Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Best 10 Movies Of 2014!

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The Basics: 2014 might have been a rough year for quality cinema, but here are the ten films you should see from the year!

Coming into 2015, I was a bit down on movies. 2014 was not an exceptional year for movies and outside one of the nominees, there is no Best Picture Oscar nominee that I would even want to see again. That said, despite a dearth of great films in 2014 (I had to go into the 7.5/10’s to make this list!), there were two films that actually made it into the “perfect” camp this year (out of more 2000 movie reviews, only 35 have gotten perfect 10/10 ratings!). Despite having three movies from 2014 I actually still want to see, I decided to follow-up on my Worst Movies Of 2014 List (that’s here!) with the Best 10 Movies Of 2014.

It is imperative to know, at the outset, that I consider movies for my lists based on their wide-release date. As a result, some films, like Predestination (reviewed here!) and Inherent Vice (reviewed here!) would have been on this list, but they only had limited release in 2014, with a wide-release in 2015. I’m not a fan of supporting the “New York City and Los Angeles get to see it, so it should compete against the full field” concept. It’s also worth noting that Still Alice (reviewed here!) should have made the list (by the numbers), but given how I would not recommend it and never want to see it again, despite being able to acknowledge that the acting in it is wonderful and it accomplishes its goals well, I can’t consider it one of the best movies of the year. So, while this list is undoubtedly the only one with these precise ten movies, the Best Ten Movies Of 2014 are:

10. The Best Offer (reviewed here!) – If you had told me on January 1 of last year that the first movie released in the New Year would make the list, I would have said, “no way!” Quiet and contemplative, the film that focuses on a reclusive auctioneer trying to clandestinely rebuild an ancient automaton, before his life takes a right turn, is actually one of the cleverest and most deceptive films in years. Arguably the most underrated performance of Geoffrey Rush’s career, The Best Offer might be the year’s best gem import,

9. Veronica Mars (reviewed here!) – Arguably the most controversial film to be included on this list, Veronica Mars is vastly underrated. Rob Thomas had a herculean task in bringing his popular television show to the big screen, not the least of which was telling a complete story in a shorter amount of time than any of the story arcs on the series! Veronica Mars (reviewed here!) had big, season-long mysteries and the idea that a full story could be told, while introducing the essential characters from the television series to a potentially new audience, in only a couple hours required the right story. Far from being a mess, Veronica Mars is a rousing success of continuing the story of Veronica Mars after a gap of several years. And, to the detractors, at least Thomas didn’t use the “season four” b.s. idea . . .,

8. The Skeleton Twins (reviewed here!) – This might be the only film I was looking forward to seeing all year, missed in theaters, and then lived up when I finally caught it! The Skeleton Twins is heartwrenching and heartwarming and it illustrates just how much two performers can push themselves and each other when they are working with people they like and trust. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader were robbed this Award’s season! The Skeleton Twins might be dark, but it does not feel oppressive and that is a rare thing these days,

7. This Is Where I Leave You (reviewed here!) – Jason Bateman might be the biggest star to appear in films that made both my Worst and Best Movie lists! Bateman gets top-billing in This Is Where I Leave You, which was the story of a family reuniting to sit Shiva after the death of the family patriarch. The dialogue, casting and performances are excellent,

6. The Double (reviewed here!) – It is rare for me to sing the praises of a creepy movie, but The Double is that good! The strength of Richard Ayoade’s interpretation of the Dostoyevsky original is that: 1. It can be interpreted several different ways and 2. Even when one feels like they aren’t sure exactly what is going on, the film is entirely engaging. The result is a movie that is unsettling, but has some real, enduring value,

5. Comet (reviewed here!) – One of the late releases of 2014, Comet was entirely overlooked during Award’s Season and that is their loss (and ours)! Comet is the smart exploration of a tumultuous relationship that is packed with wonderful dialogue, impressive performances, and memorable characters. This is a love story that feels fresh and real, even when it is difficult and the strength of the movie is that it still manages to entertain while embodying a strong sense of reality,

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (reviewed here!) – So, here it is! My quest to watch all eight movies that got Best Picture Oscar nods yielded one that I think deserves it! I’m not big on slapstick comedies or classical movies (the novelty win of The Artist (reviewed here!) a few years back still pisses me off!) and I went into seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel biased against it. But, it won me over. The quirky comedy about a lobby boy and a concierge on the run from a family who want their mother’s inheritance is Wes Anderson’s best film in years,

3. Her (reviewed here!) – The Grand Budapest Hotel is lucky that the limited release of Her put it on the ballot last year, instead of this one! Her is original and clever as it tells the story of one man’s burgeoning love with the artificial intelligence on his phone. Spike Jonze has a flair for finding a concept that is smart and foreseeable, while reaching the only possible and logical conclusion to that story . . . with consequences that give us instant empathy for the film’s protagonist. Given how most of Joachim Phoenix’s performance is opposite a screen and he makes the relationship between his character and the voice of Scarlett Johansson seem entirely real, this might be his best performance ever,

2. X-Men: Days Of Future Past (reviewed here!) – While Guardians Of The Galaxy (reviewed here!) was amusing, X-Men: Days Of Future Past had a level of substance that makes it a far superior film. Despite awkwardness in the X-Men timeline and the desire for most fans of the franchise to forget about X-Men III: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days Of Future Past manages to incorporate the disparate elements, characters and timelines and make a story that is the logical conclusion to Magneto’s original threats against humanity back in X-Men. The film, which puts Logan at the center of a time-travel adventure where he must stop the rise of the forces that will lead to a slaughter of mutants is well-executed visually and from a performance and character standpoint. Plus, despite all the Easter Eggs in Marvel movies last year, there was no moment on screen in 2014 that delighted me like the cameos at the climax of this movie! Regardless of what comes next and all the recasting, X-Men: Days Of Future Past is the crown jewel of Marvel movies,

. . . and . . .

. . .the best movie of 2014 is . . .

1. Cheap Thrills (reviewed here!) – Seriously. Cheap Thrills might be one of the least pleasant movies in years, but it was the best, most important film of 2014. If it had reached an audience and people had understood the film’s metaphorical level, the Tea Party would never have managed to get a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress in the 2014 midterm elections. Yes, seriously. That is a lot to credit to one movie, but Cheap Thrills does that. The story of an everyman who is in debt, facing a financial crisis that threatens himself and his family begins innocuously enough. On the day he is fired, he goes to a bar, meets an old chum from school and he and his friend encounter a seemingly benevolent rich guy and his wife. In celebrating the wife’s birthday, the two men are given competitions for increasing amounts of money and the film turns into a powerful metaphor for how business and the media treat everyone but the 1%. The story of how business sets people against one another and how other powerful forces delight in it and reinforce the inhumanity of their actions is gripping, entertaining, difficult-to-watch and entirely brilliant. Cheap Thrills is the must-see movie from 2014.

For other lists, please check out my:
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Enterprise
The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
The Worst Ten Episodes Of Star Trek

To see how all movies I have reviewed have stacked up against each other check out my Film Review Index Page where the movies are organized from best to worst!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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