Like any year, many of these films will stand the test of time, but others will surely fade. Lists like these are vital to document the importance of cinema for the designated year and highlight the great works we had the pleasure to experience on the big screen. In alphabetical order, these are my top picks for 2014:
Boyhood is easily the most important film of the year and I will surprised if it’s not talked about for many more years to come.This film, by many accounts, is the one to beat in 2014. Watching Richard Linklater’s opus span (a literal) twelve years of the ups and downs of growing up through the eyes of a boy becoming a man is heartfelt, funny and down-right fascinating to experience.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Like many filmgoers out there, I too was shocked to learn that 2009’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pretty great watch, despite its equally monotonous title. It will, however, live in the shadow of its sequel. Dawn does everything right, capturing the symmetry of both the humans and the apes to a powerful degree.
A gut-wrenching film about striving to be great, told through the some of this year most complex characters. Either director Bennett Miller seems to possess the Midas touch or he’s one of today’s most talented filmmakers (likely the latter). Filled with some of this year’s top performances, and with pitch-perfect writing, direction and cinematography, Foxcatcher is the complete package.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson just keeps getting better at filmmaking, a surprising feat since he’s already revered around the world as one the modern greats. Back in 2012, I was sure he would never to be able to top Moonrise Kingdom, but here we are two years later with The Grand Budapest Hotel and it’s his best work to date. If Boyhood is the most important film of the year, this film comes in a close second.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The most fun I had in the theaters this year. A surprise hit from a niche comic book, Guardians of Galaxy was packed full of action, sentimentalities, and great humor. Because there’s something for everyone here, I can’t recommend it enough. And if studios are going to keep pumping out comic book movies (who can blame them? They make ass-loads of money!), it’s refreshing that they’re taking more risks.
I adore the autobiography that the documentary references in both subject matter and title, but director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) shines a light on countless other perspectives that needed to be seen and heard. The two (book and film) are companion pieces to the fascinating life of the world’s most respected critic. A BIG thumbs up.
Certainly the smallest film on my list, Listen Up Philip tells a familiar tale of a self-centered artist (in this case a writer) with a unique and refreshing approach. Writer/director Alex Ross Perry has been a on the map since his 2011 film, The Color Wheel, but known mostly among film festivals and critics. However, with a bit of star power in the form of Jason Schwartzman and Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss (who is superb here), his talent as a filmmaker will undoubtedly reach the masses soon.
Trailers can be misleading and Nightcrawler is best case of this in recent memory. I thought I was going into a creepy thriller about a guy who commits crimes in order to capture it first on video and sell it to the news. While it most definitely IS creepy, mostly due to the strong and transformative performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, the film is rather a dark comedy with a compelling take on success in the modern age. Who knew?
Only Lovers Left Alive
Director Jim Jarmusch has always made fascinating character studies that radiate sophistication and cool. No more so than with Only Lovers Left Alive, a film about a brief moment in time in the lives of two vampires that have been married for ages. Cool, right? Like much of Jarmusch’s work, it’s deliberately slow, yet never delivers a dull moment. This is one of his best.
Rather than building Dr. Martin Luther King up to be saint, like many biopics, Selma focuses on the everyday side of the man he was and the people he surrounded himself with. This film’s greatest gift is it’s cast that out performs every other ensemble this year (yes, even Birdman). Another important film for 2015 that will reach beyond into many more.
Some honorable mentions that narrowly missed this list: Gone Girl, Happy Christmas, Ida, The Immigrant, Stretch and Whiplash.
Note: I did in fact see Birdman before making this list.
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