Top 10: 2014 Movies

These are my personal choices for the best movies of 2014. It’s been a wonderful year for film!

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1. Interstellar

Interstellar was my absolute favorite of the year. While I was a bit disappointed with parts of the ending and some lack of character development, that does not overshadow my love for this film. It’s an incredible balance of thrills, visual spectacle, top-notch acting, and thought-provoking ideas. The visuals are a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, especially one depicting space. Matthew McConaughey is nothing short of outstanding, especially his scene where he watches the videos of his child growing up before his eyes. It shoots through the heart and will leave you aching. As will many other moving moments. The scientific and time-travel elements will blow your mind. (Even if you don’t fully understand them) I consider it to be, and I believe it should be held up as a modern classic. See more of my review here.

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2. Whiplash

 Whiplash is majorly intense, thanks to the squaring off of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons as clashing jazz music teacher and student. The film explores how far you are willing to go for your talent, how far you’re willing to go for your art. The drumming in this is insanely amazing, (and looks very painful…) and apparently Miles Teller actually did it. You cannot look away, it is be brutal and horrific yet compelling. J.K. Simmons, who is known as Juno’s loving dad or J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man, is chilling and terrifying. It never fails to shock the lengths that student Andrew will go to vie for a starring spot in his teacher’s eye. The finale packs a powerful punch and will leave you on the edge of your seat.

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3. Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler really makes an impression, and that’s all due to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. His Lou Bloom echoes Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. Lou is success-hungry and sociopathic, he will stop at nothing do advance further in his career. He is completely committed to achieving success as a news cameraman, who films crashes, accidents that take place at night. Lou has no qualms about crossing moral lines. Although it is not just Lou who lacks morality, for Nightcrawler also gives a scathing look at the news and modern media. The newscasters who work in tandem with Lou will also stop at nothing to get that perfect shot and story, so who cares about the people it happened to? The more tragic the event, the better the news. Nightcrawler is an incredible thriller that really leaves a stamp in your mind thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s star performance.

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4. Gone Girl

Based on the bestselling book, Gone Girl was a highly-anticipated adaptation. Helmed by the brilliant David Fincher and a screenplay penned by the illustrious author herself, Gillian Flynn. Together, they create a fantastic adaptation that lives up to the book’s twisted tale. Gone Girl will go down in history as one of the smarter thrillers that depict a heated battle of the sexes.(i.e. the 90s hits Basic Instinct, Body Heat) With sleek visuals and a chilling performance by Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl is an intelligent and engrossing thriller that will be talked about for a very long time. To see my full review, go here.

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5. The Immigrant

The Immigrant is an elegant and haunting gem, telling the story of early 1920s America. The visuals are outstanding, shot with a gorgeous sepia tone or muted colors that perfectly capture the period. Marion Cotillard shines, as she so often does, as the Polish immigrant. Her performance is powerful, quietly yet deftly capturing Eva’s emotional turmoil. Joaquin Phoenix is on equal footing as the flawed hustler. Together, they craft engrossing characters that are intertwined for better or worse. The Immigrant is a somber piece but exiusite film. Marion Cotillard enraptures the audience, making you completely engrossed in Ewa’s long and hard journey. I wrote more about The Immigrant here.

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6. Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood obviously achieves a technological feat with it’s innovative use of telling a story over 12 years, you watch the cast grow up before your very eyes. And it is a marvel. But what could have been a gimmick ends up being a resounding realistic portrait of life. What’s so beautiful about Boyhood is it’s simplicity. It’s not just a story that hits all the typical beats of adolescence, like “here’s the PROM scene” or “here’s the FIRST KISS scene.” Instead it is compromised of the little things. How life’s little moments, heartbreaking and joyful, can so quickly accumulate, and before we know it it’s years later. Boyhood comes as close to life as a documentary, it is an experimental film that more than paid off, one that redefined cinema.

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7. The Babadook

The Babadook is a game-changing horror film that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, twisting familiar horror film elements to create something completely original. The Babadook is filled with artful visuals, long shadows and an elegant grayscale wash. It makes the house they live in look exactly like the charcoal Babadook book. There’s strange camera angles and an astounding and eerie silent film montage. The relationship and story of mother and son is genuinely moving, and Essie Davis gives a phenomenal performance. You never know quite where the story is going. Is it another story of a possessed mother? Is it truly a monster? Or is it just psychological, all in their heads? The Babadook is a blur between reality and metaphor, one that never quite gives you all the answers but takes you on a heart-wrenching and terrifying ride.

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8. Wild

Reese Witherspoon gives the best performance of her career in Wild. She is a flawed and complicated heroine, one who must go on a 1,000 mile walk to cleanse her soul from demons past. Several powerfully moving scenes have been stuck in my head long after seeing it. Director Jean-Marc Vallée, who previously helmed Dallas Buyers Club, does stunning work here. The flashbacks brilliantly intertwine with her present-day scenes. Wild is both painful and uplifting. It enraptures the audience in the complicated her conquest every step of the way.

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9. The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins is a rare family drama that deftly navigates both the highest of highs and lowest of lows. It’s a rare film that can effectively mine both laughter and tears. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are the perfect pair, demonstrating their well-known comedic chops but also bringing fantastic dramatic performances as well. The Skeleton Twins is an emotionally engaging dramedy. It also gives us a hilarious “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” lip-synching scene.

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10. Pride

Pride is pure uplifting fun. Set in the 1980s England coal miner’s strike and the LGBT community that helps support them. It’s an earnest story of overcoming prejudice without being too schmaltzy. The combination of being emotionally resonant while remaining fairly light-hearted keeps it from being preachy. Pride is a joyous and heartfelt crow-pleaser with a great 80s soundtrack. Also, the ending scene (pictured above) has some really beautiful London visuals, with a great score too!

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Top 10: Feel-Good Movies

If you’re having a bad day, or are sick beyond belief, nothing feels better than snuggling up with a feel-good movie. A movie that never fails to make you smile or lift your spirits. Everyone has those certain special ones, and here’s a few of mine.

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1. My Neighbor Totoro

If this movie doesn’t make you smile, you’re basically not human. Hayao Miyazaki is a master storyteller, and Totoro is no different from his other woks that capture the simple magic of childhood. Totoro is a playful mystical creature that brightens the lives of two little girls, taking them on a magical adventure while also teaching them about the realities of life. It can’t get any cuter than this. With gorgeous animation and adorable magical creatures, My Neighbor Totoro is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

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2. When Harry Met Sally

Harry and Sally are pretty much my #relationshipgoals. Sure, they didn’t really like each other at first and it took 10 years for them to finally get together… but they end up fitting together perfectly. These are smartly written and all around great characters. Sharply played by the actors, Billy Crystal’s cynical Harry and Meg Ryan’s cheery Sally have fantastic interplay with an infectious wit. And that monologue at the end always gets me. “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Don’t we all want to hear that? When Harry Met Sally set the standard for romantic comedies that very few have ever reached.

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3. Clue 

Clue is a zany physical comedy that will leave you in stitches from side-splitting laughter. Tim Curry is a huge standout, leading the wacky gang in pratfalls and mishaps throughout the sprawling mansion. Madeline Khan is also deviously funny as Mrs. White, particularly her hilarious monologue on her loathing of Yvette “Flames…on the side of my face!” It is frantic and silly, and feels more like a stage farce than anything. I’ve always thought it would be an excellent play. If I ever need a laugh, all I have to do is pop Clue in the DVD player.

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4. Adventures in Babysitting

Adventures in Babysitting starts out with a fun bang in a magnetic opening. (which I wrote about here) Is it silly and unbelievable at times? Yes. But it’s a lot of fun. The kids singing ‘The Babysitting Blues’ at a downtown Chicago blues club, encountering a Thor-esque mechanic, running into the mob, and so on. Also, the 80s was a time where kids and family movies could get away with a lot more, such as a sub plot where the babysitter looks strikingly similar and keeps getting mistaken for a Playboy model. Adventures in Babysitting is fun and absolutely lovable.

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5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This is a John Hughes classic, sold by Matthew Broderick as the charming lead character. It’s about being young and having fun, with a touch of serious moments as well. Jennifer Grey is hilarious as Ferris’ jealous younger sister. Jeffery Jones nearly steals the show as Ed Rooney, determined to catch Ferris Bueller in the act of skipping school. From the sing-along at the parade, to crashing a fancy restaurant, to a joyride in the Ferrari, there are so many memorable moments. Ferris and his friends have the best day of skipping school ever. And as Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Why not have fun while you can? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off makes you feel like you are a part of that ride.

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6. The Emperor’s New Groove

This is Disney’s funniest film, hands down. An all-star hilarious voice cast, David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman and Patrick Warburton bring to life the colorful characters. Kronk’s spy song and when he olds the one note leaves me in stitches EVERY time. There are too many knee-slapping moments in this. The Emperor’s New Groove is a whimsical and funky Disney feature that warms your heart and never lets you stop laughing.

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7. Back to the Future

How can you not love Back to the Future? It’s one of film’s most inventive, rousing, and all around entertaining adventures. Michael J. Fox is beyond charming as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd will always be remembered as the zany time-travel inventor Doc Brown. One particular moment that will always leave you smiling is Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” solo.  Despite being set in the 80s, it really is a timeless classic.

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8. About A Boy

About A Boy is not only wickedly funny, but also very touching. Hugh Grant stars as the jaded Will silver-tongued sleaze with a hidden inner decency. He loves living life with no strings attached. He manages to get involved with a young boy and his depressed mom. Along the way, he learns that you shouldn’t seal yourself off from the world, or as he says in his mantra, be an island. One of the best parts is when he plays with Will at his school concert, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. About A Boy is a tender and charming British comedy that reminds you the importance of human connection and relationships,

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9. Frankie and Johnny

I just love this movie so much, it’s vastly underrated. It’s emotional and all-around delightful romantic comedy. Frankie and Johnny has fantastic performances by the two leads, played by Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. They have incredible chemistry and really sell the intricacies of the two characters. Frankie and Johnny deals with the complications of life, how it can beat you down, yet there is still the hope of connecting with truly good people. It’s a simple but beautiful little story.

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10. Down With Love

Down With Love is a stylish romp that homages 1960s classics such as Pillow Talk. It’s basically like a chocolate bar, (pretty much like the one Ewan McGregor seductively unwraps in one scene) deliciously light and sweet and guaranteed to make you feel good. It’s unabashedly silly, cute and charming movie fluff.