The Top 10 Films of 2014

27 days ago I wasn’t sure there were ten movies that I loved enough to compile a top 10 list.  I loved “Boyhood” and “Under the Skin” and really liked several other movies.  Now, I find myself loving several films that made my Honorable Mention list and struggling with five films all of which could have easily landed in my top spot.  So much has been said about the movies of 2014, so I will keep it brief.  As I have said all along, the films speak for themselves.

1.   Inherent Vice

It is no surprise that a Paul Thomas Anderson film landed in my top 10.  I absolutely loved “Magnolia,” “Boogie Nights,” “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master,” but “Inherent Vice” is the perfect film at the perfect time in my life.  Having spent a year in Los Angeles I can absolutely go back in time and know the people in this movie.  Beautifully shot and effortlessly acted this hilarious thriller, directed with abandon and precision is my favorite film of the year.

2.  Under the Skin

I am still haunted by Scarlett Johanson’s performance in this film.  Many of the visuals are still imprinted in my mind.  Similar to “Vice” there is no film like it this year.  The score, the directing and of course the performance at its center make “Skin” a must see.

 3.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I was so surprised by “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”  More so than any film I have seen in a long time, “Apes” says so much about society and war.  This is a film that deserved more recognition by critics and the Academy. 

 4.  Wild

Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern give incredible performances.  Instead of relying on visuals alone, director Jean-Marc Vallee chose to narrate the searching mind of Witherspoon’s Cheryl as a background to her journey.  Rarely does a film reinvent a very stale mold, but “Wild” does.

 5.  Ida

I have never been an expert of classic cinema, but had I not known it, I might have believed “Ida” to be a film from cinema’s past.  I have never seen a film say so much in such a simple way. I am still haunted by the way director Pawlikowski framed his muses, (Agata Tzrebuchowska and Agata Kulesza, both incredible), especially in closeup, un-centered, with a void of space surrounding them. To share the other moments of the film that continue to bring chills deep in my bones would be to share too much.

6.  Nightcrawler

Another film that shows us a side of Los Angeles, this one a dark one.  The entire cast is spectacular taking flawed characters and making them, not likable exactly, but always fascinating. 

 7.  Boyhood

“Boyhood,” at least in my book wins by a hair.  So much has already been said about the film.  Don’t let its simplicity fool you.  Sometimes, life unfolding (in this case in 12 years/real time unfolding) is enough.

 8  Birdman

I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between the stage and the screen.  And I always love seeing a “fallen” star shine on the stage.  I have seen New York embrace actors and actresses when Hollywood could care less.  Filming in extended takes, Inarritu allows us to witness stage like performances without sacrificing the incredible magic film can express.

9.  Wild Tales

The most fun I had all year watching a movie.  As I said in my piece on Awards Daily: The film begins in what I can only describe as “Final Destination” as conceived by the likes of Pedro Almodovar. (One of the film’s producers). It is almost impossible to pick a favorite story. Perhaps it is the road rage revenge segment that has hints of “Death Proof” only without the kitsch factor, more gruesome and equally as funny. Or the interesting look at how a family deals with a possible scandal due to an accident their spoiled son causes, flip flopping the tables on the theme of advantage taking. “Wild Tales” may not delve as deeply into the issues of the world at large, but it is certainly a standout.

 10.  Interstellar

There were times when I found the dialogue annoying, until I started to understand that Nolan was truly creating a space opera with only hints of films like “Contact” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” and hints of Doctor Who (The brilliant “Girl in the Fireplace” episode!)  Simpler than “Inception” and “Memento” I believe “Interstellar” to be Nolan’s most exciting and daring film to date.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Dam Keeper
Finding Vivian Maier


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