2014 was an exceptional year in cinema. It was a year where a lot of solid work was released throughout the entire year and we did not have to wait until after the summer blockbuster season to see quality films. Wes Anderson’s charming The Grand Budapest Hotel arrived in the early spring, and Richard Linklater’s magnificent Boyhood and the intense Whiplash from Damien Chazelle debuted at Sundance to rave reviews. The summer had two decent blockbusters in Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the spring and summer also gave us some wonderful indies — Obvious Child, Locke, Dom Hemingway and Under the Skin — to name a few. Then, the wonderful highlights of the fall and winter, including the masterpiece from Alejandro González Iñárritu Birdman, David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson’s wacky adaptation of Pynchon, Inherent Vice. Another great year for film.
Now, I tried and tried and to get my so-called “Top Ten List” down to just ten films, but I was constantly stuck at 11, so I am sticking with eleven top films. Another thing is, I regret the fact I did not see more documentaries and foreign language films. A lot of the foreign films I cannot wait to see, Leviathan and Wild Tales, have still not been released in Austin and will be counted for 2015 films.
I have listed my “Just Missed” films right before my top films list. After that, I have my “best of” for 2014, which includes best actor, actress cinematography, etc. Just my opinion. No bullshit. Here we go and yes, this list goes up to “11.”
- Obvious Child
- Dom Hemingway
- The Drop
- Edge of Tomorrow
- A Most Wanted Man
- The Skeleton Twins
TOP TEN (ELEVEN)
This is one of those pleasant little surprises. A simple film, about a man, telephone calls and driving in a car, but what Tom Hardy and writer-director Steven Knight constructed and delivered here is pure cinematic joy. Hardy is at the top of this game and gives his finest performance in his young career. Locke is a fascinating film and it is amazing how the team here presented so much suspense, drama and high-level production value all coming out of a BMW is an unbelievable feat.
10. Only Lovers Left Alive
I got to see this at last years SXSW film festival and this romantic, dry vampire film, from the great Jim Jarmusch, did not disappoint, but Jarmusch rarely does. Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as aging vampire lovers, this film is as much about our debilitating effects on culture and history as it is about friendship and romance. Lovely, hilarious film from Jarmusch and Swinton and Hiddleston’s chemistry is off the charts.
9. Under the Skin
What to say about this mesmerizing, beautifully difficult film from Jonathan Glazer. Scarlett Johansson gives her best performance and is full of nuance and artistic freedom. She completely submits herself to playing a mysterious woman in Scotland, driving around, seducing random men. The film is a stunner to be honest with you, one that will not leave your mind for days, even months afterwards. A true artistic achievement, with a haunting score form Mica Levi.
8. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson adapting the classic novel form Thomas Pynchon. He made a film that is a trip, an atmospheric ride and a total time shift back to the early 70s. It is a film that will only get better with age and multiple viewings, and one that you eventually give up on trying to unravel the plot and soak up the vibes and environment. Great performances from Phoenix and Brolin, and one memorable cameo from Martin Short. A film I cannot wait to dive into again.
7. A Most Violent Year
J.C. Chandor is three-for-three in my book. After his debut Margin Call and the minimalist All Is Lost, Chandor harkens back to the great films of Sidney Lumet with this crime melodrama that breathes and bleeds New York City. A film focused on character and narrative, but still includes some hair-raising suspense sequences. A Most Violent Year is the type of film you just do not see that often anymore and thankfully Chandor brings his expert craftsmanship to this wonderful world and film.
I did not get to see Whiplash until a little over a month ago, and it floored me. Intense, intense, intense. A film with two of best performances of the year with Miles Teller as the student drummer and J.K. Simmons as the instructor. Wow, what a film. It makes you feel the pain in your hands that Teller feels and you will be completely terrified of Simmons character. I think I had nightmares of him yelling at me. What are you willing to do and go through to achieve greatness?
Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler was a dig into mainstream news culture and our overall media obsessed world we not only live in, but seem to desire. The film really dealt with ethics and definitely had a Taxi Driver and Network vibe and influence to it. Jake Gyllenhaal continues his run of exceptional, top-notch work as he plays Lou Bloom with a nerdy, diligent, obsessive work ethic, where there is no way he is not going to get what he wants and he is going to succeed at all costs.
4. Gone Girl
The satire of the year. The date movie of the year. The film that only received one Oscar nomination. What a disgrace? David Fincher has out done himself once again by presenting Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, which she adapted as well, as a darkly funny, complex piece on the state of marriage in the modern, technology age. Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are fantastic, and Fincher continues to show why he was one of the finest directors working in Hollywood.
This is another film I got to see at last years SXSW film festival and I was completely floored by the subtle quality and brilliance of what I had seen. A slice of life piece of filmmaking from one of the more honest, everyday life filmmakers working toady — Richard Linklater. It is funny, touching, terrifying and dramatic, but more than anything, it is honest. A technical marvel and an achievement unlike anything I have seen before. Linklater’s Boyhood is one of the more memorable and important films of the last couple of decades. A beautiful film from a brilliant director.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Finally, a Wes Anderson film is getting some much deserved Academy love, although that is all not to important, but it is nice to see. I have been a huge fan of Anderson since I first saw Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, and this crime-comedy-character study of Gustave H., in The Grand Budapest Hotel, is one of his finest achievements. A film where all of his eccentric elements have come together and what we have received is an absolute joy of cinema.
1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Ignorance of Virtue)
In my humble opinion, a no-brainer for best film of the year. A film unlike any other and one that is steeped in character development, actors, theater and the challenges of creating art, both on and off-screen, that has not been done before. Keaton, as well as the rest of this brilliant cast, give their finest performances, Iñárritu directs the hell out of this picture and the great Emmanuel Lubezki does even more astonishing work than his previous lensing on Gravity. A non-stop ride for two hours that flies by and never lets up. It is an adrenaline rush like no other. The film is the head dog amongst a year of fine cinematic achievements. Birdman is unlike anything ever made before and a film that is deserving of the highest of accolades.
BEST OF FOR 2014
BEST PICTURE: Birdman; runner up: The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman); runner up: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapset Hotel)
BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton (Birdman); runners up: Tom Hardy (Locke) & Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
BEST ACTRESS: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl); runner up: Jenny Slate (Obvious Child)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash); runner up: Edward Norton (Birdman)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood); runner up: Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl); runner up: Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel); runner up: (Birdman) all 4 of them
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman); runners up: Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel) & Bradford Young (A Most Violent Year & Selma)
BEST FILM EDITING: Sandra Adair (Boyhood); runner up: Kirk Baxter (Gone Girl)
BEST SCORE: Antonio Sanchez (Birdman); runner up: Mica Levi (Under the Skin)
MOST OVERLOOKED PERFORMANCES: Jenny Slate (Obvious Child); Rene Russo (Nightcrawler); Agata Kulesza (Ida); Miles Teller (Whiplash); Jude Law (Dom Hemingway); Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man); Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins)
MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM (BUT HAVE TO SEE IT AGAIN): Interstellar
Photo credits by IMDB, ropeofsilicon.com, A24 films and fox searchlight.