Posts Tagged ‘cinematic art’

2014 Movies: Critics/Awards/Cinephiliacs

February 19, 2015


2014 Movies: Critics/Awards/Cinephiliacs

The thunderous buzz of film culture has enveloped us yet again. The year-end critic’s top ten lists, the non-stop awards promotions, and the favorite films-of-the-year verdicts of movie-lovers is an annual social ritual that both pleases and annoys. Reviewing, reflecting, rehearsing the good, bad and ugly of cinema is an unavoidable staple of our contemporary culture. This process is pleasing because retrieving the best cinematic experiences is an emotional, intellectual, and moral stimulant. Annoying, because the inflated and outsized importance bestowed on the process is a huge distraction.

This seasonal activity now has the significance of religious holidays—film is one of the world’s great religions. The pilgrimages we make to the theater, video store, Redbox, even the short walk to home entertainment centers are indicators of the religious dimensions of the film- viewing experience. Nurturing the soul and enlightening the mind is more frequently experienced with sights and sounds—the ocular and the auditory—than by printed texts. While the literary arts remain crucial to a vital culture, moving images and rock & roll—film and music—increasingly are where most people connect to things that matter most. The enthusiasm generated during this period approaches the fervor found at a feast, a revival of sorts.

I will join the 2014 ritualistic celebration with my own set of categories and winners. I simply cannot resist the stampede in registering my own preferences and perspectives on the films released and exhibited last year.


Here are the Best Picture categories with top selections:

1. Films likely to be discussed ten years from now (long shelf life):

  • Goodbye to Language
  • Boyhood
  • Nymphomaniac I & II

2. Films that will likely have cult status:

  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Birdman
  • Inherent Vice

3. Films that will likely show up in revival programming:

  • Nightcrawler
  • Young and Beautiful
  • Gone Girl

4. Films that did not get deserved attention:

  • The Immigrant
  • Two Days, One Night
  • Venus in Fur
  • The Past
  • Missing Picture

5. Films delivering spiritual vitality:

  • Calvary
  • The Normal Heart
  • Trip to Italy
  • Wild
  • A Theory of Everything

6. Awesome retrospective screenings:

  • Alphaville
  • Babel
  • Dead Poets Society

7. My favorite films not mentioned in previous categories:

  • Chef
  • Gloria
  • The Double
  • A Most Wanted Man
  • St. Vincent
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Noah
  • Foxcatcher
  • Interstellar
  • Gore Vidal: The U.S. of America

* Notable films not screened:

  • Selma
  • Leviathan
  • Whiplash
  • The Imitation Game
  • American Sniper


Manifesto: Movies to Live By

February 18, 2010

Cinematic art provides us with provocative images and stimulating ideas. Moving images and visual stories trigger questions and supply guidance in our quest to interpret our private and public lives. Cinema is becoming the primary cultural process for finding meaning in our individual and social existence. Movies are still largely perceived and experienced as escapist entertainment; a parenthetical fantasy zone where we hide for a couple of hours to avoid laborious work, stress-filled relationships, boring religion and fear-inducing world events. Escapist entertainment in the Cineplex is a useful and even necessary function of movies.

Films, however, have evolved to be much more. They assist us in negotiating who we are, where we are going, and why it matters. Films such as “Babel,” “Children of Men,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada” from four Mexican directors in 2006 treat us to a feast of beautiful images and disturbing stories that generate enduring questions about human life.

Recent Academy Award-winning films such as “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008),” “No Country for Old Men (2007),” “Babel (2006),” “Crash (2005),” “Million Dollar Baby (2004),” “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003),” “Chicago (2002),” “A Beautiful Mind (2001),” “Gladiator (2000),” and “American Beauty (1999)” deliver enduring images that both entertain and enrich.

2007 releases were especially potent: “There Will Be Blood,” “Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “The Savages,” “Sicko,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Starting Out in the Evening,” “Michael Clayton,” “American Gangster,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,””Mary,” and “I Am Not There,” among many others, stir our emotions and enlighten our intellects. Going to the movies can be a life-enhancing experience.

“Citizen Kane,” “The Wizard of Oz,””It’s a Wonderful Life”: Why are these movies still popular? What is their perennial appeal? These films offered previous generations a framework of images/visual narratives to live by.

“Taxi Driver,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Decalogue,” “Chinatown,” “Blue Velvet,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Paris, Texas,” “Blade Runner,” are a few of the films that inspire and inform me. These films are my companions in the adventure to discover and discern the mysteries and puzzles of existence.

More recently, “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Fight Club,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Magnolia,” “Donnie Darko,” “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Superbad” have ignited the spirits of a younger generation.

All of the cinematic treasures I have mentioned are merely a sampling – a selective, not nearly a comprehensive, itemizing of films people live by. Notorious omissions have undoubtedly occurred. Many of you could add important movies to this litany I have proffered.

Sights and sounds, moving images and contemporary music are the lingua franca for our life and times. Big screen / Small screen / Micro screen delivery systems are changing the scale and scope of our relationship to visual stories and knowledge. The future will be showcased on screens more potently than read on a page.

We are in the middle of award season for 2009. This reflection on the significance and undeniable importance of movies is prompted by this annual ritual of selecting movies that matter for commercial and cultural reasons. It seems appropriate to summon larger horizons as we deliberate on last year’s movie theater offerings.