Best movies of 2014 – Part Two

14. Happy Christmas, dir. Joe Swanberg.

Happy Christmas, comedy about how annoying relatives can be when a young family is already bucking under the pressure of raising a child, is Joe Swanberg’s most realized film. The annoying relative, played by Anna Kendrick, smokes and parties too much, and according to her brother and sister in law (the wonderful Melanie Lynskey), she’s too old for this shit anyway.

13. Test, dir. Chris Mason Johnson.

Following a dance troupe in San Francisco as it struggles with the realities of physical and sexual contact,Test has the uninhabited look of a movie for public television on AIDS filmed in the year in which it’s set—think Parting Glances. But its awareness of history is contemporary, its acuity strengthened by three decades of mourning. And it’s exactly as long as it needs to be.

12. Young & Beautiful, dir. François Ozon.

Eschewing Zola’s naturalism for a po-faced study that its brief running time can’t sustain, Young & Beautiful follows seventeen-year-old Isabelle (Marine Vacth), who after losing her virginity to a tow-headed German boy on her summer vacation returns home, adopts the name Lea, and leads a double life: lycée student by day, call girl by night. Francois Ozon doesn’t explain — he presents.

11. Borgman, dir. Alex van Warmerdam.

If Borgman is supposed to be a commentary on the upper middle class families who inhabit these lifeless homes and buy red wine to accompany them, it keeps its secrets close. Alex van Warmerdam’s Palme D’Or nominee, the Dutch entry in 2013’s Academy Awards, is the kind of deluxe thriller in which the violence is as sparing as portions of asparagus on a plate. Fans of Rosemary’s Baby and The Vanishing, and this year’s The Babadook will eat this up. You’ll never take Michael Haneke seriously again.

10. National Gallery, dir. Frederic Wiseman.

Our best chronicler of how institutions work turns his patient camera to the great museum, showing how curators arrange paintings for maximum impact and visibility and how financial backers lure those web-obsessed kids into this most nineteenth century of bourgeois relics. Also: is “retouching” a Rembrandt collaborating with the painter or changing it? Time to reread Walter Benjamin.

One thought on “Best movies of 2014 – Part Two

  1. Fans of Rosemary’s Baby and The Vanishing, and this year’s The Babadook will eat this up. You’ll never take Michael Haneke seriously again.

    Heh. I’d been avoiding this one on the grounds that every single review I’ve read has mentioned Haneke. If this is actually more of an antidote to than a RIYL, maybe I’ll check it out yet.

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