Diego Crespo Suggests: Wetlands
Shock cinema is bad, and it should feel bad. It’s nothing more than just a cheap attempt at making audiences squeal in disgust (torture porn falls into this category). So why the hell do I love Wetlands so damn much? It’s not an easy viewing and will most likely test your gag reflex. Don’t worry about that. Why Wetlands succeeds is because of its willingness to explore its protagonist, Helen, just as she is willing to explore all aspects of her sexuality.
Josh Rosenfield Suggests: Under the Skin
Normally, a film like this would struggle to break out of critical circles, but Under the Skin gained a sizable following after its release this spring. It broke out to a wider film buff audience on its ecstatic word-of-mouth, and it’s since gained a divisive reputation. For my money, this is the best film of 2014. If you’re willing to be patient, you’ll find an endlessly rewarding work of art that only grows after successive viewings. I can’t promise it’ll be your thing, but you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try.
Diego Crespo Suggests: Locke
Tom Hardy, a car, and the worst day of his life. Hardy is quickly becoming one of the best actors worth loving beyond compare. Similar to Buried, Locke takes place within a single confined space. Unlike Buried, this movie works beyond being a mere artistic exercise and proof that Ryan Reynolds can act. Locke is a character study of a man reaching his breaking point. In a perfect world, this movie would earn Tom Hardy an Oscar nom. In our world, it’s an exhilarating experience that needs to be seen in the darkest room possible.
Josh Rosenfield Suggests: The Tale of the Princes Kaguya
I don’t know if this film was ever released outside of very specific markets, so you’ll have to wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray to check it out. If you have an opportunity to see it sooner, though, don’t hesitate to take it. Its emotional power makes it difficult to write about, but suffice it to say, it’s joyous and heartbreaking in equal measure. And the animation (storybook-style pencil drawings from Studio Ghibli) perfectly evokes the story’s folkloric tone.
Diego Crespo Suggests: Enemy
We love Jake Gyllenhaal here at AE. Even if not all of us loved Nightcrawler, we can all agree that Gyllenhaal deserves a statue soon. In Enemy, we would need to give him two statues! Maybe a better title for this movie would have been The Two Jakes. I kid, but The Two Jakes demands our attention. Denis Villeneueve weaves a web of thrills all pertaining to the mind of the two Jakes. This is probably the most difficult movie to explain (in any list ever) but take this bit of information with you to the end to clear things up: the spiders are women.
Josh Rosenfield Suggests: They Came Together
From what I understand, this one got screwed by its distributor. It wasn’t given a chance to be embraced by a large audience. That’s criminal, because there’s no way it wouldn’t have been. They Came Together is a spoof of romantic comedies that leans more towards absurdism than slapstick. It doesn’t just break down tropes; it reconstructs them in increasingly bizarre ways and then just plays them straight. Director David Wain never focuses on a gag. He shoots scenes like they’re in an ordinary rom-com, and lets the silliness play out in that context. So early on, when Amy Poehler opens a closet and a bunch of boxes fall on her head (because she’s such a lovable klutz, you see), he hardly focuses on it at all. It’s a spoof that really feels like the genre it’s spoofing, and the jokes are all the funnier for it.
Diego Crespo Suggests: Chef
After hopping from big budget project to big budget project, Jon Favreau decided to take a step back and make a smaller, more personal film. I also just described the premise of Chef if you replace “Jon Favreau” with “a chef.” While doubling as a semi-autobiography of Favreau’s film career, Chef is one of the most heart-warming movies of 2014. Also, make sure you eat before or during the movie. You will be hungry at some point.
Josh Rosenfield Suggests: Grand Piano
This one came out really early in the year, and it’s been on Netflix for a while, but it never caught on. It’s a crazy movie, its narrative thrills heightened by frantic, Brian de Palma-esque direction. It was forgotten so quickly that I doubt it’ll gain a following now, but hopefully it’ll have a long life of people discovering it while lazily looking for something to watch. It’s the ideal film to shake someone out of their lethargy and make them sit up and pay attention.
Diego Crespo Suggests: John Wick
2014 was a standout year for action. The Raid 2, like its predecessor, raised the bar for action cinema. While you should absolutely watch that, it’ll make oogles and boogles of money on home media. John Wick did fine on theatrical release — that’s not important. John Wick kicks ass. Keanu Reeves makes his official comeback as an action star. He sells the physicality of Wick with a brush of awkward comedy. The world of John Wick is built like a comic book, with colorful characters popping in and out of Wick’s story. Let’s put it this way, you could make a spin-off of John Wick just focusing on the Continental Hotel, I’d be foaming at the mouth for it. The world building is that good. The action choreography is shot like a dance involving bullets, knives, and Keanu Reeves.
Josh Rosenfield Suggests: We Are the Best!
This one’s streaming on Netflix too. It’s a charming Swedish film about two teenagers who are compelled to start a punk band despite not knowing how to play any instruments. Their passion for rebellion — despite not having much of anything to rebel against — perfectly encapsulates the emotionally charged contradictions of adolescence. It’s a sweet, funny film, and it never laughs at the main characters. It doesn’t condescend to them or glorify their angsty behavior, two traps that many coming-of-age films fall into. They may not be the best, but it’s enough that they think they are.
Wetlands, Strand Releasing John Wick, Lionsgate Chef, Aldamissa Entertainment