I admired Miranda July's previous film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, but was still befuddled by the sheer amount of ink spilled on its behalf back in 2005. After seeing her second feature, I am absolutely drinking the Kool-aid now.
July dials back the more twee aspects of her art and finds herself capable of weaving the various ideas at play in The Future into a piece with far more cohesive center.
A thoroughly captivating, touching and relatable film with great insight into the disconnects and moments of stasis that plague every relationship. Placing too much emphasis on the future, it seems to forward, can effectively poison both it and the present.
Michael Shannon exudes a helpless confusion bordering (and sometimes crossing into) manic violence in Jeff Nichols' follow-up to his phenomenal debut (Shotgun Stories). Shannon plays Curtis, a man reaching the age at which his mother began to manifest signs of schizophrenia. Cue the waking hallucinations and recurring nightmares, all of which deal either with an oncoming storm or a betrayal by someone close to him.
Nichols deftly directs his own screenplay, never allowing the material to get overtaken by the symbology employed throughout the story. The strain on the relationship between Curtis and his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) is, appropriately, given more weight than the moments where Curtis is frozen in his tracks by the visions that plague him.
Although Take Shelter falls just short of possessing the power of Shotgun Stories; one of the best of the prior decade, both films are riveting testaments to the collaborative powers of Nichols and Shannon. Here's hoping their relationship continues to bloom onscreen.
#8 Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier):
A film that fully embodies the feeling of a cold, disabling depressive bout. Von Trier takes a gigantic risk by revealing his cards early on in the first several minutes of the film. After giving the viewer an idea of what to expect, via the seductively beautiful introduction, he leaves us to suffer through the long, emotionally-muted slog to a conclusion already foretold.
Despite the high demands it puts on the viewer, Melancholia is exceedingly difficult to look away from, punishing us as we engage with it.
#7 Certified Copy (dir. Abbas Kiarostami):
Most movies define their characters early on, never straying far from those initial impressions of who it is we are watching. Certified Copy moves in an entirely different fashion. Kiarostami plays a shell game with the audience, telling us first who these people (Juliette Binoche and William Shimell) are before throwing us a long curve that lasts throughout the rest of the film.
In many ways, Certified Copy is reminiscent of pictures like Mindwalk and My Dinner with Andre, an odd duck of a microscopic sub-genre of cinema built around captivating conversations, rather than the standard focus on actions and scenarios. Hit the link to read what I had to say about the film last February.
#6 Shame (dir. Steve McQueen):
Quite simply, the best performances I saw last year were on display in Steve McQueen's Shame. Michael Fassbender, reunited with his director from Hunger, stretches beyond himself, fully projecting the image of man hollowed out by sexual addiction. It's a layered performance that mixes compulsion with humiliation, all tempered with a strong dose of alienation.
Carey Mulligan is incredibly solid as well, mining the tension within several places to memorable effect. The extended moment in which she sings is probably the most exquisitely painful to behold; this in a film filled with difficult moments throughout.
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