Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Films of 2014

I'm not going to lie, 2014 was a pretty incredible year for film. In better, more appropriate words: Everything Was Awesome!

The Sundance Film Festival delivered a huge boom to the industry, filled to the brim with wildly diverse films that had everybody talking, most especially its festival-opening movie and an out-of-nowhere, longly developed project from an indie auteur. Despite low attendance figures and some unfortunate box office returns, the summer movie season had many acclaimed works, often coming from the hallow halls of Hollywood. The African-American experience in America was further broadcasted with several very notable features. And, to the benefit of all cinephiles, the usual Oscar bait in the closing months didn't really have anyone talking. Instead, two comedic actors provoked a huge debate on the value of art and nearly started a world war with their simple satire.

There wasn't an overall theme to the large, highly talented output but many had something to declare to the heavens: You don't have to the bad guy. Let the moment seize you. Don't fully judge a person's character for one selfish misstep. Achieving perfection can destroy your humanity. And, the popular staple of love can conquer all and transcend space and time. Okay? Okay.

These are the films I have deemed the best of 2014. Though I put them in list format, I was equally entertained and moved by all of these films.

Now comes the usual disclaimer that everyone forgets to remember: This list is of my own opinion, not the general public nor the Internet consensus. If I didn't see the film at all or in its entirety, it isn't counted or considered to be included.


1. The Lego Movie

I know I already said it to start off this article but it bares repeating again here: everything about this movie was awesome. It's an absurdist, imaginative masterpiece for the whole family. It makes the viewer want to do their own "brick movie". It eventually reveals itself to be a dissertation on how people create art to express their inner beauty and emotional troubles. All of this and more helped make it the truly best film of 2014.

2. The Raid 2

Absolute badassery. The story is more grand and better constructed. The action set-pieces are more eye-catching and enthralling. And just when you had your fill, creator Gareth Evans gives you three more memorable assassins, a now legendary car chase, and a bloody all-out finale that can't stop, won't stop. Practically impossible for the expected third entry to top this.

3. Gone Girl

2012's most popular and acclaimed book is turned into one of the best films of 2014, thanks largely to David Fincher's direction and author Gillian Flynn's own twisty screenplay. A show-stopping performance by Rosamund Pike, a killer cast that even has Tyler Perry bringing his A-game, and possessing a world where all facts can be spun and/or orchestrated to be in favor of its criminals, this movie kept everyone on their toes and restless in their seats until the final smile.

4. Boyhood

The most avant-garde film of the year, hands down. Its three hour running time flies by with ease as we see how quickly American life can change, how actors can age, and how a little boy can win our hearts with a performance that took 12 real-life years to complete.

5. Under the Skin

There are some films that stick with you after walking out of the theater and continue to grow past your previous opinion of it. This ambitious ode to Stanley Kubrick was one of them, featuring a stellar unreserved performance by Scarlett Johansson, a direction that doesn't hold your hand, shocking imagery, and a chilling musical score.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

The perfect break from the superhero genre that the world needed. Nearly stripping itself completely away from the baggage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, James Gunn and Nicole Perlman crafted a grand space opera, which provided a great set of main characters, plenty of quotable laughs, and an amazing soundtrack of old pop and rock tunes.

7. Whiplash

A great debut feature for its master puppeteer Damien Chazelle and brilliantly edited by Tom Cross, this film received an endless standing ovation throughout the year, from its sucker-punching premiere at the kick-off of the Sundance Film Festival to its release into theaters during the awards season. Features the most memorable villain of 2014 and one hell of an ending.

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This near-perfect sci-fi film was running on all cylinders in every department: direction, story, cinematography, editing, and of course special effects. Though the human characters were all vacant vessels, it was still able to pull off an incredible scope of gloomy beauty. Plus, it had a chimp dual-wielding machine guns while riding a horse. You can't burn that image away.

9. Snowpiercer

As with the supertrain within it, the action of this movie kept building more and more thrills until a stumbling final note. Still, despite the ending setback and some heavy-handed political messages, this South Korean import was a true marvel to behold, especially without any cuts by Harvey Weinstein.

10. Blue Ruin

The latecomer of the bunch, able to squeeze into the winner's circle at the very last minute. This tale on the futility of getting revenge carefully balanced itself between terrifying and quietly humorous, both being well handled by a breakout performance from unknown actor Macon Blair.


11. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Mixing a Hitchcockian adventure story with a cinematic study on the nature and lonely sadness of storytelling, Wes Anderson once again wowed viewers with his oft-putting humor, his perfectionistic directing style and camerawork, and a humongous cast of goofballs.

12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Of the two Marvel movies released this year, this one was generally the better built feature. Blending some progressive superheroes with a story that throwbacks to the 60's and 70's political thrillers, this had people believing in the red, white and blue again, while also having everyone jokingly whispering to their friends.

13. A Walk Among the Tombstones

Allowing Liam Neeson to reach into the darker recesses of his talent and soul, Scott Frank expertly handled this grim thriller of a private investigator being enveloped by the muck of drug dealers and serial killers.

14. Edge of Tomorrow

Though it falters a bit with its mind-numbing CGI action theatrics, this "Groundhog Day meets video games" sci-fi epic was righteously championed as a Hollywood blockbuster that worked.

15. Obvious Child

It may try to give a raspberry to rom-coms by featuring a honest depiction of modern romance and the faults it produces, but this winning indie is a perfect date movie and gives a mighty platform for its star Jenny Slate.

16. They Came Together

It may be infuriating and insulting for many viewers, but I had a blast with this ruthless evisceration of the conventions of a Hollywood rom-com.

17. John Wick

Unpleasant dog killing aside, this sleeper action flick made Keanu Reeves cool again, as he viciously brings the big heat down on all-comers and re-enters into a world of assassins that is waiting to be further explored in a future sequel.

18. The One I Love

Doing The Twilight Zone some justice, this hilarious dramedy has Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss pull off two amazingly complicated performances.

19. Big Hero 6

Disney Animation Studios kept their streak going with this heartwarming tale of a boy, his robot, and their scientific superheroics.

20. Alan Partridge

Despite having little experience with Steve Coogan's British radio/television character, this feature film brought a lot of laughs to its dark subject matter.

Next Up: The Worst Performances of 2014

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