by David Ferguson
Greetings again from the darkness. Being neither a Film Producer nor head of a Studio, I have the luxury of evaluating a movie year based on the quality of films, rather than Box Office results. In evaluating 2014 movies, the top 6 on the list fell pretty easily into place. However, I probably should have just published a Top 25, as the year was filled with very good movies whose rank on the list will shift with my mood swings … so pay attention to the “Best of the Rest” – some of these are really good films!
Creativity and breaking from conventional story-telling added to the fun this year. Directors Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Steven Knight, Richard Shepard, and Dan Gilroy all found new ways to present a story. We even had welcome jolts to the superhero and horror genres thanks to James Gunn and newcomer Jennifer Kent, respectively. As exciting as all of these entries were, nothing grabbed me more than the results of the 12 year process from Richard Linklater and his cast in Boyhood, the movie I have spent 6 months encouraging people to see.
So while industry prognosticators are expecting 2015 to deliver a huge jump in Box Office dollars, we movie lovers can only hope for another year with as many interesting and thought-provoking movies as delivered to us during 2014.
Here are my favorite 11 movies of 2014, including a link to my full review of each. Below that are my annual lists for “Next Best” and “Most Disappointing”. As always, your feedback is quite welcome.
BEST of 2014
Director Richard Linklater stunned us with his 12 year filmmaking process that really hit home for parents. In less than 3 hours, we watched the growth and development of two kids, and the ongoing struggles of their parents. All I could manage immediately after watching this one … “Wow”. I spent 6 months hoping this one wouldn’t fall through the cracks come awards season.
A tour de force performance from Michael Keaton in a role tailor-made for him. While Keaton enthralls, the “single take” look of the film sets a new cinematography standard, and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu offers plenty of tributes and insight into an industry not always as forthcoming.
A rare thrilling documentary (yes, really!) from director Laura Poitras that takes us inside the hotel room as Edward Snowden (Ed to his friends) was unloading a wealth of confidential information. His data exposed the breadth of deception by those agencies we so heavily rely upon and trust.
Featuring one of the most intense screen performances of all-time, this film may single-handedly cause a drop in applications for elite music schools. JK Simmons uses old school military tactics to drive jazz drummer Miles Teller to greater heights … but at what cost?
The always creative Wes Anderson uncovers the funny side to Ralph Fiennes personality, while mixing it yet another colorful palette of quirky characters and intricate dialogue. The setting looks like a giant doll house that complements its guests and staff.
This one is for those who enjoy a bit of mind expansion in a dark theatre. Director Christopher Nolan delivers maximum brain strain in a phenomenally visual package that’s sure to impress. You may find a plot hole or two, but Neil Degrasse Tyson supported the science, so maybe you should just enjoy the spectacle, and be thankful that Mr. Nolan makes movies.
A visually austere movie from Poland that is one of the oddest buddy road trip films I have ever seen. We ride along as Ida, a novitiate nun, and her Aunt trace their family roots – a trip which ultimately determines their approach to life.
What is it that makes a man? Sweden’s Ruben Ostland will have you questioning the definition, and whether anyone should be judged based on a split second decision mid-crisis. Oh yeah … I’m stressed!
Oscar Isaac teaches us how to be polite and angry at the same time, while Jessica Chastain’s pretty face masks a vicious gangster mentality in 1981 New York City. It’s the most gangster non-gangster movie ever, and the slow boil adds to the fun.
Rarely is a horror film mentioned alongside the best films of a particular year, but the first feature from director Jennifer Kent breathes new life into the genre, and capitalizes on Essie Davis, who delivers one of the best performances of the year.
This is the second documentary on this year’s list, and one that provides some insight into the cold-blooded, lack-of-conscience mentality of the criminal mind, and the corresponding system of corruption that allowed Bulger to thrive.
BEST OF THE REST (in alphabetical order)
*full reviews can be found at http://moviereviewsfromthedark.com
A Most Wanted Man – yet another reminder of PSH’s greatness
American Sniper – true story of Chris Kyle, American hero
Calvary – Brendon Gleeson as an unconventional priest
Dom Hemingway – the wildest movie ride of the year
Guardians of the Galaxy – oddball superhero with action and laughs
Leviathan – Russian film of little guy vs the establishment
Life Itself – personal look at Roger Ebert and Chaz
Locke – the quietest thriller of the year
Love is Strange – Lithgow and Molina as a couple
Mr Turner – grunts from an artist
Nightcrawler – skinny Jake and his wild eyes
Obvious Child – the abortion comedy movie
Selma – the inner strength of many and their leader
The Battered Bastards of Baseball – for lovers of the great game
The Drop – the final from Gandolfini
The Fault in our Stars – the best teen movie of the year
The Imitation Game – sad tale of a brilliant hero
The Lego Movie – a fast moving comedy for all
The Lunchbox – a soulful connection from India
The Theory of Everything – a look at genius
Winter Sleep – listening required
(not the worst, just expected more)
Gone Girl – never bought in, so the twist didn’t work
Monuments Men – not just cheese, but Cheese-Whiz
Snowpiercer – a too obvious political statement
The Homesman – lots of cameos, little sense
Wild – faux soul-searching
As always, I welcome your feedback and ask that you share the list and site with your fellow movie lovers. If you subscribe/follow the site, we can discuss movies all year long! Also, I am now a contributing film writer for http://www.RedCarpetCrash.com – only some of my reviews appear on that site.
Thanks so much for reading … see you at the movies!