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Top 10 Movies of 2014

A couple of notes about movies from 2014:

–There was no clear winner in my mind this year.  Everything on the top ten list (and at least five that didn’t make it) could move up or down three spaces, depending on the mood I’m in, or the weather outside.

–There were a lot of creeps, weirdos and losers in the best movies of the year. John DuPont, Louis Bloom, Amy Dunne, and Andrew Neimann are NOT people I’d like to spend time with.  (on the flip side, you’ve got Martin Luther King, Jr., Chris Rock, and Baymax. I’d hang out with them any day.)

–It was a banner year for kids’ movies. Two kids’ movies made my list this year, and several more almost made the list.  I think you would be hard-pressed to find any other genre that can boast a top 5 as strong as “Big Hero 6,” “Song of the Sea,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “The Lego Movie,” and “Ernest & Celestine.”

–Also notable: none of those movies were made by Pixar, who didn’t release a movie in 2014 (the first year they’ve skipped since 2015.)  Pixar undoubtedly raised the bar for kids’ movies over the last decade, but other studios have elevated their game in response.

 

10. Blue Ruin

“As much as anything, “Blue Ruin” is about the terrible cost of violence in our society. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that Dwight gets his revenge; that happens pretty early in the movie.  But it sets in motion other forces that he can’t control, and it’s pretty clear that (of course) it’s not nearly as satisfying as he hoped it would be.  Is there any way to end this before everyone on both sides of the feud is dead?  And if so, will Dwight be able to move on with his life, or will he go back to living in that rusted out Pontiac?  The answers to both these questions are decidedly up in the air.  That’s the kind of movie this is.”

9. Interstellar

In “Interstellar,” Nolan plays with a lot of the same pieces he played with in “Inception.”  Time speeds up and slows down, characters operate entirely without a safety net, and are often unsure where reality begins and ends. But this time the whole thing is (supposedly) based in more in science than in fiction… [but] when you’re watching “Interstellar,” you’re not thinking about how overly complicated everything is.  You’re thinking about how in the world MacConaughey and company are going to get from point A to point B, and how much it is going to cost them.”  

 

8. Big Hero 6

Big action, big laughs, but most of all, a big heart. This is my 4 year old son’s favorite movie.  He’s got good taste.

 

 

 

7. Selma

“If director Ava DuVernay made just a few missteps, if she hadn’t paid careful attention to the film’s tone every microsecond, “Selma” could easily feel like a film critical of Dr. King and his political machinations. But DuVernay, with a lot of help from David Oyewelo as King, manages just the right tone of sobering realism.  If Oyewelo had come across at all self-important, the whole thing would have been sunk.  Instead, he comes across as humble, tired, filled with doubt, but also determined and driven by both vision and the desperate need for change.  It’s a great performance, and a perfect mix of greatness and humanity.”

6. Nightcrawler

 

The chill and power of “Nightcrawler” comes in large part from listening to this character, over and over, recite something he’s read from a self-help book as a way of justifying increasingly evil acts. He believes in taking risks. In being bold. In establishing an optimal bargaining position. In knowing his oppositions’ weaknesses, and exploiting them. In negotiating hard, and getting as much out of every deal as he can. If he wasn’t a psychopath, he’d be a Fortune 500 CEO.

 

5. Song of the Sea

Each one of us is Ben. We have to choose what we want to believe and do with all these hard emotions. Do we give them up or lock them away and become hard, like stone? Or do we do what’s really scary and face them, let them loose and see the magic and joy that’s mix with the sorrow?

How come this movie didn’t get more attention? It’s a beautiful, sweet, sad, lovely movie with a song that I’m happy to get stuck in my head every time it plays.

 

4. Top Five

“Written, directed and starring Chris Rock, at times it feels like he best Woody Allen film in twenty years. Since Allen is probably the best smart/funny actor/director in the history of cinema, Rock’s decision to borrow from him instead of (or in addition to) guys like Murphy and Cosby feels like a stroke of genius. And Rock brings the kind of comic energy that Allen seemed to run out of a while ago.”

 

 

3. Foxcatcher

“Everything about this film is top-notch.  It’s probably the best-acted film of 2014; Ruffalo, Carrell and Tatum all deliver career-defining performances.  The direction is subtle but effective; this is a deceptively complicated and difficult story to tell, but director Bennett Miller consistently makes choices to serve the story and stay out of its way.  I think this takes more skill than the kind of flashy direction that won Innaritu the Oscar this year.  From beginning to end, from top to bottom, “Foxcatcher” is quietly, devastatingly, one of the best films of the year.”
2. Whiplash

“Whiplash” sort of straddles the line between unorthodox teachers who inspire greatness in their pupils, and films about abusive mentors who damage and destroy their students.  Maybe it’s one and the same thing; maybe in order to fully realize potential, other parts of a person’s soul must be destroyed. That’s a sobering thought.  ”The worst words in the human language,” says Fletcher, “are ‘good job.”  It’s enough to make you wonder if it mightn’t be better to let some potential go unrealized and encourage people to be happy, balanced, and well instead.  Which does the world need: more good art, or more good people?”

1. Gone Girl

“One of the major themes in the film is the difference between appearance and reality, and the ways different characters respond to that disparity. This isn’t a moral clumsily laid over the top of the story, but an idea that is one seamlessly into almost every element of it, from the way the Affleck and Pike’s marriage crumbles because neither of them can continue to keep up the facade they presented — that we all present — in those first happy, golden moments, to the way the media decides that Affleck is guilty of his wife’s murder before the police have even arrested him, and … well, to other, more disturbing ways as well.”

 

20 more that are definitely worth your time: 

Locke – Tom Hardy plays a man trying to do the right thing as his life falls apart around him.

Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson is a seductive alien.

Calvary – Brendan Gleeson asks “What Would Jesus Do?” and comes up with an unsettling answer.

The LEGO Movie – Everything(in this movie) is awesome!

Snowpiercer – Class warfare on an eternally running train at the end of the world.

Inherent Vice – P.T. Anderson’s latest is confusing, raunchy, and intoxicating.

Cold in July – You might think you know what’s going to happen next, but you don’t.  Promise.

Guardians of the Galaxy – This year’s “Serenity.”  OK, maybe not that good, but points for trying.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Forget the Hobbit and Game of Thrones.  You like dragons? Watch this.

Ida – Beautiful, simple, thoughtful, heartbreaking.

The Babadook – The year’s best horror flick.  (Also, the only horror flick I watched this year.)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Political theory!  Monkeys with machine guns!

A Most Wanted Man – A lot like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”  Thinking man’s espionage.

Dear White People – Throws thorny issues at the screen like a toddler eating spaghetti.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Yeah, it’s higher on other lists.  I’m just kind of Wes Anderson weary this year.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – That Quicksilver scene was one of the best of the year.

Night Moves – Kelly Reichardt directs a quiet, introspective film about eco-terrorism.

A Most Violent Year – OK, it’s not quite “The Godfather” like it wants to be.  It’s still a pretty memorable film.

Pride – feel-good movie of the year.  Overcoming differences to find common ground and fight a common enemy.

Ernest & Celestine – This year’s kids’ movie for adults. I liked it a lot more than my children did.

 

…And 10 That Definitely AREN’T (No matter what the other critics say:) 

Boyhood – 3 hours of listening to Ethan Hawke spout slacker philosophy at his poor, unsuspecting kids.

Birdman – pretentious and artsy. Also kind of charming, but the bads outweighed the goods in my book.

The Immigrant – Maybe the most sexist film of the year.

Gloria – This woman seems to base her entire life philosophy on pop songs.

Frank – Michael Fassbender wears a paper mache head all the time, and we learn that mental illness really sucks.

Theory of Everything – bland, syrupy, Oscar bait.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – boooring.

The Guest – it’s really too bad everyone in this movie (except the bad guy) is a complete moron.

Mr. Turner – please, please please… tell a STORY.

The Tribe – Easily my least favorite movie of the year, and the one (there’s always one) I wish I hadn’t watched.

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Posted in by Will Krischke, Lists.

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