Mookse Movies 2014Since in 2014 we had more film coverage than before, Lee and I wanted to showcase our favorites. Since I see few new movies, I made my list to include anything that I saw for the first time in 2014, including a film from 1917, and I didn’t limit myself to films I posted about here. Lee favored us with his top ten releases from 2014 (though some are dated 2013, due to, you know, all that territorial kind of stuff).


Jour de fete Poster10. Jour de fête (1949; d. Jacques Tati; 76 minutes): I hope that most of you are aware that this past year The Complete Jacques Tati was released by The Criterion Collection (and similar sets are available in other territories. I’d seen most of the others, or they’d be on this list, and I was completely won over by Jour de fête, Tati’s debut feature about a mailman who wants to become better at his job.

(See Trevor’s review here)

The Story of a Cheat Poster9. The Story of a Cheat (1936; d. Sacha Guitry; 81 minutes): I didn’t know who Sacha Guitry was until David Blakeslee and I covered four of his films for The Eclipse Viewer Podcast. This film is a masterpiece! So funny, so well constructed! Go, get to know Guitry as well.

(See The Eclipse Viewer Podcast here)

To Be or Not to Be Poster8. To Be or Not to Be (1942; d. Ernst Lubitsch; 99 minutes): David and I also covered four Lubitsch musicals for The Eclipse Viewer Podcast, and that made me go seek out more of Lubitsch’s work, including this one that is sometimes thrown around when folks are talking about the greatest films of all time. I had high expectations that were exceeded when I watched this funny film about fighting the Nazis.

Picnic at Hanging Rock Poster7. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975; d. Peter Weir; 107 minutes): Of all the films on my list, this ethereal film wins the prize for haunting my dreams at night. It’s beautiful and mysterious — frustrating in just the right way.

(See Trevor’s review here)

Le sabotier du Val de Loire Poster6. Le sabotier du Val de Loire (1956; Jacques Demy; 26 minutes): This is a short film included on The Criterion Collection’s The Essential Jacques Demy boxset. I love watching the short films included in sets, but I rarely think they are in and of themselves outright masterpieces. This piece about a shoemaker, going through the day and the years, is a marvel.

(See Trevor’s short review at the end of this post here)

Shadows in Paradise Poster5. Shadows in Paradise (1986; d. Aki Kaurismaki; 76 minutes): The first film in what has been called Kaurismaki’s Proletariat Trilogy, Shadows in Paradise charmed me and made me incredibly sad. It’s upbeat and downcast at once, as it traces the rugged life of a lonely garbage man who finds companionship, and then has to go on the run.

(See The Eclipse Viewer Podcast here)

Inside-Llewyn-Davis4. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013; d. Ethan & Joel Coen; 105 minutes): I’m a Coen Brothers fan (which has me very anxious to see Lee’s number one pick below), so I’m always excited to see their work; however, I didn’t not expect to love this movie as much as I did. A film about the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s, it had me considering all kinds of existential questions while falling in love with the music.

(See Trevor’s review here)

Mr. Thank You Poster3. Mr. Thank You (1936; d. Hiroshi Shimizu; 78 minutes): A film that gets better the more time I give it to influence me. It seems simple: a friendly bus driver — the Mr. Thank You of the title — carries passengers up and down the mountain pass, only today he is in a sense delivering one poor daughter to her doom. Compassionate and beautifully shot, this pre-World War II film from Shimizu is filled with humanity. And I hope that the inclusion of three Eclipse Series films on this list inspires some of you to check out that fantastic line of DVDs.

(See The Eclipse Viewer Podcast here)

The Dying Swan Poster2. The Dying Swan (1917; d. Yevgeni Bauer; 49 minutes):

Basic premise is this: when the film begins a young, mute girl encounters a wealthy young man who begins to court her. However, one day when she surprises him with a visit, he’s completely distracted and ultimately sends her on her way because he has business to attend to. That business, it turns out, is another young woman. The mute girl lapses into depression and becomes a wonderful ballerina, most famous for her lovely rendition of The Dying Swan. Her depression combined with this dance attracts the interest of another man, an artist consumed with his need to perfectly depict death in art. She does it, he says, and then the film gets a lot darker. There is a nightmare that is as terrifying as any nightmare I’ve ever seen depicted on screen. But the image that remains with me is from the end of her dance of The Dying Swan. One can see, uncomfortably, why the man consumed with death finds this young girl’s rendition so appealing.

My Neighbor Totoro Poster1. My Neighbor Totoro (1988; d. Hayao Miyazaki; 86 minutes): I know I’m late to the party with this fantastic film, but better late than never. I’ve never seen a film that so perfectly captures the beauty, innocence, terror, and dependency of childhood. It’s a masterpiece, vying for a spot as my favorite film of all time (but Bergman’s Winter Light is holding on strong).


The Golden Cage Poster10. La Jaula De Oro (The Golden Cage) (2013; d. Diego Quemada-Diez; 110 minutes): I only watched this by accident — and thus had no expectations. It’s a fraught and mesmerising gem, largely thanks to great child actors, who are compelling and believable as Guatemalan friends looking to navigate and elude the attentions of various vultures and get into the United States, and to writer/director Diego Quemada-Diez, clearly one to watch.

Boyhood Poster9. Boyhood (2014; d. Richard Linklater; 164 minutes): Richard Linklater is doing something very interesting here (isn’t he always?). An ambitious and annually financed tale filmed intermittently over 12 years charting the progress and life-travails of a young boy and his family. That’s it: but as with so many of his other films, Linklater’s magic is in the unassuming cumulative magnitude of conversation and those quietly unfolding moments that feel like instant nostalgia.

Short Term 12 Poster8. Short Term 12 (2013; d. Destin Cretton; 96 minutes): This is the kind of film I normally loathe, and was thoroughly expecting to be indifferent about at best. It’s not a mumblecore Little Miss Sunshine-esque over-worthy mess: it’s sharp and funny and stars Brie Larson, apparently cast by Skype audition, who’s surely destined for greatness. Shot over twenty days and unpromisingly concerning the lives of troubled teens, it’s an inspiring and likeable indie effort.

Maps to the Stars7. Maps to the Stars (2014; d. David Cronenberg; 112 minutes): Julianne Moore and John Cusack have just the right amount of fun as two sides of toxic, grown-up Hollywood: the ruined and the ruinous survivor. There’s great support from the likes of Mia Wasikowska (unhinged) and Robert Pattinson. And it’s Cronenberg back on serious, unusually funny form.

(See Lee’s review here)

Her Poster6. Her (2013; d. Spike Jonze; 126 minutes): A typically convincing Joaquin Phoenix – both languidly empathetic and susceptibly troubling – falls for his operating system (a potentially long-odds set-up that Spike Jonze knows men will buy as it sounds just like a tipsy Scarlett Johansson) in the wake of a doomed marriage he’s struggling to let go. Is the film involuntarily a defence of solitude, or openly so? I couldn’t decide. But it’s held together by two exceptional leads (quite a year for Johansson: also the best thing in the amusing Don Jon) who make an ambitious idea, which could easily have been a glib and facile mess, work.

Nebraska Poster5. Nebraska (2013; d. Alexander Payne; 115 minutes): Bruce Dern gives the joint-best performance of the year as an ornery grouchbag of wonderfully nuanced proportions. He’s determined to redeem a “winning” ticket and heads out on a quest that’s little to do with potential riches and everything to do with inarticulate defiance and longing. His son reluctantly chaperones him: cue a wryly funny portrayal of a time, a place and a country which feels a bit like Daniel Clowes’ version of Terrence Malick.

Nightcrawler Poster4. Nightcrawler (2014; d. Dan Gilroy; 117 minutes): Jake Gyllenhaal does his usual wired, resourceful, traumatised Peter Pan turn — with added emaciation factor: he’s gaunt and harrowed here, raddled by his mania for ghoulish (literally) ambulance-chasing, but things get particularly unscrupulous when he starts his own deeply-dubious narrative on the night highways. It’s yet another film to reference Lumet and Mann, but it gets away with it, and Gyllenhaal is happily back where he should be with this: on Donnie Darko/Zodiac territory.

under-the-skin3. Under the Skin (2013; d. Jonathan Glazer; 108 minutes): Scarlett Johansson is superb (by switching off most of the things that normally make her a stirring screen presence) and believably vacillating as an alien placed in rainy Scotland to prowl for men; what starts as bleakly impressive sci-fi ends as a damning and extremely powerful feminist piece.

(See Lee’s review here)

Calvary Poster2. Calvary (2014; d. John Michael McDonagh; 100 minutes): Brendan Gleeson ties for, of the films I saw, best performance of they year in what feels like an opportunity for him to showcase his enormous talent. He’s predictably brilliant in John Michael McDonagh’s best film, which is both lugubriously, mordantly funny and deeply affecting. It’s not subtle, and goes right after its targets with transparent gusto, and it hits them all.

(See Lee’s review here)

Blue Ruin Poster1. Blue Ruin (2013; d. Jeremy Saulnier; 92 minutes): The story is basic (down-and-out carries an ill-advised act of revenge), but this film isn’t especially about the storyline: it’s about a certain kind of aesthetic and mood and 70s noirish vibe. It’s a kind of tribute and act of faith in a certain kind of cinema. Harsh, simple, stylish, powerful, quietly thrilling. It feels at different points like early Coen Brothers, Peter Bogdanovich, Scorsese, Carl Franklin, Sidney Lumet, Michael Mann, John Carpenter, and a multitude of other bleak entertainments. I was always going to like it, but I ended up loving it.

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