Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top 15 Movies of 2014

Hello, Bloggers, since I just posted my list of the top 15 female performances of the year, next, I will go right into what I feel are the top 15 best films of the year. Please note that if there is a film you think was missing from the list, I encourage you to put it in your own top 10 or 15 in the comments section. I am interested in your opinions. Here we go:

15. Grand Budapest Hotel:
Kicking off my list is the latest work of Wes Anderson that may not have topped Royal Tenenbaums, but I had a ball watching this. I loved the performances, the lavish set designs and cinematography, and how it is different genres rolled into one: Murder mystery and period piece that serves as a slight metaphor for WWII once the hotel gets taken over.

 14. The Way He Looks:
Brazil's entry for Best Foreign Language Film that sadly slipped through the cracks. I saw this at my Sunday Cinema Club and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Since this movie is about a blind kid dealing with, or discovering his homosexuality, I loved how this film shows how it is alright to be gay. While I do love Brokeback Mountain and Blue Is The Warmest Color, which are raw dramas about love gone wrong, it was refreshing to see an LGBT film that focuses on the simple act of falling in love while not being too harsh. This is a truly underused gem.

 13. Ida:
 The only other foreign film on this list, Ida is a film that I watched with pretty open expectations. But while I was watching it, I was pretty hooked. I loved the black and white cinematography, the whole road movie feel, and it was interesting how even though it deals with WWII, it is hardly about the war itself. Just how it affects the loved ones of those that were involved with it.

12. The Babadook:
This is Jennifer Kent's debut feature and yet I already consider her to be one of the masters of the horror genre. It was so amazing and refreshing how she never goes for cliches or jump scares. It actually has deep thematic material involving grief and *potential spoiler* mental illness, which to me, might be more terrifying than Jason Voorhees slicing dumb teenagers from sequel to sequel. If William Friedkin, who gave us The Exorcist, calls this film one of the scariest, then Jennifer Kent definitely did something right.

11. Life Itself:
The only documentary on this list, Life Itself is such an amazingly done documentary on one of my favorite film critics, if not my favorite, Roger Ebert. It shows not only his life story, but how he was so close with famous filmmakers and how he recognized films that wouldn't have a fighting chance to gain a wider audience. Plus, they managed to show how he kept writing even when he was battling cancer. To me, that is inspiring and a testament to his love of film. Rest in peace, Roger.

10. Interstellar:
Christopher Nolan is one of the few directors that I can think of who can make a large-scale film into an art form. This film is poetic, in my opinion, and while it may not be Nolan's number one best, the man can do no wrong. The score is harmonious, the cinematography is gorgeous (Oscar nomination, please), the performances are spectacular, and of course, Nolan's direction is genius. It is simply out-of-this-world.

9. Obvious Child:
Now onto a true small-scale film. I am NOT a rom-com guy, but director Gillian Robespierre finally gave us one that broke conventions. She managed to not only make a rom-com about abortion without being judgmental, but she managed to make a simplistic film about the child in all of us. She and Jennifer Kent have made this a great year for women behind the camera.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy:
Guardians of the Galaxy might just be the most fun I've had at the movies last year. I loved how it was a wonderful throwback to classics like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, as well as the awesome performances from the cast, and its killer soundtrack. In the midst of much darker superhero movies, this is a nice breath of fresh air. Still can't get "Hooked On A Feeling" out of my head, yet I don't want to. This movie just rocks.

7. Locke:
It has been a great year for experimental films. One in particular is the masterful one man show that is Locke. Tom Hardy gives his best performance (Oscar nomination, please) and I was so enthralled by how even though we are in one place the entire movie, there is still a whole lot happening. One not to be missed.

6. The LEGO Movie:
Everything is awesome about this movie! From the song to the voice performances to its originality to how it touches on deep adult themes. This is one for the adults that grew up on Legos and a treat for the children. Even though I hardly played with Legos, I felt like a kid again watching this.

5. Gone Girl:
Like Christopher Nolan, David Fincher has done it again. Only he could have brought this rather twisted missing person thriller to the big screen. Combined with the efforts of him and author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn, they have managed to create a thriller that deals with social media, celebrity, and marriage. Plus, it goes from dark thriller to black comedy seamlessly and features not only career-best work from Ben Affleck, but a leading lady turn from Ms. Rosamund Pike. Fincher strikes again and hopefully Gillian Flynn cooks up another screenplay on her computer soon.

4. Starred Up:
I just saw this Thursday and it continues to stay imprinted on my mind. I have a feeling I will be thinking about it for quite a while. A star is born with lead actor Jack O'Connell and in a fair world, Ben Mendelsohn would be a threat to win Best Supporting Actor. The direction by David Mackenzie is no-holds-barred yet brilliant. He uses long takes to not cut away from the harsh realities of prison and doesn't incorporate any score to increase the tension. This is unflinching realism at its absolute finest and I dare anyone who watches the last scene to try and hold back their tears. One not to be missed.

3. Whiplash:
This film has to be the best surprise I've seen all year. I didn't know much about it when I first heard of it, then I was intrigued when I saw the trailer. But when I finally saw the film, when it was over, I was like "DAMN". The opening scene, where we are introduced to the two main characters, gives us a slight idea of what we are in for. We are in for a blood-stained, adrenaline soaked monstrous drama on the arts that has you holding your breath up until and during the last 15 minutes, which is the best sequence of 2014, in my opinion. Much like the film, everything about that scene is perfect: the editing, the performances, the sound, the direction, etc. This film is like Black Swan with drums and J.K. Simmons, who plays the hellish music instructor, is a name you'll hear a lot during this awards season. Just a masterful, masterful film.

2. Boyhood:
The genius of this record-breaking masterpiece is its ability to just "do". It doesn't try to dap into anything controversial or have its actors be larger than life with their performances. We just watch a simple portrayal of a kid growing up over a span of 12 years and feel as if we are or were that kid growing up. Not only that, but we see those around him grow: the absent father, the struggling single mother, and even his older sister. Boyhood is not just a film. It is an experience.

1. Birdman:
How can I describe the brilliance of Birdman? It is every filmmaker's dream. You want to become an actor? Study the career-best work from Michael Keaton, an acid-tongued Emma Stone, a hilarious Edward Norton, and a self-aware Naomi Watts. Want to dabble into scoring films? Listen to Antonio Sanchez's inventive work. How about cinematography? Look no further than what Emmanuel Lubezki does here. Oh, and how about a career in editing? Watch this and try to figure out they edited it together as if it is one long take. This film is just the whole package and is a cherry on top of a wonderful year for cinema.

Now onto my honorable mention list of films that sadly couldn't crack my top 15: Calvary, Pride, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Snowpiercer, Foxcatcher, Wild, Imitation Game, Divergent, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, St. Vincent, Belle. 

So that was my list of what I feel are the top 15 best movies pf the year. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!