Well, as I predicted, this year was a big bust for me. My prognosticating digits went down the toilet with a paltry 16-8 (my worst year in half a decade, especially in light of my 22-2 numbers of last year) but at least I knew going into the ceremony that I was taking some gambles. Boyhood barely got a sniff at Oscar gold and Whiplash managed to steal fire in a few slots (taking home the third most awards with three total wins) but the big winners of the night were Birdman (4) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (4).
As for the actual entertainment value of the show, this critic would give it a resounding “meh.” It had its moments – Graham Moore‘s stirring speech, “Glory”, Jack Black‘s musical interruption, hammered Terrence Howard, the realization that Common’s real name is Lonnie Lynn – but its pitfalls were ever more memorable – including an impressive but overlong and unnecessary Sound of Music tribute, Neil Patrick Harris‘ wet blanket of a magic trick, John Travolta latching onto Idena Menzel‘s face like an Alien facehugger. Can we just not invite him back?
And though NPH was an all-around bust of a host, this year’s ceremony did manage to award some of the best films in a long while. Consider this year’s trio of Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash and compare to last year’s Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club. I know which threesome I would pick up at the video store.
You’ve likely already seen the winners list but below are the trophy-takers in bold and my incorrect predictions in red. Here’s hoping that next year I have much better numbers on the board.
BEST PICTURE Boyhood The Imitation Game Birdman The Theory of Everything The Grand Budapest Hotel Whiplash Selma American Sniper
BEST DIRECTOR Richard Linklater, Boyhood Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE Julianne Moore, Still Alice Reese Witherspoon, Wild Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE Michael Keaton, Birdman Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game Steve Carell, Foxcatcher Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Patricia Arquette, Boyhood Emma Stone, Birdman Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game Meryl Streep, Into the Woods Laura Dern, Wild
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE J.K. Simmons, Whiplash Edward Norton, Birdman Ethan Hawke, Boyhood Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher Robert Duvall, The Judge
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Birdman Richard Linklater, Boyhood Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, Foxcatcher
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Graham Moore, The Imitation Game Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything Damien Chazelle, Whiplash Jason Hall, American Sniper Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
FILM EDITING American Sniper Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Whiplash
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM Ida (Poland) Leviathan (Russia) Tangerines (Estonia) Timbuktu (Mauritania) Wild Tales (Argentina)
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM Big Hero 6 How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Boxtrolls Song of the Sea The Tale of Princess Kaguya
ANIMATED SHORT FILM Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Bigger Picture (National Film and Television School) Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper (Tonko House) Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Feast (Walt Disney Animation Studios) Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada) Joris Oprins, A Single Life (Job, Joris & Marieke)
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, Aya (Chasis Films) Michael Lennox, director, and Ronan Blaney, Boogaloo and Graham (Out of Orbit) Hu Wei and Julien Féret, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)(AMA Productions) Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger, Parvaneh (Zurich University of Arts) Mat Kirkby, director and James Lucas, The Phone Call (RSA Films)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Citizenfour Last Days in Vietnam Virunga Finding Vivian Maier The Salt of the Earth
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT Perry Films, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 Wajda Studio, Joanna Warsaw Film School, Our Curse Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, The Reaper (La Parka) Weary Traveler, White Earth
CINEMATOGRAPHY Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman Dick Pope, Mr. Turner Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, Ida Roger Deakins, Unbroken
ORIGINAL SCORE Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel Hans Zimmer, Interstellar Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
ORIGINAL SONG Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, and Nick Southwood, “Lost Stars” (Begin Again) John Legend and Common, “Glory” (Selma) Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and The Lonely Island, “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie) Diane Warren, “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights) Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me)
COSTUME DESIGN Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, Maleficent Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
PRODUCTION DESIGN Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts, Mr. Turner Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, Into the Woods Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis, and Paul Healy, Interstellar Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald, The Imitation Game
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy
VISUAL EFFECTS Interstellar Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Guardians of the Galaxy X Men: Days of Future Past Captain America: The Winter Soldier
SOUND EDITING Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, American Sniper Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock, Birdman Brent Burge and Jason Canovas, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies Richard King, Interstellar Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro, Unbroken
SOUND MIXING American Sniper Birdman Unbroken Interstellar Whiplash
As of publication, I’ve clocked in 242 2014 films. It’s a fitting number, one that isn’t totally, completely, batshit crazy. Ok, maybe it is. Of those 242, I have culled a list of 100 films that’re more than worthy of your attention. This handcrafted numerical scroller has been designed with the kind of meticulous craft reserved only for the most OCD of compilers. Piecing together such a massive collection is indeed a mighty endeavor and I don’t want to imagine all the man hours that actually went into finding ONE HUNDRED worthy recommendations but damnit we did it. And now you (our glorious readers) are going to reap the benefits like you’ve never reaped before.
From horror to sci-fi to drama to comedies, we’ve thrown down the best of the year for you to hem and haw your way through, queue on your Netflix and prepare a full out assault on our picks. Attached to each entry is a blurb (usually from our original review) to give you the necessary details on the film and whet your palate for their respective tastiness. So batten down the hatches and get ready for one long read (or one hell of a skim) because we’ve got the Top 100 Movies of 2014 just a’waiting for you.
For those interested in a full-sized copy of our Best Films of 2015 poster, visit ourFacebook page to download.
100. LIFE ITSELF
“Steve James‘ Life Itself is a stirring documentary about the man behind the most famous film critic in the world: Roger Ebert. Documenting Ebert’s final months, we see a man who was challenged by his own ambition, who saw road blocks as doorways and would never back down from a fight – especially if it was about a movie he was passionate about. Old friends and colleagues come out to pass along stories of Ebert as do consummate directors – most notable a starry eyed Martin Scorsese – and the result paints a picture of a man fully passionate and fully human. If there is one film to reaffirm the meaning of film criticism, that seeks to define the inimitable bliss of true cinema, that holds a mirror at the world and asks us to seek out foreign – even dissenting – opinions, this is it.”
“Stalingrad, Russia’s first foray into 3D fare, is not without its problems but nonetheless offers an entirely visceral and well-balanced, if a touch patriotic, view of the bloodiest war in human history. Rather than speak in terms of us versus them, Feder Bondarchuk‘s film looks beyond the stars and stripes (er, hammers and sickles) of nationality and into the souls of a band of warriors, harrowed and hopeful anew as they were. Our ragtag team of note is no glorified troop of super soldiers, just a collection of tramps culled from all walks of life, as flawed and yet human as the enemy Nazi.” (Full Review)
“Joe populates a stretch of XL bible belted, confederate flag-waving backwoods Texas with rapists and murders of the worst degree, painting a picture so unrelenting bleak that a repeat drunk driver that spends his days in whore houses and/or dog fighting is our closest thing to a hero. It’s a place where slavery may as well have been yesteryear, where molestation lurks around every corner, where hope goes to die. It’s a small nowheresville of inexplicable evil. Like a flash sideways where Jack didn’t cork the Island’s malevolent juju (“Lost” reference alert). Joe lives in a land where morals come to roast on skewers and are snacked on by open-mouthed buffoons. This is Kentucky Fried hell. But even hell must have its fallen angels.” (Full Review)
97. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1
“This is not a fun movie. Nor is it really geared towards kids. In the third outing of Hunger Games, you’re more likely to find subtext than battle. And yet Mockingjay – Part 1 is easily the most violent of the series. However, the violence isn’t physical so much as it is emotional; the taxing price of hope. This beginning of the closing chapter stomps out what it truly means to revolt; about the quiet minutia of a coup; the slogging footwork of a revolution. It’s not particularly eventful but it’s bloody well more interesting than more lathering, rinsing and repeating.” (Full Review)
“Playing with so much camp, the proceedings can become bumbling and even dumb at times, but that comes with the territory. Sabotage is an homage to the action delights of the past; campy, twisty, and at times noodle-brained but always enjoyable and usually about one step ahead of the audience. In the battle of tipping the hat to classic action movies, Ayer proves he knows what he’s doing best. In a John Breacher vs Jack Reacher showdown, the later doesn’t stand a chance. The only real unforgivable aspect is they never fit the Beastie Boys anthem in there somewhere.” (Full Review)
95. THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
“What a conversation starter this one could be at the haunted house queue next Halloween. Being a bit of a dedicated haunted house aficionado, the dramatic tension that exists in The Houses October Built is is one any person who’s second-guessed an interactive horror experience can reason with: but what if they actually kill me? I went to one haunt this Halloween season in which I had to sign and fingerprint a waiver that basically said everything was hunky-dory if I, welp, died. This found footage flick is basically what if that basic premise went wrong. I won’t spoil anything beyond that, just know that it’s a rather calamitous and eerie ride.”
“Ida has a lot going for it: Pawel Pawlikowski stepping back into the limelight; nuanced performances from leads Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza; a thoughtful, meditative soul; crisp, clean black-and-white cinematography from Lukasz Zal; and historical import. Pawlikowski’s film follows orphan Anna, who is about to take her vows. Before she does, her Mother Superior urges her to discover her roots, upon which Anna discovers that not only is she Jewish but her family was murdered in the Holocaust. Ida is not always an easy film but it’s potent and powerful, rife with themes of absolution and guilt.”
“As effective as any high dosage caffeine pill, Tusk is a wildly original, tonally inconsistent, totally appalling smorgasbord of nightmare fuel that won’t soon stop haunting me. Smith and Kurtzman’s inhuman union presents nothing short of disturbing imagery, doomed to forever rattle around my brain. With Tusk, Smith performs his own Kafkaesque lobotomy. It’s “Metamorphosis” a la The Human Centipede. It’s The Fly meets Hostel. For those weak of stomach and mind, it might be advisable to bring a barf bag.” (Full Review)
92. THE GRAND SEDUCTION
“This delightfully moonstruck feature boasts Brendan Gleeson‘s comedian muscles and Taylor Kitsch‘s shtick (which, yes, is an anagram of Kitsch) for being the likable bad boy (Dr. Bad Boy here.) When their once-proud fishing harbor dries up, Murray’s (Gleeson) only way to ween the town off the welfare checks is to secure a doctor in order to legitimize a bid for an oil repurposing facility. To do so, he and the town’s people unite to spy on Kitsch’s Dr. Lewis, transforming the town around them into Lewis’s own personal fantasyland. The gimmick is cute (without being too syrupy) and at times touching, reminiscent in tone to last year’s equally cheery/droll Philomena, and is an easy recommendation for the masses of moms and pops looking for a feel-gooder.”
91. HORRIBLE BOSSES 2
“Reviewing comedy is a fickle game and one given over largely to subjectivity but for me, the comedy here really works, improving on a formula that looked better on paper than it actually was the first time around. Horrible Bosses 2 delivers on that promise of unabashed retardation. The first film was a half rack of ribs, occasionally tasty but built on chalky bones, while this is pure brisket; a tenderer cut that trims the fat and leaves just the jokes. The dead air has been filled with sweat, nicknames, non-sequitor and flagrant exaggeration. The archetypes are racketed up well past the point of normalcy with the energy of the group solidified in a sense of juvenile glee nothing short of infectious.” (Full Review)
90. A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
“With easy humor courtesy of Neeson’s growled quips, well-directed drizzly dramatics and a thick air of hardboiled, gloomy atmospherics, A Walk Among The Tombstones brings to life the aged marvel of a good noir. It’s not always perfect and may run a touch too long but it works heartily as a well-greased, appropriately artful affair. And for those expecting another Taken, don’t be scared off. This is miles better than Taken 3.” (Full Review)
89. THE ABCS OF DEATH 2
“A marked improvement over the original A-to-Z horror anthology, The ABCS Of Death 2makes great use of more than half of the alphabet. Directors from E.L. Katz to Rodney Ascher each take on a letter and massage them into some half-relevant short and the percentage of hits to duds is super impressive. Amateur, Capital Punishment, Deloused, Falling, Knel, Masticate, Questionnaire, Roullette, Split, Vacation, Xylophone, and Zygote each offer a diverse look at how to approach a short – from mucky animation to grotesque physical horror and violent psychological mind games, making a true collection of weird, offbeat horror shorts definitely worth digesting.”
88. 12 O’CLOCK BOYS
“A searing look into the ethos of a gang of Baltimore dirt bikers, 12 O’Clock Boys follows young wannabe Pug as he aspires to join up with the revered crew. Named after the posture of a dirt bike pulling a gravity-defying wheelie, the 12 o’clock boys are at odds with the local police and the community at large. While they’re not gang members of the gat-wielding variety, their vehicular acrobatics puts other drivers at risk and often leads to the gruesome demise of their members. It’s a hard watch that’ll elicit conflicting emotions and is especially pertinent in the wake of the Ferguson events.”
87. CAMP X-RAY
“Agenda-slinging, headline drama Camp X-Ray transcends expiration date glitz with universal tale of friendship. Burdened with a Guantanamo Bay premise and Twilight sensation Kristen Stewart in a headlining spot, expectations may come half-popped but Camp X-Ray manages to steer clear of inflammatory hot topic territory as Stewart and co-star Peyman Moaadi probe powerhouse territory.” (Full Review)
86. DOM HEMINGWAY
“Bozer, loser Dom Hemingway may be renown for his safe-cracking fingers, but they don’t get an entire soliloquy dedicated to them like his little Dom does. In riotous, far-out hyperbolization, a madcap Jude Law as Dom describes his lowers bits with the candid immodesty of a Manson Family member. The camera jammed tight in his spittle-frothing face, he professes his undying love for his nethers. His Johnson is his fleshy David, his uncut Mona Lisa, his pube-riddled Sistine Chapel. It’s his masterpiece. You don’t hear of screenwriting lessons that teach starting a movie on a three minute penis-focused speech but after Dom Hemingway, they should.” (Full Review)
85. APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR
“Appropriate Behavior might be another entry in the growing ‘struggling NYC girl’ genre but it’s generously funny, sexy (in a weird, gangly way) and has a great cultural bent to boot. Writer, director and star Desiree Akhavan has broken out in a big way. Arkhavan’s freshly forthcoming perspective drives this deadpan narrative, allowing herself the creative liberty to spread wings in oft tread but nonetheless exciting directions. For a freshman effort, she shows a fine balance of caustic “could only be New York” humor, dreary but not-too-dreary dramatic overture and a topping of love story that actually allows the audience to dig our heels in. For all the well-intended love stories that grace the scene each year, it’s always appreciated to get one that feels earnest and real – an unfortunate rarity.” (Full Review)
84. THE BORDERLANDS
“Where The Den, Mockingbird and Exists all commit the cardinal sin of less-than-combpelling characters, The Borderlands shines because director Elliot Gouldner rightly realizes that even in found footage movies, you need great characters. The Borderlands has plenty. Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy star opposite each other as two Vatican investigators sussing out the legitimacy of a miracle claim and both bring life and complexity to their characters. Hill (who worked on other great horror flicks Kill List and Sightseers) is full of zingers while Kennedy brings a dark compassion to his bent-out-of-shape believer. Though the first couple acts feel a lot like just another haunting done found footage style, the claustrophobic last act is a thrill ride into hell itself.”
83. KILL THE MESSENGER
“A living reminder of our government’s readiness to desecrate an individual in order to escape ownership of past crimes, Kill the Messenger is a wake up call for a slacktivism-obsessed generation of American citizens. It’s a film about caged justice, about evil actually prevailing and the lengths to which our once great nation will go to validate each and every transgression of their past. Lead Jeremy Renner is monstrous good as big-in-his-britches San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb, an ambitious journalist who sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong and ends up getting stung by the barbs of a well executed smear campaign.” (Full Review)
“Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s so terrifying that it slips into your dreams, taints your nightmares and has you looking cockeyed at creeks in the night. Oculus is not that film. Happy to be a well manicured vestige of frights, where dread prevails over scares, it’s pecking order rightly starts at the noggin. It’s more Psycho in nature than Scream, heralding suspense and mood building as models of import over attempts to sporadically lift you from you seat with a bump and a shout. Oculus does for mirrors what Hitchcock did for showers. We’re not afraid of them, they’re just a little creepier now.” (Full Review)
81. MYSTERY ROAD
“Ivan Sen’s painterly cinematography, marked by brilliant orange sunrises and sweeping casts into endless flatlands, sets the tone for this Australian thinker’s thriller. With a Coen Bros meets Sergio Leone feel to it, Mystery Road is pretty much No Outback for Young Aborigine Ladies, a dark drama that manages to sneak muted undercurrents of racial aggression amongst its larger themes of derelict duty and parental responsibility. Restrained performances from Aaron Pederson and the like set against a manic Hugo Weaving makes for a nice dichotomy of character in a film well worth your time.”
80. WE ARE THE BEST!
“A trio of 80’s Stockholm misfit band together to ignite a punk group even though they have no talent to speak of. Lukas Moodysson adapts the story with the help of his wife Coco Moodysson from graphic novel “Never Goodnight” and what is lost in translation is made up for by a seething sense of fun. The young performers are always on their mark, adding pathos to the sense of timeless adolescence captured on film. Screened at last year’s TIFF Special Presentation section, We Are the Best! has won over the hearts of critics and audiences who’ve heard the punk gospel and the reason couldn’t be more clear. It’s wholly lovable.”
79. JOHN WICK
“John Wick eventually admits that it is in fact just the straight-forward actioner you’ve hoped it would transcend – with an ending you could forecast from 30 minutes in – but the sheer amount of adrenaline, relentless violence and smooth gunman skills help significantly to make up for its lack of an actual soul. This being the case, John Wick is a movie that dudes – be they of the male or action junkie femme variety – will have a lot of fun with but won’t find much else to talk about aside from its ceaseless violence and well-timed dark comedy.” (Full Review)
“True to its name, Locke slams us in a car with Tom Hardy for 85 mins as he’s forced to steer his life in new directions that ultimately orchestrates the end of his small but satisfying world. With Locke acclimating to the off-suit hand he’s been dealt, Hardy is given ample opportunity to flex his significant dramatic chops. Watching Hardy try to remain calm and collected shows unmatched restraint, even when his life goes up in flames.” (Full Review)
77. FORCE MAJEURE
“To call Force Majeure a dramedy would be to misrepresent what it is, but I can’t think of another term to describe the hazy mixture of deeply uncomfortable comedy and shrill, sometimes even heart-breaking, dramatics. Ruben Östlund’s Swedish vacation film follows a family of four as they holiday in the stunning French Alps until a life-threatening event changes the course of their vacation and their relationships. As the familial tension mounts, you’ll find yourself quietly cackling one moment and alarmingly affected the next. A great display of foreign cinema taking greater risks than we’re used to stateside, Force Majeure studies the effects of a near-miss on the rocky ethos of a nuclear family and does it all while threading a narrow thematic needle.”
76. THE BABADOOK
“An eerie children’s pop-up book warns that once you’ve seen the Babadook, you’ll wish you were dead. Thankfully, that’s not true of the film itself. This Australian ghost tale circles the real life impossibility of single parent child-rearing in a film that’s part Home Alone and part The Shining. Babadook is a frugal little haunter that makes smart use of its minimalist means and wrings a borderline outstanding (or at least compelling unselfconscious) performance from its young actor, Noah Wiseman.”
75: I ORIGINS
“David Hume was a Scottish Empiricist who believed that knowledge comes only from those things that we can directly observe. We know that double bacon cheeseburgers exist because we can see them, we can smell them, we can taste them (Mmmmm.) God on the other hand cannot be seen, smelt or tasted, so his existence is improvable (not to be confused with impossible.) Something like love though is more tricky for the empiricist philosophers because, we experience it acutely but not through any of those five basic senses. So what is love? Hell if I know. Thankfully, that’s pretty much what director Mike Cahill has to say as well. The empiricist can only know what’s there in front of them and on that basis alone, we can deduce that I Origins is a bold, immensely watchable philosophical journey. Rich with thematic nuance and stuffed with just the kind of questions that will keep you up at night pondering, I Origins is a brave addition to a growing collection of heady sci-fact pictures from Mike Cahill.” (Full Review)
74. THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
“For all the huffing and puffing we’ve done over Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is one big juicy payoff. For story look elsewhere, as Jackson’s latest is a smorgasbord of VFX battle scenes, one right after the other for practically the entire running time. Those not looking for elf-on-dwarf-on-man-on-orc action ought to look elsewhere as this is literally the foundation, the studs and the dry wall of this movie. Those thinking that sounds pretty, pretty good, rejoice, as this third Hobbit installment is Jackson’s most bombastic to date. Somehow it’s also his most restrained and the tightest of the series as well; it’s shorter and battle-ier than any LOTR-related installment and only has one ending. Color me satisfied.” (Full Review)
73. STARRED UP
“A violent and volatile teen, Eric Love, enters a maximum security English prison where the wrong word or glance can end with a cut throat. Rather than submit to his surroundings, Eric thrashes like a caged animal; an unpredictable bombshell armed to blow. Rupert Friend, Ben Mendelsohn and David Ajala ably fill out the supporting cast but it’s star Jack O’Connell who burns brightest; his portrayal of Eric is unblinking and – even behind such thick callous – heartily tragic. While some plot threads are left dangling, the potent performances and probing examination of dehumanizing prison ethos makes Starred Up more than a worthy trip to hell and back.”
72. OBVIOUS CHILD
“Gaby Hoffman is dumped, fired and knocked up in the short span of a few weeks. As a stand-up comedian, she takes to the brick-walled stage to bear her scruffy soul to the captive audience of the club she frequents, armed with uncouth non-sequitors and filthy vaginal humor that’ll have some men (and even women) squirming in their seats. Hoffman’s decidedly feminist brand of humor is not unlike the highly trending small-chick-in-the-big-city of HBO’s Girls and its offspring, but her erratic raunch keeps affairs airy and laugh-heavy.”
71. THE DOUBLE
“If Terry Gilliam had made Fight Club, it probably would have looked a lot like Richard Ayoade’s The Double. Set in a steampunk dystopian tomorrowland, Jesse Eisenberg lays down august double duty, first as Simon James, a meek, nay spineless, employee in a dungy, Orwellian basement cubicle maze. When James Simon, his carbon copy in the looks department but his exact social opposite – James is an exceedingly debonair social-climber – moves in, Simon’s small world is irrevocably jolted. Grubby set design and hallucinatory foley work, set against the motif of closing doors and characteristic-less cultural nowhere, aid Ayoade’s prevailing sense of cautious pessimism in this thrilling, darkly comedic romp.”
“Keeping in the great tradition of New Zealand horror comedy, Housebound is an irreverent splatter fest with chewy characters living through absurdist situations. When the criminally angsty Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is put under house arrest with her “delusional” mother, she starts to realize that maybe there is truth to her mum’s belief that the house is indeed haunted. This NZed debut from Gerard Johnstone is stuffed with sardonic wit, mocking the tropes of horror movies past, while offering enough new wacky twists and turns to make it a fiery, often dazzling watch. Fans of Peter Jackson’s early work and/or Cabin in the Woods will find much to love in this underground horror comedy gem.”
69. THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ
“An excellent documentary focused on Aaron Swartz, an internet whizkid who gave key notes speeches along Harvard professors at only 12 before ending his own life at 25. Knappenberger’s stirring doc amounts to a serious indictment of a disharmonious America that values corporations over citizens and censorship over progress. In a society domineered by dishonesty and boundless enterprising, Swartz’s quest for something more amounts to a unwavering picture of corruption in our country’s prix-fixe adage of “be the best you can be.” ”
“Lucy is a masterpiece of mockery and wit, made Hollywood by gorgeous, over-the-top CGI and Johansson’s and Freeman’s hilarious self-depricating work. With a first act that’s the Condescendence to Pfister’s Transcendence, Lucy is one big trap that never fully lets you in on the gag. Shot in Taipei, Paris and New York, Lucy is stunning, unpredictable and laugh out loud funny. All of this packed in at less than an hour and a half, you leave the theater refreshed and giddy.” (Full Review)
“Captured in what has become the oh so familiar first person POV framework, Patrick Brice takes on dual responsibility as the film’s lead and director. He is our window into the events to unfold, a fluctuating moral guide through a stew of character grays. Brice is Aaron, a videographer gun-for-hire who responds to a mysterious Craigslist ad claiming it will take one day of his time and pay a cool grand. Up in the mountains, he meets a Joseph, a man with claims of imminent death, making a farewell video for his unborn son. Brice and Mark Duplass love playing with the idea of the unreliable narrator as they fill the film with palpable moments of transitioning allegiances. There are times when Duplass feels like the titular creep, other times when it’s Brice. There’s even some fleeting moments where we turn the mirror on ourselves to see if we’re the ones prescribing oddness to an otherwise savory and sweet situation.” (Full Review)
66. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
“Social commentary is a mainstay of the X-Men franchise and, when done right, is what makes the series more than just a popcorn cruncher. All the issues of the past installments are present and expanded upon in thoughtful brushstrokes now with Singer behind the helm again. Holocaust allusions ripple through the narrative as much as ever before, now joined to themes of drug abuse, free will and destiny. With so many ideas and timelines floating around, the narrative could have easily gotten fuzzy, or worse yet, pretentious but Singer manages to keep the high-minded ideas in check with brilliant displays of blockbuster showmanship.” (Full Review)
65. UNDER THE SKIN
“Like Clockwork Orange before it, Under the Skin unfolds in parabolic fashion with the rise and descent of our “heroine” – a mysterious seductress from another world. She’s not as uncouth as Alex but her victims are just as many. Glazer’s brazenly obscure opening sequence details our unnamed seductress in the belly of her inception. She’s pieced together with the wardrobe of casual victim the first, practicing newfound pronunciation, perfecting an English accent like Neo downloading Kung Fu. Wearing a Scarlett Johansson skin suit, the world is her oyster.” (Full Review)
64. MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT
“Dissecting Woody’s latest is easier than scalpelling apart a frog. The three acts are built on loose seams, as easily identifiable as cheap Indonesian jeans. And though they might fit together awkwardly, like said pair of Indonesian jeans, you can’t but admire the brilliant recklessness of those first two acts. The result is further entrancing when backed by Darius Khondji’s delightfully dated cinematography – characterized by a preternatural sense of natural lighting – and Allen’s delicately crafted old-timey but sultry musical score. Though Woody slips towards something far more muted and monochromatic in the third act, the beginning is so full of magic that you can almost let it slide. Almost.” (Full Review)
“Though the performances are often showed up by the 150-foot beast stomping through the midst of Evans’ film, it is still a certifiable triumph, an idol of what studio films should – and can – do. If Pacific Rim made you feel like a kid again, all the more power to you and your dated nostalgia. I’m quite happy watching Godzilla and cherishing my adulthood, marveling at modern technology. Thankfully, Godzilla is the rare sort of big-scale entertainment that doesn’t dumb down to middle schoolers.” (Full Review)
62. 22 JUMP STREET
“As far as ying and yang go, Hill’s wounded fay routine synchs perfectly with Tatum’s prom king duncemanship. As a college football announcer says (however not about their two characters) “They’re two peas in a pod.” Their comic timing is perfect as it their oddball dichotomy of character. Tatum’s cob-webbed thought process is blunted by Hill’s smart aleck ways and Lord and Miller find many opportunities to exploit their differences in hilarious and oft-kilter ways. Even if some of the laughs are expected, the amount of them will catch you off guard. It’s a non-stop flight of guffaws, a bullet train of side-splitters. Also, be sure to stick around for the credits which will likely have you rolling in the aisle.” (Full Review)
“A good home cooked meal is like nothing else. No fancily plated, truffle-shaven, Emerill Lagasse “BAM!” chow can really touch a good meal cooked with (oh god, I’m gonna say it) love. And even though Jon Favreau has a tendency to indulge in Food Network levels of food porn, he cooks up this good-natured story with an abundance of love. On the surface, Chef is a movie about food, family, and forgiveness but the undertones of artist’s passion are equally raging.” (Full Review)
Laura Poitras‘ portrait of Edward Snowden and his NSA whistle blowing is earth-quaking stuff. The clear front runner for Best Documentary at the 2015 Academy Awards, Citizenfour is a triumph because of its varied ability to get inside the story. Documentarian Laura Poitrasnot only offers a complete overview of all the facts but gets under the skin of the issue by closely tracking the emotional transformation of the controversial figure at the center of her film. A must-see for any and all American citizens, Citizenfour is an intellectually-driven descent into the madness of post 9/11 politics and the hazy hero-status of a new breed of revolutionary.
59. LOVE IS STRANGE
“Love is strange. It’s hard to pin down, impossible to predict and most of the time doesn’t really make much sense. Aristophanes claimed that love was the end of the search for one’s other half. Plato stated that love is a serious mental disease. In the ironic tremble of John Lennon, “Love is all you need.” Ira Sachs’ lovingly made and tenderly acted film Love is Strange seeks to answer the question: is love all you need?” (Full Review)
58. TOP FIVE
“Featuring a Who’s-Who of comedy cameos (Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Whoopie Goldberg, Adam Sandler, J.B. Smoove, Romany Malco, Cedric the Entertainer), Rock’s struggle is one of finding his voice. In the comedy cellars where he earned his bread and butter and became a fast rising star, he feels lost. As parallel, Rock hasn’t done a comedy special in half a decade. We’re well beyond the shouting, Chris is bearing his soul.” (Full Review)
57. SPACE STATION 76
“The 1970s were an age of looking towards the stars. From Star Wars to Star Trek, it was a decade of endless possibilities, a time that saw instant dinners, laser weaponry and hovercrafts around every corner. It witnessed the culmination of the space race, the end of the Vietnam War, and the birth of a new unchartered epoch in the suburban trenches of Americana. Mimicking the uneasy blend of conservatism and forward-looking gung-ho-manship that defined the generation, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Jack Plotnick has made Space Station 76 a soapy space opera; a smartly satirical smoothie of 70s manifest destiny – ripe with the impractical hopes of intergalactic expansionism – cut with the tedium of suburban ennui.” (Full Review)
56. THE LEGO MOVIE
“With Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the recently rebooted and well-received 21 Jump Street, at the helm, The Lego Movie has just as much focus placed on the comedy as the storyline and stylish animation. Accordingly, the jokes fly a mile a minute. Driving home a message that everyone’s special may be a little pear-shaped in the age of the Great Recession but there’s something intentionally ironic behind all the hackneyed encouragement. Maybe The Lego Movie would like to tell us we’re all special but that message only lingers on the surface. Beneath that, Lord and Miller reach out and jest, “We know that’s not true, but that’s still cool.” ” (Full Review)
55. WILD (2014)
“Wild tells the true story of Cheryl Strayed, a wildly unprepared woman who embarks on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) in search of her salvation. Following her mother passes away, a bout with freebased heroine and a nether-region looseness even a porn star wouldn’t envy, Strayed has alienated her way to middle-class pariah status and seeks a kind of fool’s gold redemption out amongst the wilderness. Her transformation is Kafkaesque in nature, with nightmarish reality checks that make us cringe and an sense of her own evils floating just outside the screen. Busy editing keeps us engaged as does Jean-MarcVallée’s adroit eye for drama, even when the Malicky whisperings almost get out of hand, but it’s a fine performance from Reese Witherspoon that anchors it all together and makes it great. Humming with spirit and sure to leave even the grumpiest humbuggers somewhat inspired, Wild is a powerful tale of reclaiming the soul.”
54. AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
“John Erick Dowdle is an alchemist. He’s turned $5 million dollars into a pantheon of terror in As Above/So Below; an adventurer’s misadventure set in the made-for-the-movies Paris catacombs. There’s eddies of blood, characters crawling on their hands and knees through piles of dusty human bones, haunting cult-like choirs providing some hair-raising ambiance and eerie demonic symbology caking the scenery. It’s Temple of Doom meets the claustrophobic unease of The Descent – a spooky, campy theme park ride of a horror flick that’ll get your blood boiling and pulse racing.” (Full Review)
53. NIGHT MOVES
“A quiet, moody thriller that sees a band of three ecoterrorists – though I don’t think they’d take to that moniker – plot to take out a dam and the consequences that follow. At times appearing overindulgent in its environmentalist mindset, the well-defined classical three-act structure unravels into an open-ended nightmare that has destroyed its own political prejudices by the time the credits rolls. Night Moves is The East meets Taxi Driver with Jesse Eisenberg offering a haunted lead performance amidst a welcome return to form for the elder Fanning.”
“With a title that works on many levels, Intruders is a Hitchcockian thriller by way of South Korea. A screenwriter tries to find recluse in a snowy off-the-beaten-path village but winds up with far more than he bargained for in this strange, exciting thrill ride. Though there are some technical snags – mostly born of budgetary constraints (Non Young-seok sorely needed a better indoor camera) – the festering story is a novelty of old and new, East meets West and with its nail-biting final act, will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the closing moments.”
“Director and co-writer Leigh Janiak though sees body snatcher subgenre as a chance to explore change on a microscopic scale, to prod just how absolutely horrifying it would be to see the one you love most temporally drained from their own body. As Bea and Paul’s deserted woodland homestead becomes an unwelcome chrysalis, we’re left with little more than the remains of an evaporating relationship. Like Bea’s special nightgown (though it’s more hoary than whory) that Paul finds in the woods after her disappearance, there’s chunks inexplicably missing, impossible to recover, chalked up to some pieceless puzzle.” (Full Review)
50. YOUNG ONES
“Sprawling future Western quais-epic Young Ones offers a poignant deconstruction of sci-fi and western films, an allegorical gaze into a murky future that strips both genres down to the studs and builds them up as one. Brother of Gwenyth and Godson to Steven Speilberg, Jake Paltrow successfully brokers this moody, panoramic vista of draught dystopia by juxtaposing elements of hi-fi tech against the dust bowls and wind storms of plains life. Technology has taken great bounds forward, providing the illusion of solace to a society brought to their knees by perpetual thirst, but with water in such scarcity, this Western shanty town is on the brink of extinction. Life nectar that it is, water has become the new oil, a cherished commodity that’s become even more rare and necessary, a cause for showdowns and scuffles.” (Full Review)
49. HAPPY CHRISTMAS
“Joe Swanberg returns to his meandering, improvisational ways in a comedy/drama about a new family unit celebrating their second Christmas, which is promptly crashed by recently dumped and perennially immature sister Jenny. Jenny (the irresistibly lovable Anna Kendrick) is a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pant’s kinda girl and Kendrick’s hopelessly awkward antics marry perfectly to Swanberg’s trackless filmmaking. His wandering style allows this grounded story of family fuck-ups to highlight the little things in life (babies cackling and dogs chewin’ on bones) and is a fully worthy successor to last year’s borderline commercial Drinking Buddies.”
“From the grassroots inception of the film, Aronofsky talked at length about how he saw Noah as the world’s first environmentalist and environmentalist he is. Thanks to the lack of communication between Noah and “the Creator,” we see a man driven mad by his interpretation of His superior will. One could make the argument that Noah’s an eco-terrorist. Just about willing to commit infanticide for the good of the animals, the guy would make a great PETA president. He’s a man caught between divine will and his own humanity and the crossroads takes its toll. In this trademark reveal of fleeting sanity, Aronofsky puts his sick stamp on an ageless story.” (Full Review)
47. THE BOXTROLLS
“The Boxtrolls, Laika Studios’ third outing, sees more of the fledgling studio’s highly-demanding, signature stop motion animation come to life onscreen, flush with smart, though not game changing, camerawork and charming characters aplenty. This time around, Laika has moved the focus onto the characters, who look better realized than ever before. They’re much less choppy, almost to the point of appearing to be the work of CGI. Surprisingly in this case, with more precision comes more charm. And though The Boxtrolls is an unequivocal step up from the visually stunning but emotionally lacking Paranorman, it unfortunately doesn’t come close to the crazy heights of Coraline.” (Full Review)
“A rousing historical tour de force, Selma is an accomplishment of art and nonfiction coming to head; the product of historical accuracy colliding with a massively stirring lead performance from David Oyelowo and confident, assured direction from Ava DuVernay. Selma documents the events leading up to the Selma to Birmingham march in hopes of true voter equality, starting with Martin Luther King’s receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize. Though DuVernay’s picture isn’t always as taut as it should be – and there are some serious second act lulls – Selma thrives on the soaring energy of Oyelowo, who captures the powerful energy of the good Reverend MLK with earth-shaking force. Of biopics this year, DuVernay’s is a massive step above the humdrum The Imitiaton Game, and Oyelowo is a good step above Benedict Cumberbatch on almost all levels. It’s a damn shame that history once again couldn’t reflect the change that Selma and Selma sought.”
45. THE TRIP TO ITALY
“Rob Brydon and Steven Coogan leave foggy, fried North England behind for the breathtaking Italian coast where they wine, dine, and goof their way through a dream trip (one that inspires deep pangs of jealousy from this critic). The naturalistic hyper-reality they craft thrives on the weathered chemistry between the two stars. Their old-as-they-are relationship paves the way for improvisation prowess so organic its feels more like second nature than performance. More impressions, absolutely stunning vistas, Alanis Morissette’s croon, lazily waxing on life and pasta, pasta, pasta gives intrepid life to The Trip to Italy.”
“A preist struggling with his faith and desperate for purpose in the murk of fog-blanketed, 21st century Ireland receives a death threat from an abused alter boy from his past. He has one week and then will be gunned down at the beach, he is told, so he’s got just enough time to get his affairs in order. Although Brendan Gleeson‘s Father James Lavelle may have never touched a fly, much less an alter boy, that’s exactly why this abusee wants to strike out at him, “I want to hurt someone good. Someone who has never hurt anyone.” Knowing he only has seven days to live, we see Father James amble through the five stages of grief and Brendan Gleeson is rapturous through it all. Calvary is an intrepid and deeply sobering drama, soaring from Gleeson’s dynamic performance. With the capacity to leave us hanging our heads in despair, McDonagh looks past the low hanging fruit and aims for something infinitely more powerful and soulfully infectious; a modern stance on what it truly means to sacrifice.” (Full Review)
“What the hell did I just watch?” many will ask after watching Borgman, the enigmatic Dutch film nominated for the Palm d’Or at last year’s Cannes. And that’s part of the magic of it. Heads end up in concrete buckets, unregulated surgeries are never explained, characters fall under the spell of the mystical Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) while others appear to turn to hellish hounds and back. The story is simple enough and yet filled with mystery: a grizzled hermit living underground is ousted by a shotgun-wielding priest and his small band of townspeople. He takes to the street, knocking on door after door to try to find a bath. But his true intentions are far more sinister and far more veiled. Even by the end, we’re not exactly sure what Borgman and his crew’s intentions are but we know all that they’re capable of.”
42. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
“Check your expectations at the door, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is some kind of wonderful lightning in a bottle. How Ana Lily Amirpour takes familiar elements from vampire romance and morphs them into something wholly novel is sight unseen. This slow-moving Iranian art film makes way for a non-stop display of impeccably gorgeous celluloid, black-and-white images dancing against a grainy hi-fi score that’s in part Sergio Leone spaghetti Western and equally a rave scene. It’s eerie and beautiful, creepy and delicate, like Winding Refn taking on Jim Jarmusch. Quite unlike anything else you’ll see this year, Girl also holds the honor of being one of the most important, forward-looking flicks of the year. Who would have expected vampires to ever mean so much?”
41. THE HEART MACHINE
“Would you fall in love in the wild, wild west of romance that is online dating? What if you believe that your betrothed were living in a foreign country only to discover that they are instead a mere stone’s throw away? Would you get jealous? Angry? Violent? Director and writer Zachary Wigon provides his surreptitious take on the ‘romance as app’ generation in what can only be described as a wry, 21st century romantic thriller in the superb The Heart Machine.” (Full Review)
40. THE INFINITE MAN
“Equal helpings cerebral sci-fi and deadpan comedy, The Infinite Man is independent cinema at its most rewarding. Chartering a high-strung scientist whose well-intentioned attempts to create the perfect anniversary weekend goes horribly awry, director Hugh Sullivan‘s film at first seems narratively minimalist but by the time we’re a few layers deep, it begins to gingerly unfold into something far more brainy and grand than we first imagined.” (Full Review)
39. IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE
“Kraftidioten (or In Order of Disappearance) is a Norwegian black comedy that sees a snowplow man/upstanding citizen take justice into his own hands after his son is wrongfully murdered. Featuring a standout performance from the multilingual Stellan Skarsgård, this wintry take on everyman vengeance mixes doses of bleak internal battles in with blood-stained snow and murderous vegans for a darkly satisfying product, further improved by ponderous cinematography and unexpected giggles. Even though the second act loses the adroit pacing of the first, it all adds up to something sickly sweet.”
38. JODOROWSKY’S DUNE
“A captivating journey into what should have been but never was, Jodorowsky’s Dune is a bittersweet fairy tale. The most influential film that was never made, Jodorowsky’s vision for his film version of Dune has bleed a plethora of its distinctively forward-looking DNA into most iconic of films. Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, The Matrix, this mind-boogling documentary presupposes that without the Dune that never was, none of these would have ever existed. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is the stable of off-kilter talent Jodorowsky was able to reel into the project, including none other than Dali (yes, that Dali) and Mick Jagger. Though it’s almost depressing to see such a work of passion crash and burn as hard as it did, at least this wonderfully captured chronology of Jodorowsky’s Dune will carry on the legacy of one of Hollywood’s wildest and most missed-out on production. ”
37. TO KILL A MAN
“Kubrickian in style and score – with hauntingly symmetrical shots and eerie, creeping soundscapes – To Kill a Man is grippingly adept at manufacturing tension. When a neighborhood terror won’t leave his family alone, feeble everyman Jorge must weigh the social and psychological consequences of taking matters into his own hands. Almendras’ understated film is a thoughtful and poetic piece, achieved slowly and with great care, that never skimps on honest emotional reflection to get to the heart of this chilling true tale.”
“With a big, fake head and a Jim Morrison-like access to lyrical poetry, Frank (Michael Fassbender) is as talented as he is prophetic, and potentially disturbed. Joe (Domhnall Gleeson), a talentless hack of a musician, wants to take advantage of Frank’s art; to transform it into a social media-friendly commodity. As Frank attempts to find his magnus opus, Joe dopily tries to package and sell it; a searing metaphor for Gen-X self-inflation en masse. Efficiently experimental, at times sermonist, and always outlandish, Frank is a powerful meditation on mental disease, commercialism and art, and all the brightly lit areas where they intersect. Frank also proves Fassbender can act like no other through a Papier Mâché helmet.”
35. A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
“In which Jessica Chastain went overlooked for her fantastic supporting performance (so Meryl Streep playing a singing witch could be nominated for her 19th Oscar…), A Most Violent Year is J.C. Chandor‘s delicate, understated examination of ambition and conscience in New York City 1981. So dubbed for a record amount of crimes, Chandor’s film is deceivingly lax on violence. Instead, it’s a film about consciously avoiding violence and corruption; about the challenges of remaining incorruptible; about the foreigner experience of “The American Dream.” Oscar Isaacs soars in the lead role as Chandor’s film offers a challenging, intellectually playful throwback to ’70s crime dramas while holding two fantastic center performances in the spotlight.”
34. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Here in 2014, Anderson’s ability to attract such a gathering of marquee names to his eccentric scripts has never been as potent. He’s a talent magnet and his tractor beam is set to high. It’s just too bad that this gathering of the juggalos is as caricaturesque as they are (arguable even more than the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox). But what can you expect when your face is painted up and you’re dressed like a Slovenian underground fashion show. Ralph Fiennes’ soulful gravitas brings immeasurable life to what is otherwise a series of cartoonish escape plots and hijinks. Anderson’s offerings are easy to consume and his persnickety eye for detail and Fiennes’ brilliant performance brings life by the pound to the otherwise far-fetched proceedings.” (Full Review)
33. VENUS IN FUR
“As much a showcase for its two authoritative leads as it is an illustration of the power of theater, Venus in Fur continues Roman Polanski’s streak of adapting plays in fearlessly simple terms. While Carnage felt a little forced in its translation to the screen, Furs works wonderfully and the adroit performances matched with the clever subjugation of gender roles present in David Ives’s drama gives this pre-turn-of-the-century, play-within-a-play, dominatrix tale one to not soon forget.”
“The horrors of a socially enforced caste system are all the more distressing when magnified to this degree and Snowpiercer’s cross section of inequality reveals spurring commentary on global disproportion that exists today. Sometimes you have to strip back the world to see the festering rot scurrying beneath and sometimes you have to cover it in ice to cull the warmth hidden inside. This way, it’s all the easier to pluck out the icy hearts that steer our world – or is it train? – towards a skewed and skewered social order from the fiery passion of human’s softer, more admirable side. It cuts in two ways: there’s always someone at the front of the train whose convictions have to be as chilly as their resolve in order to keep this train running. Is it then a coincide that injustice is spelled in just ice? (Sorry for the bad pun.)” (Full Review)
31. EDGE OF TOMORROW
“Since all the Groundhog Dog jokes have already risen, seen their shadow and retreated into the proverbial internet hole, let’s just settle with calling Edge of Tomorrow a slightly derivative but monstrously enjoyable blockbuster. In a time where any project commanding a budget north of 100 million dollars is either dumbed down to the broadest of international audiences or stuffed with pew-pewing superheroes, witnessing this brand of thinking man’s blockbuster illicits nothing short of a deep sigh of relief. It might not have the layers of Inception or the majesty of Avatar but its fleet-footed cadence, wily comic timing and crackerjack combat spectacles makes for one ace summer tentpole.” (Full Review)
30. THE ONE I LOVE
“Like stepping into a long-form Twilight Zone episode, The One I Love explores whether we would trade out our loved ones for more idyllic versions. Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss occupy the entirety of the film (with a brief appearance from Ted Danson) with palpable magnetism, fleshing out two sides of the same coin: the bumbing and the suave; the bitchy and the demure. The mechanisms are left intentionally vague so that our focus is left on the characters, and not the how or the why of it all. This thirty little indie film might not fix easily into a box but that’s what makes it all the more special.”
29. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
“Unlike previous Marvel movies, Guardians doesn’t rely on a cliffhanger; it’s not a sleek, flawless package; it’s not busy setting the table for what’s next; it’s not just another commercial for the inevitable team-up with Iron Man and Thor and Hulk and Black Widow and Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and Captain America and The Winter Solider and Falcon and War Machine (er, Iron Patriot?). It’s a well-balanced breakfast in itself: it’s properly buttered toast and scrambled eggs and orange juice and a little bit of Dave Batista trying to act all served up with a smile.” (Full Review)
“With a measured dose of restraint, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher offers ample insight into a complexly noncomplex character, staging an acting showdown for Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum (the former two should and will earn Oscar nominations.) It’s withdrawn and quiet – Rob Simonsen’s melancholy score is a spider, trapping us in Miller’s sobering web; absent more often than naught – the kind of Oscar bait that clearly registers as such but is still ultimately devastating.” (Full Review)
27. ZERO MOTIVATION
“An Israeli take on Joseph Conrad‘s seminal novel “Catch 22”, Zero Motivation looks at the hijinks of a female unit inside a Tzahal military base. Directed with zany aplomb by female Israeli director Tayla Lavie, this chaptered saga of woman in uniform vs. ennui is characterized by a soaring sense of voice and sees stars Dana Ivgy and Nelly Tagar face down the clock as they Minesweep their way through their deafeningly dull military assignment – paperwork. A dark comedy with as many barbs as points, Zero Motivation is a delicious and original vision, percolating with purpose.”
26. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
“Soaring nearly as high as its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2 represents the best that animation has to offer. With Roger Deakins serving as a visual consultant, the film looks goddamn brilliant with Dreamworks ushering in a new gold standard for animated features in era of post-Pixar brilliance. And while most (if not all) of the comic beats fall on deaf ears (and ought to have been cut entirely), Dragon’s heart is so big and worn so proudly on its sleeve that you’ll have to be a monster to not erupt in tears on multiple occasions in this undeniably excellent yarn on a man’s maturing relationship with his beast.”
25. THE SKELETON TWINS
“Bill Hader just had his coming out party. He may not be gay, but he’s a star. The Skeleton Twins is unabashedly entertaining; a darkly comic, tactfully told dramedy that probes the darkest of places with the funniest of people. Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson join Hader to round out a cast of unsung heroes taking the spotlight, each firmly on their mark and spontaneously hilarious throughout. For a film that circles suicide, it is the funniest of the year (so far) and the cast’s effortless deadpan will have you in absolute, ROFL stitches.”
“Sequoia tells the story of Riley (Aly Michalka), a 23-year old with irreversible oral cancer. Laid out with news that she’s entered the fourth and final stage of her affliction and faced with the reality that the next step in the process involves sawing off her lower jaw (even though the odds would still be 80% against her favor), Riley has decided to take her own life in the serenity of Sequoia National Park. She muddles up a few bottles of sleeping pills, spikes her water with it, and waits for the white light. With writer Andrew Rothchild’s tenderly biting words married to Aly Michalka’s soul-melting performance, director Andy Landen proves there’s still a place for storytellers with a unwavering voice and a powerful message. He makes Sequoia painfully honest and emotionally gutting; wistful but never sentimental.” (Full Review)
23. BLUE RUIN
“Enveloped in a scent of Coen Bros, Blue Ruin is a masterclass in indie reinvention – reinvention of genre, of character, even of plot subversion. But no matter how familiar the elements we know to comprise revenge flicks, we never exactly know where Blue Ruin is going to turn next. It’s a quiet tirade of doomed duty with explosive showdowns and tactful character arcs that adds up to a hell of a good movie.” (Full Review)
“In a marriage of comedy and tragedy, Trier mines the unparalleled success of Nymphomaniac. Captured through an admirable stripped down cinesphere of grubby locales and queued with a truly bipolar score, the technical aspects surrounding the film are a deft house of cards. Without cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro’s grim but provocative pictures, the uninviting hospitality of Trier’s landscape would lose its oddly captivating appeal. In a way, Joe’s scarred humanity is a victim of circumstance, a product of his European bleakness.” (Full Review)
21. KUMIKO THE TREASURE HUNTER
“Out in the wild throes of a gusty suburban sprawl, the misanthropic Kumiko has got her manifest destiny mixed up with fairy tales. Her journey is one of a maniac but no matter how strange Kumiko is, she never has fully lost her sanity. There’s always an inkling of suspicion of the real world lingering behind the black pools that are Rinko Kikuchi’s ever thinking eyes. She’s not stark, raving mad. She’s going the distance. Borderline eremitic, Kumkio has taken a vow of no surrender. No matter what immeasurable odds stack up against her, she is committed to her quest, married to that forlorn Fargo satchel buried somewhere out there in the snow, willing to swallow the pill of do or die. Watching her dizzyingly reckless plot, photographed by Sean Porter’s dynamic eye and rinsed with The Octopus Project’s magical score, The Zellner Brothers cast an indelible spell, they help us find the beauty in banality, the peace in tragedy.” (Full Review)
20. THE ROVER
“The Rover is far enough off the beaten path to call for your attention and admiration, from a filmmaker buzzing with gusto, even if it is occasionally hamstrung by its candid straightforwardness. Nonetheless, Michôd’s tender hand and Pattinson’s awe-inspiring performance are quietly devastating throughout. Like Rey, The Rover is simple without being simplistic, wandering without being directionless, and solitary without being one-note. And maybe most importantly, it’s a signal that Pattinson may yet be a star, but in an entirely different way than we first imagined.” (Full Review)
19. STARRY EYES
“Wringing all the best elements of a dark character study with the deeply unsettling nature of the body horror genre, Starry Eyes soars on the wings of star Alex Essoe whose performance is the bombastic centerpiece of the film – the gory bride on a red velvet wedding cake, the bouquet of rotting roses on some unmarked grave. Her positively brilliant turn as Sarah reminds us of Natalie Portman’s Oscar-earning performance in Black Swan and Shelly Duvall’s massively underrated embodiment of horror in The Shining. She’s at once totally in control and veering from the tracks of sanity. As she makes more and more conceits of character and body, Essoe’s arc becomes unforgettable, an indelible bookmark of Starry Eye’s staying power.” (Full Review)
18. THE DROP
“Pitch perfect performances grounded by a bare-bones gangster plot and a neglected puppy makes The Drop a sweeping human story surging with thematic undertones of good versus evil. Returning after the majorly affecting Bullhead, Belgian director Michael R. Roskam enters the English language game to deliver yet another absolute wonder of subtlety and character. Backed by a screenplay from Denis Lehane (Shutter Island, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), who adapted from his own short story “Animal Rescue”, The Drop is a nerve-wracking shadow game that puts the players at the forefront and lets the underlying crime elements serve as a guide to move those characters into different lights.” (Full Review)
17. ERNEST & CÉLESTINE
“Ernest & Célestine is a tale you never want to stop; a true love story, a lasting fable. And, just like any good story, it starts with a rhyme. An elegant rhyme that flows just as beautifully as the film itself: Qu’est-ce que tu dessines, Célestine? What are you drawing, Celestine? Among a throng of curious young mice, she’s sketching a bear and a mouse playing together. Blasphemy! they say. Bears and mice can never mix! It’s just not done!” (Full Review)
16. IT FOLLOWS
“One of 2014’s best horror films, It Follows imagines a STD unlike any other, one that claims the life of its victims not by whacking blood cells but by pathogenic haunting. You see, whomever the curse is passed onto is “followed” by a mysterious supernatural being sans discrimination. Like the leisurely-trotting slasher baddies of yore, the titular “it” is a beast of slow-footed intention, always marching towards its victim with its idle cadence. Director David Robert Mitchell deals in wild abstractions while still managing a very real grip on reality, allowing his characters to live on a plane of existence parallel to ours, rightfully ripe with many of the same headaches. Teenage angst and sexual frustration are equally important to the doubtlessly endeavored antagonist in It Follows making a horror film that’s largely inspired by the genre’s past and yet not quite like anything else before it.”
15. COLD IN JULY
“If We Are What We Are was Mickle figuring out his footwork, Cold in July is him mastering his alarmingly bleak samba. There may be no cannibals out for blood and bone this time round but there’s no shortage of underbelly material that’ll have your eyes racing for cover. As the next chapter in Mickle’s ascension, Cold in July is a wonderfully stylized jangle of unsettling imagery, deep-seated tension, and brash, bold, cold comeuppances. (Full Review)
14. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
“What’s possibly the biggest surprise of The Theory of Everything is just how winning every aspect of Marsh’s tale truly is. It functions on so many levels, attacking so many sectors of what we look for in a film. It’s futile to resist its supreme good taste. For a movie equally given to quirks, quacks and quarks, the bumbling never detracts from the charm. Marsh’s brief history of Hawkings is at once timely and timeless, matching intellect for emotion and absolutely thriving on two stunning performances.” (Full Review)
13. 10,000 KM (LONG DISTANCE)
“Anyone who’s lived through a long distance relationship will find alarming truth in 10,000KM, a bittersweet romance stunningly directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet and brilliantly acted by Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones) and David Verdaguer. In truly all accords, it’s a phenomenal film; real, honest, emotional and poised to hit the nerve of lovers living through the e-generation. How people helplessly grow apart with distance is approached from nearly every angle to create an unfathomable experience so intimate, personal and gutting that you’ll be as wrecked as the star-crossed lovers when all is said and done.”
“David Wnendt reveals the story of Helen like a curious voyeur flipping through a teenage diary. Dexterous editing and a bevy of great scenes help to bring Helen’s dirty flirty persona to light and though she may seem cavalier, she’s also deeply introspective, a trait courtesy of Carla Juri’s youthfully vibrant performance. The bouquet of scandalous sexual contortions are provocative and repulsive yet oddly alluring and instinctually sexy. With the definitive pit stains of European cinema, these hygiene hijinks are surely controversial, especially for an American audience, but dig much deeper than its surface vulgarity.” (Full Review)
11. CHEAP THRILLS
“Fear Factor left behind the rule book in E.L. Katz’s ultra-violent parody on American economic desperation that mixes murky morality with a heavy twist of sadism. Pat Healy puts in a monstrous performance as the film’s lead, a man on his last financial leg who runs into old buddy Vince the same night he meets a man with deep pockets set to change his life… if he’s willing to go the distance. Unlike anything else, Cheap Thrills is an unrelenting descent into the depths of how low humanity will go for money. Whether it involves fisticuffs, B&E, sex, or even auto-cannibalism, Katz’s film asks, “What is your limit?” ”
“What occurs as Enemy progresses is quaking, the earth below your feet seems to tremor faster and faster, moving its way up the Richter scale. A floating Tarantula as big as a Goodyear blimp slinks its way over Toronto. A woman’s body with a Tarantula’s head walks upside down through a corridor. At 90 minutes, it shrinks and expands the mind, then ends abruptly with no questions answered. Enemy is a rollercoaster personally designed by the Devil. Twist and turn, crash and burn.” (Full Review)
9. THE GUEST
“Slam Drive and Stocker together, rub them down in a spicy 80’s genre marinate and sprinkle with mesmerizing performances and dollops of camp and you have The Guest. Like a turducken of genre, Adam Wingard’s latest is a campy horror movie stuffed inside a hoodwinking Canon action flick and deep fried in the latest brand of Bourne-style thriller. It’s clever, tense, uproarious, and hypnotizing nearly ever second.” (Full Review)
8. THE RAID 2
“To try to boil down what is so sublimely excellent about The Raid 2: Berandal is a futile exercise in tilting at windmills. It’s like boxing a griffin, outthinking a Sicilian, or KY-Jelly wrestling an anaconda. Instead of trying to describe the irrepressible satisfaction this balls-to-the-walls, smarter-than-your-dad actioner elicits, instead conjure up what it felt like to lose your virginity, if you lost your virginity in a ten-on-one man brawl in a pit of mud.” (Full Review)
7. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
“As Reeve’s film leaks historical allegories like a zesty geyser, his political astuteness pans to a smart dissection of why we choose war in the first place. War is a side effect of fear, fear a scar of misunderstanding. Koba’s are scars that cannot be healed. Dreyfus won’t stand for Three-Fifths of a vote. Peace is a process. Wars start inevitably. It’s not that these two civilizations could not peacefully co-habitate, it’s that sometimes a punch in the face seems like a more swift resolution than drawn-out talks.” (Full Review)
“Calling it a coming-of-age story feels slight as Boyhood tracks the joy and pain of growing up, one delicate moment at a time. We find ourselves in Macon, a perceptive youth, in his strength and in his weakness, in his whiny teenage angst and his youthful abandon, in his quasi-stoned prolific moments of reflection and his meekest helplessness.” (Full Review)
“To boil Ayer’s masterful Fury down to “war is hell” is to ricochet off the mark. To call it a movie without subtext is to poke holes in a block of swiss. The themes stare you in the face, they thump into your cranium and they sick in your soul. They bear witness to wartime masculinity pig-piling on itself in a nasty, self-fulfilling prophecy that causes and perpetuates war. The rally speeches become just as dangerous as the nuclear weapons. The hoorahs build into their own Manhattan Projects.” (Full Review)
“With a name as innocuous as Louis Bloom, you wouldn’t initially suspect the lead character of Nightcrawler to be so dangerous. But the virulent Lou is the kind of guy who dissolves into shadows; who feeds vampirically in the darkness. He’s not a villain so much as a force of nature. Silent but deadly. Throughout the film, Lou’s facial expressions percolate with a kind of serpentine other-worldliness. As if his tongue could dart from his mouth at any moment to nip at the night air. It doesn’t. He remains squarely within the realm of the human. No matter how inhumane he is. A testament to Dan Gilroy’s narrow degree of restraint and Gyllenhaal’s tightrope-walking ability.” (Full Review)
“Through Chazelle’s assured hand and Blacklist-topping script, Whiplash is fantastically dynamic – a perfect ode to that musical constant acting a central catalyst to the film’s narrative. While students get smacked for being the slightest bit off tempo, Whiplash is unmistakably paced to precision – the loving design of a satisfied perfectionist.” (Full Review)
2. GONE GIRL
“Always going, going, gone, David Fincher absolutely hits it out of the park. Gone Girl is one of the best, and darkest, visions he’s ever dished up. Always one step before the action, Fincher demands we race to catch up. Each shot ends just marginally too quickly. His vision is frantic by design. Things get lost in the dark that are never recovered. You just have to pretend along with it.” (Full Review)
“Steeped in an exacting degree of irreverent relevance, Iñárritu’s able to pull off the rare feat of raising existential questions in the same scene that he blows up a cityscape. It’s like seeing Black Swan and A Beautiful Mind fist-fighting in a Charlie Kaufman play; a crossroads of cinema and theater that’s entirely novel and entirely brilliant.” (Full Review)
2014 has been one big toss up for Oscar contenders. With the release of nominees from the Golden Globes (winners now), SAGs, the PGAs, the ADGs, the ASCs, the WGAs and the BAFTAs as well as AFI Top Ten, LAFCA, NYFCC and more things have been shaping up into more and more of an unconventional top crop for contenders. Front runners Boyhood, The Imitiation Game, Birdman, The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma look to nab nominations across the board while darker films like Nightcrawler, Gone Girl and Whiplash are looking more and more likely to be amongst the conversation as serious players.
However hazy some of the later-down-the-list nominees might be, the front runners and potential winners are looking more locked up than they do most year before the nominations are even announced, with few big battleground categories. You could assuredly put your money on a Richard Linklater win for Best Director, Michael Keaton for Best Actor, Julianne Moore for Best Actress, JK Simmons for Best Supporting, and Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress. Wes Anderson‘s script for Grand Budapest Hotel looks like a shoe-in win while Gillian Flynn hopes to score Oscar gold for Gone Girl.
I would bet money on a second Emmanuel Lubezki win in a row (Gravity, now Birdman) for Best Cinematography, even though it’s looking like a crowded field. This happens to be the case with many of the technical fields. Just too few slots for too many contenders. Those categories that I really feel like I’m just taking a shot in the dark at are Best Song, Sound Editing/Mixing and Best Visual Effects (which could go many, many ways.)
Otherwise, I’m just hoping that my Best Picture contenders are on the money since if things go the way I’m thinking they will, we’ll have one of the best Best Picture collections in recent history.
BEST PICTURE Boyhood The Imitation Game Birdman The Theory of Everything Selma The Grand Budapest Hotel Gone Girl Whiplash Nightcrawler
BEST DIRECTOR Richard Linklater “Boyhood” Alejandro G. Inarritu “Birdman” David Fincher “Gone Girl” Ava DuVernay “Selma” Wes Anderson “Grand Budapest Hotel”
BEST ACTOR Michael Keaton “Birdman” Eddie Redmayne “The Theory of Everything” Jake Gyllenhaal “Nightcrawler” Benedict Cumberbatch “The Imitation Game” David Oyelowo “Selma”
BEST ACTRESS Julianne Moore “Still Alice” Reese Witherspoon “Wild” Rosamund Pike “Gone Girl” Felicity Jones “The Theory of Everything” Jennifer Anniston “Cake”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR JK Simmons “Whiplash” Mark Ruffalo “Foxcatcher” Edward Norton “Birdman” Ethan Hawke “Boyhood” Robert Duvall “The Judge”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Patricia Arquette “Boyhood” Emma Stone “Birdman” Keira Knightley “The Imitation Game” Jessica Chastain “A Most Violent Year” Meryl Streep “Into the Woods”
BEST EDITING Whiplash Boyhood Birdman Gone Girl Interstellar
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Wes Anderson “Grand Budapest Hotel” Alejandro Inarritu et al “Birdman” Richard Linklater “Boyhood” Dan Gilroy “Nightcrawler” Ava Duvernay, Paul Webb “Selma”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Gillian Flynn “Gone Girl” Graham Moore “The Imitation Game” Nick Hornby “Wild” Damien Chazelle “Whiplash” Anthony McCarten “The Theory of Everything”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM Fource Majeure Ida (Poland) Leviathan (Russia) Wild Tales (Argentina) Tangerines (Estonia)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Birdman Mr. Turner Grand Budapest Hotel Unbroken Interstellar
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN Grand Budapest Hotel Interstellar Into the Woods Birdman The Theory of Everything
BEST SOUND MIXING Into the Woods Interstellar Whiplash Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Transformers 4
BEST SOUND EDITING Whiplash Into the Woods Interstellar Birdman Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
BEST COSTUME DESIGN Into the Woods Grand Budapest Hotel Mr. Turner The Imitation Game A Most Violent Year
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Gone Girl Interstellar The Grand Budapest Hotel The Theory of Everything The Imitation Game
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Citizenfour Life Itself Jodorowsky’s Dune The Overnighters Last Days in Vietnam
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE The LEGO Movie Princess Kaguya How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Boxtrolls Big Hero 6
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS Interstellar Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Guardians of the Galaxy Godzilla The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING The Theory of Everything The Grand Budapest Hotel Foxcatcher
BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Glory” (Selma) “Mercy Is” (Noah) “Opportunity” (Annie) “Yellow Flicker Beat” (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I) “Miracles” (Unbroken)
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Directed by Wes Anderson Starring Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Mathieu Amalric, Tom Wilkinson Comedy, Drama 100 Mins R
Fiennes, Brody, Dafoe, Goldblum, Murray, Law, Swinton, Ronan, Norton, Keitel, Schwartzman, Seydoux, Wilson, Balaban, Amalric, Wilkinson. Wes Anderson‘s latest may have more big names working for it than ever before but their characters are more paper thin than they’ve been, more fizzle than tonic, more Frankenstein’s creations than humans. His company of regulars – joined by a vast scattering of newbies – are relegated to playing furniure-chomping bit roles, filling the shoes of cartoonish sketches, slinking in long shadows of characters. From Willem Dafoe‘s brutish, brass-knuckled Jopling to a caked-up and aged Tilda Swinton, gone are the brooding and calculated, flawed and angsty but always relatable characters of Wes yore. In their place, a series of dusty cardboard cutouts; fun but irrevocably inhuman.
Here in 2014, Anderson’s ability to attract such a gathering of marquee names to his eccentric scripts has never been as potent. He’s a talent magnet and his tractor beam is set to high. It’s just too bad that this gathering of the juggalos is as caricaturesque as they are (arguable even more than the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox). But what can you expect when your face is painted up and you’re dressed like a Slovenian underground fashion show. Upon dissecting what he’s got to offer, the seemingly indelible Wes Anderson appeal is as clear as day.
In the jungle of Hollywood, roles are mostly relegated one of two ways: the tentpole blockbusters, where characters are written like ham steaks – vessels for plot diversions, jukeboxes for one-liners, sarcophagi for the next action scene – and the smaller budgeted “independent” movie, wherein the tone is usually somber, the scenery is left unchewed, and emotional preparation ought to be through the roof. Anderson’s films flirt a very thin middle ground, a Bermuda triangle between indie cred and mainstream. To his credit, it looks like a blast.
Inside his pictures, Anderson’s stars are afforded a chance to play dress up in the midst of gorgeous sets at exciting locales. What’s not to love? Plus, this particular project had an added advantage: European travel. For these thespians, being a part of Anderson’s playground is like being a kid again. However, their childishness is more apparent here than in any of Anderson’s finest work (save for maybe Moonrise Kingdom). But through the haze of these colorful yet superficial oddities shines Ralph Fiennes‘ Monsieur Gustave, a beacon of complexity in an otherwise skin-deep cast of characters.
Gustave is a relic of the past. He’s an icon of chivalry, a servant dedicated to his craft, a well-groomed pet for his adoring clientele. He sluts it up for the elderly ladies who pass through his hotel (but he enjoys it too, so he tells us), making him a bit of a tourist attraction in himself. A hot springs for wilting feminine physiques, Gustave becomes the recipient of a pricy artifact (an ironic art piece called “Boy with Apple” – the customary brand of wry Anderson platitudes) when one of his doting golden-agers (Swinton) bites the dust. With her family trying to discredit him and blame the murder his way, Gustave must go on the run.
The cat and mouse, European romp to follow is as much an episode of Tom and Jerry as it is The Great Escape. Fiennes’ soulful gravitas brings immeasurable life to what is otherwise a series of cartoonish escape plots and hijinks. Anderson’s offerings are easy to consume and his persnickety eye for detail and Fiennes’ brilliant performance brings life by the pound to the otherwise far-fetched proceedings.
In this recent turn in his career, Wes Anderson has almost becoming a mockery of Wes Anderson. Though I thoroughly enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel it lacks the rounded emotional honesty of his pre-Fox efforts. He’s lost the intellectual intensity he had going in Rushmore, The Royal Tenanbaums and (I know I’m in the minority here) Darjeeling Limited, largely replaced by quirk by the bucket and enough billable names to make your head spin. Nevertheless, Fiennes is magical; a perfect vessel for Andersonisms, the savior of the show.
So before you go asking about Lars von Trier‘s 5-hour sexcapade Nymphomaniac,Woody Allen‘s latest period piece starring Emma Stone or any of the three Terrence Malick films that may or may not debut this year, let me just stop you short and let you know that they didn’t see their way onto this list. Though Allen’s newest may be good, he shoots out so many duds that it’s hard to really look forward to any one piece of his work. And Trier, well, do I really have to say anything beyond look at the description? Maybe they’ll be bits of interest but I’m more dreading it than I am anticipating it. As for Malick’s certain pedigree of art film, let’s just say I’m wildly uninterested in anything the man does as I find his work more a chore than anything else.
Although I tried to keep my list as tidy as possible, I did make a bit of a miscalculation so this top ten will actually be a top 11. I was thinking of chopping one but when we’re down to the wire like this, I really want to make sure to get all these top-tier selections out there. One extra film to look forward to right?
If you haven’t yet, take a look back at number 30-21 and 20-11. Otherwise, let’s get down to my Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2014.
Korean director Joon-ho Bong (The Host– the good one, not the bad one) makes his English-language debut with this dystopian film set on a high-speed train. Starring Captain America‘s Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, and Octavia Spencer, Snowpiercer opened in France in October to rave reviews. Some even went so far to call it “the best pure science-fiction film since ‘Children Of Men.” [The Playlist]. There’s been a little controversy over it’s US release, such as when will it actually release, amongst stirrings that a US release under the Weinstein Co. banner may see extensive cuts but I’m hoping that if this film ever arrives intact and well, it’ll be a stunner.
No official release date yet but it’s likely 2014 or bust.
10…Again. Map to the Stars
(Accidentally) sharing that top ten spot is David Cronenberg‘s Map to the Stars. Although Cronenberg has largely dropped the ooey, gooey sci-fi-horror genre that made his name what it is today, he’s still a director with a tremendous amount of passion and ideas. Obviously the cast is stacked;Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Carrie Fisher, Mia Wasikowska, John Cussack; but this isn’t the sci-fi adventure the name may suggest. No, instead that star map refers to the celebrities of Hollywood as Cronenberg, backed by a script from Bruce Wagner, turns a satirical lens on child stars. With back-to-back collaborations, it looks like Cronenberg has found a new muse in Twilight‘s Pattinson and I must admit to strongly enjoying their last effort Cosmopolis so sign me up for a trip to Map to the Stars.
So far all we know is that this’ll hit screens sometime in 2014.
Continuing down the list, it’s all about the guys behind the camera. In Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller (Moneyball) tells the tragic story of how paranoid schizophrenic John duPont killed Olympic Champion Dave Schultz. Yikes. Even a year out, this film screams Oscars and is already poised to make contenders out of the likes of Mark Ruffalo and, however unexpectedly, Steve Carell. Miller has shown a knack for telling a true story in a way that we could never have expected so I’m fascinated to see what he does with a crazy dude and a murder plot.
Yet another without an official release date, Foxcatcher was pushed out of 2013 so there’s no chance it won’t see the light of day in 2014.
Brad Pitt is back to war and I’m already saving my seat. Backed up by Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, and Shia LaBeouf (…) Fury tells the story of one Sherman tank and its five-man crew as they hunt down Nazis with a tank. While Pitt’s glorious recent track record may be the only thing immediately popping out about this one, Fury has something much bigger going for it: David Ayer. The only director to have two entries on this list, Ayer has proven that he can balance drama and tension like none other with End of Watch and this looks even better than entry #15 Sabotage. I’m really wagering a lot on Ayer this year but I have a feeling that neither of his latests will disappoint. If End of Watch is any indication, Fury could be the sleeper hit of the year.
November 12 will see Fury rolling in.
7. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson.Joaquin Phoenix. Nuff said. Ok fine, I’ll go on. Even after the fuzzy disappointment that was The Master(and I’ve had enough of arguing why it was or was not a good movie), PTA will be returning to a more wacky and linear story. I started the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name and found it a little dry and noirish for my reading taste but I can already imagine the kind of cinematic flair that PTA and Phoenix will bring to it. Needless to say, I’m confident that it’ll be a superior film experience. Although the source material suggests the story may be too pulpy for real awards consideration, could this be the film that brings Phoenix his awaited Oscar?
More 2014 films without confirmed release dates.
6. Gone Girl
Dark, dour, depressing. The three D’s of David Fincher. But what can you expect from the man who brought us Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac? Based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girltells the tale of a woman who disappears on her wedding anniversary. Although I’m trying to go into this one with as little details as possible, the mere fact that Fincher is on the case is enough to whet my curiosity. However much next year will revolve around his Batman role, Ben Affleck will have the chance to offer a much more interesting performance here and it’ll be nice to see the man stretch his wings and step outside of his easy, breezy comfort zone.
A pre-Halloween release with an October 3 date.
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
I feel like I stand alone by being merely lukewarm on Wes Anderson‘s last celebrated film, Moonrise Kingdom, but I’m a staunch believer that his earlier, and more adult, work is his finest. So it’s no wonder that I silently celebrated when The Grand Budapest Hotelgot a R-rating. All of Anderson’s usual quirk and OCD-level of visual detail appear to be in tow as are Anderson regulars Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray. This time newbies include Ralph Fiennes, in the starring role, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, and F. Murray Abraham. It really seems like Anderson can put a cast together like none other and with a cast list this stacked, you have to imagine that these actors are just lining up at the door to work with him.
In theaters March 7.
4. Chuck Hank And The San Diego Twins
Jonathan Keevil’s debut, Bellflower, was one of the most jarring and visceral films to date and I simply could not wait to see what he did next. So when it was announced that he would write and direct what seems like a loose adaptation of Romeo & Juliet (well there’s warring families and a captured girl so pretty much…alright scrap the R & J reference) I was pretty pumped. Keevil constructed his first film with less than fifteen grand and considering that this budget is about ten times that ($150K) it puts it in a great position. Still far enough away from the mainstream to retain a wholly original flair and yet loaded enough for a little financial flexibility to do more stunts, Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins is a definite risk pick but one I’m confident making. In Keevil’s Kickstarter campaign, he noted they needed the funds to create such awesome action sequences as: “jumping out of a helicopter”, “Molotov cocktails everywhere” and “punching a guy and he bursts into flames.” Righteous.
It seems like none of my most anticipated have release dates as this one has nothing locked down yet either.
For years, Darren Aronofsky has led us on about his Noah project and finally this year we’ll see what it was he was chomping so hard at the bit about. Once Black Swan made 25 times its production budget (which for those of you don’t already know is totally insane) the folks at Paramount felt it was right to dish out the 130 million dollars Aronofsky wanted to make Noah the big budget spectacle film he always dreamed about. All evidence points to Aronofsky as a tremendous dramatic director (see Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) but his first “spectacle” film (The Fountain) was seen as a bit of a failure. Hopefully he’s learned from his mistakes and Noah will satisfy us on a visual and emotional level unlike anything else this year.
Storms into large format theaters on March 28.
Speaking of spectacles, there’s no denying that Christopher Nolan is the undisputed king of the blockbuster. Forget about James Cameron, Nolan’s films have staying power and pepper coveted spots on top ten lists every year one of his films is released. Amazingly enough, Nolan’s films have the uncanny ability to attract fanboys and high-nosed film critics in equal measure and it all comes down to his ability to mesmerize an audience. Like Inception before it, Interstellar is an entirely original idea this time revolving around space travel and time warps. Of course we’re interested. Largely abandoning regulars like Christian Bale, Ken Watanbe and Cillian Murphy, Interstellar looks to a new generation of Nolanites in Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow and, naturally, Michael Caine. Let’s just be honest with ourselves: there is no summer movie of 2014 that we’re anticipating more than Nolan’s.
You’ll be able to see Interstellar at the biggest screen in a 100-mile radius on November 7.
When you think about it, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my most anticipated film of 2014 goes to Richard Linklater (whose Before Midnight was my Top Movie of 2013) but I’m willing to bet you haven’t even heard of this one. Ambitious to a fault, Boyhood has been in the making for 12 years. And by being in the making, I mean in legitimate development. As in filming for 12 years. Like Linklater’s Before series, Boyhood tracks a father’s (Ethan Hawke) relationship with his son as he grows from 6 to 18. With filming taking place for a few weeks every year, this film will not only serve as a time capsule for the ever-changing Hawke, Linklater, and newcomer Ellar Coltrane but will reflect a changing American culture in the most unaltered of ways. When asked about the film, Hawke said, “[we do] a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls.” Essentially, the film will be like growing up all over again. As I said earlier, it’s ambitious beyond compare but I just can’t wait to see what is in store.
Of course there’s no official release date on this.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Just to recap:
30. How to Train Your Dragon 2 29. Jupiter Ascending 28. Chef 27. Dumb and Dumber To 26. Only Lovers Left Alive 25. Wish I Was Here 24. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 23. Locke 22. Edge of Tomorrow 21. Godzilla 20. Dom Hemingway 19: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 18. X-Men: Days of Future Past 17. Exodus 16. Guardians of the Galaxy 15. Sabotage 14. Big Hero 6 13. The Raid 2: Berenthal 12. The Monument’s Men 11. Transcendence 10. Map to the Stars 10. Snowpiercer 9 Fox Catcher 7. Inherent Vice 8. Gone Girl 6. Fury 5.The Grand Budapest Hotel 4. Chuck Hank And The San Diego Twins 3. Noah 2. Interstellar 1. Boyhood
Even though it’ll still be a few months before Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hoteldebuts, you can still satiate your Anderson cravings with the latest short which sees the exuberant director teaming up with fashion giant Prada titled Castello Cavalcanti. A very rat-faced Jason Schwartzman steps in as a Formula One driver who drives his car into a Jesus statue and ends up in an out-of-body experience in which he wines and dines with his ancestors. Heady and ethereal as that may seem, it’s all filmed in the same color-coordinated precision of a Anderson flick, aided here by cinematography from Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris).
If you missed the trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel, give it a look here and then check out this latest short that no doubt will be packaged with the film. Whether or not it’ll show in front of the film in theaters is uncertain but it will certainly be included in the inevitable Blu Ray package.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is directed by Wes Anderson and stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, and Tony Revolori. It will hit theaters March 7, 2014.
The trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel explores the madcap joy of Wes Anderson‘s film and is sure to delight his legions of fans. The story is centered on Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a upclass hotel manager and his protege Zero Moustafa, the new lobby boy. When a guest is murdered, the police suspect Gustave and he and Zero hit the ground running.
Set to hit theaters on March 7th, 2014, the film sees the return of Anderson’s typical troope: Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. If you missed the first poster, have a look at it here. Otherwise, take a look at the trailer and see where you think this will fall on the Anderson spectrum.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is directed by Wes Anderson and stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, and Tony Revolori. It will hit theaters March 7, 2014.
As an obsessive Wes Anderson fan, I relish in any piece of his inspired artwork, so while most posters don’t really get me excited, this one for The Grand Budapest Hoteldoes for all of its Wes Anderson-esque goodness. While I rather enjoyed his last film, Moonrise Kingdom, it was hardly one of my favorite of his and I’m excited to see Anderson return to the adult world. As always, he’s got a cast and crew to be oogled with season Anderson loyalites Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Adrien Brody will join Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, and newcomer Tony Revolori.
Although little is known about the film, the plot description per IMDB details:
“A famous hotel’s legendary concierge strikes up a friendship with a young employee who becomes his trusted protégé.”
For me, Anderson’s best films come from with exploring themes of wounded humanity. Films like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Darjeeling Limited are as deeply tragic as they are comedic and I’m hoping for something of the same from his latest without quite as much snarky childhood wist as his last two, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom.
With this first poster debut, we can hopefully expect a full synposis or trailer in the near future.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is directed by Wes Anderson and stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, and Tony Revolori. It will hit theaters sometime in 2014.