BEST OF RECENT FILM: DVD & STREAMING

The Best Offer (2013)
Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
Birdman (2014)
Boyhood (2014)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Imitation Game (2014)

The Best Offer is a strange little gem that received very mixed reviews- but when it comes to the riches that Netflix has begun to offer in the past year, the risk is minimal and the rewards are great. The incomparable Geoffrey Rush stars as an elite auctioneer who himself is a bit preserved under glass until he’s faced with an intriguing, perception-challenging case of a young woman and her parent’s estate. The sets and art direction are sumptuous and delicious, the performances are dazzling and the puzzle of the story is highly enjoyable and original. Read nothing more and see this film and let us know if you agree.

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If you are looking for that rare, laser-like glimmer of hope and optimism that can only come from opening the window on the world of a gentle iconoclast with a singular world view, seek out street photographer Bill Cunningham’s view of New York. He’s a one of a kind visionary who straddles the rapid fire changing technological world (which radically has shifted and upended the world of media and photography) as a veteran of the old media world who will not change, bow, or accept the Millenial-voiced rules that strangely, try to dominate the post-modern landscape of today. Cunningham is a marvel of kindness and positivity and this film can fuel dreams at any age.

Birdman is experimental film-making (but not disctractedly-so) and offers bold, fearless acting from the very-much missed Michael Keaton, who deserves all the acclaim being heaped on him for the role. It’s all about acting, art, theatre, and the specific world of Broadway, but offers a layered portrayal of this world that translates far beyond its specificity. The film asks, what do you want from your artists? How much blood left on the stage is enough for you? You don’t know where the hell he/it is going, but its a thrilling, funny, and moving ride. Strong supporting performances from Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton and Naomi Watts also add to the success of the film.

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Boyhood is a unique film experiment that will never be repeated the same way and is astounding in its commitment from director, cast, and crew over many years. For our reviewers, who never fully embraced Linklater’s Sunrise films the way most critics have, this is his tour-de-force. The themes of Boyhood are simple, elegantly told and acted with a rare realness by a cast that has removed any Hollywood glow and a child who is free of Hollywood’s child actor syndrome. Deeply affecting and profound.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel: It is a true thrill for long-time Wes Anderson fans to see his work being appreciated in an adult way and more than mere quirk. This film is full of whimsy, charm and uniquely crafted mise-en-scene that Anderson is, regularly, faulted for going overboard with by his detractors. But Anderson has used his reflexes here to go much deeper, in part thanks to his source material, the works of Stefan Zweig, and his exploration of deeper themes more effectively than in any Anderson film before. This hotel is full of characters- many of them wonderfully broad. But inside the warren of rooms away from the facade of the lobby lies the beating heart of friendship, loyalty, heroism, anti-facism, and courage. Ralph Fiennes deserved to be recognized with a Best Actor Oscar nomination, but was, unfortunately, overlooked. F. Murray Abraham is perfectly cast, adding the gravitas needed to take the film from confection to fine art.

The Imitation Game caps off a wonderful couple of years for Benedict Cumberbatch as the world has finally given a wonderful actor his due as a leading man. Cumberbatch is perfectly cast in this bio-pic about Alan Turing, the father of all modern computing who’s well known among techies but whose legacy has gone largely unremarked upon by history. This movie is a rare case of hype, talent, critical praise, and viewer satisfaction all aligning as neatly as one of Turing’s amazing machines.

SHOT_11_029__3092453bPart two to follow.