Favorite Films, 2014

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Favorite Movies

Here is a list of many of the films I saw in 2014, largely ones that I rated four stars or higher (out of a system of 1-5 stars).

As I was posting this list, I thought of adjusting a few of the ratings (up or down) but decided to leave the ratings the way I made them a day or two after seeing each film.

These categories are somewhat arbitrary, but generally the five and four and a half star films are pretty close, and I enjoyed those tremendously. The four star ones were all good, but I had some (minor) reservations. The three and half star ones were more problematical films but still worth checking out.

If a film did not make it into one of these categories, I did not write a review.

The ones listed below I recommend for your consideration.

A significant number of these films are either documentary, foreign, or small films, often only in the theaters for a few weeks, usually in one of the independent theaters in the DC area or in our DC Film Club.

(I have refrained from reviewing or listing any of the ‘children films’ that I have seen with my grand kids. They would be in the one or two star categories, if that. However, I must admit that my grand kids, and the other kiddies who filled the audience, seemed to have a very different opinion from mine.)

If you click on any of the titles below, you will link to my mini-review of that film on MillersTime.

Five Stars:

Clouds of Silas Maria

Finding Vivian Maier

GETT, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Ida

Mommy

Particle Fever

The Imitation Game

The Square

Four and a Half Stars:

Abuse of Weakness

Boyhood

Citizenfour

Happy Valley

Last Days in Vietnam

Life Itself

The Case Against 8

The Past

The Rocket

The Way He Looks

Two Days, One Night

Whiplash

Four Stars:

A Most Wanted Man

Chef

Child’s Pose

Cracks in the Concrete

Get on Up

Glass Chin

Manos Sucias

St. Vincent

Still Alice

The Immigrant

The Lunchbox

National Gallery

Rudderless

The Theory of Everything

Wild

Words & Pictures

Three/Three and Half Stars:

Birdman

Elsa & Fred

Force Majeure

Korengal

Grand Budapest Hotel

Oscar Nominated Short Action Live Films

Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films

The Force Majeure

The Good Lie

The Mountain

Unknown Knowns

*                    **                    **                    **                    *

Also, if you’re looking for slightly older films to rent, etc., check out these two links from 2013 and 2012.

Favorite Films Seen 2013

My Favorite Films in 2012

As always, please feel free to Comment on any of the above and/or on films you particularly enjoyed in 2014.

 

“Wild” – The Movie vs The Book

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Wild ****

As is most often the case, I would chose the book over the movie.

That said, the movie is good enough to put on your ‘to consider’ list. It’s certainly better than the previews make it out to be.

What it does particularly well is mix the journey that Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) has undertaken with flashbacks to earlier times in her life. So rather than just be a tale of her ‘trek’ on the Pacific Coast Trail, we’re presented with what is going on in Strayed’s mind, what is it about her past that has brought her to this journey.

What made the film problematic for me was that Strayed was played by a known actress, and I could not get over the feeling I was watching Witherspoon play Strayed. I often have that conundrum, but sometimes an actor or actress is able to totally become the character he/she is portraying. (Eddie Redmayne is a recent example in his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.)

Maybe I wanted to be seeing a documentary? Which is probably not fair to those who made Wild.

But then I doubt a documentary would have as wide a viewing as Wild is getting with Reese Witherspoon?

Still, I put Wild in the category of worthy films to see.

But the book’s better.

 

“Still Alice”

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Still Alice ****

If you know someone struggling with Alzeheimers, then put this film on your ‘to see’ list.

I say that because what Still Alice does effectively is to take you along as this terrible disease first strikes and then ultimately devastates Alice (Julianne Moore). Alice is Dr. Alice Howland, a successful professor of linguistics who is diagnosed with early-onset of the disease.

The film, based on the book by the same name by Lisa Genova, excels because of the insights it gives the viewer to what it means for an individual to be stricken and gradually lose oneself. Julianne Moore is simply terrific as Alice. Not only is she able to get into the mind of Alice, but she also somehow gets into her body. You see the deterioration of both mind and body.

The film is not as successful, for me, in the portrayal of Alice’s family members, her husband John (Alec Baldwin), her elder daughter Anna (Kate Bosworth), her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) and her younger daughter Lydia (well played by Kristen Stewart). They are almost minor characters to Alice.

While Alice’s family are all affected by what is happening as the disease progresses, just as are all families who struggle with the ‘fallout’ of Alzeheimer, it is really Alice’s story, made more powerful because Alice was a linguist and has focused her professional life on the issue of language and communication. She is able to describe in words what it means to lose words and to lose one self.

If you truly want to get some understanding about what this mental decline means for the person suffering from it, see Still Alice.

Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland both wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

Impressions from Two Weeks in Vietnam & Cambodia

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Nov. 8 – Nov. 23: Hanoi –  Halong Bay – Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – My Tho – Mekong River – Phnom Penh – Tonle Sap – Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

mao.2(Thanks to Larry Makinson, cartographer)

Drawing too many conclusions from spending a couple of weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia is foolish.

However, Ellen’s pictures give you a good sense of what we saw. (If you haven’t seen those pictures, stop now and go to: Through Ellen’s Eye: Vietnam & Cambodia.)

A few takeaways from not only what we saw but also what we did:

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Through Ellen’s Eye: Vietnam & Cambodia

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Here a two dozen of Ellen’s pictures from our recent trip.

But they are nothing compared to the full screen slide show she’s created. When you’ve scrolled through these two dozen, there is a link to her slide show. You must see them on a lap top or a desktop.

I promise you, it’s worth the effort.

They’re the best she’s ever done.

Ho Chi Minh House

Ho Chi Minh House

Water Lillies

Water Lillies

Hanoi 'Hilton' (Prison)

Hanoi ‘Hilton’ (Prison)

Hanoi Street Scene

Hanoi Street Scene

Halong Bay 1

Halong Bay 1

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Favorite Reads of 2014?

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“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln

As many of you know, each year I ask MillersTime readers to take some time and send me your Favorite Reads of the past year. I then compile the list and post it so that you can see what others have read and most enjoyed over the past 12 months.

If you have participated in the past, please do so again this year. If you are new to this part of MillersTime, please consider taking the time to add to the list for 2014.

Here are a few guidelines that may help in drawing your list and in making my compilation easy:

* When I ask for your Favorite Reads of 2014, I’m seeking fiction and/or nonfiction books that stood out for you above all you’ve read in the past year. What have been the most enjoyable, the most important, the most thought provoking, the best written, the ones you may go back and read again, the ones you reread this year, and/or the ones you have suggested others read?

* You are welcome to send just one title or up to a half dozen or so.

* List the title, the author, and indicate whether it is fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF).

* If you are willing, please write a sentence or two about why each particular book made it to your list for this year. If you prefer not to add this, no problem, but I’ve found readers enjoy the comments and use them in choosing books to read for the coming year.

* Don’t be concerned about whether others will have the same book(s) on their lists. If we get a number of similar titles, that’s just an indication of the power of a particular book/author.

* Your books do not have to be ones that were written and/or published in 2014, just ones that you read over the past year.

* Send me your list in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com) by Dec. 20, 2014 so I will be able to post the entire list at the end of the year.

To see last year’s list, click on this link: The Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers in 2013.

PS – Dec. 9 – After a discussion with an avid reader and a faithful contributor to this list, one additional guideline: If any of the books you read fit into a category of “must reads” (i.e., “put down everything else and read this book now”), please so indicate by putting a star after the title. Said friend is looking for such a read.

Things I Didn’t Know – Two Articles to Consider

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Readers of this website probably know that I am as passionate about US politics and international affairs as I am about baseball, family, travel, and various other ‘escapes and pleasures.’

However, I have largely chosen not to make MillersTime a forum for my views on politics and international affairs. While I have not specifically tried to hide my views on these two subjects (I did write Walking. Knocking. Talking, about spending a week on a ‘get out the vote’ campaign for Obama in Ohio in 2012, for example), I only occasionally post in The Outer Loop and Articles of Interest sections of this website. And when I do post a comment, or a link to an article, it is because I think there is something of value that transcends the usual partisan politics.

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Grandkids’ Extended Visit = Photo Opportunity

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The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby’s grandparents. You feel comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida. – Dave Barry

Telling us some story about having their ‘floors’ redone and having to move out of their house for ‘at the most’ two weeks, our daughter, son-in-law and their three kids (it felt like at least a dozen) moved into our quiet, “retirement home” in mid-October. They just left to return to their own house, and I sure hope they like their ‘redone floors.’

For those of you who largely use MillersTime as a way to keep up with the grandkinder, here are some pictures from the last two and half weeks, mostly taken with Ellen’s iPhone.

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“An Incredible Run…An Awful Lot of Fun”

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Today mark’s the final day of public service (1968-2014) for Ellen Miller.

Ellen’s first work in Washington was with Ralph Nader at his Center for Responsive Law and at his Center for Auto Safety. She then worked with Sen. Abraham Ribicoff at his Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and also with the Pike House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Following her government service, Ellen worked for two journalistic enterprises, Tom Paine and The American Prospect and also directed the “Project for an Accountable Congress” at the Campaign for America’s Future.

Most of Ellen’s work, however, was invested in the three organizations she created and lead, The Center for Responsive Politics, Public Campaign, and The Sunlight Foundation. All three groups have been focused in different ways on the issues of money and politics, on how our elections are funded, and on accountability and transparency in government. All three organizations continue to exist.

Ellen told a gathering of friends and co-workers last week, “It’s been an incredible run…I’ve been extraordinarily lucky…and I’ve had a lot of fun.” She also said she is “not one bit wistful” as she happily looks towards her retirement and has no plans other than some extended travel, lots of photography, and spending time with her three grandchildren.

PS – For a bit more on Ellen’s retirement, see her Time to Pass the Baton.