First things first, I’d like to thank anyone and everyone who has taken time to read my reviews since I first launched this blog not too long ago. It means a lot. 2014 was a great year for movies and I figured I have waited long enough to make this post. Unfortunately there are still a few “big” movies I have not seen, and therefore will not be on this list (such as Selma, The Imitation Game, and Foxcatcher). Attention: My list of Honorable Mentions is extremely long but the ones I must mention are: BIRDMAN | BLUE RUIN | CHEF | GONE GIRL. They all make my Top Ten in my heart. Also: Aside from my #1 pick most of these rankings are quite fluid and somewhat arbitrary.
BEST FILMS OF 2014
Bulging with the aesthetics of the 1980s, Adam Wingard has created one of the ultimate Halloween movies. Zany, cool, and relentlessly fun. Dan Stevens channels his inner Ryan Gosling, oozing coolness and underlying menace, threatening to go off at all times. Every moment of The Guest screams future cult classic and every shot screams 1980 in the best way possible, feeling like a love letter instead of a parody. My face hurt from smiling the whole time.
I’m not a massive Wes Anderson fan so seeing just how fantastic this film is was a real delight. Here, for perhaps the first time, Anderson’s quirky meticulous style serves a purpose, championing the power and necessity of storytelling. The flamboyancy of Gustave’s world is constantly juxtaposed with the looming threat of violence and darkness. Ralph Fiennes has never been better. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a hilarious, affecting, and melancholic experience.
Scarlett Johannson (often declared the sexiest woman alive) transforms into a predatory alien. Glazer is well aware of her lauded sex appeal, crafting an eerily beautiful film that transforms from cold and detached to an extraordinarily emotional examination of humanity.
In all honesty this should be higher. The Raid 2 features some of the best action scenes ever. The kitchen scene (from the screenshot above) is more than likely the greatest fight scene of all-time. Gareth Evans turns action set pieces into its own art form, and the actors’ dedication to the fight choreography deserves the highest praise. Bloated run time, thin story, and poor character development be damned – when the action is this good it doesn’t matter. Iko’s Rama is a superhero.One of the best films of 2014 and one of the best action films of all time.
Take the twisted sexual psychological body horror of David Cronenberg, the taut suspense of Alfred Hitchcock, and add a dash of David Lynch. That is what Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is, and it’s one of the best compliments I can pay a film. Villeneuve crafts a film that is still entirely his own and yet still echoes of the aforementioned auteurs. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in 2 fantastic performances. Enemy is a twisted labyrinth without an ounce of fat – a psychological tease – a great film.
I have never had such an exhilarating theater experience, and that counts for a lot. As a long time reader of comic books (and big fan of Steve Rogers) The Winter Soldier was like a dream come true; the Russo brothers and Chris Evans came together to finally deliver an appropriate portrayal of Cap. The Winter Soldier succeeds on all levels: as a comic book film, as a spy thriller full of paranoia, as an action movie, and as a slice of pure electric spectacle. I saw it 3 times in theaters.
J.C. Chandor has assembled an extraordinary team of talented people to craft this meditative and subversive crime drama. A Most Violent Year is a mafia/gangster film without the mob. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain are at the top of their game, exuding chemistry and filling in the cracks of these superb characters. Chandor’s atmosphere, coupled with evocative cinematography and music, gives a palpable sense of time and place. There are no fast talking Joe Pesci’s here, only an air of corruption hanging around every character at every turn. A Most Violent Year left a lot sticking with me as the credits rolled.
The best word to describe Nightcrawler is “unsettling.” Jake Gyllenhaal’s career best performance as Lou Bloom is transfixing. Lou Bloom is “the other” we’ve read about in philosophy. As poignant as Gilroy’s scathing look at modern society’s craving for provocation is his real stroke of genius is in his examination of Lou. Bloom is a twisted, contorted, and unnerving American Dream chaser. Nightcrawler showcases some of the blackest comedy I’ve ever seen but at its core this is a horror film. Few movies can instill a sense of unease like this.
Calvary is extremely witty, extremely humorous, and extremely affecting. The ever reliable Brendan Gleeson was born to play a priest, and his performance as Father John is quietly powerful. Amidst all of the wit, black comedy, and colorful interactions is a center of pure humanity and melancholy. I’ve seen this film twice and both times its power left me with a dull ache in my stomach. Calvary is a quietly beautiful film about human beauty as well as human frailty.
By far the funniest film of the year (and one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen). But Inherent Vice, like all great comedies, has a lot more to offer. Paul Thomas Anderson is constantly evolving and maturing as a filmmaker, and this unobtrusive style is both beautiful and immersive. He displays a beautiful reverence for Pynchon’s novel, weaving a tale of absurdity laced with human brokenness and melancholy. Acted, shot, and scored to perfection. I’d say “they don’t make ’em like this anymore” but Anderson just did. As I caught my breath between laughs I realized it – this is the best film of 2014.
So there is my list everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to check it out. Feel free to leave me a comment (because my list is a little weird… I know). I’m thinking about making a 2nd Lukas Awards post where I hand out some “awards” in various categories for 2014. Let me know if you’d have any interest in that. Anyways here’s to hoping 2015 rocks! I have high expectations for the line-up of blockbusters, at the very least. Thanks again everyone!