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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Top 10 Films Of 2014


Alright, with a new epic Top Ten podcast on the horizon and following a few days of me recapping the year of 2014 in other forms ("Most Average", "Odds & Ends", "Worsts", "Top 30-21", "Top 20-11"), I have now assembled my Top Ten Films of 2014.  Of course, this and many lists could have already been seen at Why So Blu as well, but it is now on my own site, with some minor tweaks. Not much else to say, so enjoy!



10. The Grand Budapest Hotel I played around with having a lot of different films in the number 10 spot, as I was honestly pretty set on everything else early on.  With that in mind, it came down to thinking of the film that I would likely be watching the most and still getting a lot out it, which is why I am happy to stick with the latest effort from Wes Anderson.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is something of a sprawling mystery, with a convoluted line of plotting made perfectly humorous by the ensemble cast, headed by a pitch-perfect performance from Ralph Fiennes.  The film is a lot of fun, features a layer of drama to put things into perspective, and is a visual delight.  While there are some that may not be as enamored with Anderson’s style, those who are were surely in for a treat when it came to taking in the cinematography, production and costume design, and plenty other elements that really blow out this world.  For a filmmaker who consistently delivers for me, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of Anderson’s bests.

“To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it, but I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace.” (Movie Review)


9. ChefChef has been a film I described as one that seems near impossible to not at least find to be a fun effort.  Writer/Director Jon Favreau has taken a break from blockbuster filmmaking in an effort to recharge the engines with something that takes him back to his roots.  Chef is more akin to a film like Swingers (which he wrote) or Made (which he wrote and directed), as it is ostensibly a comedy, but with a touch of drama, and ultimately a lot of sweetness.  It helps that this film features some delicious-looking food and mouth-watering cooking scenes, along with a great supporting cast to make this film so likable.  The fantastic soundtrack is really the icing on the cake.  I look back fondly on my first viewing of Chef and recall whispering over to my friend about how I found this film to be adorable.  It really is, as it is a lot of fun, charming, and most certainly quite appetizing.

“I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.” (Movie Review)


8. Inherent VicePaul Thomas Anderson returned to the scene this year with a wacked-out, stoner, neo-noir, comedy adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s detective novel.  While I hear a lot of people that ultimately enjoyed the film state how it plays much better on a second and third viewing, I can say that I was easily taken in the first time by the vibe of this film that is far happier to let us follow along with Joaquin Phoenix’s perpetually stoned character, Doc Sportello, as he glides through a world full of intrigue, deceit, and hippies.  With that in mind, I have seen Inherent Vice a second time and regardless of whether or not the plot was easier to follow, the best thing was seeing myself being able to revisit this film often, in the same way I do with Boogie Nights, as there are so many fun characters here, most notably Josh Brolin’s renaissance cop, Det. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen.  Inherent Vice is a madcap comedy, with elements that balance its grooviness with a sense of disillusionment in the eyes of many of the various characters.  Challenging and unique, which matches what PTA is always bringing to the table.

“Do you have a spare picture I could borrow?” (Movie Review)


7. Only Lovers Left AliveJim Jarmusch made a film about Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as a married couple who happen to be vampires.  These two have lived for ages, interacted and influenced many significant historical artists and inventors, and now spend their time lounging about.  I am a big fan of Jim Jarmusch and really fell for what he brought out in this film by way of its atmosphere.  The opening of this film sets the tone completely, as a rotating camera watches Swinton and Hiddleston’s characters from above.  The film is quite happy to show these characters as being ‘stuck’ in their lives, dealing with the humans (or zombies, as the vampires call them) around them, despite still having plenty of creativity within themselves.  The hypnotic soundtrack brings everything together, as this is a deliberately paced dark comedy that is ultimately a love story that stuck well with me throughout the year.

“That certainly was visual.” (Movie Review)


6. SnowpiercerThere were mutants, raccoons, and a Spider-Man, but the best comic book movie that I saw this year was easily Snowpiercer.  Working as an allegorical sci-fi film, filled with dark humor and a lot of great action, writer/director Bong Joon-ho has put together a fantastic film that features a ludicrous premise that is plenty entertaining, as we learn more and more about the world these characters exist in.  Chris Evans gives a strong, serious lead performance, with the other performances easily rounding things out, most notable the very eccentric Tilda Swinton (who has been featured on this list 3 times).  The way we explore a futuristic train is also quite fascinating and a lot of fun, especially when Snowpiercer lets all hell break loose, as we see giant battles within a single train car or a school day gone horribly wrong.  There are a lot weird films on this list as it is, but Snowpiercer certainly does not shy away from the absurd, no matter how crazy the action scenes are or how dark some of the backstory we come to learn is.   Given the setting, that is the nature of this wild ride.

“I believe it is easier for people to survive on this train if they have some level of insanity.” (Movie Review)


5. The Lego MovieIf The Lego Movie was merely an entertaining film, based around the popular building block brand, it would have been sufficient.  Instead, writing/directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have snapped together the pieces of a great comedy that features a charming cast, a plethora of great gags, beautiful animation, and a thoughtful story that uses its irreverent sense of humor to deconstruct the blockbuster formula, while still featuring themes about individualism, working with others, and not shying away from one’s passions, among other things.  But regardless of how adults can get caught up in the deeper meanings of the film, The Lego Movie is still supremely entertaining, with plenty of memorable lines and characters, including one of my new favorite versions of Batman and Liam Neeson in a hilarious dual role.  Everything continues to be awesome with this film.

“I only work in black and sometimes very, very dark grey.” (Movie Review)


4. Selma – A biopic done exceptionally well.  Selma does not attempt to give us the full story of Martin Luther King, Jr., as that is a task that would surely take more than just one two hour film to do proper justice.  Instead, here is a film that takes a significant event from MLK’s life and creates a film featuring a terrific lead performance from David Oyelowo as Dr. King, a very strong supporting turn from Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson, and plenty of other great things that make Selma a fantastic film.  Director Ava DuVernay makes a very strong impression; having completed filming and releasing Selma in under a year.   The film features some incredible sequences and a strong level of confidence in the production.  Aiding things further is Paul Webb’s screenplay and how relevant the themes and situations presented in this film still are in today’s American society.  The film is a great examination of a great man, appropriate for today’s social and political climate, and does not miss a beat in any regard to making a compelling film.  March on.

”What happens when a man stands up and says, ‘enough is enough?’” (Movie Review)


3. NightcrawlerI tend to look at Jake Gyllenhaal as one of the best actors of his generation and the great thing is that he is really only just getting started.  This year alone, between Enemy (which he filmed before 2013’s Prisoners, where he was also superb) and this film, Gyllenhaal has been doing fantastic work.  With that in mind, Nightcrawler is not only great because of Gyllenhaal’s unhinged, yet committed performance as Lou Bloom, but because of how great of a film Dan Gilory has put together as his directorial debut.  He hired Robert Elswit to shoot the best-looking Los Angeles movie of the year; James Newton Howard turns in a terrific score; the writing is sharp; the story blends elements of neo-noir and dark satire; and the supporting cast members are all very game to go along with the madness.  Nightcrawler lures you into a slimy world involving the darker sides of how to make the news, but if one keeps their head above it all, one can easily see a great film here.

“Who am I? I’m a hard worker. I set high goals and I’ve been told that I’m persistent” (Movie Review)


2. BirdmanThere was very little doubt in my mind that I would not love Birdman.  Everything I knew about it suggested a winner.  It turned out to be true, as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has put together a sort of odyssey for one man (Michael Keaton), which all takes place in and around the St. James Theater in New York City.  We watch Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson, as he attempts to keep his sanity, while putting together what he hopes will be a turning point in his career as an actor and celebrity.  Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, and others are all a part of a great cast who deliver, while the other big star in this film is the visual style.  Emmanuel Lubezki attempts to one-up his Oscar-winning work on last year’s Gravity by shooting a film with the semblance of taking place almost entirely within the same shot.  It is an ambitious concept, which matches up to Birdman’s attempts to be a comedy, drama, satire, fantasy, and more.  Fortunately for me, I found it to be a huge success in all of those regards.

“How did we end up here? This place is horrible, smells like balls. You had it all. You were a movie star, remember? Now you’re about to destroy what’s left of your career. We should have done that reality show they offered us.” (Movie Review)


1. Boyhood – What else can I say about Boyhood at this point?  I love this movie.  I loved it the first time I saw it and I have continued to love it after seeing it again and not letting it escape my mind, in regards to the great films I saw this year.  This is another ambitious filmmaking project that found writer/director Richard Linklater developing a story and characters for over 12 years and coming out with a true triumph.  I have no idea what the reaction to a film like this would have been if it simply kept recasting and ageing up the characters, but it does not matter.  What I saw was a terrific film, with Linklater’s style fitting so well in a very human story that is not about huge dramatic moments, but the subtleties of life and all that comes with it.  I could relate to some aspects, was happy to be engaged by others, found humor in a lot of areas, and was emotionally impacted by many as well.  I could go on and on, but I will at least spotlight Patricia Arquette, among the cast members, as she truly is wonderful here, as are so many other aspects of what is my favorite film of 2014.  In a list of films that I consider to be my favorites of the year, Boyhood easily stands tall as the best.
“I see you point. So we should just let it happen more natural? That’s what you’re saying? Okay, that’s what we’ll do, starting now.” (Movie Review)

Films I Did Not Get Around To Seeing As Of Yet:

American Sniper, Beyond the Lights, CitizenFour, Cold In July, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Goodbye to Language, Leviathan, Maps to the Stars, Mommy, Night Moves, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Timbuktu, The Tribe, Two Days One Night, We Are the Best!


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Okay, so stay tuned for the epic Out Now Podcast, which will be posted next!

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