1. Ida (2014)- Snowy settings, dreary interiors and square black and white cinematography.... yes we're in Polish cinema territory. But those cliches aside, Pawel Pawlikowski's mannered character study of an incoming nun discovering her family's hushed history is quietly moving. And young Agata Trzebuchowska's indelible face is just made for black and white.
2. Cheap Thrills (2013)- Clumsily made and over-acted, E.L.Katz's hipster gore film makes me hate actor David Koechner even more. Two buddies (Pat Healy and Ethan Embry) stumble into a couple looking for demented fun, and "Cheap Thrills" turns into an endurance test... not because of the escalating violence but due to its smarmy logic and uninteresting characters.
3. A Safe Place (1971)- Indie director Henry Jaglom's first film got me interested due to its starring role by the beautiful Tuesday Weld. It's story sounded even more intriguing: a film that charts the fragmented life of a young girl and the decisions she makes in romance. If it was anything like Weld's performances in Frank Perry's under seen "Play It As It Lays", I'd be in for a treat. Instead, we get a head-spinning blend of hippie jargon, long and undisciplined scenes, and a weird Orson Welles as some sort of father figure/magician/homeless park guy. Really, really bad. But then again, I never quite got Jaglom.
4. Blood Ties (2013)- I really wanted to like Guillame Canet's 70's crime film. Written by James Gray, it has his fingerprints in the textured story of good vs bad brothers and the women/fathers caught up in the middle, yet it plays the conflict way too broadly. There are too many head-scratching, beyond belief moments towards the end and everyone feels like they're acting so much. It is nice to see Billy Crudup return to the screen, though.
5. True Detective (2014)- I doubt I'll see a better TV or movie event this year. This is one brilliant, psychologically complex murder mystery that weaves its Southern jargon around a smoldering story that spans two decades. The places this show goes is scary... and not the haunted Louisianna settings but the addictions and outlooks on life spewed from its worn detectives played to perfection by Woody Harrleson and Matthew McCoughnahey. This scene alone is incredible.