2014 in Review

CA jan15-smA Godard film on opening night in 3-D with a sold-out, like-minded crowd who responded to the film how they were supposed to? It was a memorable experience indeed.




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It seems like most movie years offer one or two specific things I love but I don’t see represented on year-end lists, or in awards season, or any of the other form of wrap-ups of the year in film. Often these memorable details are performances: In 2013, I was knocked out by Adèle Exarchopoulos’s performance in Blue Is the Warmest Color (though, on the whole, I wasn’t terribly thrilled with that movie), and in 2012 it was Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. These performances failed to even be so much as nominated in most award ceremonies, let alone win anything.

CA Eller-Coltrane2014 didn’t have any one standout performance I feel the dire need to champion here, although two of my favorite performances of the year are being overlooked, as always: Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (why is he the one thing about Boyhood awards voters seem to be overlooking? I feel pretty strongly that the film wouldn’t have worked without him), and Gary Poulter, who played the mean old dad in David Gordon Green’s Joe. (And Poulter died between filming the part and the film’s release—don’t awards voters usually love that?) But really, the things that I was the most passionate about this year were more odds and ends than anything else.

One category I could create in the “Inside Pete’s Head Awards” would be my best experiences in a movie theater in the year. Again, this is something where there’s usually one specific standout, and it’s often a repertory screening. In 2013, my best experience in a movie theater was seeing Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Petit Soldat from a pristine film print as part of the Classic French Film Festival; this year, I’ve had several such great theater experiences. Two are neck and neck for my favorite, and both happened in the month of December. On December 5, I drove to Iowa City in the rain to see the new Godard film, Goodbye to Language, at the Film Scene. Goodbye to Language is Godard’s first film in 3-D, and its distributor, Kino Lorber, is wisely refusing to book it anywhere that can’t show it in 3-D. While I’m on their side on that one, that severely limits where it could possibly show in St. Louis: Pretty much any theater around here that would show a Godard film in the first place, like the Tivoli, Plaza Frontenac, or the Webster Film Series, does not have the capabilities of 3-D projection. (The Tivoli used to, but no longer does; I don’t miss it, usually.) There’s an outside chance that the Hi-Pointe or Chase Park Plaza would run it, but I was dying to see the film and nothing closer than the four-hour drive to Iowa City turned up on Kino’s list of the film’s play dates, so I decided to make the trek…and I’m glad I did. A Godard film on opening night in 3-D with a sold-out, like-minded crowd who responded to the film how they were supposed to? It was a memorable experience indeed, and the film’s great, too.

CA InterviewThe other theater experience this year that rivals seeing the Godard in Iowa City was seeing The Interview at Chase Park Plaza on Christmas morning at 11 a.m. It was an event: News crews were there both on the way into the theater and on the way out; despite the screening time (and threats of violence), there was a good crowd (I’d estimate the theater was 80% full); a lot of recognizable faces from the St. Louis film scene were in attendance; and the next screening was already sold out, and with a huge line by the time my screening ended. And the movie’s funny. It’s not as good as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s last film, This Is the End, but I think it’s a lot funnier than most of its reviewers want to give it credit for.

That leaves festival screenings and repertory screenings, which are usually the best theater experiences of the year for me, a few spots behind. Still, seeing the Harold Lloyd silent comedy The Freshman from a film print at the Webster Film Series in September, preceded by a short of Lloyd’s and accompanied by live music from the great local film musicians Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra, was a heck of a lot of fun, as was seeing The Imitation Game at the St. Louis International Film Festival, where I was seated by a group of well-behaved tweens who were apparently there because they had a huge crush on Benedict Cumberbatch.

My favorite 2014-released, movie-related book is Chloé Griffin’s Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller, which is an oral history of Cookie Mueller, best known as the girl who fucks a chicken in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. Elsewhere, I enjoyed Waters’ own Carsick, unsurprisingly, and the Andre the Giant parts in Cary Elwes’ As You Wish are a lot of fun (as is Box Brown’s good, but slight graphic novel biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend). Big disappointments included Jason Segel’s foray into middle readers, Nightmares! (written with Kirsten Miller) and Judy Greer’s memoir I Don’t Know What You Know Me From, which fails miserably in trying to grab some of that Bossypants money everyone’s been after lately.

CA LAThe one physical media release from this year about which I remain most excited is Cinema Guild’s Blu-ray of Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, an excellent 2003 documentary about representations of Los Angeles in film. It played at the Webster Film Series upon its initial release but then was lost in the ether for about a decade. I was wondering if it would ever resurface again, given how laden it is with movie clips and how hard it can be to clear rights on things like that (and it’s not like it has some enormous, deep-pocketed studio behind it), but sure enough, here it is, and on Blu-ray no less.

In closing, I’m happy to report that we’re not going to have to wait long for exciting film-related things in 2015. The month of January alone sees the U.S. Blu-ray release of Guy Maddin’s best film, My Winnipeg, from the Criterion Collection. I’ve had a Canadian import of that one since its 2007 release (in what I think is the only time I’ve had to import a DVD from Canada), and it was a Blockbuster-exclusive DVD back in the day for some unfathomable reason, but this marks the first time the film will be readily available on the U.S. home video market. Elsewhere in January, we’re seeing the release of Miranda July’s first novel, The First Bad Man, as well as a memoir by Patton Oswalt about his saturation years of movie watching, entitled Silver Screen Fiend. At this rate, 2015 is shaping up to be a solid year already—and I’m not even done with 2014 yet. | Pete Timmermann

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