I’m a little (a lot) later than normal with my best of the year list, which I can partially attribute to myself being completely unable to stop cramming in films from last year. It’s hard to have an end game when there are always so many movies that I feel I need to see. Another big factor in my lateness, however, is the whole having a baby thing. It’s tough to watch movies, let alone write about them, when one's world is overflowing with blown-out diapers and Desitin. But alas, such poopie covered walls have not been able to fully contain my movie watching, so I am very happy to finally present to you my list of the best films of 2014!
Now, normally I write a whole lot more about the movies that make my best of the year list, but this year I am keeping things pretty simple. You know, because diapers. In any event, pull up a chair, kick off your shoes and… wait, put your shoes back on with them stank ass feet! Now, where was I… oh, put your shoes back on and enjoy CNAMB’s Best Movies of 2014!
20. Night Moves
Expertly crafted by Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves is – like most of Reichardt’s work – a subdued and beautiful film where events are allowed to naturally unfold for both the characters and audience alike. The film – which focuses on a trio of young Eco-terrorists as they attempt to blow up a hydroelectric dam – is tense in the most subtle of ways, leaving behind a feeling of unease and unsurety.
19. Edge of Tomorrow
A beautifully-executed Sci-Fi actioner, Edge of Tomorrow is as exciting and smart as it is funny and well acted. Both Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise nail it, and it's nice to watch Cruise perform without feeling like I'm watching Tom Cruise.
18. Life Itself
Inspirational and, at times, devastatingly sad, Life Itself is a touching celebration of the life and eventual death of a man whose impact on film is as great as anyone who's ever lived. As a life-long movie lover, Roger Ebert (and Gene Siskel alike) was a huge part of my life growing up. And as someone who has been writing about movies for over 6 years, Ebert is simply an inspiration. His shadow will always linger over film criticism.
17. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Despite hearing a lot of positive things beforehand, I was trepidatious about a new Captain America film, especially when some people referred to the camerawork as being too shaky. Regardless, I still found myself giving it a shot, and thankfully so, as The Winter Soldier is an enjoyable film that simply hits all the right notes, and it does so with assurity. Furthermore, and one of the biggest reasons why it makes my list, The Winter Soldier features some downright dazzling action sequences, which are all the more impressive in their variety and craftsmanship.
16. The One I Love
Charlie McDowell makes his feature debut with a highly assured and original film about a couple who – in an attempt to breathe life back into their marriage – spend a weekend at a beautiful cottage. The film is essentially a relationship-driven dramedy, though it is vastly more complex than that. And it’s those minute complexities paired with wonderful performances by Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass that make The One I Love such a fascinating and enjoyable watch.
15. John Wick
Stylish, slick and filled with immensely satisfying action sequences, John Wick is easily the biggest action surprise of 2014. The story is simple, but there is complexity to the characters and their relationships with one another that feels very refreshing for the genre. There's also a lot of world building, which makes the film feel as if it exists in an alternate universe. An alternate universe filled with crime and murder, mind you.
14. Cold in July
Since 2006’s Mulberry Street, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici have been on an impressive run, crafting some of the best horror movies of the past ten years. With Cold in July, team Mickle and Damici tackle the crime genre with a 1980s set tale of murder, deception and revenge, as led by a group of highly unlikely and extremely complicated accomplices. The results are impressive, as Cold in July is a taut, well-acted and stylish slice of Southern Noir that, along with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, represents a new era of independent crime thrillers.
13. Starry Eyes
2014 was one hell of a year for horror, but no other horror film last year impacted me quite like Starry Eyes. Propelled by an excellent performance by Alexandra Essoe, Starry Eyes is a hypnotically visceral and mentally jarring film about a struggling actress who, due to being spellbound by fame, will do whatever it takes to get her opportunity to shine.
Naturally, a film where one of the lead characters wears a giant paper-mache head is going to be strange, and Frank is as strange as you'd expect. Thankfully, however, it's not strange for the sake of being strange. In fact, Frank is a clever and surprisingly earnest (and sometimes even heartbreaking) film about a group of crazy musicians – lead by musical genius Frank – as they attempt to record an album and make it big. The performances are great all around, but the crème de la crème is Michael Fassbender, who is THE perfect person to play the quirky titular character
11. Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s
Whether it be specific types of genres, franchises, eras, or simply just a specific film, I absolutely love documentaries about movies. In fact – and I’ve said this in the past – I enjoy movies about movies as much as I enjoy movies. So, yeah, if you followed that, then you can guess that Eurocrime! is way up my crime-ridden alley. Focused on the Italian Poliziotteschi (Eurocrime) genre, Eurocrime! s an incredibly detailed and immensely enjoyable look at a genre that is criminally ignored by genre film fans.
10. Short Term 12
Short Term 12 is a simplistic character-driven drama that found a way to pull at my rusty ol’ heartstrings. And let’s face it, that’s not an easy thing to do. The film -- which takes place in group home for troubled teens – can be a bit of a tough watch at times; however, it's also quite touching. The emotional impact is honest and genuine, and nothing about it ever feels forced for cheap dramatic effect.
9. Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story Of The VHS Collector
Hey, I could sit here and explain to you why I loved this documentary about modern-day VHS collectors, but it’s so much easier for us both (well, me) if you read my review!!
8. Blue Ruin
I found few things more fascinating in 2014 than the opening of Blue Ruin. The almost completely silent opening to this ultra-low budget revenge thriller had me creeping closer and closer to the edge of my seat until the shit finally hit the fan. From that point forward, Blue Ruin kept me on my toes with its unpredictable story and challenging predicaments, and all carried on the back of a wonderful performance by Macon Blair, who plays a refreshingly flawed lead character Dwight.
7. Jodorowsky's Dune
I honestly do not think there is anything more enthralling, fascinating or enchanting than watching Alejandro Jodorowsky talk about his unfortunately failed journey to get his version of Dune made. In fact, his passion for the project and incredible magnetism had me feeling as if he was trying to sell me on being a part of the film. It worked.
6. We Are the Best!
I have a soft spot for coming-of-age films. I also grew up what one would consider a rebellious punk rocker. Those two things alone are nearly enough to sell me on a film such as We Are the Best! Telling the tale of three teenage girls finding their place in the world through music and, more importantly, friendship, We Are the Best! is a charmingly earnest look at the bumpy road that is adolescence. I don’t think I could have been more delighted watching three misguided but well-meaning “rebels” attempt to get out their angst through music.
5. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
To be completely upfront, I actually watched Birdman just as I was finishing putting this list together, so it hasn’t had much time to sit with me, making it a little difficult to place on my list. I can confidently say, however, that Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow up to my favorite film of 2011, Biutiful, lived up to my sky-high expectations. Iñárritu’s satirical look at fame, ego and perception is refreshingly clever, and the film is a technical achievement, with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki continuing his steady stream of incredible work.
4. The Guest
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett somehow followed up the well-received You’re Next with one of the single most entertaining films of 2014. The Guest is a delicious genre stew made up of action, mystery and horror, and it’s all served up by Dan Stevens, who gives a standout performance that’s as charming as it is intense.
It should be noted that my top three films of 2014 are quite interchangeable. It’s really tough to nail down which is my favorite when I absolutely love all three, and it doesn’t make it any better that each of these films are completely different from one another. So yeahhhh, these are my top three favorite films of 2014, in no particular order:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
At this point, I’d say Wes Anderson has just about perfected his style, and it’s everything that is inherent to Anderson’s particular style of storytelling and filmmaking that results in an incredible piece of work with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Every single frame of the film is gorgeous down to the last detail. The set design is impeccable, and I love the mixture of techniques Anderson utilizes such as stop motion animation, miniatures and matte paintings. While I will need to see the film a few more times to know where it stands in Anderson’s oeuvre, it very well could be my favorite the filmmaker has done.
The Raid 2
Every once in a while an action film comes along and redefines the genre. Enter the Dragon, The Road Warrior, Hard Boiled, Drunken Master II, and what have you, are the types of movies that come in and kick us in the balls in ways that they hadn't been kicked before. With its hard-hitting action sequences, amazing and highly original choreography and beautiful camerawork, The Raid 2 is one of those films. In a year where we were blessed with a cornucopia (yes, cornucopia) of amazing action films, The Raid 2 stands out as a landmark piece of work that raises the bar for all action films to come.
Under the Skin
No best of the year list of mine would be complete without an insanely divisive film being at the top of my list, and no film fit that bill more in 2014 than Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Heck, even I wasn't so sure about the film as I was watching it, and that’s simply because Under the Skin is not an easy movie to take in. It is, however, a fascinating film to break down and dissect because it is so very deeply layered. Supported by a wonderful, understated performance by Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin is a deeply layered and immersive watch with a finale so haunting that I couldn’t shake the imagery for days.
Guardians of the Galaxy * Happy Christmas * The Grand Piano * Oculus * Ida * Milius * Brick Mansions * The Babadook * The Taking of Deborah Logan * Cheap Thrills * Joe * Big Bad Wolves * The Sacrament * Here Comes the Devil * Journey to the West * The Last Buck Hunt * The Equalizer