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Journey of Hope is the story of a family who has to move from Turkey to Switzerland in an attempt at a better life. The film depicts the hardships the family faces from the moment the decision is made to the actual journey to Switzerland. I just watched this film last week and absolutely loved it. I definitely spent the second half of it in tears so prepare yourself for that. Journey of Hope can be found on Netflix.

Caro Diario is one of the first films I had to watch when I took my first film class a few years ago. Since watching (and falling in love with) Caro Diario, I’ve watched pretty much every other film by Nanni Moretti. I’ve recommended other films of his in the past but this is where it all started for me. The film is semi-autobiographical and is filmed throughout beautiful locations in Italy. I think you’d love this (and all of Moretti’s other films) if you enjoy films by Woody Allen.

Her was one of my favorite films of 2013. I love Joaquin Phoenix so it was kind of inevitable. Her is the story of a man who, essentially, unexpectedly falls in love with his artificially intelligent operating system. It is everything I love about romantic-comedies and much of what I love about science-fiction films all rolled into one. If you’re someone who hasn’t seen this yet, you definitely need to check it out.

If you haven’t seen the rest of my “Movies of 2014” posts, check them out here

Ida
What is it about choosing to film in black and white that I find so beautiful? Early films were hand-painted, frame by frame, in order to get that beautiful color the filmmakers craved…but now we see films intentionally filmed without color. But still, how can you not love it? I was reading about this film just after I finished it and saw someone describe it as choosing to sketch with just a pencil instead of choosing to paint with watercolors and I really liked that comparison. What am I even saying? Anyway, Ida is a lovely film, but basically, its the way the film was shot that got to me (that aspect ratio tho). There were many points in which the characters were situated in the bottom corner of a frame or the camera was pulled back allowing for such a large shot even though what we’re meant to focus on is small and very far away.  It almost made me feel like I wasn’t meant to be watching this but was instead just a casual onlooker. The “far away” positioning of the camera also often allowed the audience to see a larger picture of the bleak yet stunning portrayal of 1960’s Poland. I’ve never been good at describing shots so maybe I make no sense here (to be honest, I kind of skipped the intro film classes when I started college cause I thought I knew everything and now I kind of just guess). Ida is the first film I’ve seen from the Best Foreign Film category so I’ve got a lot more to watch before I say “yes! this is it!” but it really is harsh yet touching in many ways and, as I’ve said, beautiful. If you’re interested and want a much better view of what this film is than I’ve so terribly provided, check it out on Netflix.

Big Hero 6
I went into this movie expecting happiness and laughter…but…since when are movies created with children in mind so sad?! There was a death in the first 20 minutes! This is like Up all over again! That aside, this movie was a lot of laughter. Anyone who has even seen a trailer for this film is well aware of our robot hero (Baymax) and his comical interjections. Baymax was what made this film truly memorable for me. As I said with The Lego Movie, this is the kind of movie that makes me wish I was a babysitter or actually knew some children, just so I would have a reason to watch this over and over again. The Lego Movie still reigns as my favorite animated film of the year so far, but I still thought Big Hero 6 was enjoyable and I can appreciate much of the hype that was around the film. I think my favorite character (besides Baymax, obviously) was Honey. It was nice to see a really girly girl in a science-based role! I did find the film fairly predictable (it follows the same plot we’re used to seeing in many recent popular animated films) but, hey, I’m sure the intended audience was not me so it’s fine. If you have some kids in your life (or just love animated films), you should check this one out.

Boyhood
Boyhood took me totally by surprise. Previously, I was fairly certain Birdman was going to be my favorite film of the year. It isn’t that I didn’t expect much of Boyhood, I just thought Birdman was incredible. And, while Birdman was in fact incredible, Boyhood was just…wow. I mean, really and truly, Richard Linklater is a genius. Almost everything he touches turns to cinematic masterpiece. The concept alone – filming every summer for 12 years – is a massive, massive task to take on, especially when it was certainly not his only project. It was amazing to see these children grow up in the course of 170 minutes. This sort of story not only suggests an unreal dedication by the cast and crew but also to the story and the development of the characters. There are very few (if any) other films that I can think of that are able to provide the audience with such intense character backgrounds for four characters. You literally see the children grow up and become the young adults they are at the end of the movie. You see the major life events that make them into the people they’ve become. Their parents, also, fall into this same sort of theme of change. They too realize and grow as adults and parents who not only love and care for their children but also are deeply proud of who the children have become. I have read that Lorelei Linklater (Richard Linkater’s daughter and the actress who plays Samantha in the film) now cringes when she sees Boyhood and even wanted to back out of the film at one point, and I could definitely see what she meant. I had second-hand embarrassment for the kids at times, if only because I could see myself in them. I think that’s simply a testament to how good of a job Linklater and his crew have done with the film. It is so easy to see your childhood-self in so many of these moments. Nonetheless, nobody wants to relive their pre-teen years. Those whiny and bratty moments when you just look like some other-worldly baby adult and you think you know it all are the absolute worst, even if those characters are just characters. Luckily, those angsty years pass. And also luckily for the actors who have to look back and see these awkward times forever remembered on film, it has all paid off – Boyhood goes beyond one of the best (if not the best) films of 2014. It will certainly be remembered for years and years as one of the most touching coming-of-age stories of all time.

You can find Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Movies of 2014” posts here and here.

Gone Girl
Full disclaimer: I read Gone Girl…and wasn’t much of a fan. Like everyone else in the world, I was taken aback by the ending even though I was completely entranced at the beginning. That aside, I actually enjoyed Gone Girl (the movie) which is surprising because I was absolutely convinced I hated it during the first 10 minutes. To be honest, I think I just realized its the characters – all of them drive me up the wall. Nick is a terrible self-centered husband, Margo gives me second-hand embarrassment because I just think she is so obnoxious, and Amy is (obviously) willing to kill to get her way (which I know is the point but it just irks me). But, somehow, David Fincher made me at least kind of enjoy it. I’m not even a massive Fincher fan, either, so I’m as surprised as anyone. I guess I’m just being “that guy” but yeah, I thought Rosamund Pike was great but everything else? I thought it was good but not knock-your-socks-off amazing.

Interstellar
I expected a lot from Interstellar. I’m not afraid to admit it, I tend to go into a Nolan film expecting something…mostly just that I won’t be let down. Unfortunately, I think I set my expectations a little too high with Interstellar. There was nothing inherently bad, but I also wasn’t wowed in the same sort of ways I was when I saw Inception for the first time. I know its just a movie but there were many parts of it that stood out to me that just played as distractions that I couldn’t shake. Like, for example, Matthew McConaughey’s character (Cooper) is piloting this ship…and he knows the plan is to travel through a wormhole. They say earlier in the film that this is the sort of thing he was “trained for” and that he was their only available pilot. Okay, fine. But then, right before they’re about to go through the wormhole, Romilly (played by David Gyasi) explains to Cooper how a wormhole works. I know I’m being nit-picky but that bugged me! I know its a movie for the masses that had to have “subtle” explanations for people who may not be familiar with wormholes and relativity but I just found it very distracting to have the pilot not understand the science. From then on, I hung onto his words constantly, waiting for the next time he’d have to have something explained to him. But, that aside, I did enjoy the last 20 minutes a lot (mostly). It was interesting/cool to see how all of his actions were making an impact from the beginning and, to be honest, that was the part I most enjoyed. I wasn’t much a fan of after he was saved and saw his daughter again (it felt lackluster to me…it would have been cool to see him interacting with her family though) and I felt weird about him completely not asking about his son. Anyway, I obviously didn’t hate the film, I actually liked it, but it just didn’t meet my expectations.

Frank
Frank was delightful. It was kooky and funny and even sad. It is the story of a man named Jon and what ensues after he accidentally joins a band called The Soronprfbs. Most of the film was hilarious. Michael Fassbender as the titular character was incredible. It just felt easy to watch in the sort of way I wish all movies felt. The only weird feeling I had about the film was the odd jump in tone. Everything goes from funny and light and only mildly aggressive to incredibly manic and somber. I had no problem with the actual shift, just how fast it happened. Obviously, the death of a main character can do that to ya, but it just took me off guard a bit. But, to be honest, I actually liked Frank more than I liked the other films I talked about here today – Gone Girl and Interstellar. Maybe its just the kind of film that calls more to me, I don’t know. If you’re interested, Frank is currently streaming on Netflix.

If you haven’t seen my first post about the movies of 2014, check it out here!

Birdman
Oh boy, Birdman. I went into this movie with virtually no outside information. I knew it was about a “washed-up” former superhero movie star but that’s it. Within 10 minutes, I knew I was gonna love Birdman. My favorite film “genre” is the Avant-Garde so I freak out when any film today does anything even slightly experimental…and I felt that this one was in many ways. I mean, that camerawork? Wow. Almost the entire film is shot in one (very long) shot. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing (see: me gushing over Russian Ark). I mean, even if the movie sucked, but still had that camerawork? I’m not gonna lie, I’d have still loved it. Luckily though, it didn’t suck – not even a little bit. The acting was phenomenal. Everyone was great but Michael Keaton definitely took the cake. Without a doubt, one of his best performances of all time. I don’t have one bad thing to say about Birdman, it was everything I could want in a film and I’ll be shocked if any of the other films from the past year could impress me more.

Guardians of the Galaxy
This movie was, without a doubt, the movie of the (late) summer. I, however, didn’t see it until October (of course). Didn’t matter though, cause Guardians of the Galaxy had the same impact on me that it had on the rest of the world: I loved it. It was goofy and funny! And had tough but lovable characters! And it had Lee Pace! That’s literally everything I wish for every superhero-ish movie (although I am equally happy when Tom Hiddleston is involved). It is, without a doubt, my favorite of all of the new wave of comic-inspired films. My favorite aspects were the Christ Pratt energy and the “nobody expects us to be heroes but, by GOD, we are!” It was a super cute movie, would definitely recommend.

Inherent Vice
I actually read Inherent Vice (the book) last week, so I was kind of at an advantage for this film. The biggest complaint I’ve heard about this film is that it is kind of hard to follow. I actually didn’t find it hard to follow (at least not if you were comparing it to the book) but I think I definitely would have been if I had not finished the book a few days ago. There are a lot of characters and a lot of weirdness happens – it’s a dense story! Anyway, I definitely enjoyed Inherent Vice. Paul Thomas Anderson is always A+ and Joaquin Phoenix is always A+ so its kind of hard to go wrong. But, then again, I could definitely see why so many people are feeling lukewarm about it. The story, in itself, is all over the place so I would really only recommend this to people who may not be watching a film with the absolute necessity of being able to piece together and follow the plot.

Leading up to this year’s Academy Awards, I’m going to be talking about many of the nominated films from 2014. I haven’t seen them all but I will be sure to see many more of them before the show so I can share my opinions on them and, just before the awards, share my top 10 of the year list.

Alright! Let’s do this:

The Grand Budapest Hotel
I must admit – I am something of a Wes Anderson fangirl. I love him. His films have played a huge role in my decision to study film in college. I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel, just as I expected I would. I found the film to be funny and engaging and so very “Wes Anderson.” Although I really enjoyed it, The Grand Budapest Hotel is not my favorite Wes Anderson film ever and, honestly, probably isn’t even in my top 5. Saying this may sound like I’m hating on it but I’m not – it just wasn’t able to make a stronger impression on me than his other films. I do think, as usual, Wes Anderson did an amazing job on the film and definitely deserved his Golden Globe nod. I also think this film is a great place for someone who isn’t very familiar with Wes Anderson to take the dive into his world.

Selma
Just saw this last Saturday. After all of the hubbub about the Oscar snubs, I had to see Selma and see if I agreed that the film got snubbed. My verdict?: yes and no. The acting, I thought, was the star of the show. David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was amazing. The man can act. Plus, he’s British! Whaaat?! If you were to ask me, yes, I definitely think he should have gotten nominated, and I feel that way even without seeing the other films which received Best Acting noms.

On the other hand, it seems that many people are upset about Ava DuVernay’s directing snub. While I do think that she did a great job on Selma and it would have been fantastic to see the first African American woman nominated for best director, I’m just not sure. I guess I’ll have to see the films that were nominated in this category. So basically, while I do feel that she did a great job on Selma (especially considering it was one of her first major directing roles), I was not as blown away by the directing as I was by the acting performances.

The Lego Movie
I saw The Lego Movie last summer on a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Boston. I was already quite aware of the film’s 90%+ rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the critical acclaim it was getting so I knew I had to get on board. I loved The Lego Movie. Loved it. In some weird way, this is the type of movie that makes me wish I had kids in my life just so I could take them to see this again and again and again. The Lego Movie was hilarious! And sweet! And that song! I’m bummed it didn’t get a nomination for Best Animated but, again, I haven’t seen any of the others in the category yet and, knowing me and my weakness for this category, I’ll love them all.