Best of 2014

 

2014 FILMS

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!

moviepic 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

boyhood1 1. BOYHOOD

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/07/03/boyhood-2014/

 

birdman 2. BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/10/28/birdman-or-the-unexpected-virtue-of-ignorance-2014/

 

citizenfour1 3. CITIZENFOUR

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/11/20/citizenfour-2014-doc/

 

whiplash1 4. WHIPLASH

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?

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/10/26/whiplash-2014/

 

grand budapest 5. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/03/16/the-grand-budapest-hotel-2014/

 

interstellar 6. INTERSTELLAR

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/11/16/interstellar-2014/

 

ida 7. IDA

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/06/29/ida-2014-Poland/

 

force majeur 8. FORCE MAJEURE

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!

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/11/02/force-majeure-2014-sweden/

 

a most violent1 9. A MOST VIOLENT YEAR

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2015/01/14/a-most-violent-year-2014/

 

babadook1 10. THE BABADOOK

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/12/07/the-babadook-2014/

 

whitey 11. WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JAMES J BULGER

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.

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/2014/04/16/whitey-united-states-of-america-v-james-j-bulger-doc-2014/

 

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

 

MOST DISAPPOINTING

(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!

 

David Ferguson

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/

TWITTER:  @fergusontx

fergusontx@gmail.com

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8 Responses to Best of 2014

  1. Brandi Cofer says:

    “A Most Violent Year” sneaked in at the wire, didn’t it?! I haven’t had a chance to see it, but if it made your Top 10, I’ll give it a whirl!

    Here’s my 2014 Top 10!

    1. Interstellar – so great to see this made your list as well!
    2. Boyhood
    3. Whiplash
    4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    5. Birdman
    6. Nighcrawler
    7. Lucy – I know we have differing opinions on this one!
    8. The Theory of Everything
    9. The Imitation Game
    10. Godzilla!!!! Just kidding… Guardians of the Galaxy – what a fun ride and a joy to listen to!

    Honorable mentions (that you didn’t mention):

    Chef
    Particle Fever – great documentary on the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

  2. John Raymond (Ray) Peterson says:

    Taste is not something we’re born with but rather something that we develop. I like your picks, well 20 out of 21, and those few among them I missed so far I’ll catch on DVD.

    I look forward to reading your Oscar picks soon.

    Keep up the excellent work David; I rely on you to validate my movie going/watching choices when I’m not certain and I would have missed out on too many very good movies were it not for your reviews that prompted me to go see them.

    Regards

    • Ray, I know we have similar tastes and insight into movies, but of course, would never expect those tastes to perfectly align. That said, I am very curious as to which one we disagree on. Thanks so much for your feedback – it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. Also, I think you would really appreciate Leviathan and Winter Sleep. Not two I can recommend for everyone, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t appreciate them both.

  3. John Raymond (Ray) Peterson says:

    I will make sure I watch both those; after reading your reviews I’m now eager to do so, thus added to my ‘To See’ list.

    To satisfy your curiosity about which of the 21 was not my cup of tea… ‘The Lego Movie’
    Even the best trailers failed to interest me, so not seen, won’t see; I do watch animations and loved the good ones with great reviews, but that one, nah, sorry.

    I was not disappointed with Gone Girl, simply because of suspension of disbelief is something I can muster with Rosemund Pike and David Fincher (so looking forward to his version of the second remake of the Stieg Larsson’s trilogy which I’ve seen in full in original version when first released + books).

    Yes 2014 was a good year.

    • I am fully entrenched in the minority opinion on Gone Girl, and am a huge fan of Fincher. So while it failed to generate any tension or intrigue for me, it certainly doesn’t impact my admiration of Fincher’s filmmaking – past or present. As for Lego, I was absolutely shocked at how much I liked it and how it worked on multiple levels, and I also understand anyone’s lack of desire to watch it. As we’ve discussed before, we share a mutual fascination with the Larsson trilogy – books, original film versions, and Fincher redux.

  4. shoffman3572 says:

    Ahhh, you put two of my favorites (Snowpiercer and Wild) in your ‘most disappointing’ list – nerd rage! Grrr (Kidding! – but seriously, how could you?! (kidding again))!! A Most Violent Year is finally at a theater near me so my weekend is sorted. Thought I’d be stuck with Black and White and that horrible looking Almanac movie!

    • HaHa … you will notice that it’s not a list of “Worst” movies (who wants to talk about bad movies?), but rather most disappointing. You know how the expectations going in can impact the perception of a movie? Snowpiercer and Wild both suffered a bit from my high expectations. I’m glad you liked them more than I did, and we were in agreement on many movies last year, so it’s not all bad. Looking forward to your thoughts on A Most Violent Year. Not everyone thinks as highly of it as I do. Best to you.

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