Agatha

AgathaAgatha: Michael Apted’s film is a low-key drama (much consistent with the setting and period), perhaps excessively so. It is the strong acting of Vanessa Redgrave that gives this a better chance of connecting emotionally with the situation; Dustin Hoffman is a solid presence as well. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography (more particularly, his use of soft lights) give the film a dreamy quality and greatly complements the set and costume design.

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Wild

WildWild: when portraying a journey, as Jean-Marc Vallée is doing in this film, it helps if the landscape is spectacular (and it is, as well as beautifully captured by the cinematography of Yves Bélanger). However, even more important than the outer journey is the inner journey, and it’s merely serviceable here; the most interesting aspects of the story are not in the journey at all. Reese Witherspoon is solid, but unspectacular; the rest of the cast (including Laura Dern) aren’t given much screen time and barely register. Martin Pensa and Vallée’s editing strengthen the film.

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Timbuktu (2014)

TimbuktuTimbuktu: the tale weaven by Abderrahmane Sissako is a sad one, but the light touch used makes this film really attractive to watch. The story is not real, but it could well be; the characters, all played beautifully, are realistic and relatable. Amin Bouhafa’s music is used sparingly, but all the tracks are beautiful, flavorful. The film is shot simply, but Sofian El Fani’s images are wonderful to look at. What truly stays, however, is the absurdity, and the humanity, of it all.

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Casting a ballot – PGA Awards 2014

It’s a running tradition already. Once more, I’ll cast a fictional ballot for many awards (I’m going to restrict myself to the guild awards, as well as the Oscars); like I did last year, a note: I’m not a member of any guild, so this is merely my opinion on the matter. It’s not who I think will receive the award, merely who I think should. (It’s also unideal, since I haven’t seen a number of the nominees.)

The full list of nominees can be see at the PGA website, and the award will be given later today, January 24th, 2015. My vote would be:

Best Producer: Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland for Boyhood

Boyhood

Much like last year, the theme here is the courage it took the producers to have the courage to embark on a project that would take over a decade to be completed; furthermore, the vision to include the talent that was a part of the film. The unqualified artistic success just adds up to the reason why this is the best produced film of 2014.

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Unbroken (2014)

UnbrokenUnbroken: Angelina Jolie’s film portrays a journey that is very interesting on paper; however, the many different parts don’t match well (and the arbitrary structure doesn’t add much) and are not particularly engaging or exciting. There’s not much sense of the characters, which is further aggravated by the generally indifferent acting. The film is, however, very well crafted, even if somewhat squarely so; Roger Deakins’s cinematography is, as usually is the case, beautiful and classical.

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Clouds of Sils Maria

Clouds of Sils MariaClouds of Sils Maria: while Olivier Assayas’ film doesn’t tell a particularly engaging story, it’s nevertheless an engaging film because of the strong acting and interesting dialogue (very revealing about the craft of acting, among other things). Juliette Binoche is particularly good, and her interaction with Kristen Stewart (a pleasant surprise) is what raises the film. The beautiful locations add to a sense of elegance that this film has.

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Leviathan

LeviathanLeviathan: Andrey Zvyagintsev tells a great story, which has many themes that are universal, but also mingled with specific elements that give the film a particular flavor; it all results in a powerful drama. Acting is very solid and Aleksey Serebryakov, as the main character, stands out. The locations are great-looking, and well used by the no-frills camerawork of Mikhail Krichman (who also makes great use of natural light). The spare, moody music of Phillip Glass matches the landscape beautifully.

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and KingsExodus: Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott presents a sumptuous spectacle; the use of locations, the set design (including visual effects), costume design, all create a great-looking physical world. That, however, does not a good movie make; the storytelling is stale and stiff and it carries no beauty or subtlety whatsoever. The characters are all unappealing, uninteresting; the overblown, over-the-top acting further complicates matters, wasting the strong names in the cast. (In fact, the interesting choice of using a child as a major player in the story is all but ruined by the weak performance.)

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Whiplash

WhiplashWhiplash: Damien Chazelle presents a film that is a great joy to watch, from beginning to end; a crowdpleaser, in the best sense. It’s thematically intriguing, equally cruel and sound. Acting by the central pair is superb; J.K. Simmons gets more attention for having the lion share of the great lines (and reading them beautifully), but he also displays nuanced, quiet moments; Miles Teller is pitch-perfect as well, mixing all of his character’s traits with great energy. Great camerawork by Sharone Meir and outstanding editing by Tom Cross; since jazz is such an important element of the film, the sound mixing must be also commended.

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Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6Big Hero 6: Don Hall and Chris Williams present a typically polished and entertaining (if not completely inspired) animated movie; the story is touching and funny, but not fully earnest. The animation, by the other hand, is spotless; the environment is rich and great to look at, while the character design is varied, making each one of them unique. In particular, Baymax is a great character, with his looks greatly complementing his personality traits.

FeastThe accompanying animated short, Patrick Osborne’s Feast, a lovely and great-looking little piece.

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