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Notes on the Best Indie Movies of 2014 So Far

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire July 23, 2014 at 4:58PM

A few trends in this year's best movies.
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Ellar Coltrane in "Boyhood"
Ellar Coltrane in "Boyhood"

Criticwire's ongoing list of the best indie films of 2014 so far has reached 40 movies, with titles ranging from works of favorite auteurs ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") to films by promising newcomers ("Obvious Child"), hard-hitting, accessible action flicks ("The Raid 2: Berandal") to experimental documentaries that saw as many walkouts at film festivals as it did fans ("Manakamana"). A few trends in this year's best movies:

1. Festival Favorites. As one might expect, the Cannes Film Festival has the greatest number of titles on the list, with a whopping dozen films that premiered at one of the past three festivals including three in the top ten ("Only Lovers Left Alive," "Blue Ruin," "Stranger by the Lake"). But other festivals aren't wanting for representation, either, with Berlin, Sundance and Toronto each claiming six premieres. Both Berlin and Sundance hold two spots in the top ten and one in the top five, with the Sundance premiere "Boyhood" at the top spot.

Venice and Telluride have three titles each, the highest being Telluride's "Ida" at number two and Venice's "The Wind Rises" at number six. SXSW has two, with "Cheap Thrills" at number 15 at "Chef" at 34. Finally, Locarno has one major film on the list with "Manakamana" at number 17. The only film on the list that didn't premiere at a festival is Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer," which debuted in South Korea before making its way to the festival circuit.

2. Double Features. "Enemy" and "The Double" are both psychological thrillers featuring dual performances from their leads, with Jake Gyllenhaal in the former and Jesse Eisenberg in the latter. Both are also based on novels called "The Double," by Jose Saramago and Fyodor Dostoevsky, respectively. Both feature the two versions of the same actor involved with or pursuing the same women (Mia Wasikowska in "The Double," Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon in "Enemy").

They're not the only films that might make a good double feature, though. There are also two films revolving around director Alejandro Jodorowsky, with "Jodorowsky's Dune" chronicling the director's failed attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's novel while the Jodorowsky-directed "The Dance of Reality" is an autobiographical film. Or one could pair "Only Lovers Left Alive" with "Under the Skin," both unconventional genre movies (vampire, sci-fi) about beings removed from humanity living among them, and both films don't develop a conventional narrative until their second halves.

3. Long-Awaited/Welcome Back. Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" has been in the works for 12 years, and judging from its top spot on the list it was well worth the wait. But a good handful of films on the list are long-awaited in their own way, in that their directors have been either absent or marginalized on the filmmaking scene for some time. Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" comes only a few years after "The Woman in the Fifth," but it's a more proper follow-up to Pawlikowski's 2004 breakthrough "My Summer of Love." Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" is his first since 2009's "The Limits of Control," while James Gray's "The Immigrant" is his first since 2009's "Two Lovers." Jonathan Glazer, meanwhile, spent nine years between his underrated second film, "Birth," and his new film "Under the Skin." Still, he's got nothing on Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose "The Dance of Reality" comes 24 years after his 1990 film "The Rainbow Thief."

This article is related to: The Immigrant, Under the Skin, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Enemy, The Double (2013), Jodorowsky's Dune, Snowpiercer, The Wind Rises, Stranger by the Lake


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