2014 was a doozy. With civil unrest at home, political conflicts abroad and horrific Taylor Swift songs, we all needed some time away. A chance to get “this sick beat” out of our heads. What better way to do so than to escape into a movie? From well-made triple A blockbusters to an excellent Oscar season, quality was everywhere. Time to sit back and reflect on the cinematic year that was with Pantheon Mag’s Top 10 Movies of 2014.
Note: I was unable to screen A Most Violent Year before the publishing of this list.
- Foxcatcher – Much like last year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club, I like to reserve my ten spot for flawed films featuring exceptional acting. Charged with career performances by Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, Bennett Miller’s cold, stoic study of John Du Pont’s and Mark Schultz’s obsessive father/son relationship is a chiller through and through.
- Blue Ruin –When a mild mannered life drifter (Macon Blair) learns of the death of his parents, he strikes out on a bloody rampage of vengeance. Trouble is, he’s not very good at any of it. Darkly comic yet brutally poignant, Blue Ruin is a Kickstarter campaign done right. The best revenge flick I’ve seen in years.
- Gone Girl – David Fincher’s cold and brutal direction is the perfect canvas for this sharp satire of fading love and media obsession. Best viewed with no knowledge of the main twist, Gone Girl soars on the back of Roasmund Pike’s Oscar worthy performance. Sleeping next to your partner will never feel quite as comfortable again.
- Interstellar – A film of impressive scope and wild ambitions, Interstellar is the first Christopher Nolan film that completely fulfills his grand vision. A work of real science fiction, Interstellar combines jaw dropping set pieces with deep, challenging concepts. Wrap it up in a story seeped in basic human emotion and you have a movie that dared us to look heavenward and dream bigger than we ever thought possible.
- Under the Skin – Dark, obtuse and purposefully vague, Jonathan Glazer’s grim erotic thriller is a triumph of evil seduction. Featuring the sultry Scarlett Johansson in an almost silent role, Under the Skin brims with uncomfortable moments and genuine tension. A difficult yet highly rewarding watch.
- Wild – Reese Witherspoon turns in one of the best performances of her career in the inspirational, true life tale of Cheryl Strayed and her three month trek across the Pacific Crest Trail. Resplendent in natural beauty and striking honesty, Wild is a biopic with teeth. And while Witherspoon is the star, Laura Dern turns in an Oscar worthy performance as Cheryl’s mother. A touching story of excising personal demons.
- The Imitation Game – This may come as surprise to many, but this seemingly by the numbers biopic held some of the most rock solid filmmaking this year. Part spy thriller, part character drama, Mortem Tyldum coaxes a wondrous performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as the secretive scientist. Twisting, turning and completely engaging, The Imitation Game was the classic car of 2014: no fancy frills or gizmos yet still beautiful in its simplicity.
- Boyhood – Even without the “shot over the course of twelve years” gimmick, Boyhood is a film of stark, natural beauty. Despite a lack of storyline and a borderline annoying protagonist, no other film stirred my emotions quite like Richard Linklater’s opus to childhood. Soft, subtle and meticulously directed, Boyhood excels as an unapologetic mirror to how we all grew up, with all the flaws, triumphs and missteps that made us who we are today.
2. Ida – Filmed in sumptuous black and white, this story of a Polish nun who is caught between her faith and life’s earthly pleasures was my biggest surprise of the year. Full of outstanding performances and overflowing with deep themes, Ida is a film fan’s movie. A worthy watch for anybody who appreciates slow, patient
Nightcrawler – Featuring a standout performance from a Patrick Bateman channeling Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler is a sharp, biting satire on modern day media.
Selma – Easily the timeliest film on the list this year, Selma is a fitting tribute to an exceptional American. And yes, David Oyelowo deserved a nomination over Bradley Cooper. Just saying.
Inherent Vice – Despite a nonsensical plot, no film this year made me crave a re-watch more than Paul Thomas Anderson’s drug infused crime caper. Baffling but electric.
Guardians of the Galaxy – The most fun I had in theaters this year, Guardians effortlessly combines solid action, likable characters and gut busting humor into an “awesome mix tape” of superhero fun.
The Lego Movie – The first fantastic movie I saw in 2014, The Lego Movie perfectly embodies the spirt of adventure and discovery the toys have provided for over 80 years.
- Birdman – To be perfectly honest, nothing this year came close. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s story of a former action star’s last gasp at artistic integrity is the perfect combination of art house style and mainstream accessibility. Filmed in a “single shot” style and staged like a three act play, Birdman is a metaphor inside a metaphor. It also features career redefining turn by Michael Keaton. Simply put, Keaton is to Birdman as John Travolta was to Pulp Fiction.
Perfectly shot, endlessly inventive and chock full of rich, funny and intense performances, Birdman is the most complete film of 2014. Destined to be my favorite from the second I walked out of the theater, Inarritu’s daring exercise in sublime surrealism is the cardiac jump start film fans desperately craved. An instant classic.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Jersey born and New York bred, Bill Tucker is a writer of short fiction, film reviews and articles across a variety of genres and media. He currently writes a regular movie column entitled “Behind the Cinematic Curtain” for Revolt Daily, contributes to a fashion blog for http://www.pop-market.com and has a number of short stories in various stages of publication. When not writing, he works as an IT Trainer for a fashion software company. He currently hangs his hat in Austin, Texas. Check out more of his work at http://www.thesurrealityproject.com.