1. Behind the Candelabra
The best movie of the year didn’t play in theaters. Rather, this biopic on legendary flamboyant schmaltz-entertainer Liberace premiered on HBO back in May. Fitting in a year when television — conventional (cable) or otherwise (Netflix) — kicked film’s ass with quality series’ such as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black. Hollywood studios deemed Steve Soderbergh’s biopic “too gay” and HBO smartly picked the project up. Michael Douglas gives the best performance of his career playing the closeted performer, and Matt Damon is brilliantly cast as his assistant and lover. However, Rob Lowe just about steals the film as a plastic surgeon/Dr. Feelgood who’s been under the knife one too many times. The film is a comedy at times, a tragedy at others, and Soderbergh is the perfect director to balance both.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are receiving a lot of undue flak about this unforgiving, three-hour stage dive (it’s really the most punk rock financial film ever made) into the world of predatory brokers, drugs, and material excess in the go-go 80s. Take a look back at Goodfellas and Casino, the Scorsese films that The Wolf of Wall Street mirrors the most: both films place an anti-hero upfront who barely makes it out alive before the credits roll, while all those who have surrounded him are either destroyed or had the good sense to duck out when they should have. It’s a classic Scorsese move, and the symbiosis between star and director finally clicks on this one, their fifth collaborative film. Scorsese is 71-years-old, but if the take-no-prisoners attitude he displays with this one is any indication, he may still have his best work ahead of him.
3. Room 237
“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” Rod Serling would have loved Room 237. This journey into the hidden meanings and conspiracy theories concerning Stanley Kubrick’s 1979 film The Shining is not just a tribute to his genius and meticulous attention to detail, it’s also a moving tribute to the joys and wonders of cinema itself. Using footage mostly taken from The Shining and other Kubrick films (horror buffs will swoon over the inclusion of Lamberto Bava’s Demons), the documentary oozes with genuine bone-chilling mystery and chuckle-inducing crackpot musings.
4. Spring Breakers
A few things came to mind while watching Harmony Korine’s latest uncomfortable flick. 1. Is this A Clockwork Orange for teenyboppers? 2. The Scariest Acting Award goes to real life Atlanta Twins basically playing themselves - Down South bad boys with a penchant for orgies and cocaine. 3. The best scene out of any movie this year may be the tense segment after James Franco’s character Alien bails our four temptresses out of jail. Sitting at a rest stop with the above-mentioned Atlanta Twins, Alien seductively grills the girls about their naughty spring break activities. “Come into my parlor,” said the spider to the flies. 4. One reviewer said this film looks like Michael Mann went down to Florida and shot a documentary on spring break while on mushrooms. That’s not a bad thing.
5. Rewind This!
For someone who grew up perusing the long defunct Garland’s Video Gallery on the east-side of town on an almost daily basis, this touching documentary to a bygone era had me close to tears. Ah, the days of killer videotape box art, taping stuff off HBO on EP mode and trying to slo-mo nudie scenes. This documentary travels around the world interviewing video obsessed collectors, distributors, video store owners and employees, theater programmers and low-rent filmmakers. It also serves as a reminder that no matter what current form of media is popular now, get ready to have it grasped away from you and have it repackaged and sold back to you in the form of “convenience.”