I hate to specifically disappoint Jenni Miller, but when she was guessing at films on my list for this year, she mentioned Jim Jarmusch. For me, though, “Only Lovers Left Alive” qualified for last year's list, and while it didn't make my top ten, I am a fan of the film.
One of the things I love about it is that it managed to be a straight-faced take on vampires and still somehow avoided cliche. It felt fresh because it was so simple, so unafraid of the archetypes. On the other hand, knowing those cliches isn't a bad thing every time. Take the example of “What We Do In The Shadows,” the wicked mockumentary about a house full of vampires living in modern-day New Zealand. It is a painfully funny film, and one of the things I love about it is how they manage to tweak each and every iteration of the pop culture vampire using each of the characters in the house.
Meanwhille, Ana Lily Amirpour's “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” offered up a radically different take on the vampire in a film that stands outside genre. Beautiful and solemn and absurd and charming, “Girl” features one of the most visually striking vampires in film history and, in doing so, marks Amirpour as a filmmaker worth paying attention to.
I think “Chef” is a lovely turning point for Jon Favreau, and it's nearly impossible to watch the film and not see it as a metaphor for his career so far. If you view the restaurant where he works for Dustin Hoffman as “Cowboys and Aliens,” and you view the food truck to be “Chef,” this is a movie about Favreau redeeming himself, and by making it, he did indeed redeem himself. You could vanish down the meta-rabbit hole if you think about it too much, but the reason “Chef” really works is because none of that subtext manners. Taken simply as a story, “Chef” is enormously winning. Favreau's great in the lead, John Leguizamo makes a perfect wingman, and Emjay Anthony is natural and relaxed sharing screen times with the adults. Plus, yes, the movie makes me want to eat my own weight in Cuban food.
Honesty counts with me. What I respond to most in Zach Braff's “Wish I Was Here” is the stuff he gets right about family. I sat next to Erik Davis at Sundance when we attended the first screening of the film, and the two of us were sort of ruined by it. I think there are certain story threads that don't work in the movie (the Josh Gad cosplay stuff in particular), but when it comes to the family stuff, it really crushes. I know, I know… I'm not allowed to like Braff's film if I'm cool, but I do, and I suspect that most of the rancor I saw directed at it was locked and loaded before the film was ever screened.
And “Neighbors” just plain made me laugh my face off.
Here's the list so far:
26. “What We Do In The Shadows”
28. “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”
29. “Wish I Was Here”
31. “The LEGO Movie”
32. “Bad Words”
33. “Obvious Child”
34. “The Mule”
36. “We Are The Best!”
38. “Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me”
39. “The Guest”
40. “Tokyo Tribe”
41. “Edge Of Tomorrow”
42. “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
43. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
44. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
45. “The Overnighters”
46. “The Theory Of Everything”
47. “Goodnight Mommy”
48. “Shrew's Nest”
49. “St Vincent”
50. “The Imitation Game”