't required to actively dedicate yourself fully to the screen. You don't need to actually follow the plot all that closely, it's purposely very minimal, but rather let it wash over you. The same way the camera glides over Bale, streaming and oozing over wide screen shots. This is a way of watching a film I would very rarely recommend.

One of the most surprising elements of the film was not the unconventional narrative or lack of dialogue, but rather the random cameos that appeared throughout. It seems apparent Malick and co pretty much rocked up to a couple of LA parties and just started filming. It is where we encounter the likes of comedians Nick Kroll and Joe Lo Truglio plus actors Jason Clarke and Joe Manganiello. Or hollywood meetings where we find Dan Harmon (creator of TVs Community). Blink and you'll miss Nick Offerman in the background at a film studio. Its truly dazzling and, in a slight way, quite meta.
Knight of Cups is sure to be another polarising Malick film. It's visual and sound elements are breathtaking and the director continues to offer some of the most unique and boundary pushings films of the decade. However, its approach is both personal and universal and in this sense shouldn't be adored solely by Malick fans. But sadly, it seems destined to be.

B. Of course, never doubted it.


13 November 2015

101 Film Facts About Me

Thought it would be a good idea to include one of these lists as one of my initial blog entries. I was quite surprised at some of the things that made the list. Hope you enjoy!

1. Every year I get more and more obsessed with film and think "wow I knew nothing about cinema last year compared to what I know now".
2. While TV is experiencing a golden age at the moment, I believe film is also going through something of an era to marvel right now.
3.The way I viewed films altered (for the better) after watching Mulholland Dr for the first time
4. I wasn't sure if I even liked the film half way through. And then...WOW.
5. I still regularly think about it.
6. Wes Anderson was the first director in which I decided I had to watch his whole filmography.
7. Although he was a gateway director to many other great filmmakers for me to discover, his significance to me hasn't faded.
8. There is nothing better than when a good artist/band contributes a score to a really good film (e.g. Arcade Fire for Her, Phoenix for Somewhere, Grizzly Bear for Blue Valentine).

9. I love that the Cliff Martinez's song Lux Aeterna for the Requiem for a Dream score was so good that there was a period where it felt like every second blockbuster trailer was using it.
10. My favourite day of the year is the Oscars.
11. Closely followed by the day of the nominations.
12. In one day I watched Irreversible, Y Tu Mama Tambien and the Godfather Part II all for the first time. It was amazing.

13. Ever since I was in primary school I was the kid in the classroom who had seen all the films everyone wanted to see.
14. I feel sorry for people that think ALL Australian films are terrible.
15. But I do feel like too many of the same (and safe) films get produced.
16. I love how David Michod is smashing it internationally as an acclaimed director.
17. I love that at the 2001 Oscars Steven Soderbergh was nominated twice for best director. I mean, come on.
18. The Pixies 'Where Is My Mind?' + the ending to Fight Club = amazing.
19. It wasn't until I saw Annie Hall that I realised what an impact Woody Allen has had on comedies for the past 30-40 years.

20. For the past 10-11 years, not a Thursday goes by where I don't read the new release film reviews in the newspaper.
21. Even though I pretty much know everything I need to about the films by then.
22. I have a love/hate relationship with trailers. So entertaining but they give so much away.
23. I feel sorry for people that think the only films that get made now days are superhero movies.
24. Radiohead's 'You And Who's Army' + opening to Incedies = greatness.

25. I love that how a film is shot can be the difference from a good and great film
26. I love how a film sounds can be the difference from a good and great film
27. I love how a film is scripted can be the difference from a good and great film.
28. I'm not the biggest fan of romcoms. But I love Punch-drunk love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Silver Linings Playbook.

29. I love how a good director and film can show how extradionary some actors actually are (e.g Jim Carry in Eternal or Truman show, Adam Sandler in Funny People of Punch-Drunk-Love or Jack Black in Bernie).
30. I wish all good directors were as prolific as Joe Swanberg.
31. Mad Max: Fury Road made me realise the potential value in sequels/reboots.
32. I love the fact that Emmanuel Lubezki could win 3 Cinematography Oscars in a row (The Revenant as a potential third).
33. Which is even more mind blowing considering he was robbed for not winning the Tree of Life at the 2011 Oscars.
34. I love that Black Swan was a commercial success.

35. I admire Joaquin Phoenix's film choices as of late.
36. I admire Jake Gyllenhaal's films choices as of late.
37. I admire Michelle William's film choices as of always.
38. I love that Lost in Translation was a commercial success.
39. I feel sorry for the past version of myself who used to never watch foreign films.
40. I still can't decide if I like Enter the Void or not.

41. I love that Moonrise Kingdom was a commercial success.
42. Some of my favorite animated films are Finding Nemo, Shrek 1 and 2, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Lego Movie.
43. I believe Charile Kauffman is an extraordinary screenwriter (I can't wait for Anomalisa).
44. And that the Duplass, Coen and Dardenne brothers are very talented siblings.
45. I wish I could be part of the three amigos (Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro Gomez.
46. Out of the three I would probably have to choose Inarritu as my favourite one.
47. It's no coincidence that my favourite Harry Potter film is the one Alfonso Cuaron directed (The Prisoner of Akzaban).
48. The Tree of Life. Enough said.

49. Elliots Smith's 'Needline in the Hey' + the scene with Luke Wilson in The Royal Tenebaums = groundbreaking.
50. I love when great filmmakers also direct in television (e.g. David Fincher for House of Cards, Cary Fukunaga for True Detective S1, Steven Soderbergh for The Knick or David Lynch with Twin Peaks)
51. I admire the film choices on Ryan Gosling, James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
52. I admire the film choices of Naomi Watts, Rooney Mara and Greta Gerwig
53. Despite the fact I love the use of music in film, I rarely enjoy films about musicians.
54. I understand that many share similar types of stories but I feel they are made all too similar.
55. The fact that Pi (Darren Aronofsky) was made for $68,000 in the 90s blows my mind.
56. 127 Hours is to me one of the most entertaining movies ever.

57. If it wasn't for David Fincher I would live a life thinking that watching someone type on computer must be boring.
58. I firmly believe that Holocene (Bon Iver) and Midnight City (M83) are some of the most played songs in films this decade (to my enjoyment).
59. I believe the next song to be over-used will be Red Eyes (The War On Drugs). I hope.
60. I love that sometimes it take all the way till the end of film for me to like it and realise how well it  works (e.g. All is Lost).
61. Polarising films excite me (e.g. Lars Von Trier films, Lost River).

62. I can't help but Imagine what if Terrence Mallick didn't take all those years off between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line?
63. I love that Sundance films like Whiplash and Boyhood became Oscar winners.
64. My favourite thing about the Oscars is that it (sometimes) amplifies the audience for independent films.
65. Usually my most favourite films that are potential awards contenders get delegated to screenplay nominations.
66. I've never done hard drugs but I always seem to adore films that involve drug addiction (e.g Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream, Chumbscrubber, Traffic, The Basketball Diaries, Drugstore Cowboy...)

67. Whites Lies's song Death + that scene in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night = tremendous
68. When someone describes a film to me that I haven't seen as "too weird" or "I didn't get it", I Immediately need to see it.
69. 90% of the time I'm on wikipedia its due to film.
70. 70% of the time I'm on the internet its due to film.
71. Top 10 lists about film (no matter the subject) excite me.
72. War films usually turn me off.
73. But I still admire The Thin Red Line
74. Science fiction films usually turn me off.
75. But I still really really admire 2001: A Space Odyssey
76. And Under the Skin and Interstellar were some of my top films of 2014.

77. Gangster films usually turn me off.
78. But I still really like The Departed.
79. I haven't seen an Avengers/Marvel movie since 2011.
80. I wish Noah Baumbach was a househlod name.
81. And the world spoke in the dialogue of his films.
82. I can't stand reading books but I love reading screenplays.
83. The first screenplay I read was 50/50.

84. Skinny Love (Bon Iver) + Opening of Stories We Tell (documentary) = truly moving
85. When someone describes a film a few decades old with the sentence as "...has a cult following" I get excited.
86. I spend my time watching films more than any other hobby yet I feel my list of films to watch will always be growing rather than shrinking.
87. My life is timelined by films.
88. 3 years was not 2012, it was when Drive came out.
89. 6 years ago was not 2009, it was when In Bruges came out.
90. 9 years ago was not 2006, it was when Chldren of Men came out.
91. When I was 11 I made my family rent Lost in Translation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I didn't get the movies at the time but I definitely don't regret watching them then (or since).

92. Beck's cover of 'Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime' + the ending to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind = monumental.
93. I love researching what films were nominated for Best Picture, director, screenplay et al for past years of the the Oscars, Spirit awards, Gothams, BAFTAS...
94. I'm always in the hope that I will come across something I have not heard/seen before.
95. I wish there was a Best Picture award for films realised 10 years post release year. No politics. No awards narratives. No box office influence. I think films chosen would frequently be dissimilar to the ones initially selected.
96. Theres something really intimate about a really well made black and white film.
97. Despite not really loving any of the 3 films, I always found Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight.
98. More often than not, I enjoy when films break the fourth wall.
99. Such as Ferris Buller's Day Off or Funny Games.
100. Theres not many things I find better than a good podcast about films.
101. Or blog.

8 October 2015

Films of 2014: Honourable Mentions

As I mentioned in my best of list, I really found 2014 to be an impressive year for film. A severe side affect of having such a great year is the trouble constructing a top 15 films. There honesty was quite a few others I would of easily included if the competition was not so strong. As a result, I decided to list the films that although did make the cut I would still ultimately recommend to watch. The following are not strictly ordered, however those closer to the top were generally the ones I loved the most. Please enjoy!

Under the Skin
That score from Meci Levi. That scene on the beach. That final climax. Come to think of it, the whole film. Despite being a sci-fi film it felt much more of a intimate discovery of a character you don't know whether to feel connected with see to view as alien. Which, in that very way, makes the film work so well.

The Rover
Was so good to see an Australian Director (David Michod) have a film with so much anticipation from an international audience upon release. And to me it certainly lived up to such hype.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson is one of my all time favourite directors and although I would not place this in the same echelon as some of his other work, I still greatly admired the story, humour and most significantly the emotion behind it.

Exceptionally well told and shot (see Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography).

Nymphomaniac (Volume 1 and 2)
I was really impressed with this, however I did find volume 2 to struggle to match the quality of part 1. A+ work from Uma Thurman.

Finally, a smart action film from America. Oh wait, my mistake. Sorry. Great work from director Bong Jong-Ho. Tilda Swinton was fantastic too.

Inherent Vice
I admired the challenging nature to follow it, and got a lot out of it. Even though its not one of my favourite Paul Thomas Anderson films.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Her and Him)
A relationship drama made into two films, one from the perspective of the women and the other from the male. I really appreciated how it allowed me to watch one film and then allow my perspectives of the characters to alter as I watched the other.

What We Do In The Shadows
A mockumentry about a group of vampires living in a share house in New Zealand. Co-directed by Jemaine Clement. Sold. Hilarious.

Skeleton Twins
SPOILERS: At frist I was frustrated at the ending in regards to how Bill Hader knew she would be at the pool at that very moment. However, after letting it play in my mind I realised (or at least think so) the actual events of the ending and their meaning were open to interpretation. Whether it was in fact reality we were viewing or not.

52 Tuesdays
A fascinating Australian film about a daughter coming to terms with her mother transitioning to become a man and the impact of this on her own identify, filmed over 52 consecutive Tuesdays. It was a very worthy winner of the Sundance Best Director Award (World Drama).

Breathe In
Drake Dormeus managed to create a truly intimate and authentic film about the all too familiar concept of the relationship between a student and teacher/husband.

Two Days, One Night
Not sure if you heard or not but Marian Coltiard isn't too bad at acting.

The One I Love
Had some cool advark metaphors.

Obvious Child
Impressive debut from writer/director Gillian Robespierre.

The Immigrant
Marion Cotillard AND Joaquin Phoenix AGAIN demonstrating how good they are.

Blue Ruin
Had me captivated from opening minutes to the end. Really well made, especially considering the minimal budget.

I found the first half quite good, however the second half began to stray into cliche and inappropriate character twists.

Appropriate Behaviour
Its no Frances Ha but hey thats no easy feat.

The Babadook
Horror films are one of my least favourite genres so the fact I found this quite intriguing throughout was a testament to writer/director Jennifer Kent (who learnt some of her trade through Lars von Trier) and the performance from Essie Davis.

18 September 2015

Top 15 Films of 2014

'2014 year in film' please take a bow, you were amazing. It was a year where so many diverse genres had significant and critically applauded films. From science fiction to dark comedies to complex thrillers. Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson were finally embraced as major players on the awards circuit. First time directors became instant names to follow for years to come. And one particular director decided to take a turn and go all comedic. I really think the Best Picture Oscar race between Boyhood and Birdman perfectly illustrated how strong the year was. Despite Boyhood being seen as a underdog to Birdman, I feel both of those films in most other recent years would be have been seen as too different. Too challenging. Yet despite the race still being plauged with 'Oscar-bait films', the more independent films were simply too strong to be overpowered (as opposed to recent years). I hope you enjoy the following list.

15. Interstellar

Big, smart and complex. That's generally what you hear when Nolan's films are discussed. And for good reason. I'm sure most blockbusters attempt to be large scale films grounded with personal stories. However, Nolan actually achieved this. Hans Zimmer's work here was my favourite score for 2014. Days after my initial screening I could not let go of that grand organ from my mind and the emotion associated with it and the film. Matched by amazing cinematography from Hotye van Hoytema (coming off 2013's Her). I had no idea what the underlying physics of the film were, but I was fully aware I was watching one of the best blockbusters of the decade. 

14. The Lego Movie

I'll be honest, I don't watch a whole lot of animated films. I only see a pixar film if its considered to be the studio at their peak form (more Nemo than Brave). But this has to be the film from 2014 I have re-watched the most since release, and each time it held up really well (surprisingly). The jokes were quick and good. The lines forever quotable. Although many of the voice actors had appeared in other animated productions previously, it seemed this film was the perfect one for each of them. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (as they usually do) fully embraced the notion that making a film about Lego was absurd and by doing so achieved a smart referential film. Everything about it was, well, awesome.

13. Before I Disappear

Living in Australia, I did not get a chance to see (or even hear) about this film until I stumbled upon this through Netflix. The film follows a young man who is forced to take care of his estranged sister's daughter for one night, all the while trying to deal with his own personal turmoil. In New York City. That synopsis sounds like it has Hollywood cliche written all over it. Yet I was immediately impressed with the distinct take on the story. Based on the Oscar-winning short film Curfew, Shawn Chirtsitensen almost perfectly executes this (as the lead actor, director, writer and producer no less) with a balance of style, raw emotion and humour. Just wish it got more of audience upon release.

12. Foxcatcher

I only managed to catch this film on a plane, through a small screen struggling to cancel the background noise. Yet despite the unappealing circumstances, the film really got to me. Carell, Ruffalo and Tatum are quite extraordinary in this slow yet absorbing piece. The film transitions in its focus from one character to the next, with each one as dark and captivating as the other, yet for different reasons. They don't make sports movies like this very often. But then again, this isn't a sports movie.

11. Frank

I have always been a fan of Micahel Fassbender, whether it was his Steve McQueens films (especially Shame) or other but this was easily my favourite perfomrmance from the Irish actor. Despite him spending the film wearing a paper mache head throughout, he was able to demonstrate such hilarity and desolation. Yet Fassbender's contribution is only one of a myriad of fantastic characters, as the film follows a young wanna-be-musician who joins an experimental band. One one level it is a light humorous film, on a another deeper level its a sombre (and enlightening) one about mental wellbeing.

 10. Locke

A film about one guy driving in his car for a few hours. As good as an actor Tom Hardy is, it can't be that entertaining right? How I was wrong. From the opening minutes to closing seconds, I was encapsulated watching one mans life unravel over the phone while driving in his car. It was a true accomplishment of Hardy and writer/director Steven Knight that they could construct such perfectly timed and executed dialogue. It had me laughing, close to tears and on the edge of my seat all the while he sat for 2 hours.

9. Palo Alto

How I want to be a member of the Coppola family tree. To name only a few there is Francis Ford, Sofia, Roman, Thomas Mars (lead singer of one of my favourite bands Phoenix, married to Sofia). Not to mention cousins like Jason Schwartzman and Nic Cage (yes I know, but he kind of gets a pass from me having done Adaptation and Bring out the Dead and nearly The Wrestler). And now Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford) makes her director debut from a short stories collection book written by James Franco (who acts as producer and actor for the film itself). From the opening scene, you are immediately taken into the world angst and troubled adolesensce. A beautiful composition follows throughout the film, with fantastic performances from Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff and Zoe Levin. Musical contribution from Dev Hynes (best known as Blood Orange) and Robert Schwartzman too successfully amplify the audience to the world of Palo Alto and the fragmented narrative. Despite being made so differently and having characters and environments in quite a juxtaposition to other landmarks films such as Kids (Larry Clark, 1995), it still managed to come close to an authentic and truly interesting study of adolescence.

8. Force Majeure

The Swedish film that perfectly examines the notions of self preservation, ideals and actions. As serious as that may sound, this film was laced with great humour and engrossing sequences. The way it would set up a scene and just slowly let it play was a joy to watch. The film follows the consequences of a fathers immediate action when he and his family are faced with potential disaster. A film about the family trip to the snow this is not. It was a real tragedy that this missed out on a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination (none was more shocked than these guys). 

7. Nightcrawler

A thrilling and merciless ride of a film that follows Lou Bloom's way into the world of capturing the night crime of Los Angeles. Forget that Fast and the Furious franchise, this film had one of the most riveting car chases captured on screen. Dan Gilroy constructs a film with a character not necessarily on a path of redemption but one of obsession for success. Jake Gyllenhaal in career best form. Fantastic work from Riz Ahmed too, as the desperate young assistant Rick.

6. Gone Girl

David Fincher, you have done it again. He turns a seemingly B-grade piece into an exceptional film, about modern societal expectations all the while being exciting, shocking and hilarious. The Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross and Fincher collaboration once again demonstrates what a truely significant relationship this is of the modern era. To say this was a breakout role for Rosemend Pike would be a bloody (sorry) understatement. But even comedic actors like Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris were perfect in their roles. In a way, the film can be viewed as two parts, with each one as intriguing and elaborate as the other.

5. The Double

Richard Ayoade again demonstrates himself as a director to be hailed (after the brilliant 2010 Submarine). Jesse Eisenberg plays an office worker who's life is altered after a doppleganger of himself appears as a new co-worker. The whole cast were astonishing (its worth noting that Mia Wasikowska has worked with so many extraordinary directors in recent years its quite incredible). One of the funniest and original films of the year. Minimalistic set designs and complex storytelling matched with an encapsulating score demonstrated a true artistic vision of the Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel (of the same name). 

4. Enemy

Another film based on a novel tiled The Double (this time by author Jose Saramago), yet sitting in great contrast to Ayoade's film. Enemy plays like a film to be watched multiple times. There are recurring motifs and symbols throughout. Jake Gyllenhaal again proves how good his last few years have been, playing a college professor who stumbles upon an actor that looks ideational to him. What I love so much about the film is that it requires you to make your own interpretations of the events and conclusions. And my interpretation of the film is that it is sensational. Director Denis Villeneuve further implements himself one of the smartest filmmakers working today.

3. Whiplash

The most thrilling film of the year was surprisingly about a young musician on his pursuit to greatness. Winner of 3 academy awards (and nearly an adapted screenplay Oscar too) this was brilliantly executed by writer/director Damien Chazelle. The glorious editing and sound mixing transported this film to one of pulsating excitement. Yet it wasn't just the frantic scenes but also the solitary ones with Miles Teller that really captivated me. Chazelle wrote the draft in a matter of days and you really get a sense of a simplistic yet raw story of characters within such a vulnerable climate. Not only were Teller and J.K Simmons great in their roles, but so too were Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist (as the father and love-interest, respectively).

2. Birdman

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's film is a technical marvel and a whole lot more. Birman follows Riggan Thompon (Michael Keaton) in his search to reestablishing fame and/or success against his ego, as he struggles to create a Broadway adaptation. Everything about it was so expertly done, such as the daring cinematography (from none other than Emmanuel Lubezki) as it is not only constructed to act like one long take but also literally narrows in closer as the audience gets deeper within Riggan's head (the backstage hallway). Yet it wasn't just from a technical standout that impressed me. It was one of those rare films where in the last hour I kept expecting it to end scene after scene, yet it relentlessly embraced the absurdity of the story and keep going and going. Even though many films have been made about or situated within the entertainment industry, this story and execution felt so incredibly distinct. Easily my funniest and funnest film of the year. It was a little disappointing that Keaton didn't win an Oscar given the success it had in so many other categories (Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and Cinematography) as his performance was so central to the film. A remarkable brilliant blend of satire, vivd characters and ingenuity.

1. Boyhood

A truly moving and original peace of work despite being so mundane in its approach. Filmed over 12 years intermittently from 2003-12, we watch childhood and adolescence being captured in front of our very eyes. Yet it is the way those 12 years were encapsulated on the screen that lies the true marvel of the film. Writer/director Richard Linklater focuses on the more genuine and realistic aspects of our lives, not so much the graduation ceremonies, first times or proms that we are more like extras to in our own lives. The transition from year to year is not forced, there isn't even an overplaying score. We are taken on the journey of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as the son from age six, as well as his struggling mother, imperfect father and sister (played Linklater's real-life daughter Lorelei). Yet, like our own life, our family becomes less a part of our lives as we grow older, yet still remaining significant to us. I have never felt such a connection to the scenes and characters of a film, despite not actually experiencing many of them throughout my childhood. We aren't necessary left with satisfaction for our characters throughout, yet we know are witnesses realism and authenticity. And thats why I love it. We witness a moment of time, of life, being captured. Subtly blended with story.