Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Top Ten of 2014

I guess I'm just about ready to call my best movies of 2014. It's far beyond the end of last year, but I'm only just now in a place where I feel comfortable enough that I've seen most of the movies that would be likely to make my list.
This is one of the strangest top ten lists I've ever made. I don't think I've ever had two documentaries on the list. And as you get into the second half of my list, it's populated by films that I am less enthusiastic about than I am in admiration of. In years past it was a struggle to not leave a movie I really enjoyed off my list. This year it was about struggling to include something worthy. 2014 left me feeling chilly. There wasn't much I really went wild for.


10. The Babadook - directed by Jennifer Kent - Certainly not one of the absolute best of the year and not even one of the greatest scary films or thrillers of all time, but supremely effective and left me chilled to the bone about the psychological horrors of parenting and losing your mind.


9. Last Days in Vietnam - directed by Rory Kennedy - Included here because I think it's just essential viewing. The story of the evacuation of Saigon in 1975 is a little told narrative that might have made us all think a little bit more before Iraq if our collective memory hadn't let it go. What I love about this film is that it just tells a story about what happened without any obvious agenda or push to start a movement.


8. Love Is Strange - directed by Ira Sachs - One of the most beautiful love stories I've seen in many years. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play a long-term couple whose lives are turned upside down when they suddenly come into difficult financial troubles and have to rely on family and friends. Sachs handles the terms of the marriage and the relationships the two men have with everyone around them with dignity and respect. It's and honest movie and quite touching.


7. Life Itself - directed by Steve James - Roger Ebert was a mentor to so many young filmmakers and film critics, many of whom he never even met. This documentary, begun before Ebert's death, is a lovely tribute to a man who loved life and humanity, and loved the movies because he saw in those pictures in the dark a way to get closer to an understanding of both.


6. Two Days, One Night - directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne - This one kept coming back into my thoughts days after I saw it. Marion Cotillard's performance is so off the charts good and far too understated to help her win the Oscar, I fear. As a woman who has to go around essentially begging people to help her keep her job, she sinks deeper and deeper into despair while also getting closer and closer to salvation.


5. A Most Violent Year - directed by J.C. Chandor - This was the best movie that got virtually no awards consideration. Not only did I discover just how good Oscar Isaac is, but Chandor has basically reinvented himself as a director yet again. I loved nearly everything about this movie.


4. Leviathan - directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev - Here's a small portrait of life in Putin-controlled Russia. A man living in small village on the edge of the Arctic Circle faces a Job-like series of calamities, many of which stem from corruption in local government.


3. The Grand Budapest Hotel - directed by Wes Anderson - In a career that's been full of highlights, here's another high water mark for Anderson. He creates a fantasy world of 1930s Europe that delights and frightens equally. Ralph Fiennes is at his best since some time ago.


2. Birdman - directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu - It took a second viewing for me to realize how much I liked this tale of a former franchise movie actor trying to achieve critical success late in his career. Perfect melding of both cinematic and theatrical elements, wonderfully written and acted, expertly shot and timed. Truly enjoyable.


1. Winter Sleep - directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan - It took some motivation to drag myself into a cinema to watch a three and a quarter hour Turkish film, but I was so glad I did. This won the Palme d'Or last year and it's easy to see why. Yes, it's three hours of dialogue-heavy cinema and very little action, but I've never seen a director turn so much talk into something you just can't take your eyes away from. Movie like this are so very much becoming my speed.


All films seen from 2014* review available on this site
titles in bold received at least one Oscar nomination


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dir. Marc Webb [USA]
American Sniper dir. Clint Eastwood [USA]
*The Babadook dir. Jennifer Kent [Australia]
Begin Again dir. John Carney [USA]
Belle dir. Amma Asante [UK]
Big Eyes dir. Tim Burton [USA]
Big Hero 6 dir. Don Hall and Chris Williams [USA]
Birdman dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu [USA]
The Boxtrolls dir. Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable [USA]
*Boyhood dir. Richard Linklater [USA]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier dir. Joe and Anthony Russo [USA]
*Citizen Koch dir. Tia Lessin and Carl Deal [USA]
*Citizenfour dir. Laura Poitras [USA]
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes dir. Matt Reeves [USA]
The Drop dir. Michael R. Roskam [USA]
Edge of Tomorrow dir. Doug Liman [USA]
*Enemy dir. Denis Villeneuve [USA]
*The Expendables 3 dir. Patrick Hughes [USA]
Fading Gigolo dir. John Turturro [USA]
*The Fault in Our Stars dir. Josh Boone [USA]
Finding Vivian Maier dir. Charlie Siskel and John Maloof [USA]
Force Majeure [Turist] dir. Ruben Östlund [Sweden]
*Foxcatcher dir. Bennett Miller [USA]
*Fury dir. David Ayer [USA]
Godzilla dir. Gareth Edwards [USA]
Gone Girl dir. David Fincher [USA]
Goodbye to Language [Adieu au langage] dir. Jean-Luc Godard [France]
*The Grand Budapest Hotel dir. Wes Anderson [USA]
Guardians of the Galaxy dir. James Gunn [USA]
*The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies dir. Peter Jackson [USA]
How to Train Your Dragon 2 dir. Dean DeBlois [USA]
Ida dir. Pawel Pawlikowski [Poland]
*The Imitation Game dir. Morton Tyldum [UK]
*The Immigrant dir. James Gray [USA]
Inherent Vice dir. Paul Thomas Anderson [USA]
Interstellar dir. Christopher Nolan [USA]
Into the Woods dir. Rob Marshall [USA]
Jodorowsky's Dune dir. Frank Pavich [USA]
*Last Days in Vietnam dir. Rory Kennedy [USA]
The Lego Movie dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller [USA]
Leviathan [Leviafan] dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev [Russia]
*Le-Weekend dir. Roger Michell [UK]
*Life Itself dir. Steve James [USA]
*Love Is Strange dir. Ira Sachs [USA]
*Magic in the Moonlight dir. Woody Allen [USA]
Maleficent dir. Robert Stromberg [USA]
The Monuments Men dir. George Clooney [USA]
*A Most Violent Year dir. J.C. Chandor [USA]
*A Most Wanted Man dir. Anton Corbijn [UK, USA, Germany]
Muppets Most Wanted dir. James Bobin [USA]
Mr. Turner dir. Mike Leigh [UK]
*Nightcrawler dir. Dan Gilroy [USA]
*Noah dir. Darren Aronofsky [USA]
Nymphomaniac volume I dir. Lars von Trier [Denmark]
Nymphomaniac volume II dir. Lars von Trier [Denmark]
Omar dir. Hany Abu-Assad [Palestine] Oscar nomination was for Foreign Language Film the previous year
*Only Lovers Left Alive dir. Jim Jarmusch [USA]
*Palo Alto dir. Gia Coppola [USA]
Selma dir. Ava Duvernay [USA]
*Snowpiercer dir. Joon-ho Bong [South Korea]
*St. Vincent dir. Theodore Melfi [USA]
*Still Alice dir. Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer [USA]
*Tangerines [Mandariinid] dir. Zaza Urushadze [Estonia]
*The Theory of Everything dir. James Marsh [UK]
*The Trip to Italy dir. Michael Winterbottom [UK]
Two Days, One Night [Deux jour, une nuit] dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne [Belgium]
*Unbroken dir. Angelina Jolie [USA]
*Under the Skin dir. Jonathan Glazer [USA]
*The Unknown Known dir. Errol Morris [USA]
*Virunga dir. Orlando von Einsiedel [UK, Congo]
Wakolda [The German Doctor] dir. Lucía Puenzo [Argentina]
*A Walk Among the Tombstones dir. Scott Frank [USA]
*We Are the Best! [Vi är bäst!] dir. Lukas Moodysson [Sweden]
*Whiplash dir. Damien Chazelle [USA]
*Wild dir. Jean-Marc Vallée [USA]
Winter Sleep [Kis uykusu] dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan [Turkey]
Wish I Was Here dir. Zach Braff [USA]
X-Men: Days of Future Past dir. Bryan Singer [USA]
Zwei leben [Two Lives] dir. Georg Maas [Germany]

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