January 2015


You read that right: top 15. I’m departing from my established pattern of doing an annual top 10. Part of me sees this as a failure of will, a refusal to make the hard choices. Maybe so. However, the prevailing thought in my mind is that although I am attempting to name my absolute favorite films of the year, the goal is less about canonization of well-respected movies than it is about the hope that the list might encourage someone to take a chance on a film they otherwise might not.

It was a good year for movies by my account. Godzilla returned to US multiplexes. Keanu Reeves got back into the action game with John Wick. We saw new films from auteurs such as David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, and Woody Allen. We saw exciting work from new and up-and-coming directors like Jennifer Kent, Damien Chazelle, Justin Simien, Dan Gilroy, Jeremy Saulnier, and Ana Lily Amirpour. We got two movies from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, both of which were anarchic fun. Reese Witherspoon was also in two movies and wasn’t awful in either of them. Even some of the usual superhero/blockbuster mish-mash was of an unusually high caliber (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy). Oh, and I think there was a movie by some guy named Christopher Nolan…

So in a year this crowded I feel a top 15 is the way to go. Let’s get at it, then, and may the hottest flicks rise to the top. Here are my picks for the best movies of 2014:

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The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Director: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Starring: Oka Antara, Kazuki Kitamura, Rin Takanashi
Running Time: 2 hrs, 17 mins
Unrated


Review by Daniel Stidham

Killers, a new crime drama from Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (otherwise known as The Mo Brothers) follows two men – one in Tokyo and the other in Jakarta – who commit murder to film, uploading their victims’ final moments to the internet to the delight of onlookers. The image of a dying person’s face on a computer screen, coldly flanked by a stream of anonymous commenters, is the kind of bitter juxtaposition that the film likes to play with. A movie about snuff film can hardly escape engaging in some meta-commentary about our fascination with death and violence, a subject with a long cinematic history. Yet Killers is hardly the Mo Brothers’ attempt at Funny Games. Stylistically it follows in the footsteps of ultra-violent Asian crime thrillers like I Saw the Devil, though at some points it has more in common with movies like Saw or Untraceable – at least it recalls such flicks in its opening scene where a masked man kills a young woman on camera.

Departed-style, we have twin protagonists (if you can call them that) in Bayu and Nomura. Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) is a stylish, single Japanese man, a sociopath and amateur murder enthusiast. Bayu (Oka Antara) is a frustrated journalist and family man with a daughter and estranged wife and a score to settle with a powerful Indonesian businessman. Though different sorts of people, they meet via chat room and develop the kind of uneasy relationship that I would assume comes with knowing your new friend is an amoral monster. Bayu experiences an “attraction of repulsion” to Nomura’s snuff films. He likes to ceremoniously slam his laptop shut in disgust, but he also finds himself awakening to his own latent bloodlust.

Read the full review on CutPrintFilm.com