in Top Ten

Looking through the John Otteni Film Database (a TextEdit file on my Mac), I’ve determined that 2014 tried its best but like Icarus, foolishly soared too high, and lost control of its servo guidance mechanism. It’s a shame because me and 2013 were basically BFF’s: Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Nebraska, Frances Ha? You kidding me? And at least 2012 and myself still occasionally talk on the phone. How could we not when we can talk about great films like: Skyfall, Looper, Life of Pi, and Django Unchained. 2014? There were some brief moments of passion but that’s about as far as it goes. So without any further ado, let’s try and look back.

Honorable Mention
Dear White People
Obvious Child


10. Gone Girl

Yeah, I read the book so I’m basically like, an expert. You know I was ready to turn to the guy next to me just so I could say, “Um, actually that wasn’t how it was in the book *snort*”. But thankfully, the inner douche bag in me could remain dormant as the film was surprisingly faithful. Though I suppose that’s less surprising considering the book’s author Gillian Flynn also wrote the screenplay. I wasn’t sure how much I initially liked the film considering I knew all the secrets going in, but now the film has stuck with me like a pocketful of melted gushers. Rosamund Pike is a big part of that admiration giving the “What the F&*K?!?” performance of the year. Naturally, David Fincher adds his trademark ominous touch as well. Hey, even Tyler Perry was good. What’s up with that?

9. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Old Man Miyazaki might have hung up the reigns but that doesn’t mean his brutha from anutha mutha Isao Takahata has to yet. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is the latest beaut from the same man behind Grave of the Fireflies and the latest from the prestigious Studio Ghibli. Based on the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Kaguya is the story of a hardworking bamboo cutter and his wife who discover a miniature girl in a bamboo shoot. The miniature girl turns into a baby and then begins to age at an advanced rate. The couple can tell there’s something special, almost “divine” about the girl and attempt to raise her as a princess. The rest of the film follows Kaguya’s life from humble beginnings to royalty with humor, heart, and graceful artistry. The film’s water color art style, although divisive, may also be its greatest asset. I can honestly say I’ve never seen an animated film quite like this.

8. Calvary

I don’t know what kind of home the McDonagh brothers grew up in but it must have been pretty f’ed up. Both John and Martin McDonagh have each found success in finding humor in the darkest places. In this case we’re talking about John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary, where an unseen man in a church confessional threatens to kill a priest (Brendan Gleeson) by the end of the week. His reason? “There’s no point in killing a bad priest. But killing a good one? That’d be a shock, now. They wouldn’t know what to make of that.” Building off that uniquely disturbing premise we follow Gleeson (in one of his best roles to date) putting his affairs in order and coming to terms with his role within a corrupted world. Calvary has a lot to say and I’m certainly not the right man to repeat it, but I will say it’s worth listening too.

7. Interstellar

I may not know much about dem fancy ships and such but I knows what I’s likes at the movie house. Just imagine if those Matthew McConaughey Lincoln ads took place in space, that’s Interstellar. Hey, do those ads have anything to with that McConaughey movie The Lincoln Lawyer? I’ll look into that. Long story short, I liked Interstellar long before I was paid to like it.

6. Still Alice

I originally wrote off Still Alice as Oscar bait, but now that I’ve seen the film and started to read the book I have a great appreciation. For those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, which I assume is anyone under the age or 45, Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland, an accomplished linguistics professor and married mother of three who suddenly finds herself with early on set Alzheimer’s. Now I don’t have to tell you this movie is sad but that doesn’t mean it can’t be inspiring too. Julianne Moore does a wonderful job of presenting a struggle without going over the top. I have seen “Oscar Perfomances” that are the equivalent of end zone dances but Still Alice isn’t like that. Still Alice is like a waltz, classy and easy on the eyes.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s Star Wars meets Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special. GotG took familiar territory and turned it into the smart ass kid brother of the Marvel Universe. In a film where every character is either Han Solo or Chewbacca you’d be hard pressed to find a dull moment. We get a lot of superhero flicks rammed down our throats these days but GotG is one that slides down smoother than a can of Colt 45. “It works every time!”

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I think more people would put “That Monkey Movie” on their top ten list if wasn’t for the fact that: 1) It came out in July, which might as well be last year and 2) The fact that it’s called “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, which won’t likely help you further your indie movie cred. But DOTPOTA (also my favorite hallucinogen) is smarter than your typical summer fair, just like the apes in the movie be much more smarterer than the people. Following a majority of the film’s action from the ape’s perspective was inspired. It’s not like anyone goes to see the humans in these kinds of movies anyways, right? Did you go to this movie for Jason Clarke? Dawn isn’t about dumb humans in some dumb monkey war, it’s about heart. And Dawn never stops beating its resilient little monkey heart. wk-mistaken0411-1

3. Mistaken for Strangers

I like rockumentaries but what I like even more is “I’m a Total F#@k up-mentaries”. What looks on the surface like another standard rock-doc here is in fact a very funny and very moving portrait of the film’s director. Not only is director Tom Berninger a hard partying, metal-loving slacker with filmmaking aspirations, he’s also the younger brother of National frontman Matt Berninger. But what starts as a typical tour movie quickly descends into a movie about the dysfunctional relationship between a moody rockstar and his slow witted yet well meaning younger brother. The music is great but it’s the human story here that has me cheering for an encore.

2. Nightcrawler

This is the best X-Men film yet! I’ve seen some crazy shit in my lifetime, I’ve also seen my fair share of Jake Gyllenhaal movies, never did I think those two things would come together. Nightcrawler is a classic rags to riches stories with a nice dose of crazy pills to go alongside it. I don’t know how long-time screenwriter/first time director Dan Gilroy discovered the creepy sub world of insane street photojournalism, maybe he hangs out in some pretty seedy bars? But I’m glad he did. J-Hall seems to pay tribute to Travis Bickle in this edge-of-your-seat, pee-your-pants thriller (can I get that trademarked?) If it wasn’t for a soundtrack that sounds like it was written for an inspirational father-son hockey movie this might be my number one but instead it’s….

1. Whiplash

Whiplash! In the words of famous jazz drummer Gene Krupa, “Boom Boom Boom Bam Ba Ba Ba Ba Da Boo Boo Tss.” Whereas most movie’s emotional drive comes through dialogue, Whiplash uses cymbal crashes, rim shots, and snare hits to keep its dramatic beat. I’ll try and lay off the drum comparisons from here on out. Miles “Let’s try and forget That Awkward Moment” Teller is very convincing in his abilities to deliver the film’s demanding drum performances. And let’s not forget J.K. Simmons in his scariest role to date. I’m even counting his six year turn as a murderous white supremacist rapist on Oz. The character of Terrence Fletcher is that intimidating. Whiplash earns my top spot simply for that fact that it was the most exciting and entertaining experience I had at the theaters all year. I don’t know how much there is to pick at under the surface, or even if it does its best to educate the audience about jazz, but it’s fun, like watching this guy.

Thanks for giving my list a bit of a peek, even if it was a bit pants. Remember to keep an eye out for the rest of the Mildly Pleased gang’s movie posts in the following days. Otteni out.