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