Some background: In 2009 Oliver (my husband) and I met and started dating. In early 2010, probably February, Oliver suggested we start keeping a book of the films we see together, when we see them, and what we think of them. We give the film; the star-rating out of 5; "up," "way up," "meh," "down" or "way down;" the date; the location/means (regular theater, IMAX, the Cameo--our local indie theater--, Netflix, etc.). We've managed to keep this up for almost 5 years, and it's always fun to go back and look at what we've seen and what we thought.
Since we see movies in a variety of ways, this isn't a list of my top 20 movies that came out this year. They're just the to 20 movies I saw this year, and that I saw with Oliver. The only rules for a movie to go in the book is that it must be the First Time one of us has seen it, and we must see it together. (This led to Die Hard making the book last year. We watched it on Christmas Eve. He'd never seen it. I married a man who had never seen Die Hard!)
I made up this list out of movies I enjoyed, of movies that deeply affected me, and movies that I would recommend to others for a variety of reasons. These aren't the movies that I think, necessarily, are the best artistically, cinematically, and so on. These are just ones that touched me.
#20: About Time (July 25 via Netflix – 4 stars)
A family drama masquerading as a romantic comedy. The premise, that the men in Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) family can go back in time by hiding in a closet and thinking really hard, is silly, but the result isn’t. Tim uses the gift to successfully woo Mary (Rachel McAdams), improving their first meeting, they’re first time having sex, and his proposal. And then, after Tim and Mary are married with a child, he discovers the catch: if he goes back to before the birth of his child, when he returns, the child will be a different person. His father (Bill Nighy) explains that the chances of a particular sperm and egg coming together are so slim that they don’t stay the same. This isn’t a problem until his wife gets pregnant again (something they were planning,), and Tim finds his father has cancer. So he only has one last time, right before his second child is born, to travel back in time to say goodbye. The story relies heavily on sentiment, I admit it, but it works such sentiment very well. What would any of us give to have one last chat with someone we love? And what would we do if we could go back and change the small things? Oliver and I saw this with his parents. We all loved it, and there wasn’t a dry eye, Welsh, English, or American, in the house.
#19: Nightcrawler (November 9, 2014 at Carmike Theater – 4.5 stars)
Here’s one that I liked, but that Oliver loved. This Jake Gyllenhaall film is dark, and not just because a majority of it takes place at night. Ambitious sociopath Louis Bloom decided to make money by being the first-on-the-scene at newsworthy nighttime events: car accidents, fires, murders. He films them with care for angle, shot, and emotion, but never with care for his subject, letting people die as he captures his last moment. Ostentsibly about media voyeurism, the film is a deep look at a creepy, flawed man whose ability to never emotionally engage will surely lead to his success, even as it leaves a pile of bodies in his wake. Gyllenhaall gives an amazing performance as the near-emaciated Louis, with whom we spend almost 100% of the film.
#18: Rush (May 20, 2014, via Netflix – 4.25 stars)
The story of the rivalry of 1970s Formula One race car drivers James Hunt (played by Thor, I mean Chris Hemsworth) and Nikki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Back in the days before rules, regulations, and seat belts, Formula One was even more dangerous than it is now, and hugely popular. Hunt and Lauda are immediate, natural rivals: Hunt the pretty playboy and Lauda the iron willed, rather humorless expert. Both drive each other to greater and greater risks and wins, and both win multiple titles. Ron Howard directs and captures both men’s personalities, softening Lauda at all the right moments to make his story as compelling as he makes Hunt’s self-destructive behavior both sad and irritating. In the end, a great, award-nominated bio pic, that’s a fun period piece (who doesn’t love the 70s?).
#17 Snowpiercer (July 18, 2014 at the Cameo Theater – 4.25 stars)
This is the first of a few movies that I want to talk a lot about, but I can’t, really, because talking about it means giving stuff away. A bleak look at what can happen to humanity when the world freezes, the premise is pretty simple: a perpetual motion train carries the last of humanity through the frozen wasteland that was our planet. Rich people live at the front, and so on, until you get to the poorest of the poor at the back. Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a revolution, charging from the back to the front of the train. Bureucrat Mason (Tilda Swinton) does what she can to stop him. Of course, once they get to the front, to Wilford (Ed Harris), the inventor and conductor of the train, everything changes. Based on the graphic novel Le Transperceneige, the film is everything a good dystopian story should be.
#16 The Skeleton Twins (October 4, 2014 at the Cameo Theater – 4 stars)
Milo and Maggie Dean (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) take their SNL chemistry to this family dramady in which they play estranged siblings. When Milo tries to kill himself, Maggie reluctantly brings him from Los Angeles back to their hometown in New York. There, Milo meets Maggie’s husband Lance (Luke Wilson). They repair their own relationship while facing their own struggles. The chemistry between the two leads is amazing. It’s not hard to believe they’re related, or that they’re both deeply, deeply broken people. This movie, like many of its type, intrigued me because of the sibling dynamic. I’m an only child, and so I’ve always been a spectator to such relationships. On a broader level, though, it’s a reminder of why we have families in the first place, even when they hurt.
Okay, so that's the first 5. Tune in next time -- December 24 -- for the next 5. December 28 will reveal 10-6, and December 31 will give my top 5!