Jan 15

The Freaky Trigger Not-A-Poll Films Of 2014: 15-12

Do You See15 comments • 534 views

article-2401507-1B6FAE29000005DC-487_634x895BONJOUR Mes Amis!!!

I’m Audrey Tautou, the spoon faced ingenue who everyone fell in love with in Amelie even though I was basically playing Mr Bean. But hey Mr Bean is also really big, in Europe, which is ideal for me as I am French which is also in Europe. I am here to introduce the next four films in Pete’s Top 20 films of 2014, which I hope will include one I made, and nothing by that horror Marion Coutillard who I hate as she got an Oscar and didn’t even do her own singing in La Vie On Rose. I used my own smells in the Coco Chanel movie, did I get an Oscar or even a Cesar? The French award not the dog food. Je me égare…

Thanks Audrey, and I can sadly confirm that not only are you not in the list this year, you were actually in the worst film I saw last year: Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo – a more irritatingly twee or suffocating film I could not imagine. So instead here are some films which are much, much better:

15: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler-movie-posterAn unrelenting media satire which feels a lot closer to reality than most similar stories. We may be outraged and repulsed by Jake Gyllenhaal’s guerrilla cameraman, filming every local car crash, murder and getting exclusive footage of atrocities, but we know that the TV companies will buy and show this material at the moment and the morality at the heart of it is at best comparative rather than held up to any legal standard (we sadly saw that last week in Paris). So not only is the satire cutting, but at the heart is a truly despicable character who is also wonderfully watchable parleying his version of the American Dream. Next to him Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo almost seem like moral centres – though clearly they are not. Murky, funny, a welcome Bill Paxton cameo but this is Gyllenhaal’s show and he makes the most of it, he will make you feel moral compromised just by watching him.

14: Winter Sleep

winter_sleep_poster-620x835More films about horrible people. A testament to how even the talkiest of foreign language films can compel, this is Ceylan’s follow up to Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, and eschews some of in-camera beauty of that film, and replaces it with a slow burn character portrait. And what a horrid character the lead is; a washed up ex-actor who believes he is an intellectual, but instead is a coward, a bully and a negative influence on everyone he meets. Such is the power of the characterization that you can’t help but see a bit of yourself in his preening. A film that makes you want to be a better person, or else you’ll end up like this.

13: The Babadook

babadookHorror films work best on the level of insidious creep. This means that as long as you get and maintain a specific tone, they can actually be quite cheap to make. And the Babadook is a low budget Australian horror which mainly builds tension by increasingly unhinging its two main protagonists. Whilst it could be lumped with other creepy child films, in reality the boy in the Babadook is more irritating than frighting, and the real tension comes in the unraveling of the sleepless mother. Yes, it may all be one big metaphor, but what it is a metaphor of, and how it plays with the implicit rules of the genre, make it more than just another boogeyman horror.

12: The Guest

The-Guest_PosterThis is also a sort of horror film, or a home infiltration movie, or homage to a certain kind of 80’s home video staple. The army buddy of a family’s dead son turns up and is remarkably charming, so as per the movies, what is he hiding? Well what he is hiding always remains a little unclear as he slips into smiling psychopathy, but using a John Carpenter style score, a very eighties colour palate and it being set in some sort of eternal Halloween helps. Dan Stevens with his super-saturated blue eyes is absolutely compelling, and the stupid bloodbath it devolves into is hugely over the top in a wonderfully fun way. Possibly the years most grungily entertaining film, I loved it.

Come back later in the week for my joint number 11 films which share a form, and an infuriating mixture of being great and terrible AT THE SAME TIME.


  1. 1
    Tommy Mack on 12 Jan 2015 #

    Glad you felt as non-plussed by Mood Indigo as I did. I sat through it, hating it and thinking of friends who also hate twee nonsense to whom I could slag it off then felt like a horrible person and decided I must have been wrong but if two people think the same thing then it must be right. That is science.

    Also bricked it at The Babadook and was suitably unsettled by Ryan Gosling in Nightcrawler: ‘like if Patrick Bateman was poor so you start out rooting for him’ was how I described it to friends.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 13 Jan 2015 #

    I don’t think I ever rooted for Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler but that’s an excellent description. My companion also hated Mood Indigo, and we both agreed that we wished we had seen the Gerard Depardieu movie Welcome To New York, which considering it has GD grunting and having sex for the first half hour is an accurate barometer to quite how annoying Mood Indigo is.

  3. 3
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2015 #

    I’m so glad I didn’t see Mood Indigo. I was tempted, because I have enjoyed several Gondry films – including the very twee Science Of Sleep – but I was also not tempted because I’m still nowhere near forgiving him for The We And The I, which is one of the worst films of the decade* and also nicked one of my never-to-be made film ideas (lurking somewhere in my files as the ‘Richard Linklater bus movie’).

    *I think there was some worthy project aspect to the whole thing, but so what: it’s worthless as a film.

  4. 4
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Another filmmaker I remain wary of is Ceylan – as much as I liked Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (up until the godawful last quarter of an hour), the thought of Uzak still makes me furious – it was one of those films that I felt was actually trying to waste my time. But I’ll definitely watch Winter Sleep when it (presumably) turns up on Film Four.

  5. 5
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jan 2015 #

    #2: I only just clocked that: Jake Gyllenhall not Ryan Gosling! Oh well, same guy, basically… I rooted for him a bit at the start because he was such an outsider and an underdog, a man with absolutely nothing, not even an agreeable personality, a cross between Scarface-type street hustler and Mr Bean misfit: actually JG in Nightcrawler is more like Mr Bean than Amilie is: a textbook sociopath with no morals or social graces whatsoever but obviously, a great deal more avarice than the child-like Mr Bean. I suppose the crux of the whole movie is that we realise that this isn’t a man who doesn’t get the world but rather someone who just doesn’t give a shit about anyone else in it whatsoever. Like I said, unsettling and furthermore, rather brilliant.

  6. 6
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Re5: I didn’t root for him at all (other than obviously he had to succeed a bit for the sake of the plot). But I enjoyed the film.

    Actually, I’d argue that although Gyllenhaal and Gosling are the same acting generation, and both have been acting since they were very young, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d been up for the same part, they are usually quite different on screen. Gyllenhaal is often as he is in Nightcrawler or End Of Watch (although not in, say, Donnie Darko) a high-energy presence, whereas Gosling is almost always purely reactive and often weirdly blank (in a good way).

  7. 7
    Alex on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Winter Sleep is brilliant. As you say, a great, great film about horrible people. “Remember – that time, after the earthquake….”

  8. 8
    Pete Baran on 14 Jan 2015 #

    @4: I hated Uzak too for much the same reason, and got a bit wary through Winter Sleep that he was wasting my time again. He wasn’t, but it still would have worked with an hour lopped off of the running time.

  9. 9
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2015 #

    @Mark M., 4. So what was wrong with the last 1/4 hour of OUATIAnat? My experience was that after being bored and confused (and kind of angry about all that) for the first two hours the movie then proceeded to get better and better, and to provide you with more and more retrospective context that provided you with the ability to understand what had really being going on in the first half of the movie, so that by the end I’d been completely turned around and was ready to hail OUATIAnat as one of the movies of the year (and potentially of the decade). Presumably you had a problem with the doctor’s principal action and/or the place of what he saw out the window in motivating that action. But what?

    BTW, another hate-vote against Mood Indigo. Yikes, Gondry got around to making the film that proved all his detractors right. The whole thing felt way too pleased with itself and just fell completely flat. (Of course, there were *lots* of complete falling-flat disasters this year: Sin City 2, Million Ways To Die In The West, just to name two. I’d probably take Mood Indigo over them at least.)

  10. 10
    Mark M on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Re9: [WARNING: VAGUE SPOILERS] So yes for me what I loved about OUATIAnt was that it was this bleary-eyed shaggy dog story, a character-and-place piece that I found hypnotic to the point that when they finally go to the mayor’s house for dinner I felt as sleep-deprived and disorientated as they were and totally unable to distinguish what’s real…
    When the convoy finally rolls into town, I’m ready for the credits and to hail it as a masterpiece.
    But no. If this film had been made in Hollywood I would have assumed the studio had test-screened it, panicked, and ordered a new ending shot and tacked on. ‘If we’re going to rescue this massive fuck-up, we need a central character, someone that the audience can relate to. How about the doctor? Has to be the doctor. He’s the least weird guy in the picture. So he’s this big city medic in the boondocks – everyone loves that, right? Doc Hollywood, Northern Exposure… And we need to explain what the fuck was going on out there – give us a story, with some basic human emotional stuff about love and betrayal and secrets. Don’t just hint, tell us. We wanted this to have been about something, not just a bunch of guys driving around in the dark talking shit… You can do that on H fucking BO, but this is a movie…’
    ‘How about that really hackneyed closing shot we threw out of an early draft?’
    ‘Oh, yeah, you can use that.’

    My thoughts on the whole film.

  11. 11
    sukrat unlogged on 14 Jan 2015 #

    (link not working mark: is it to yr tumblr?)

  12. 12
    Mark M on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Thanks for spotting that Lord S – yes, it should be:

  13. 13
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2015 #

    @Mark M. Well, I haven’t seen the film in a while and so am not in a position to defend its ultimate machinations in detail, but you seem to me to go out of your way to be uncharitable. The doctor was always going to have the final say in the case, and he’s our avatar in the film, always listening to everyone else and acting as a representative of modernity/objectivity/impartiality. It therefore isn;t nearly as arbitrary as you make it seem that his POV should become more important at the end of the film and indeed that, after hearing about everyone else’s crises and compromises, he should face a crisis and be badly compromised by the end of the film. The forward momentum the film develops almost as soon as daylight hits did need to be carried forward in some way or other to be satisfying, but then be humbled to be even more satisfying (restoring a kind of parity with the night and traditional existence). The pleasure of the film for me was seeing this large architectonic emerge, and ending the film where you suggest would lose all that (except possibly for hyper-acute viewers such as yourself?).

    When I got hold of a file-copy of OUATIAnat I made my own edit of it which chopped out about 30 minutes from the first section of the film (thereby allowing us to hit daylight at about the 50 minute mark), and I kept almost all the rest. How intriguing that your own cut would be almost exactly the reverse!

  14. 14
    Mark M on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Re13: Yeah, I think it’s great that we both got something out of the film, while having a completely different take on it.

    Equally it’s a while since I saw it, but my feeling is I would happily do without the doctor altogether – I don’t feel the need to have a university-educated guy from Istanbul to guide me through all this. So I barely paid any attention to him. The themes, or at least the themes I was interested in, are all reasonably near the surface (it seemed to me) in the bulk of the film. To quote what I wrote (simply because it was a lot clearer in my mind then than it is now):

    ‘Without pushing it, Ceylan nudges us to noticing how weird digital cameras and laptops can seem in a place that feels like time has stopped for hundreds years. The idea of an area so rooted in the past might feel powerful and moving, but in practice, as the mayor says, it means that most of the people at all capable of so doing left for Istanbul or Germany decades ago.’

    But mostly I just liked the driving around and the squabbling and the prosecutor who thinks he’s Clark Gable and poor Arab Ali the driver and the police chief with his bad temper, and then the woozy bit in the mayor’s house. And I just didn’t feel there was anything that need resolving…

  15. 15
    Mark M on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Re13: For what it’s worth*, despite my little scenario above, I think your take is closer to one Ceylan was going for, mine is the Steve Buscemi edit.

    ‘Rien!’ cries the ghost of Roland Barthes.

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