My Top Ten of 2014
2014 was simultaneously a strong year and a sparse year for good films. Some good quality flicks came out, but in between many of them there was quite the drought. It may sound weird, but I could have easily made a nice comprehensive Top 20 list for the year, but kinda struggled with creating a really strong Top 10 (that said, this lists top 5 films might be the strongest of any of the years I've done.)
10. TIE: BIG EYES & BIRDMAN.
I couldn't choose between these two films that both examine the lives of different kinds of artists. In Big Eyes, we focus on the woman behind some truly kitschy paintings... and in Birdman we are taken into the life of a washed up actor responsible for portraying a character in crowd-pleasing action movies, who now is trying to rejuvenate his career on broadway. A lot of interesting questions and commentaries posed in both. Also, both movies feature awesome performances from their respective casts. Birdman is definitely showier, with a larger cast being required to do more heavy lifting... but really I just enjoyed both.
9. THE LEGO MOVIE
This is one of the movies that absolutely surprised me most in 2014 (the other is listed immediately below.) Sometimes low expectations can be a really good thing! I thought this movie looked absolutely awful before it came out, and I was delighted to find the opposite: everything was awesome. The Lego Movie was a perfect ride for both kids and adults.. and was quite simply one of the most fun movies I saw last year. From the catchy song to using all our favorite characters in one place, and its clever real world nods.. I really had to lay my bias down and appreciate this movie.
8. EDGE OF TOMORROW
This movie was the other biggest surprise of 2014. When I saw the trailers for this movie I didn't think it could look more generic. I was blown away in the preview screening when I found out how funny it actually was... and smart. This is the type of popcorn movie that Hollywood needs more of. Original and fun. Plus it's so fun to see Tom Cruise play against his type (at the beginning of the movie anyway) and Emily Blunt was beyond fabulous.
7. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
The premise of this film isn't much; one woman loses her job in order for her co-workers to receive a bonus with her old salary. She has a weekend to convince them to give up those bonuses so that she can keep her job. There's not much to it, but Marion Cotillard's quiet performance makes the movie. We see her reluctantly have to beg her coworkers for her job back, and in so doing gets to see pretty much all sides of human nature. There's a simplicity to this film, but it constantly kept me engaged.
6. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
It seems like this year on everyone's Top Ten lists all blockbuster movies save one called Guardians of the Galaxy, were banned from inclusion. For some reason, it seems like not a lot of people really appreciated THIS awesome sequel, which in my opinion was undoubtedly the best that the summer movie blockbuster lineup had to offer. Yes, the human characters are underdeveloped, but it's really not their story. The conflict with Caesar and Koba had me hooked. I absolutely can't wait to see where this franchise goes next.
The film topping everyone's best lists (and perhaps the Academy's as well,) came in right in the middle of my list. The beginning of Boyhood absolutely grabbed me. It was like shades of my childhood (set about 10 years later anyway...) were captured on screen. As Linklater does in his Before trilogy he allows us to be the witness to some defining moments in characters lives who seem as real as we do. Also like the Before films, the conversations we witness are at the same time fascinating, and true to life. My only qualm is that I didn't quite relate to the middle portion of the film (I guess me and Mason had very different Junior High School experiences...) But the movie came back around in his High School years leading up to college. I'll be happy if this wins the Oscar though because I can't help but admire the ambition and dedication to the making of this film.
As someone who worked in the world of TV news, and who also considers herself an artist...I found this film fascinating. Jake Gyllenhaal gives perhaps a career-best performance as a man who is more than a little bit off. His Lou Bloom is a man obsessed with pushing the boundaries in what's ethical in the name of art, and in the name of the news. There were some moments that were a little montagey to me... but the entire second half of the film is absolute money. I was mesmerized at the lengths Lou Bloom went for a bit of b-roll.
3. GONE GIRL
I absolutely loved Gone Girl from start to finish. I thought I had this movie pegged but halfway through I realized that though I was correct in my predictions.. I had no idea what would happen next. I still had half a movie left of surprises in store for me, and those surprises were simply insane! Rosamund Pike gives off an incredible performance here, and Ben Affleck ain't too bad either. Though it is a thriller, it has a side of dark comedy to it as well. The commentary here on marriage is kind of hilarious and terrifying at the same time.
Who would have thunk that the most wildly intense movie of 2014 would have been about a drum student and his emotionally abusive teacher? This movie completely held me captive and I loved it. JK Simmons is unforgettable here and will hopefully be rewarded in the following weeks with Oscar gold for his performance. Also the composition of shots here are marvelous. Props to whoever edited this movie...they did a fabulous job. This movie all around amazed me.
Sorry haters. Interstellar remains both my favorite film of 2014 and favorite film experience as well. Seeing that movie the night we did with the crowd we did (all film lovers we could tell..) was just magical. The trailers left me thankfully vague on what I could expect from this movie, but I was delighted every step of the journey. Oh how I love this movie. Let me count the ways. I love the relationship between Cooper and Murph; it is the heart of the film and it touched me throughout. I love how I had no idea what to predict would happen the whole movie long (and I could sense our entire audience felt that same way too We were in THIS together.) I love the poem Michael Caine's character repeatedly recites accompanied with the beautiful haunting musical score. The shot selection with certain moments coupled with that score was so powerful...and editing of certain sequences for that matter. And I loved feeling like I immediately had to see it again to wrap my head around everything. Some may claim it's too boring or that they can't suspend their disbelief... I guess we saw a different film than each other. And I pity that they didn't get to see what I saw.
Honorable Mentions: The Fault in Our Stars, God Help the Girl, X-Men Days of Future Past, What If, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Begin Again, Magic in the Moonlight,
The One I Love.