Here are the first 5 movies in my list.
The day when I entered the campus as an undergraduate student in 2000 still feels like yesterday to me, but almost 15 years have passed now, and, as a guy who is about to become 32 with a Ph.D. degree, I notice faint wrinkles on my forehead whenever I look into my bathroom mirror in the morning. Time seemed far slower when I was young, but now I become more aware of its rapid one-way flow day by day. When I watched Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”, I experienced a similar feeling as alternatively amused and touched by its vivid, realistic depiction of life through the passage of time. Consisting of the series of episodes observed from its young hero’s maturation process during 12 years, the movie did a remarkable job of showing how life is shaped and changed over the course of time, and its long life journey is a truly absorbing experience as we muse on how much its young hero and others around him have been changed compared to when they were introduced to us in the beginning. We consider all these years they went through, and we come to see many recognizable human elements from their life story, and then we look back on ourselves and our life. Things are always bound to be changed through time in our life, and, as powerfully presented in this intimate but epic coming-of-age drama, so are we human beings.
John Michael McDonagh’s “Cavalry” slowly moves to its inevitable point like a funeral march as its gentle, thoughtful hero (played by Brendan Gleeson in one of his best performances) goes through what may be the last week of his life. The title of the movie refers to the place where Jesus was crucified, and you may see an allegorical parallel between that biblical story and its hero’s difficult circumstance. When the movie finally arrives at the expected confrontation scene on the beach, it is proceeded with the inexorable inevitability which has been carefully built along the plot, and its final scene is emotionally resonating regardless of how it can be interpreted. The world may be just a godless random mess which does not care much about good and evil, but the movie somehow reminds us that we should not throw away our capability of compassion and understanding. It may turn out to be futile in the end as some cynics think, but we need it more to keep moving on in our life anyway.
Although it stumbles at times on the plot level as reaching for its challenging goals, “Interstellar” works as an intriguing science fiction story which boldly pushes its ideas and itself into an uncertain area, and it is also poignant to watch at times as its characters struggle hard with their desperate matter of time and gravity in the story. Its ultimate message at the end of journey sounds rather corny indeed, but it feels truthful with images and emotions to grip your attention, and you may admire how daringly Christopher Nolan pushes his familiar science fiction elements all the way to the far corner of space and time in his ambitious attempt. It may not be a great film, but this is definitely a film with bold, grand gestures to be appreciated for many years.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” looks so simple and concise that describing its plot will not be enough to explain why it is one of the most memorable experiences of this year. I initially observed the movie with admiration toward its impressive technical aspects, and then I appreciated more how its distinctive approach actually supports and enhances its haunting story about a young Polish woman who suddenly has to deal with the past she never knew before. This is a sort of film easier to admire than like, but its austere presentation of the Polish society in the 1960s works as an interesting look into the past, and you may notice an ironic parallel between its heroine and her society, in which communism and religion somehow co-exist side by side among its people just like her own Jewish heritage and Catholic upbringing inside her. The movie is a stunning achievement worthy of more attention, and Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska give haunting performances to remember as a young Catholic girl who goes through her silent conflict behind her docile appearance and her jaded, cynical aunt who comes to find that she still has a heart to bleed.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is as amusing and whimsy as you can expect from We Anderson’s film. The movie sparkles technically and artistically with the lovely cinematography by Robert Yeoman, the gorgeous production design by Adam Stockhausen, and the charming score by Alexandre Desplat, and Anderson assembles an impressive array of talented actors for his film led by Ralph Fiennes, who shows us unexpected sides in his rich comic performance. Yes, Anderson’s characters may be no more than caricatures living in artificial world and this movie is no exception, but they are usually delightful to watch as they bump around their story, and they sometimes surprise us with the sad, melancholic moments of real emotions.