Okay, I’ve waited long enough (two months into 2015!!). Below is a list of my favorite movies from 2014, some not necessarily the greatest ever made, and some certainly just a few steps above the cheesiest. But they each found a way to to bore into my mind, and for that I thank the filmmakers involved.
Honorable Mentions: The Raid 2, The Drop, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nightcrawler
10. Gone Girl – Some of the best acting of the year and a pretty great, noir-ish plot and tone. Fincher keeps us well at a distance and allows the plot to unfold at a nice, twisty pace. Rosamund Pike is PERFECT!
9. Boyhood – I liked this better the second time seeing it, and the movie resonates because it’s about the smaller moments of a life and the anti-climactic nature of growing up. Sometimes, the little emotional times can hold lasting effect. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke drive some pretty strong performances throughout.
8. Birdman – I had very high expectations for this movie, and the overall experience on leaving the theater was disappointment that it did not meet them — but I still like the movie. I like the acting, the music, the photography, and the script. I do think there are elements that are predictable, but are meant to be. There’s character arcs that are transparent, but in my head I don’t think that’s unintentional or lazy. My belief is that there is something more thematically evident within this movie, and I look forward to exploring it again in the future.
7. The Lego Movie – Almost didn’t include this on the list, but then I remembered how much I laughed both times I saw it, and the originality is a key component of why I love this movie. Give this one a chance if you haven’t yet. I personally know people who were frowning at the idea of watching, and they ended up loving the movie.
6. Selma – Saw this with high expectations — and they were met. David Oyelowo is magnificent and the cinematography doesn’t hurt, either. This is a strong film that captures a moment in time, and despite the controversy about the portrayals of some of the characters, I didn’t come away hating or changing my opinion about them — only with a newfound appreciation and respect for this moment in time that I didn’t live through, and the hope that we can be better to each other. There is one scene in particular that features one of the most impressive cinematic moments in dealing with a tragic death that I’ve ever seen.
5. Edge of Tomorrow – Just a whole lot of fun, and in a year of great science fiction on both TV and in the movies, this was one of the finer flicks. Oddly, this also has great re-watchability.
4. The Babadook – Okay, I respect horror films but usually shy away from watching them. Then, when I finally see them, I let out a sigh and move on from the nightmares a few weeks later. The Babadook was a movie I was nervous about seeing, but very glad that I did. There are a couple of jump scares, and enough atmospheric chills to cool your brew. Essie Davis is PHENOMENAL and the thematic elements are strong in this one. The movie has stuck with me, but in the best way possible.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy – One of the most fun movie experiences I’ve ever had, probably had a lot to do with the fact that I saw this with a huge crowd, but it’s also chock full of great performers, smart dialogue, and dazzling action sequences. And the raccoon. We love the raccoon.
2. Whiplash – Really wanted to love this movie after hearing all of the hype — and I do love it. Miles Teller is on point, JK Simmons is damn near terrifying, and Paul Reiser is under-utilized — but still powerful. I like that this movie challenges viewers to think about their points of view, but openly states that creativity, teaching, and inspiration are not cut and dry; there is no black-or-white, completely clear method that works. There’s a whole grey area that creative people, or anyone driven by passion, will completely understand. I love this movie, as it gets me tense and rooting for characters each time I watch it. Highly recommend if you haven’t had a chance.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – I’m a sucker for Wes Anderson’s style of humor: the sight gags, the catchy dialogue, the absurd character interactions. And I thought this was one of his finest moments as a visual filmmaker, but also as a storyteller. Ralph Fiennes gives his best performance (which is the polar opposite of his other best performance from Schindler’s List) and each cinematic element — cinematography, production and costume design, writing, music, actors — comes together beautifully. For as funny as the film is, there are also brutally heartbreaking moments of emotional resonance — love and loss, both interpersonally and for bygone eras and sentiments. A masterpiece.