March 3rd, 2015
I saw two movies this past month that will make my "Best Of The Year" list for 2015.
Last year started the same--two great ones right off the bat (one an all-time favourite)--and that led to a belief that the rest of
the year would be just as fruitful.
It was not to be.
Whatever. I'll take the good now while I can.
The first film worth mentioning is Nightcrawler. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a truly great performance in this dark thriller about a brilliant psychopath who has nothing going on in his life career-wise until he discovers he can make money using a police scanner to follow accidents across LA. He rushes to the scenes and films the carnage which he then sells to a local news program. Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom is a remarkable character in that he is so obviously a psychopath--as well as a scum bag--yet, as he delivers monologues about his business tactics and beliefs about best approaches to personal relationships, he is both repulsive and entirely compelling.
"If it bleeds, it leads" is the mantra os the news world Bloom enters and despite
the slightly weak ending this is a truly enjoyable film that I wished wouldn't end as I watched it.
The best film using Los Angeles as a character since William Friedkin's To LIve And Die In LA.
The other movie that blew me away was Whiplash.
I've had arguments with both staff and customers about this film since it came out and nothing has changed my mind about it being an incredibly well executed study in obsession.
Miles Teller (a very promising young actor first seen in 2013's The Spectacular Now) plays Andrew, a young drummer enrolled at the preeminent music school in the United States.
One teacher at the school looms larger than al the rest: Fletcher played by J.K. Simmons (who won the Best Actor Oscar for this role). Fletcher is infamous for driving students to the very edge of their limits, physically and mentally, in a bid to create the best Jazz ensemble in the nation.
Andrew is interested in only one thing: Being one of the best drummers ever.
The two form a relationship that almost immediately edges toward the sadistic in a blind pursuit of excellence.
One argument presented to me is that the message of the film is ultimately a bad one.
(I won't go into particulars since it would spoil an important part of the movie)
While I agree
it is a tough message and one that is starkly opposite of almost any film about youth put out in the last decade and a half, I loved it precisely because of the message.
How much is too much? How far is too far?
Watch for yourself and decide because regardless of the potential for the language of the film to offend you or for it's oppressive physicality to make you uncomfortable, the passion of the filmmaking and its performances are undeniable.
Lastly, I have to mention the recent documentary Life Itself which is an examination of the life, career and death of film critic, Roger Ebert.
The film is a good one. Not great, but good.
The subject however, deserves your attention.
He is simply one of the tow most important film critics of all time. The late Gene Siskel would be the other but I would contend that Ebert was more "the people's critic" which edges him to the top.
Not by much but by enough.
I would not own Pic A Flic if it wasn't for Roger Ebert. Period.
If not for my starting to watch Sneak Previews in 1978. Then following the two as they jumped to Siskel And Ebert At The Movies.
They both taught me how to watch movies. They taught me what a director was and how important he was to the life of a film. They showed me how to be excited by the illicit nature of the cult film and gave me the desire to seek out lesser-known movies because of their special "Buried Treasure" episodes.
They did it all without talking down to me while still making it all clear and captivating to my 11 year-old brain.
So yes, watch this movie. I think you will find out that he may have been more important to your life with movies than you have thought.
Take moment to remember one of the most important men in the history of movies and marvel at his strength in the face of the disease that took him from all of us.
Thanks for reading,