The last top ten list of 2014…I assume. Being late is what makes it extra special. It’d be nice to know that this list was of some use to someone. That maybe someone will watch something new or discover a film they didn’t know. But if that’s not the case, no matter. This is a list I’d make anyways because I like doing it. It’s fun. It’s movies.
(I never include documentaries. I have my reasons. There’s a lot of great ones. Go watch those too!)
Noah – Dir. Darren Aronofsky
I didn’t just like the rock monsters, I loved them. As a non-believer, this is the kind of biblical blockbuster I can get behind. A visionary at the helm searching for answers while humanizing the heavens. Not as elegant as The Last Temptation of Christ, but it’s in the ballpark.
Selma – Dir. Ava DuVernay
It’s not the story of a great man. It’s about how people, many kinds of people, can enact change. There just happened to be a great man in the middle, sparking that change. The film is savvy and alive. History breathes in this movie. The politics and the people are given the dramatic context they always demanded.
Edge of Tomorrow – Dir. Doug Liman
A brilliant blast of pop entertainment. Aliens and Starship Troopers with time travel is my perfect drug. But it wouldn’t fly without such wonderful execution. Cruise and Blunt are ideal action stars with chemistry and humor to spare. Meanwhile, nothing in the movie is extraneous. The editing keeps the ride moving at an expert pace.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Dir. Isao Takahata
One of the best looking films I’ve ever seen on the big screen. It’s an astonishing achievement animated or otherwise. This folk tale brought to life isn’t afraid to be weird one minute, abrasive the next, before finally rip your heart right out. The beauty will overwhelm you.
We Are the Best! – Dir. Lukas Moodysson
Two young girls start a punk band, they’re terrible. They make friends with a girl who can play, they goof off, and remain mostly terrible. That’s essentially the movie. It’s everything…and it’s nothing. The film loves these characters, understands them, and so we love them too. A remarkable feat.
10. Interstellar – Dir. Christopher Nolan
Dr. Brand: I’m not afraid of death. I’m an old physicist – I’m afraid of time.
It’s big. It’s bold. It maybe stumbles a little here or there, but what is good, is great. Tucked behind every idea or theory in the film is a human component to challenge and test it. It doesn’t favor science over emotion or vice versa. It’s about how we need both for mankind to work and it dramatizes this with cool spaceships and black holes.
9. Mr. Turner – Dir. Mike Leigh
Turner: The Sun is God!
A bio-pic that really examines what one man, one great artist, leaves in his wake. Expansive and intimate. Marvelous and bitter. Spall is mammoth and the supporting cast is outstanding. It never announces its intentions but it’s never less than inviting.
8. Under the Skin – Dir. Jonathan Glazer
The Female: When was the last time you touched someone?
Johansson continues her winning streak with this visual wonder. It may seem repetitive. It may lack a typical arc. You might just have no fucking clue what’s happening. But this film is a work of art. It questions what it is to be female, to be human, and to be alone. It’s haunting and utterly fascinating.
7. The LEGO Movie – Dir. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Another Lord/Miller film that has no business being good let alone great. It’s the film I’ve watched the most from last year and every viewing I find new details and new laughs. It’s operating on such a hyperactive level that it threatens to derail the whole film. But that too finds a way to work when it shouldn’t. They took joy and bottled it, nothing left to do but drink it up.
6. Gone Girl – Dir. David Fincher
Tanner: You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met and I deal with fucked up people for a living.
The rare book I’ve read before seeing the film. Rarer still, the film is an improvement. What might be confused in prose is made beyond clear on film. This is satire of the highest order. De Palma or Verhoeven with a feminist axe to grind. Funny, sadistic, and frighteningly candid.
5. Inherent Vice – Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Jade: Beware the Golden Fang
A foggy trip through the end of an era. At first the movie feels lost and wandering, but it’s clear the pieces are all here. Besides, it’s okay to go missing once in awhile. Every shot is loaded with great faces, silvery dialogue, and multiple layers of meaning and melancholy. It’s also absurdly funny.
4. The Immigrant – Dir. James Gray
Ewa: I am not nothing
Marion Cotillard is amazing here. She’s so good you forget she’s a French women and not a Polish immigrant in the ’20s. This film is direct and melodramatic. A style that is rarely used these days, but it employs these modes masterfully. Power, beauty, and tragedy. In America, it can mean your downfall or a new beginning.
3. Snowpiercer – Dir. Bong Joon-ho
Mason: Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.
It’s not subtle, and it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a blunt allegory for our out-of-balance world. Terrific action, colorful characters, and the chutzpah to follow its themes all the way to their logical ends. If you’re worried about physics and missing train cars, you’re robbing yourself of an exceptional cinematic experience.
2. Boyhood – Dir. Richard Linklater
Mom: I just thought there would be more.
Yes, filming one movie over the course of 12 years is a gimmick, but it’s an audacious gimmick that paid off incredibly. The movie finds the transcendent wonder in the ordinary and the everyday. Reserved, patient, but always honest. Sure, I have a lot in common with Mason, and therefore relate. But anyone who ages, i.e. everyone, should find some common ground. A profound endeavor.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Dir. Wes Anderson
M. Gustave: You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.
Possibly, and I don’t say this lightly, Wes Anderson’s greatest film. It has all of his usual trademarks and obsessions. The things some people reject as ostentatious or precious, but I find lively and assuring. In this film they’re all bigger, funnier, and finally more heartbreaking than ever before. Technically accomplished, it’s a delight to behold. Fiennes is the perfect center for Anderson’s world of outcasts, miscreants, and lost souls. The window dressing is both the point and the thing you need to look past. A film filled with all the possibilities of cinema. It’s my favorite film of 2014.