2014 Ten Best Movies (and etc.)

L'Air de Panache: Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

L’Air de Panache: Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Winter Sleep. “How small incidents can open up an entire world.” (In case of Herald paywall, Weekly version here.)

Rocks in My Pockets. “It’s a rare movie that makes you want to check in on how the filmmaker is doing since completing the project.” (Weekly version here.)

And a top-ten list for 2014, for Seattle Weekly. For the Herald, there’s also a ten worst. Click on the links for details, but here’s the ten:

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)

2. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)

3. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

4. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)

5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)

6. Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier) and The Rover (David Michôd)

8. Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund)

9. The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)

10. Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)

There’s more Top Ten excavation at the 2014 Critics Wrap, where the discussion involves Jim Emerson, Richard T. Jameson, Kathleen Murphy, and me. It has one more broadcast on the Seattle Channel on Saturday January 3 at 9 p.m., and is watchable online here.

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk about The Interview, does have some laughs and some political satire, layered in amid the raunch. Listen here.

I dropped by KIRO radio’s “Mark Rahner Show” again last week, where we talked about The Gambler and Into the Woods and other stuff. Listen here.


Anatolian Reunion (Weekly Links)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Links to reviews I wrote this week for the Herald, and etc.

American Reunion. “Very little pastry.”

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. “The more we get to know them, the greater the mystery becomes.”

The Salt of Life. “Not up to the standard of Mid-August Lunch.”

Footnote. (Dead link; review below)

By Robert Horton

Another of the five nominees in the best foreign-language film category arrives this week. Fittingly enough, it’s a movie about a prize, and the toll the selection process takes on a very competitive father and son.

“Footnote” was Israel’s entry in the Oscar stakes. The award in question is the Israel Prize, the country’s top cultural honor. For years a cranky, anti-social Talmudic scholar, Eliezer Shkolnik (played by Schlomo Bar-Aba) has craved such recognition. He’s labored in obscurity, and his greatest achievement was scooped by another researcher. He is, however, mentioned in a footnote to a massive encyclopedia, a footnote he takes immense pride in.

One day professor Shkolnik gets the call: He’s won the Israel Prize. He doesn’t exactly smile, but something like satisfaction crosses his face.

Ah, but there’s a problem, a big one, and this is what “Footnote” is all about. Shkolnik’s son (Lior Ashkenazi) is also an acclaimed scholar, but a more popular one. He and his father have a frosty relationship, which is made even more uncomfortable when Uriel learns some new information about the prize.

Even though this sounds like the makings of a somewhat esoteric tale, rest assured that director Joseph Cedar (of the previous Oscar nominee “Beaufort”) knows how much charged-up drama there is in family tensions and academic rivalries. The movie makes a wise shift from a satirical slant early on, in which the screen is filled with helpful facts about the life of the scholar, to a more serious mood later. Pettiness, betrayal, back-biting—all the lesser instincts emerge when something valuable is at stake.

One strong turning point is a heated meeting involving the bestowers of the prize, who gather in a room so small they have to get out of their seats just to close the door if they want to keep the proceedings secret. One key critic of Eliezer Shkolnik’s nomination is dead set against the man getting the award, and the negotiations to pacify this power-broker will have a huge cost.

Amusingly, the extended Shkolnik family attend a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” that Broadway musical version of classic Jewish stories. This is just the kind of popularization of scholarship that Eliezer usually denounces, but he can’t help humming the theme music on the way home.

And what about that other competition? “Footnote” lost the Oscar; the winner, deservedly, was Iran’s “A Separation.” As “Footnote” suggests, it seems any awards competition these days is fraught with extra tension.

Four Lovers. “Too much flour in the wrong places?”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” we spoke of noir happenings in Seattle; the talk is archived here. The movie bit kicks in around the 21:40 mark.

Tonight (Friday) at 5 p.m. at the Northwest Film Forum, it’s another installment of “Framing Pictures,” three critics talking about movies in a longform sort of way. The critics are Richard T. Jameson, Kathleen Murphy, and myself, and the subjects will include Laura (a revival print shows at the NWFF) and critical reaction to The Hunger Games. Join the conversation; it’s a free event, with details here.

I’ll be leading a writing workshop called “How to Make Articulate Noise” at 826 Seattle on Tuesday night, April 10th, at 7 p.m. I think we’ll have a pretty good time, and the proceeds go to a good cause. Details here.

At What a Feeling!, another week of vintage Eighties reviews rounds off with pieces on Peter Hyams’ The Presidio and John Landis’s Coming to America.