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Jeff Turner's 20 Favorite Films of 2014
20 Favorite Films of 2014
Now for the fun list! I saw a lot of good movies in 2014, and felt compelled to not limit it to 10. Lets get started!
Christopher Nolan’s latest offering was certainly divisive. I didn’t feel all of the films pieces always worked, but the immense achievement Nolan and his effects team accomplished with the feeling of space travel and the black hole were worth the price of admission alone. It may only sustain one viewing, but it is a unique experience that I’m glad to have watched in the theater.
19. JOHN WICK
And the award for best movie that everybody was expecting to suck but didn’t goes to JOHN WICK. Keanu Reeves’ latest action movie is a surprisingly well directed, charming yarn featuring a lot of good ideas (including a hotel for hitmen), and plenty of good performances, most of all from Reeves himself. If you like Keanu Reeves and want to see him in something good, you could do worse.
18. AMERICAN SNIPER
The controversial biopic of Navy Seal Chris Kyle is an emotional, intense portrait of a man who served four terms in the Iraq war and had to deal with the baggage that came with that much carnage. This is Clint Eastwood’s best film in some time, and Bradley Cooper continues to solidify himself as one of the best stars working today. It’s a film that is still creating discussion around the watercooler a month after its release. Plus it produced the best trailer of the year.
17. DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
It is rare that a director will make such a fully realized, vivacious film their first time as Justin Simien did in his directoral debut, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE. The film was an honest examination of African American culture in a post-Obama America with dialogue that crackled with life. One felt like they might have known some of these characters. It is an effective, thought provoking satire.
16. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Wes Anderson’s latest has all the sterling visual panache, colorful characters, and terrific costume and set design that one of his films typically does. GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL moves through at a fast pace, riveting the viewer at every turn. The film often feels like a new classic.
15. THE IMITATION GAME
Dear directors of THE FIFTH ESTATE; this is how you make a Cumberbatch helmed biopic. Morten Tyldum’s career making film follows mathematician Alan Turing as he works to crack Enigma, the supercomputer that the Nazis used to communicate during World War II. The film also covers Turing’s fight to conceal his homosexuality, which inevitably ends in chemical castration (you helped us win World War II, this is how we’ll reward you), as well as the device he pioneers that laid the groundwork for the first computer. It is an expert biopic, well paced, smart, and emotional. It also features one of the best female characters of 2014 in Keira Knightley’s Joan, as well as one of the best Keira Knightley performances in some time.
Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the bravest leading men working right now. His performance in NIGHTCRAWLER is one of the fundamental aspects of what sells the film. This otherwise very good looking leading man totally loses himself in a portrait of a complete and total sociopath. The film is a scathing, very funny satire of the media, expertly directed by Dan Gilroy. Plus its one of the best Rene Russo turns in at least a decade.
13. LIFE ITSELF
This documentary about Roger Ebert is just as much a movie about movies as it is about Roger. The man was one of my primary influences, and a big factor of what influenced me to start reviewing movies in the first place. We disagreed certainly, but he had such an eloquence about his opinions that even if you thought he could be a prude, you’d want to hear what he had to say. Steve James’ documentary is expertly made, and sans the exclusion of Richard Roeper (which I’ll be honest, is probably the main reason this isn’t higher on my list), the interview choices are excellent.
12. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
The least cynical film of 2014. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the guy that’s just happy to be invited by the party. The movie has as much heart as any film I saw this year. It also features excellent turns by the likes of Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel…all of the actors who portray the Guardians in question are pretty excellent. Plus the film will likely go down as the best Mass Effect movie ever made.
11. EDGE OF TOMMOROW
Emily Blunt gave the best performance from an actress in an action movie in 2014 in EDGE OF TOMORROW (try repeating that sentence five times fast). She is strong, she takes care of herself, and actually manages to have quite a bit of chemistry with Tom Cruise. Speaking of Tom Cruise, this is the most fun he’s been in some time. Director Doug Liman takes advantage of his willingness to do crazy stunts and the vitriol people have towards him and opts to utilize the film’s premise to find creative ways to kill Cruise off. Its in these scenes that Cruise reminds people that he is one of the best salesmen in Hollywood. You put him in a TOP GUN or a MINORITY REPORT or an EDGE OF TOMORROW and he sells it effortlessly. The film was imbued with excellent dark humor, and was easily the best blockbuster of the year.
The most important film of the year, easily. The debate regarding the NSA is still a hot topic with many people, and Edward Snowden has, regardless of whether or not he’s willing to admit it, has become a martyr for American privacy. This a documentary that's equally effective at thrilling as it at informing. Its worth seeing, and worth revisiting whenever Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic comes out.
9. THE LEGO MOVIE
One of the most joyful kids movies I’ve seen in years. THE LEGO MOVIE would make a great double feature with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in two ways (one, they both star Chris Pratt, and two, they’re both anti-cynical in nature). The film has the most gorgeous animation I saw in a movie this year, and uses its voice actors in creative and funny ways. My favorite is still Will Arnett’s Batman (he’s the best Batman, dang it!)
8. TOP FIVE
Chris Rock takes the time to remind us why we liked him in the first place. His TOP FIVE is an effective analysis on Black culture and of the nature of fame. It manages to be Chris Rock’s equivalent of a Woody Allen while still being Rock’s brainchild. Plus it features one of the best female performances from Rosario Dawson. If only Chris Rock were this funny more often, he has a voice that is deeply needed.
One of the best portraits of complete sociopaths this year. Miles Teller adds another excellent performance to his repertoire, while JK Simmons works in the role of a lifetime as his coach. I didn’t think WHIPLASH was perfect, but it had one of the best soundtracks of the year, and it had one of 2014’s all-time greatest endings. It is a film that makes you ponder the nature of coaching, and whether or not it’s about ego or helping the kids you’re coaching.
6. INHERENT VICE
2014’s weirdest movie is also one of its best. Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest earns its spot among his best masterpieces with a creative voice that’s all its own. It is an excellent commentary on the dying days of a decade and the nostalgia that produces. INHERENT VICE handles these immense themes while also being very very funny. Joaquin Phoenix gives one of my personal favorite films of the year, as does Josh Brolin.
The best action movie of 2014. SNOWPIERCER has an intensity and intelligence to it that so many American action movies lack. Chris Evans is excellent in the lead role, as are the likes of John Hurt, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, and Octavia Spencer. Bong-Joon Ho solidifies himself as a visionary filmmaker, with a movie that moves at a breakneck pace and has some of the best twists of the year along with one of the best science fiction premises in years.
4. GONE GIRL
My guilty pleasure of 2014. It offers a great star-making turn from Rosamund Pike as well as immense acting from Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon. Fincher directs the film with an almost Hitchcockian sense of dread. A good question is whether or not GONE GIRL is a feminist film, I say yes. Gillian Flynn flips the typical stereotype of the crazed gold digging woman on its nose and forces you to look at the marriage between Nick and Amy from multiple perspectives. Even though if you come out of the film thinking Amy is a monster (and why wouldn’t you) you’re forced to think about it. This film is indeed plenty absurd in its plot twists, but David Fincher directs in such a way to where I was never bored. GONE GIRL; it aint perfect, but I love it.
3. BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
The best comedy of the year, I love Michael Keaton and always wanted to see him in a career making performance. Finally, I got it. He is brilliant here, moving between manic insanity and controlled fury with relative ease. The wonderful cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki lives up to its hype, carrying the film from one scene to another in a way that is both fascinating and organic. Other performances of note include Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifinakis, and Edward Norton. BIRDMAN has some of the best direction of the year by Alejandro G. Inarritu as well as some of the best monologues of the year. It's a hell of an experience.
Despite the fact that Ava DuVernay never got the best director nomination she deserved, SELMA is still a huge step forward for both black directors and female directors. The film has some inaccuracies to be certain, but it justifies them by what it is trying to do. It strips down the Martin Luther King Jr. mythos, only to build an image warranting even more respect. This is a film that has me excited for what DuVernay is going to do next, she has jumped to the head of a movement, one I hope retains a presence. David Oyelowo gives the best performance from a lead actor I saw in 2014; Carmen Ejogo as his wife, and TIm Roth as slimy politician George Wallace also sit amongst the snubbed. Its an exemplary movie, and the best biopic I’ve seen in several years.
And now *drumroll*….my #1 film of 2014.
The best films leave you in a state of euphoria. Such was my experience with Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, BOYHOOD. This is a film that is transcendental in its normality, its depictions of everyday life achieving a sense of poetry that is unparalleled by any movie I’ve seen before it. It is a masterstroke and if it wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards it will be well, well deserved. Patricia Arquette gives the performance of a career as the boy’s mother, with Linklater being able to see the beauty in this woman's age. As such, considering Arquette’s status as a sex symbol early in her career, she was a good choice. She shows an emotional nakedness here that she never had before. Linklater is a genius, and with BOYHOOD people are finally starting to catch on.
That’s it for 2014; thank you to all of those who have stuck with me, I appreciate all of you.