Greetings again from the darkness. Being neither a Film Producer nor head of a Studio, I have the luxury of evaluating a movie year based on the quality of films, rather than Box Office results. This year, the top 6 on the list fell pretty easily into place. However, after that, it probably would have made more sense to publish a Top 20, rather than an arbitrary cut at 10 … and that speaks to the depth of 2014.
Creativity and breaking from conventional story-telling added to the fun this year. Directors Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Steven Knight, Richard Shepard, and Dan Gilroy all found new ways to present a story. We even had welcome jolts to the superhero and horror genres thanks to James Gunn and newcomer Jennifer Kent, respectively. As exciting as all of these entries were, nothing grabbed our attention more than the results of the 12 year process from Richard Linklater and his cast in Boyhood.
So while industry prognosticators are expecting 2015 to bring a huge jump in Box Office dollars, we movie lovers can only hope for another year with as many interesting and thought-provoking movies as delivered to us during 2014. Below is my Best of 2014 list, and as always, your feedback and discussion is quite welcome.
***NOTE: At time of publishing, I have not seen American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Selma, or Mr Turner
1. BOYHOOD – director Richard Linklater stunned us with his 12 year filmmaking process that really hit home for parents. In less than 3 hours, we watched the growth and development of two kids, and the ongoing struggles of their parents. All I could manage immediately after watching this one … “Wow”.
2. BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – a tour de force performance from Michael Keaton in a role tailor-made for him. While Keaton enthralls, the “single take” look of the film sets a new cinematography standard, and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu offers numerous tributes to a stream of film favorites.
3. CITIZENFOUR – a thrilling documentary from director Laura Poitras that takes us inside the hotel room as Edward Snowden was unloading a wealth of confidential information. His data exposed the breadth of deception by those agencies we so heavily rely upon and trust.
4. WHIPLASH – featuring one of the most intense screen performances of all time, this film may single-handedly cause a drop in applications for music schools. JK Simmons uses old school military tactics to drive drummer Miles Teller to greater heights.
5. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – the always creative Wes Anderson finds the humorous side of Ralph Fiennes and mixes in yet another colorful palette of quirky characters and intricate dialogue.
6. INTERSTELLAR – for those who enjoy a little mind-expansion in a dark theatre, director Christopher Nolan delivers maximum brain-strain in a phenomenally visual package that’s sure to impress. You may find a plot hole or two, but it’s not a documentary – enjoy the spectacle.
7. IDA – a visually austere film from Poland that is one of the oddest buddy road trip films I’ve seen. We ride along as Ida and her Aunt trace their family roots, which ultimately determines their approach to life.
8. FORCE MAJEURE – What is it that makes a man? Sweden’s Ruben Ostland will have you questioning the definition, and whether anyone should be judged based on a split second decision made in crisis. Oh yeah, I’m stressed!
9. THE BABADOOK – Rarely is a horror film mentioned alongside the best films of a year, but director Jennifer Kent breathes new life into the genre and capitalizes on Essie Davis, who delivers one of the best performances of the year.
10. WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JAMES J BULGER – the second documentary on the list, and one that provides some insight into the cold-blooded, lack-of-conscience mentality of the criminal mind, and the corresponding system of corruption that allowed Bulger to thrive.
HONORABLE MENTION (alphabetical order):
Calvary, Dom Hemingway, Guardians of the Galaxy, Locke, Love is Strange, Nightcrawler, Obvious Child, The Fault in our Stars, The Imitation Game, The Lunchbox, The Theory of Everything, Winter Sleep
MOST DISAPPOINTING (I expected more):
Gone Girl, Snowpiercer, The Homesman