MY TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014
Boy 2014 was a strange year. It feels like the lighting of a fuse of epicness that 2015 will be. We’re gonna get freaking Star Wars AND Jurassic Park sequels?! AND JAMES BOND?! AND AVENGERS?! Holy macaroni…
Alas 2014 was still an honorable one for movies. Most people will try and tell you it’s always the downfall of film, but film, being an art form, is a subjective experience; so the next time someone tries to tell you that movies suck nowadays, just pity them and be glad you have condescending lists such as this that tries to rank movies that are all technically equal for just being great. Oh my, has the ranting already begun?
I apologize for the constant absences, but I do this for fun…I might be doing some unappreciated sequel collums in the near future…but anyways:
DISCLAIMER: This is merely my favorites of the year and what I deemed best. For all I know you thought these were shit. So don’t take my word for it…or do if you love me. (fair warning there’s a lot of honorable mentions this year)
Notable films I missed: Top Five, The Imitation Game, Theory of Everything, Big Hero 6, The Guest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar, Selma, American Sniper, Mr. Turner, Dear White People, Calvary
Tusk (Dir. Kevin Smith)
Most of my friends are rolling their eyes at this one, but honestly this film really stuck with me. Boasting Kevin Smith’s biggest risk since “Dogma”, “Tusk” has an incredibly talented cast tackling one of the strangest scripts ever written. It’s pretty much a ode to Canada meets “The Human Centipede.” Michael Parks really shines in this one as a psychotic doctor, and scenes such as Genesis Rodriguez’s harrowing monologue really gives the actors opportunities to perform. It runs 10-15 minutes too long, but from start to finish I was laughing in disbelief in the best way possible.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Dir. Bryan Singer)
I was on the fence on including this one, but goddamn was this a fun movie. Singer returns to the helm to deliver the best X-Men film since (duh) “X2.” It has one of the best action scenes of the year (with the hater-fueled Quicksilver shutting everyone up) and a very well-thought out and interesting story. Very little to complain about with this one, correcting many mistakes left in Brett Ratner’s wake; and it has time travel…how can you go wrong with time travel?
22 Jump Street (Dir. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
Seriously, is it possible for Lord & Miller to make a bad movie; or a bad movie based on an awful concept no less? After wow-ing critics and audiences alike with the first Jump Street film, Lord & Miller impressed us two times in a row with the released-way-too-early Lego Movie and this. With the reputations of bad comedy sequels preceding it, “22 Jump Street” becomes a “Scream”-like parody of comedy sequels, while at the same time reinforcing its script with a solid buddy-cop relationship. The entire movie is filled with fantastic gags and jokes capped off with one of the best end credits sequences in comedy history.
Locke (Dir, Steven Knight)
Character studies about honorable men of principle was a big focus of film this year. Uncompromising figureheads stuck in impossible situations; that isn’t summed up better than in “Locke.” A one-location film, “Locke” takes us on a dialogue-driven narrative into the life of Ivan Locke; on the eve of the biggest job of his career, this well-respected man’s life turns upside down as he takes a deep look at the demons that still eat away at his soul. It’s tense, it’s emotional, and it all rides on the talent of Tom Hardy; and in this one his talent shines and shines more than Danny in “The Shining.”
Foxcatcher (Dir. Bennett Miller)
Just barely missing the top ten, Miller yet again explores the troubled emotional psyche of a well-known American, this time in John DuPont. Featuring three incredible performances, including the much-overlooked Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher” is a quiet and tense drama centered on the Olympic wrestling team, and the eccentric billionaire who offered them funding. While it has much of Miller’s trademark quiet atmosphere, the film tends to drag a bit, and ends right when the story gets more interesting, nonetheless a thought-provoking film on the 1%’s who rule our nation.
10. THE BABADOOK (Dir. Jennifer Kent)
First-time director Jennifer Kent delivers us one of the most disturbing and haunting horror films I’ve seen in a long long time. Kent and her crew harkened back to classic 70’s/Italian horror by eliminating pop-out’s and CGI and bringing back a mix of practical effects and David Lynch-esque casting. The films two leads in Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are both disturbed and tortured individuals whom you can never decide if you should offer a hug or run away screaming. It’s intelligent, stylistic, and most of all original. Its only drawback comes from its final climax, nonetheless an instant classic.
9. GONE GIRL (Dir. David Fincher)
It’s pretty amazing how quickly most of us forgot about “Gone Girl.” A pretty sharp and dark social satire, Fincher’s latest work plays out like one being slowly strangled while listening to the soothing sounds of a massage parlor (weird I know). Rosemund Pike steals the entire movie as Amy (a role one cannot get into unless you’ve seen the movie), and Ben Affleck addresses his haters with a fairly autobiographical role. Like most Fincher films the cinematography and editing are the true stars of the film, combined with Reznor & Ross’ always perfect scoring to go with Fincher’s cynical & bitter sense of humor.
8. BIRDMAN (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
A film people are going a little too crazy over, it’s still hard to say “Birdman” isn’t a spectacular film. Michael Keaton shows the world he still has something to say in a pretty parallel adaptation of where his own career went after playing a major superhero. While it’s a major character piece, the ensemble cast are one of the bigger draws of the film including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, and the always overlooked Zach Galifinakis. The movie succeeds in this light as well as its obvious technical achievements. Its story is a tad overrated, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.
7. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Dir. Anthony & Joe Russo)
People will call blasphemy for putting my next two above the previous entries, but I just don’t care, The Winter Soldier was incredible. Marvel has successfully moved out of the origin story territory and has now gone into telling unique and enticing stories such as this. The film becomes a long look at who exactly Captain America is and what he stands for. While doing so, the Russo brothers break out of every blockbuster cliche in the book. Memorable set pieces, bare-knuckle brawls, three-dimensional characters, and a homage to 70’s political thrillers make this not just one of Marvel’s best but one of the best action movies of the new century.
6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Dir. James Gunn)
JJ better take note, this is how you make a kick ass Star Wars movie. Like the Winter Soldier, Guardians took the Marvel universe to a place it hadn’t gone before: SPACE. Probably one of the biggest risks the studio has ever taken, Guardians paid off for Marvel in more than one way. Showing us James Gunn, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, and WWE’s Batista(?!?) all could break out of their comfort levels and lead the way to one of the most fun and adventurous true family films to come out in recent years. Step aside Avengers, this gang of assholes standing up are the best of the bunch.
5. NIGHTCRAWLER (Dir. Dan Gilroy)
A perfect thesis on the times we live in, this film pulls up the shirt of humanity’s underbelly to see its grotesque skin. Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo (in a Faye Dunaway/Network-esque roll) lead the way in this criminally over-looked thriller that takes place in the Michael Mann-owned LA night. Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a mysterious sociopath who is looking to make his big break into the news industry. The film teeters between thriller and satire perfect. Beautiful visuals and the already gushed over performances make this one a must-see. My only criticism is its mishandled score. One part “Network” and two parts “Taxi Driver” this is a great one, and hopefully a sign of things to come from the first-time director/writing veteran Gilroy.
4. INHERENT VICE (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Defending Paul Thomas Anderson’s more recent work is a job I have taken and will continue to take until the day I die (or until he gets appreciated). The man has become a modern-day Stanley Kubrick; as he churns out fantastic film after fantastic films, critics and audiences are still hesitant on enjoying his new avant-garde ways of filmmaking. Taking a marijuana fuel gaze back into 1970 Los Angeles, this ensemble film reunites PTA with Joaquin Pheonix as the hippie detective Doc Sportello. As Doc searches for his missing girlfriend (played Katherine Waterson and her face-melting smile) he runs into a wide-array of colorful characters as well as trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle that doesn’t seem to have all the right pieces. As faithful as an adaptation can get, Vice has great acting, cinematography, music, and writing; but like all PTA films it goes over-looked and shrugged off. If you liked “The Master” you’ll love this.
3. A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (Dir. JC Chandor)
Chandor has become a sort of wunderkind. His first two films: “Margin Call” & “All is Lost” were both met with much acclaim and admiration; and I’m happy to say Chandor hasn’t slowed down with this one. Starting us off with one of the coolest opening tracks in Marvin Gaye’s “Inner-City Blues”, we meet Abel Morales (played by the show stopping Oscar Issac), a businessman who owns an ever-growing heating & oil company in 1981 NYC. The film screams love-letter to movies like “The Godfather”, “The French Connection”, and “Scarface” as Chandor gives us the ultimate portrait of a man about honor and principle (sorry Ivan Locke, but I pick Abel). As Abel attempts to stay a legitimate businessman he must deal with constantly being backed into a corner during the city’s most violent year on record. Supported by the ever-talented Jessica Chastain, both her and Issac give career-defining performances, supported by yet another fantastic score by Chandor’s constant collaborator Alex Ebert. It’s a film about greed, about the city, and about honor.
2. BOYHOOD (Dir. Richard Linklater)
What did I tell you? WHAT DID I TELL YOU (drops the mic). If you’ve read my posts before you know my love for Richard Linklater. His films, especially the “Before” trilogy have had a deep personal affect on me and the films I love/attempt to make. “Boyhood” is easily his magnum opus or however the hell pseudo intellectuals spell it. Combining everything he’s done over the years, Linklater crafts an epic tale about the life of one boy and his path to growing up. The acting is on point as always, but the true talent lies in the writing and directing. Currently this one is favored to pick up a lot at the Oscars; and my hopes could never be higher. At three hours long, it can be a bit trying; but for a true Linklater fan, this one was special.
1. WHIPLASH (Dir. Damien Chazelle)
Much like how we began this is a bit of a controversial choice, but I could care less; I LOVED THIS MOVIE. Reminding me of how a film should move, and sound, and feel, Chazelle sucks us into the over-obsessed mind of a drummer in one of the most demanding music programs in the country. The camera moves and jumps with the drummer’s ever growing mental collapse. The visuals go above and beyond expectations, being one of the best-lit films of the year. Bold choices are all over the place and the editing is air-tight. This one is a master-class of directing right down to its straight-up ballsy final 15 minutes. Simmons and Teller showed off a great chemistry, as their sick mind games completely captured my imagination. Much like the great directors before him, Chazelle stole in all the right places and he was original in all the right places.