2014 has been wrapped up for a few days now, but I’ll be damned if that will stop me from reflecting on my favorite films of the year. As in past years, many of these films have yet to find their ways to general release (I’ve done my best to mention if the film isn’t out yet). But maybe that makes the list all the more relevant. Consider it a preview for 2015 and a chance to go back and scoop up a few titles you might have missed in 2014. Check out the list below and let me know what you think? Which of your faves didn’t make the cut? Or maybe I missed an obvious choice. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.
Another year of great cinema is coming to an end. Many have called it the best year in some time. I’m not so sure I agree. But there were some fantastic films and I saw a whopping 192 that qualified for my list. I’ve narrowed it down to a mere 50 for you to peruse, plus I’ve added three films to the bottom whose critical support made me all angry. For most films, I’ve included my reaction tweet to give you a bit of insight as to what I was thinking the moment I walked out of the theater. Check out the list and let me know where you think I dropped the ball.
Here is the one-link-stop for the public videos for both features produced by Ryland Aldrich:
SNAP (Teaser trailer)
Directed by Youssef Delara & Victor Teran
Produced by Ryland Aldrich, Amir Delara, Youssef Delara, and Victor Teran
A stylish psychological thriller set against the underground dub step DJ scene that takes the audience on a dark and terrifying journey into the depths of the psychopathic mind as it threatens to explode into horrific violence.
DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR? (Fundraising promo)
Directed by Sarah Ivy Dickerson & Abigail Fuller
Produced by Ryland Aldrich, Sarah Ivy Dickerson, Abigail Fuller, and Regina Saldivar
Do You Dream in Color? is a feature documentary that follows four blind high school students as they pursue
their unique dreams over the course of a year. Although separated geographically, the teens are connected by
their shared experiences and determination. The film brings the audience inside the lives of the teens and gives
us a deeper understanding of how the blind perceive the world via animated interpretations of sleeping dreams
and the subjects’ life experiences.
DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR? is currently in the final stages of post production and looking towards a 2014 festival debut. DoYouDreamInColor.org
There’s a first time for everything, I suppose the saying goes. This clipping was just sent to me from Twitch South Korean correspondent Pierce Conran who spotted the advertisement for Park Chan-wook’s Stoker. The translation is something along the lines of “Director Park Chan-wook shows his best direction,” which was taken as a translation of sorts from the sentiment in my Sundance First Impression piece STOKER Delivers on Director Park’s Brand. As is often the case, the quote is attributed to the site only. Too bad, as it would have been fun to see my name translated phonetically into Korean.
A little horn tootin here, but the DVD for Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern kickass LCD Soundsystem documentary SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS has finally hit and Oscilloscope has included my quote on the box! Click the image for a slightly larger version.
The DVD box set itself is super impressive and includes the entire three-and-a-half hour concert. The movie is truly a masterpiece and one of the best concert docs in years.
After their very groovy and a little bit crazy set at Coachella this past weekend, Ivan Landau‘s video for Oakland band Beats Antique is well worth a check out. The vid uses some very cool motion graphics and is put together with a slickness lacking in a lot of this sort of work. Check it out above.
While I didn’t actually attend Coachella this year, I was blown away by the badass streaming site the concert put together. Dozens of acts had their entire shows live online for free. Now I’ve been to Coachella more times than I’ve missed it in the last decade, but as the hassles of a three day music fest begin to scare down the benefits, the rise of this sort of festival experience gets me super excited. It was so cool to watch the Dre and Snoop set and get to be part of the fun of the guest stars and banter — without the hassle. Never feeling like your missing out is just a click away.
Another incredible benefit of the streaming festival is the potential for new music discovery. There is always a give and take at Coachella (and the like) between seeing bands you dig, taking chances on new bands, and spending your time drinking by the pool to just arrive later. I had barely heard the name of We Were Promised Jetpacks when I tuned in on Friday afternoon. The chance I’d have been on site by then woulda been slim. But they absolutely killed it! (This year’s Tame Impala? I’ve included a couple videos after the jump.) I was so impressed I immediately bought tickets to their show at the Echo on Tuesday (a show which quickly sold out after that performance). Sure you could go out and watch videos for each of the 200+ acts, but jumping around a live festival is a way more interactive way of experiencing it.
The Coachella Site already has some highlights from Day 1 up. I imagine Day 2 and 3 acts will be showing up shortly. The At The Drive-In show is not to be missed. I can’t tell you how many times I watched that shitty cell phone vid from Cut Copy last summer. If only that show had been archived online. But the coolest part about Streaming Coachella 2012? It all happens again next weekend.
Ahhh, another snowy year at Sundance (particularly snowy this year) has come to a close. A lot of excellent films have been packed up in their canisters and sent to their new distributors. Even more will move along in the festival season, hoping to find a friendly home on some form of new-fangled download-to-your-alphanumeric-pager distro-strategy. But before these movies make it to screens of various sizes near you, I’d like to take you on a quick tour of all the titles I was able to catch this year. I’ve included my letter grade, a few words of what I thought, whether the film has yet to land distribution, and also my initial impression via my immediate tweet after seeing the film.
As you might notice, the films I saw at this year’s festival included a whole lot of B grades. Frankly, the quality of films this go-around was a bit lower than in past years. There weren’t a lot of bad films (I avoided both Lay the Favorite and Price Check after hearing rotten reports). It just seemed that filmmakers (or maybe the fest) was playing it a bit safe. While there are obvious exceptions (Compliance), no fewer than a dozen of the films I saw can be best summed up in one word: charming. I’ll avoid too deep of an analysis on this trend as to the role of the economic downturn or the perception that distributors are avoiding challenging films. But it is safe to say that this trend led to a generally less risky batch of films — and therefore a generally less rewarding crop. But there were certainly some gems to be found amongst the rhinestones. Now, here are my thoughts:
To kick things off, we’ll be taking a look at a few of the notable films from each of the Dramatic Competition sections. It’s the nature of Sundance (especially the competition sections) to be a bit of a crapshoot guessing at which films will be the hits. Who would have guessed it would be Like Crazy not Little Birds or Another Earth instead of Another Happy Day that would get Park City buzzing last year. We’ll have wall to wall coverage of everything buzzing this year. For now, here are a few films that caught our eyes.
Sundance ain’t the only film game in town during Utah’s busiest week of the year. Our Park City Preview Week wraps up today with a look at what’s in store from the Slamdance Film Festival.
We had a chance to speak briefly with Slamdance co-founder and president Peter Baxter. We asked Mr. Baxter for his thoughts on about the competition slate:
“The documentary and narrative competitions are very strong this year. In many ways both represent the dramatic times in which we currently live. The filmmakers have drawn inspiration from the daily challenges of life that has provided a great sense of innovation and experimentation. It’s exciting because you are left thinking these emerging filmmakers really are leading us into the next wave of indie film.”
While it often plays second fiddle to the much larger Sundance fest, Slamdance is a great opportunity for the smallest of the small independent films to find an audience. Mark Jackson‘s Without from last year’s fest is the perfect example of such a film. Audiences raved about the film, giving particular kudos to star Joslyn Jensen‘s performance. Critics took note, and the film showed up on many year-end best of lists. What will be this year’s Without? Here are a few of candidates that caught our attention:
UK clever folks THIS IS IT Collective‘s amazingly hilarious short Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is playing in front of the Zellner Brothers’ feature Kid-Thing at Sundance next week — but you can see it right now, here, for free!! Enjoy! And check out their other awesome videos.
I’ve just finished my AFI Fest 2011 Preview Series over at Twitch consisting of three 10 to Watch features. Check them out with the links below and don’t forget to let me know if you’re heading to the fest!
AFIFest kicks off at the Mann Chinese and Egyptian Theaters on November 3rd. Like in years past, the festival is FREEEE (if you can get tickets). The tickets become available to non AFI members on Thursday Oct. 27th at 10am. There are a ton of great films playing and I’ll have a full preview at Twitch next week. But I wanted to give you a heads up on what to try to grab if you are logging on at 10am tomorrow. It turns out I’ve seen most of the most exciting films so I’ll just give you a quick Top 10 of the films (#1 being most recommended) I’ve seen followed by my tentative schedule. Sorry I can’t provide more detaisl on each film now (next week, I promise) but hit me up if you have any specific questions. Grab some free tix tomorrow and let’s catch a flick!
Fantastic Fest 2011 is all wrapped up but plenty of nostalgia lives on. Movie fanatic Nirvana is the best way to describe Austin’s September celebration of all thing cinematic. Crazy incredible flicks, copious libations, and truly good times with great friends were had over the 8 sleepless days. We had WALL TO WALL coverage over at Twitch including over 70 reviews. You can check out the full recap in Twitch’s Super Festival Wrap and some other good stuff in Fantastic Fest in Photographs and our Great Fantastic Fest Open Preview. But here for your (well my) convenience is a list of everything I saw and my initial tweeted impression. Enjoy!
LET THE BULLETS FLY – My Grade: B- LET THE BULLETS FLY features some great performances but it’s a bit long & subtleties too easily lost in translation.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT – My Grade: B+ SLEEPLESS NIGHT is a polished French actioner w/ solid fight seqs & a good story. Great intensity but could lose few mins.
POLVORA NEGRA – My Grade: D When FantasticFest is over, I’ll remember nothing about POLVORA NEGRA.
MILOCRORZE – My Grade: B+ MILOCRORZE is charming, stylish & super schizophrenic. Ishibashi is exactly the kind of filmmaker I hope to discover at FantasticFest! The future samurai world part of MILOCRORZE has some of the coolest costume/makeup/production design I’ve seen. Drank it up.
UNDERWATER LOVE – My Grade: B UNDERWATER LOVE: It’ll make you wet. …anyone? Sorry.
THE CORRIDOR – My Grade: A- Wow. THE CORRIDOR is the first absolute must see of FantasticFest! Pass. It. On. Review
SNOWTOWN – My Grade: B SNOWTOWN is an extremely impressive piece of cinema but wld have been just as effective & less exhausting w/ 30 mins trimmed.
ZOMBIE ASS – My Grade: B- ZOMBIE ASS is basically live action tentacle porn w/ lots of fart jokes. So if that doesn’t sound awesome, u’ve been warned.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW – My Grade: B BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a gorgeous color poem to 1980s sci-fi psychadelia but plot/trippedoutedness balance a bit off. BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW could be edited into the greatest Chemical Brothers video of all time.
THE DAY – My Grade: B+ THE DAY is an excellent post apocalyptic actioner on a tiny budget. Lookin fwd to big things from new talent Luke Passmore. Review
SMUGGLER – My Grade: D Rly disappointed w/ Ishii’s SMUGGLER. Perfectly good crime actioner ruined by more disgusting torture porn. Whats wrong ppl? Review
VERSUS – My Grade: B+ VERSUS is even more fun a decade later. Best Japanese zombie action extravaganza I’ve seen at FantasticFest (& I’m approaching dbl digits).
TAKE SHELTER – My Grade: A- TAKE SHELTER a fascinating journey into a man’s soul. Brilliant filmmaking & acting. Exactly what I’d hoped to see.
PENUMBRA – My Grade: C+ It’s not unfair to call PENUMBRA an Argentine “Apartment of the Devil.” I liked it but wanted a bit more pace & originality.
CLOWN – My Grade: A- CLOWN is pure Danish hilarity with way more heart than I expected. One of my faves so far at FantasicFest.
CARRE BLANC – My Grade: B CARRE BLANC is a bold dystopian vision from to-watch newcomer Jean-Baptiste Leonetti.
HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION – My Grade: C HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION is def not the best African film this year (see Viva Riva), but it is an impressive by-the-book debut.
MELANCHOLIA – My Grade: A Put me down in the huge-fucking-fan category for MELANCHOLIA. Thought it was brilliant even if it is long. Potential Top10.
RETREAT – My Grade: B- RETREAT features some impressive performances but doesn’t go quite crazy enough to make a lasting impression.
HEADHUNTERS – My Grade: B HEADHUNTERS is a Norwegian action caper with a weird mix of heart & humor. Many like it but it was too uncomfortable for me.
LOVE – My Grade: C- Had an extremely hard time staying awake 4 Angels and Airwaves film LOVE. It’s pretty but too much/not enough a nod to 2001.
MOVIES ON FIRE: 80s HONG KONG ACTION – My Grade: B+ I was skeptical about going to Hong Kong On Fire final film tonight but @Marshy00 prevailed. Forever grateful. Action PACKED.
BULLHEAD – My Grade: A Wow Wow Wow BULLHEAD! Wow Michael Roskam! Wow Matthias Schoenarts! Late to the party bus but taking a seat at the front. BULLHEAD is a brilliant crime epic fully deserving of Belgium’s Oscar submission. This year’s Animal Kingdom?
A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI – My Grade: B+ A BOY & HIS SAMURAI is a charming Jp family comedy, a clever commentary on modern gender roles but a bit short of fantastic.
Exciting news in enderzero.net land. As of this month, I will be taking on a larger role at the my favorite film website TWITCH.
I’ll be expanding my festival coverage you are used to seeing here with previews, reviews, and coverage of all the top film festivals — as well as following the most interesting movies as they make their way to a theater near you. The mandate it to expand the Twitch audience with coverage of a more mainstream indie film world. What does that mean? Help me to define it. Films that I love and want to share. Films you want to keep an eye out for. Films you might have missed and need to check out. It’s a very exciting opportunity and I’d love your input to help shape the coverage towards the kind of articles you know you don’t want to miss.