29/365: Hello I Must Be Going (Louiso, 2012)

Hello I Must Be Going (Louiso, 2012)

Mad props to Melanie Lynskey for a hilarious, honest, and heartfelt performance as a soon-to-be divorcee, having a secret affair with a 19-year-old and struggling to get her life back on track. When she stared at the sea thinking how and why her life became the shit pile it was and you thought it was the perfect moment until she turned and fell flat on her face wondering where the fuck is bottom, I thought, ‘THAT COULD’VE BEEN ME.’ Lynskey was totally natural and believable, and I just wanted to give her a hug!—the mark of a good film.

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28/365: Magic in the Moonlight (Allen, 2014)

Magic in the Moonlight (Allen, 2014)

A militantly rational illusionist sets out to expose a girl who claims to be a clairvoyant and a mystic (the real thing, too good to be true), but soon finds himself doubting his logic and burdened with the all-too-strange stirrings of a feeling that could possibly be…love. This is classic Woody Allen—the 1920s, warm tones, the loquacious dialogue, even his opening credits. While it may not be his best film and Emma Stone might not be the right fit, it was still pretty enjoyable, but mostly because of Colin Firth, that ceaselessly gorgeous fox who can do no wrong.

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27/365: Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World (Yukisada, 2004)

Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World (Yukisada, 2004)

Sort of like the Japanese version of A Walk to Remember (Shankman, 2002). Guy goes back to his hometown, chasing his fiancée who went there after discovering a mysterious tape with a dying girl’s message, and painfully reminisces about days long gone and a love long lost. The story is simple and predictable, but the trip down memory lane was pretty amusing—writing to nighttime radio shows, the Sony Walkman, cassette tapes, meeting that one special girl in high school, falling in love for the first time, hasty and desperate decisions you made when you were young and in love.

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26/365: The Judge (Dobkin, 2014)

The Judge (Dobkin, 2014)

Surprising things happen when you don’t watch trailers and go straight to the film armed with just the gist of it. I thought The Judge (Dobkin, 2014) would be heavy and hard-hitting, replete with incomprehensible legal jargon, betrayal, crime, ultra-slick lawyering from Iron Man, and Robert Duvall as Thor-like but with a gavel.

Well, the film kind of has all those things, but it was more touching and tender than I thought. And Bon Iver was the cherry on top of the Flying Deer Diner pie. It’s not extraordinary or memorable, but it’s still pretty good if you have time.

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25/365: Pride (Warchus, 2014)

Pride (Warchus, 2014)

Lesbians and gays support the miners! A young group of opinionated, unapologetic gays and lesbian activists try to raise money to support a small mining village in Wales affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984. A most unlikely pair, but no one could have predicted that such a wonderful friendship that blossomed between “pits and perverts” would not only show the world the beauty and import of acceptance, but also have a lasting effect in British law for the benefit of future generations. Literally everything was A-grade. Love, love, love this touching, funny, passionate, inspiring film. Definitely a must-watch.

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24/365: I Origins (Cahill, 2014)

I Origins (Cahill, 2014)

There are a handful of film producers I trust can make intelligent and unique films—Brit Marling and Mike Cahill are two of them. I first found them in Another Earth (Cahill, 2011), and I’ve loved them together ever since. I Origins (Cahill, 2014) is a beautiful, inquisitive story about the clash and connection between science and spirituality told through a scientist studying the evolution of the eye and a girl who claims to sense the spirit world. But it’s really about hope—hope in life after death, the chance to encounter that which we think has been lost forever.

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23/365: The Blair Witch Project (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999)

The Blair Witch Project (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999)

What I’ve heard about this film is that it securely put the found footage genre in the spotlight. I kept expecting a cloaked, fur-covered witch to make an appearance, but thankfully viewers are left in the dark (literally) on that. No clear revelations, just sticks and stones and bones and things that go bump in the night in a godforsaken forest. It helped make the film more suspenseful and chilling. And it makes you appreciate maps, GPS, and cell signal when you’re in the woods. And respecting (i.e. leave that alone) the weird voodoo shit you find along the way.

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22/365: The Purge: Anarchy (DeMonaco, 2014)

The Purge: Anarchy (DeMonaco, 2014)

When I watched The Purge (DeMonaco, 2013) for the first time, I held my pillow in a death grip, my laptop at the foot of my bed, me cowering on the other end; it was STRESSFUL. When it comes to sequels, producers often take the concept and blow it up, make the universe bigger for it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I feel The Purge: Anarchy (DeMonaco, 2014) could have been better.  The focus on class struggle and government conspiracy was so interesting, but it fell through the story’s cracks—a shame. And the Cali Sanchez character? Really annoying!

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21/365: Finding Vivian Maier (Maloof and Siskel, 2013)

Finding Vivian Maier (Maloof and Siskel, 2013)

As an introvert, I’ve always found it hard to enter other people’s spaces, whether in person or through a channel. As a frustrated photographer, I doubt my creative eye. But Vivian Maier’s story is one that inspires me to be more courageous, to trust in my ability as an artist, and to seek out the bizarre wonders of the world. Graced with a story and a body of work that was too good not to share, John Maloof’s restoration project became an inquisitive, captivating labor of love and a respectful ode to street photography and the legacy of Vivian Maier.

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20/365: The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Takahata, 2013)

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Takahata, 2013)

This film, in a nutshell is…girls just want to have fun! We just want to find our bliss!

The creative style of this film was wonderful and really striking, like a watercolor dream of a story book, especially when Kaguya was running away or hacking plants in frustration—she was beautiful, bold, and wild. I think the story will be better appreciated by a more discerning audience, those who have the capacity to identify and internalize the notion that nothing is as unbearable as not being able to be who you are and live the way you want to live.

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