At the beginning of 2014, my life began looming in different directions right around the time I took my annual trip to the Sundance Film Festival in mid-January. I vowed to begin looking for work outside of the arts, or particularly film, where I had spent a decade working in, once I returned to Minnesota. And then a funny thing happened—I found myself back in our rented condo at Sundance alone as I had retreated back dealing with some nasty altitude sickness. Rather than going to bed, I started looking at different job postings and to my amazement, I saw a listing for a film Program Director position in Austin, Texas. While I did not realize it at time this posting was something of a revelation. A few days earlier, I had seen a magical life-affirming film by longtime Austin resident and founder of the Austin Film Society, writer/director Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
When I returned home to Minnesota, I began raving about Boyhood and probably became annoying to a fault, but I still stand by my first response as I did almost 12 months ago calling Boyhood a monumental film experience. Little did I know I would embark on my own monumental film experience in 2014 when I applied for the Austin film position thinking I would have little chance of getting the job? Yet, I got the job. While it did not take me 12 years to move on (I use 12 years as a Boyhood reference, as the film begins with 6-year-old Mason Jr. and follows him until he turns 18), it was a journey I desperately needed to make in order to follow and keep my “boyhood” dream alive of being involved in film. I left the Twin Cities for the first time and headed to Texas.
Almost everyday in my life, one way or other, I am consumed with watching, reading about, researching and discussing films. Very rarely am I not in the mood to watch a film, something new in theaters or streaming, revisiting a forgotten classic, or replaying a couple scenes from some of my all-time favorites as I continued to study, “every move, play by play” of scenes, I could not get enough of. However, when I left the Twin Cities and moved to Austin to become the Program Director for the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, or aGLIFF, I thought this would be impossible to keep up. I was completely wrong.
In fact, it was quite the opposite, it invigorated me more than I could have possibly imagined. Not only did I see more films than every in a calendar year, staying up every evening on average well past 3 a.m., I got to attend Sundance and Slamdance in Park City, Utah, and for the first time, traveled to the irresistible documentary festival True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri, the ever-growing South by Southwest (SXSW) and the joyous mayhem of Fantastic Fest in Austin and bonded with new friends (and losing my credit card) at the Pride Film Festival in College Station, Texas.
At the end of the year, I saw nearly 450 films in 2014 at festivals with hundreds of people or watching them alone, I also programmed three very different festivals, aGLIFF, Flyway Film Festival (recently, named one of the 25 coolest film festival in the WORLD by Moviemaker magazine) in scenic Pepin & Stockholm, Wisconsin and finally, returning home to Saint Paul to work on Sound Unseen.
While I did watch more films than ever, I wrote less for Twin Cities Daily Planet than I ever had. But fear not faithful readers, you may not see my articles, reviews, interviews as often as I would like, but I will be heading back out to Sundance Film Festival in a few weeks and will be reporting on the festival for TCDP again.
Lastly, I am currently living in Austin as I was retained by aGLIFF to program the 28th annual festival happening this fall. My body might be in the Lone Star State but, my heart will always be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and I wear my idiosyncratic Minnesota values on my sleeve every day.
Without further adieu, I present this list top ten list of the best-represented filmmaking in 2014 felt through these eyes and a change of scenery through creative, innovated storytelling told from newcomers, auteurs, and veteran directors finding inspiration and horror through different characters, subjects and settings shaping dynamic, exhausting, feisty and triumphant works of art brought to life through film (with a few other mentions listed below).
1. Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater (USA)
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson (USA/Germany/UK)
3. Inherent Vice, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (USA)
4. CITIZENFOUR, directed by Laura Poitras (Germany/USA)
5, Blue Ruin, directed by Jeremy Saulnier (USA/France)
6. The Overnighters, directed by Jesse Moss (USA)
7. Tales of the Grim Sleeper, directed by Nick Broomfield (USA/UK)
8. The Lunchbox, directed by Ritash Batra (India/France)
9. Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle (USA)
10. Thou Wast Mild & Lovely, directed by Josephine Decker (USA)
Honorable Mention (in no order)
Dumb & Dumber To
Two Days, One Night
A Most Violent Year
Edge of Tomorrow
Love is Strange
Cold in July
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
The Great Invisible
Films I missed
The Lego Movie
Song of the Sea
Films I saw in 2014, although opening in 2015 that I recommend
Gangs of Wasseyrup
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
The Duke of Burgundy
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine
Lambert & Stamp
I Am A Knife With Legs
Heaven Adores You
Goodbye to Language
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Nymphomaniac I & II
Under the Skin
Dumb & Dumber To
God Help The Girl
We Are the Best!
Photo credit: IFC Films (Boyhood)