Friday, August 28, 2015

End-Of-Year: Top 15 Films of 2014

Well this is a bit (a lot) embarrassing. After six whole months since starting my top movies list of 2014, I'm finally getting around to posting my Top 15. An important caveat as you peruse this stupidly belated list is that I haven't added to this list since the end of February which means the many 2014 films I've seen since then (about 28) aren't in here. I could easily include them as I see fit, but since I already posted the first part of my list a few months ago, my OCD-ness disallows me to do that. So without further a due (haha, shut up):

15. Nightcrawler -
First-time director Gilroy really delivered with this intense neo-noir film headlined by Gyllenhaal who truly put forth one of the best performances of the year with his ambitiously one-tracked mind creep of a character. LA night scenes have never felt so unnerving.

14. The Theory of Everything - What gave this love story its hook were the extraordinary real-life characters that both Redmayne and Jones brilliantly played and I totally bought into it all... the performances, the heartfelt journey, the answers to the universe. It's a biopic that really went for the stars and beyond.

13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I enjoyed the first film a lot and obviously loved The Avengers so me putting this film this high isn't a surprise. Still, this particular team really outdid themselves with a game-changer of a plot, creative action sequences, and more importantly, characters people actually give a damn about.

12. Selma - I saw this months ago and just thinking about the film now is still giving me all of the emotions. Ava DuVernay's masterpiece is an instant classic with a superb leading man turn from Oyelowo. The subject matter of the film is both timely and timeless and I'm still so impressed by how deftly and affectingly/effectively it was told.

11. Edge of Tomorrow - I'm saddened more people didn't see this in theaters, because this was THE action film of the year for me with Blunt surprisingly making a wonderful action heroine. Cruise was fine, even very good, and his unique blend of charms and offputtingness was perfect for this character that kept dying, dying, dying. But good golly if the entire film was just Blunt kicking alien ass, it would still be in my Top 15... probably higher.

10. Whiplash - This movie was a visual and auditory treat. It's smartly edited and specifically shot in complete service to the intensity happening on screen. Simmons as the overbearing instructor was a joy to watch albeit scary as hell while Teller really got into this role of super dedicated student. By the end, I was just as exhausted (in a good way).

9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Was I the only one that couldn't stop crying for a good portion of the film, because wow it was embarrassing? With that said, I *loved* the first film and this was a fantastic sequel expanding the world and the characters to both expected and unexpected ways. It's also a gorgeous film which wears its heart on its sleeve.

8. Lilting - The emotional gut punch I felt after the disarmingly heartfelt first scene was just a harbinger to the myriad of emotions that were to come. On the one end, it's a super lovely tale of a man trying to bond with his dead lover's mother-in-law. On the other end, OMGOD THIS MOVIE IS TOO DAMN DEPRESSING. The three leads of Whishaw, Cheng, and Leung were absolutely tremendous.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy - Fun. Fun. Fun. Sometimes movies can just be fun and that's good enough. Thankfully this Marvel flick had that in spades and more. I've always loved the whole "found family" trope and when it's a family that contains a talking raccoon and a tree, I'm all in. There really was much to love about the film--the colorful cinematography, the effortless humor, the kickass score/soundtrack. But in the end, it was just too damn fun to not fall in love with.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel - I like and admire Anderson and his films more often than unabashedly love them, but there was just something about this film that hit the right chord with me. It was like Anderson's aesthetics finally made sense, not only to me, but also to these specific characters and settings. It's also redundant at this point to talk about how wonderful all the performances were, because they were especially career-best stuff from Fiennes which is saying a lot.

5. Locke - If I had to label a film that was the biggest shock for me, it would be this. I had NO IDEA what the film was about going into it. And even afterwards, if you had told me I would love a film that consisted of just ONE character talking on the phone while driving somewhere, I would think you nuts and yet... I was hooked from the first to the last scenes. The deceptively simple script did some of the heavy lifting as well, but it really rested on the shoulders of the one-man VIP that was Hardy.

4. The Guest - This film was barely on my radar until I saw a photo of Downton Abbey's newly fit and muscled Dan Stevens coming out of the shower wearing just a towel. That was all I needed to see the film! Stevens plays the hot/charming/deadly/scary titular character to perfection. Thankfully the rest of the film was fantastic as well. Others have compared it to Shaun of the Dead and Cabin in the Woods in that all of them took the horror genre and flipped it on its head and I completely agree.

3. Boyhood - Linklater's masterpiece, following a family of four for 12 years of their lives, is a must-watch. The technical achievement of filming the same actors in a 12-year span is impressive enough, but the film is really so much more than that. It's about self-discovery, growing up, the meaning of family, the power of love, and just simultaneously epic and intimate. It's life. Everyone rocked it, but Arquette's my MVP.

2. Gone Girl - When a film has all the right ingredients, it's hard not to create something special. This film had a riveting story from a popular and acclaimed book, a talented ensemble headlined by an actress on the rise in a juicy role (bonus: all the female actors were specially great), and a director perfectly suited to put it all together. This dark and twisty tale is so stylishly and deftly made, that you could hardly believe what has transpired by the final (and brilliant) shot.

1. Pride - My favorite film of 2014 is also my favorite gay film of the year. The story of the Miner's Strike across the pond back in the 80s is relatively well-known already, but see how the gay rights movement overlapped it was something new for me. The film then had a minefield of cliche storylines... closeted gay boy finding himself, conservative town learning acceptance... that they somehow overcame. Perhaps it was how grounded it all felt especially with real-life people in the mix. Overall, it was uplifting, inspirational, informative, heartfelt, joyous, and just plain wonderful.

And that's it! That's it! I'm done with 2014. Shout out to these handful of films that probably would've made my Top 35 if I had seen them much earlier: The Drop, Camp X-Ray, A Most Violent Year, In Your Eyes, and Two Days, One Night.

More year-end film posts:
- 2014 Film Winners
- Films ranked #16-35

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