Thanks to everything-on-demand media, and no thanks to my schedule that doesn't permit me nearly enough time for baseball, Movie Season now runs all year, at least marginally. These annual awards now document the movies and TV series we've seen from Opening Day to Opening Day.
To recap my silly rating systems:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13),
- and last year (2013-14), cheese!
This year's ratings revolve around my favourite pastime, the moments I live for: travel. We can loosely call this theme types of holidays and vacations.
I have always dreamed of traveling for an extended period of time - life on the road. My dream of extended travel probably dates back to reading Travels with Charley when I was 12. But ever since Allan and I traveled by RV in Alaska in 1996, my desire to pack up our family for life on wheels has captured my imagination, sometimes obsessively so.
This is the best life I can dream of. And these are the best movies and series we saw this year.
-- This marvel of film making is utterly absorbing, a tour de force of directing and acting. Truly an experience.
Blue is the Warmest Colour
-- Another lengthy coming-of-age journey, and well worth the ride. Rarely do I feel directors have enough to say to justify lengthy films, but these first two have opened my eyes. Plus gorgeous, frank, and extended lesbian sex. (Naturally this led to a firestorm of criticism, but I disagree.)
-- Creepy, scary, suspenseful, weird, excellent.
Justified, final season
-- In its sixth and final season, this show returned to greatness. At times the suspense was almost unbearable. Plus a perfect ending.
-- Finally, a fictional movie depiction of abortion without apology, as a normal and positive need in a woman's life. The movie itself is a solid wmtc "3" - above average, very well done - but this film scores the highest honour for its politics.
-- The documentary about Edward Snowden, one of the great heroes of our age, should be mandatory viewing.
Show Me Love (Fucking Amal) (1998; re-watch #1)
-- I fell in love with this film when it came out in 1998, and I was so pleased to love it just as much today. As beautiful a film about teenage life and love you'll ever see.
I love to fly, because it means I'm going somewhere good - or maybe best of all, someplace new. Despite cramped quarters, the indignities of airport security, and everything else most people complain about, for me flying is a pleasure. Only one thing makes this kind of vacation imperfect: I miss my dogs. These films are ever so slightly less than perfect.
Of Gods and Men
-- When you're in the mood for something quiet and contemplative, this film is moving and very satisfying.
-- This depiction of a real-life Stanford Prison Experiment is almost too disturbing to watch, and almost too shocking to be true. But it is true. And you should watch it.
12 Years a Slave
-- After all the hype, I didn't expect much from this. I was wrong. It is gripping, moving, and beautifully made.
-- Part period piece, part biopic, part poetry. I love all things Allen Ginsburg and this was no exception.
-- Ken Loach and Paul Laverty turn their keen gaze on the Iraq War, and its deadly legacy at home. Gripping and disturbing in all the right ways.
Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?
-- This totally engaging, entertaining doc examines art and authenticity from all angles. A joy to watch, and so well done.
-- An important film for everyone who cares about reproductive rights, and about justice. If you are inspired by moral courage, here you go.
The Wire, Season 3
-- Three seasons on, this great show keeps getting better. It's perfection.
Finding Vivian Maier
-- An obsession, a legacy, an enigma. As fine a documentary as you'll see. Really on the cusp between the RV and the plane travel.
Broadchurch, Season 1
-- A gripping, suspenseful murder mystery, with more than its share of complex characters, and full of compassion, humanity, and difficult truths. Absolutely excellent.
Bill Cunningham New York
-- A beautifully made film about a unique, obsessive genius, plus a view of New York you're unlikely to see anywhere else. A must-see.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
-- This excellent documentary about the political life of the great Ali would be in the RV category but for one complaint. The filmmakers depict almost nothing of the political and social context of Ali's struggles; watching this, you would never know that an entire movement of Vietnam War resisters existed. Still an excellent film and a must-see for lovers of history and of peace.
Oslo August 31st
-- A day in the life of a man struggling with addiction. Quiet, dark, and moving.
The Normal Heart
-- Larry Kramer brings us to 1980s New York City, the birth of the AIDS crisis, and of the first organized response to it. Love, loss, rage, resistance, identity.
Say Anything (1989) (1989; re-watch #2)
-- This quirky, funny, sweet, authentic story of teenage love holds up perfectly. It was a great film then, and it's a great film now. Sadly, a scene that was once achingly beautiful is now a tired internet meme. That's not the movie's fault.
On the road! It's not green but I love it. If our travel plans include a long road trip, I'm happy. If you see these films, you'll be glad you did.
Stories We Tell
-- This film by Canadian Sarah Polley unfolds and surprises, and raises interesting questions about the interplay of past and present. I got a little tired of the visuals - it almost works better as an audio documentary - but it was very well done.
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
-- This PBS doc looks at the dawn and evolution of the comic book hero. Terrific.
-- Brendon Gleeson stars in this very dark, very Irish comedy by John Michael McDonagh. Not your usual cop-buddy movie. Really really good.
-- Brendon Gleeson inhabits another film by John Michael McDonagh. This one is very nearly plane travel. It's an odd, moving film, and Gleeson's performance is off the charts.
-- A documentary about a 14-year-old girl trying to sail around the world? Sign me up! I dare you not to fall in love with Laura Dekker, at least a little.
-- A quiet, sad redemption story. Very good.
-- A vivid, melodramatic redemption story. Also very good.
We Are the Best!
-- Lukas Moodysson ("Show Me Love", above) directs this fun, smart film about a girl punk band.
-- I expected a cliche about the hazards of over-reliance on technology. Instead I got a complex meditation on human relationships. Funny, sad, and profound. Great discussion fodder.
Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
-- An examination of the book, the movie, its cultural context, and what we can know about Harper Lee. Won't knock your socks off, but an interesting view into the creation of one of the most enduring novels of all time.
-- An older woman, on her own, making peace with herself and her alone-ness. Nice movie. Many points for non-beautified older-person sex.
-- Addiction, recovery, and relationships. Often funny, not too heavy, very honest. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is amazing.
-- A nice film about family and redemption. Overrated, in my opinion, but still worth seeing.
The Spectacular Now
-- After reading this youth novel, I wondered how badly the movie would be botched. Surely no one will make a movie for teenagers with such a bleak, hopeless ending. But the film was good, and the ending, although considerably softened, was still ambiguous and realistic.
-- A second-time-around older person's romantic comedy. Good acting, some truly nice moments, and less hokey than I expected.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Word
-- Total fun and entertainment.
Star Trek Into Darkness
-- I could have lived without the overt 9/11 references, but at least the message was about choosing peace over revenge. Fun and entertaining.
The Rise and Fall of Penn Station (PBS American Experience)
-- A solid documentary about the building of the first rail lines to Manhattan. Not really about Penn Station, the building that died so that others might live.
-- A little heavy-handed and obvious for my tastes, but a good sci-fi look at bigotry and xenophobia.
It Might Get Loud
-- A cynic might see this as a marketing ploy to capture three demographics. A more generous review might see an exploration of music and musicians across generations. I'm somewhere in between. Worth seeing and some great music.
The Fall, Season 2
-- Not the incredibly suspenseful and scary excitement of Season 1, but very good.
The Best of Men
-- This biopic of Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a pioneer of spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation, chronicles an important piece of disability (and veterans') history. A made-for-TV feel, but still worth seeing.
-- John Turturro makes a Woody Allen film. Nice.
-- This Danny Boyle crime thriller is at times clunky and non-credible, but it's still suspenseful and fun to watch.
West of Memphis
-- A solid documentary about a modern-day witch hunt, and the banality of injustice.
-- A small, quiet, lovely film that explores the complexities of human relationships. Sweet and romantic, but thoroughly unsentimental and unpredictable. Kristin Wiig turns in an amazing performance. The whole cast is excellent. Really worth seeing.
The Importance of Being Earnest
-- If you like Oscar Wilde, you'll enjoy this. If you don't, what is wrong with you?!
The Ides of March
-- Money, politics, scandal. It won't shock you (unless you live in a cave) but it's a decent movie. Plus PSH.
The Search for Michael Rockefeller
-- This doc about the search for the young, disappeared Rockefeller leaves you with more questions than answers. Worth a look.
-- Heathers (1988; re-watch #3)
I remembered how funny this was, but not how dark. Such a good movie.
One word away from David Foster Wallace, here's a supposedly fun thing I'll never do. I can think of few things less appealing than taking a vacation on one of these things. But if I did, I'd probably find some redeeming value, like swimming in a nice pool, or a chance to read a lot. These films had some shred of saving quality that kept them from the scrap heap.
The Golden Compass
-- After reading the book, I thought I should see the movie. It was all right.
Inside Llewyn Davis
-- A passable period piece about a mediocre musician and the 1961 New York music scene. One of the most over-rated films I've ever seen.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball
-- This is a great story, and I really wanted to like the film, but the 20th time you hear someone say the same thing...
-- A one-episode version of the "Forgotten Planet" documentary. Overheated narration with no context.
Broadchurch, Season 2
-- A huge disappointment! They should have stopped after Season 1.
-- I want to support every trans story out there, but a bad film is a bad film. A confused mess.
The Art of the Steal
-- A crime and con caper about art thieves. Sounded great. Was not.
But I'm a Cheerleader
-- Maybe this was good when it came out in 1999. Won't kill you, but for satirical fun and gay romance, you can do much better than this.
-- How sad to dislike a Woody Allen movie so much. Despite some very fine performances, this film was tedious and annoying.
Silence of Love
-- Perhaps much of this movie, about a man coming to terms with the loss of his wife, was lost in translation. It was a hodge-podge. A mess. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt by keeping it out of the bottom category.
The Secret in their Eyes
-- A failed attempt to make peace with the past, in a movie that started strong and ended with a splat.
I'm So Excited
-- How it pains me to put not one, but two films by Almodovar in the bottom categories! This lame attempt at campy fun is occasionally fun to look at. Otherwise it is dreadful.
Fever Pitch (1997)
-- Sports part good. Romance part bad.
They Call It Myanmar
-- You might glean some interesting facts and views of Burma/Myanmar from this bad documentary, but then again, you could clean out a closet and feel like you accomplished something.
-- With Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal, this film had a lot of promise. Yet it was a tedious bore. Some nice-ish moments.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything
-- Sadly, the presence of Simon Pegg does not guarantee a good movie. One or two chuckles.
-- This doc has great credentials: Steve James, who made "Hoop Dreams" and Alex Kotlowitz, who has chronicled inner-city America in books such as There Are No Children Here, make a movie about activists trying to staunch the violence in their community. Despite this and great reviews, I found little more than a series of cliches strung together without context.
We Cause Scenes
-- Maybe one day someone will make a good movie showing all the funny and clever things that Improv Everywhere does. Unfortunately, in this movie, Improv Everywhere tells you how great Improv Everywhere is.
The Monuments Men
-- So this is what star-studded, over-produced, manipulative, obvious Hollywood movies look like. Plus some artwork.
-- Two people develop an unlikely friendship in Vienna. Boring, but with artwork.
The Inbetweeners Movie
-- Loved the show. Movie, no.
The Princess Bride (1987; re-watch #4)
-- It's kind of cool to see the origins of an internet meme, but other than that, I couldn't remember why everyone loves this movie. Saved from the bottom category by an all-star cast.
Yes, that's right, I'd rather go on a commercial cruise than go camping. I love nature, but I need to sleep in a bed and take a hot shower in the morning. I hated camping even before I was too old to sleep on the ground. Camping sucks and so do these movies.
The Skin I Live In
-- Almodovar, how could you? Multiple rapes, torture, mustache-twirling villains, and completely non-credible plot twists. Absolutely awful.
The Devil's Knot
-- Do yourself a favour: see "West of Memphis," and skip this dreadful fictional version.
-- This was like a bad off-off-off-Broadway play. Luckily I could turn it off.
Stranger by the Lake
-- Once you know your lover is a serial killer, why do you continue to hook up with him? I sure as hell don't know. Close-up gay sex, full of penises, might rescue this for some people. But it's a really bad movie.
* * * *
This year's solo binge watching:
Farscape (finishing from previous year)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Good Wife (watching now)
Murdoch Mysteries, more seasons
This year's binge watching that didn't work:
The Gilmore Girls
Future potential binge watches:
Brothers and Sisters
This year's comedies:
Parks and Recreation, more seasons
The Vicar of Dibley (re-watch)
The Mindy Project
30 Rock (watching now)