Is it just me, or are movies getting worse? I swear, last year it was difficult to choose 5 movies that I actually seriously enjoyed, but this year was even more difficult. There were so many highly anticipated films this year that I watched and tolerated, but were nothing even close to spectacular enough to make the short-list, much less the final list. The world screamed with applause for the Lego Movie (that song makes me want to kill someone), Tumblr was inundated with Guardians of the Galaxy posts (besides baby Groot dancing I was not overly impressed), and a plethora of sequels filled the majority of other timeslots (some were enjoyable, but nothing to be super excited about). Thankfully there were a few films that made the grade, some of which came as a surprise to even me!
I went into this movie expecting the worst - I’ve been over Angelina Jolie for ages, the Sleeping Beauty story has never been one of my favourites, and Disney live action is almost never carried off successfully. But as soon as they hit the scene where Maleficent’s wings are taken by her so-called-friend Stefan I was hooked. This feisty fey-woman is not one to be trifled with, and you better believe that some stolen wings aren’t enough to cripple a woman who is part dragon. Clearly I have a fondness for dragons and a good revenge story where the lady gets her revenge, but besides that the story had a lot of other good moments as well. The look on Maleficent’s face when Aurora decides that she is her fairy godmother is priceless, the crow-man was an interesting character foil, and to top it all off the CGI was pretty damned good. Now if only the upcoming remake of Cinderella didn’t look like such drivel…
Tom Hiddleston. Tilda Swinton. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires. Need I say more? Everyone knows that I love a good vampire film, but so often they are a disappointment. I blame Twilight for that. But Only Lovers Left Alive goes back to the classic roots of the genre and explores how people who live forever deal with an ever-changing and ever-degrading world. Driven by Tilda’s and Tom’s representation of a vampire couple who live for their books and their music (respectively) and of course each other we are given a sharp, witty, and macabre social commentary on what happens when humans pollute the world, all wrapped up in an artfully filmed format.
Considering that I despise every single other film that Wes Anderson has directed/written I was in absolute shock over how much I liked this one! Apparently I’m not the only anti-Wes-Anderson person to be won over by this film, so maybe it’s not so crazy. The cast is still pretty vast, and the plot is still on the ridiculous side, but the setting was beautiful and there were so many amusingly sarcastic moments that it would have been difficult not to get caught up in the film. Maybe it’s because Anderson was working from someone else’s story (it’s based on the writings of Stefan Zweig) that made all the difference, but what I found the most different was getting outside of the character claustrophobia that seems to be present in the rest of his films and what makes them so shallow. Or maybe his hipster-esque pseudo-literary style of storytelling (yeah, I went there, deal with it) can’t be applied to a European setting and is therefore replaced with something that’s actually meaningful.
A last minute addition to the list comes in the form of the bio-pic about fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Like biographical books, bio-pics are totally not my thing, but for some reason YSL is the exception on both fronts, since the Alice Rawsthorn biography made my book top 5 list previously. This film felt very much like Rawsthorn’s book, as it is a pretty open depiction of YSL’s exciting and troubled life and focuses a lot on the relationships he had with the people who were his friends. In particular, the film focused on Pierre Bergé, who’s narration and moments outside of YSL-mania really hit an emotional nerve. The film comes off feeling like a lingering post-death love letter to the recently departed Yves, which is surprising as it is not billed as such. It’s just the story of one man’s life, his fame, and his hardships, which each viewer will likely interpret differently.
Coriolanus (National Theatre Live)
Technically, the Donmar Warehouse’s staging of William Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus isn’t a film, but since I saw it in theatre thanks to National Theatre Live I am counting it as such! I mean, how often do you get to see an original Shakespeare staging in London with world-class actors live? I sure can’t afford the plane fare (yet), but National Theatre Live did an amazing job filming the Donmar Warehouse’s minimalist and traditional staging of one of the lesser known Shakespeare productions, so it was totally worth the slightly exorbitant ticket price. Unlike the recent movie version of Coriolanus (2011), this adaptation kept the setting Roman which made all the difference when it came to the actors. Hiddleston is pushing the age limit of Coriolanus a bit (I picture him as being closer to early/mid 20s than early 30s to explain his political immaturity), but he pulled off the entitlement themes perfectly and was offset well by Hadley Fraser’s Tullus Aufidius.