Best of 2014

By Alexander Diminiano

Happy New Year!

A few technicalities, should anyone need them: Any title in a limited release run in 2013, whose widest release was in 2014, is included on this list, in addition to titles released initially in 2014. Likewise, any limited release run in 2014 that receives a wider release in 2015 will be included on next year’s “Best of” list.

But those are just technicalities. You came here for the actual list, which is below. I will be sure to post an updated version of this list, as well, before the Oscars roll around.

And now, without any further ado, my top 10 movies for the year of 2014.  Click on any title for that movie’s review.

MY TOP 10

1. “Boyhood.”

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IFC Films.  Written and directed by Richard Linklater.  Produced by Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, and Cathleen Sutherland.  Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Elijah Smith, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke.

“Boyhood” is a candid, poignant masterpiece.  It’s nearly three hours long, and to say every minute is worth it is an understatement.  This is the kind of drama that you don’t want to end.  I struggle to think of a more captivating use of my time.

2. “Ida.”

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Music Box Films.  Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.  Produced by Eric Abraham, Piotr Dzieciol, and Ewa Puszczynska.  Screenplay by Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.  Starring Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska.

An incredible film.  The film offers a spartan look, which works as a complement to its equally bleak story.  But it also enhances an unprecedented beauty in “Ida”.  The historically anchored narrative in this Polish-Danish production is grave, and director Pawel Pawlikowski doesn’t wish to hide that.  His film is a fragile, solemn, and often disquieting achievement.

3. “Enemy.”

Enemy-2

A24.  Directed by Denis Villeneuve.  Produced by Miguel A. Faura and Niv Fichman.  Written by Javier Gullón, from the novel “The Double” by José Saramago.  Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini.

Jake Gyllenhaal is superb in one of the most complex dual roles you may ever see.  “Enemy” isn’t your typical action thriller.  In fact, a lot of this isn’t even action; the dialogue plays a major part in this movie’s excitement.  If you like unpredictable, then here’s unpredictable like you never thought possible.

4. “Life Itself.”

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Magnolia Pictures.  Directed by Steve James.  Produced by James, Garrett Basch, and Zak Piper.  Documentary featuring appearances from Scorsese, Ava DuVernay, Werner Herzog, Roger Ebert, Errol Morris, Chaz Ebert, Ramin Bahrani, Marlene Iglitzen, A.O. Scott, William Nack, and Gene Siskel (archive footage).

Thoughtful documentary is a short, sweet epitaph for the great Roger Ebert (1942-2013). “Life Itself”, amazingly, has the same effect as Roger’s reviews: it reminds us that the spirit of his words never died and are perhaps too powerful to die. This movie isn’t about movies. Instead, it’s about the one thing Roger loved more than movies, which was life itself. When the movie ends, you feel as if you personally knew Roger. A very poignant movie, especially for those who love Roger.  Don’t miss it: it airs on CNN January 9th at 9:00 PM.

5. “Top Five.”

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Paramount Pictures.  Written and directed by Chris Rock.  Produced by Eli Bush, Barry Diller, and Scott Rudin.  Starring Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Charlie Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, and Adam Sandler.

This is Chris Rock’s “Annie Hall”–a movie that asks us to take the comedian seriously for just once, and at the same time has us roaring in laughter. Much of the comedy is dialogue-fueled in this poke at stardom and everything superficial about it, and it’s all as sharp as Rock’s greatest standup comedy. Some of Rock’s anecdotes, and Rosario Dawson’s, do go further than we’d expect them, which is when this movie is most memorable. The movie always stays on track, though: not only is it wildly funny, it’s also quite heartfelt, and it’s that combination that makes it the feel-good movie of the year.

6. “Under the Skin.”

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A24.  Directed by Jonathan Glazer.  Produced by Nick Wechsler and James Wilson.  Written by Walter Campbell & Glazer, based on the novel by Michel Faber.  Starring Scarlett Johansson.

In the 1950’s, this movie would have been made on a pretty low budget. The story concerns a beautiful woman (Scarlett Johansson) who has come from outer space to wander around Scotland, seduce men, and kill them once they’re in her lair. “Under the Skin” is a frighteningly quiet but aggressively interesting movie, particularly for those who don’t mind something that doesn’t follow the conventions of sci-fi. To be clear, it’s not a mainstream movie.

7. “Gone Girl.”

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  Directed by David Fincher.  Produced by Ceán Chaffin, Joshua Donen, Arnon Milchan, and Reese Witherspoon.  Screenplay by Gillian Flynn, from her novel.  Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon.

A fast-paced whodunit (well, sort of) that points all ten fingers at the media. Ben Affleck is great, but the real star of the show here is Rosamund Pike, who plays his conniving wife. Like David Fincher’s previous film (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), the movie has a talent for shocking, amusing, and thrilling its audience.

8. “Foxcatcher.”

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Sony Pictures Classics.  Directed by Bennett Miller.  Produced by Miller, Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, and Jon Kilik.  Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman.  Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Steve Carell spells out creepy that few modern actors can. One can’t even identify a comedian behind the false nose, teeth, and the sinister delivery. His performance demonstrates brewing sociopathy. “Foxcatcher” is Bennett Miller’s third feature after “Capote” and “Moneyball”. Truly, he’s mastered the biographical drama.

9. “Locke.”

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A24.  Written and directed by Steven Knight.  Produced by Guy Heeley and Paul Webster.  Starring Tom Hardy.

This is a one-man show for Tom Hardy. “Locke” concerns a man who is in trouble with work and family when he heads out on the highway to see his mistress give birth to their child. It’s all experienced through phone calls the titular character receives while driving, generally from his boss or his wife. A taut, short thriller that lures us into the mind of a man under pressure.

10. “Venus in Fur.”

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Sundance Selects.  Directed by Roman Polanski.  Produced by Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde.  Screenplay by Polanski & David Ives, from the play by Ives and the novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.  Starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric.

An adaptation of the stage play of the same name, which in turn is a quasi-adaptation of the 19th century novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch…this is where the word “masochism” comes from, for those interested. Roman Polanski’s latest feature film is one in the French language. The film is beautiful, and in its own ways, exotic; quirky and mysterious.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

“22 Jump Street.”

“August: Osage County.”

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

“The Fault in Our Stars.”

“Fury.”

“Her.”

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.”

“Interstellar.”

“Nebraska.”

“Nymphomaniac: Volume I.”

“Snowpiercer.”

“The Square.”

THE 10 WORST

1. “The Interview.”

2. “Need for Speed.”

3. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill for.”

4. “If I Stay.”

5. “Tammy.”

6. “John Wick.”

7. “Labor Day.”

8. “Son of God.”

9. “Endless Love.”

10. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

I STILL PLAN ON SEEING…

“Big Eyes.”

“Birdman.”

“Citizenfour.”

“The Great Beauty.”

“Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“The Imitation Game.”

“Into the Woods.”

“Jersey Boys.”

“Nightcrawler.”

“Whiplash.”

“Wild.”

“X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

I also plan on seeing American Sniper, Inherent Vice, and Still Alice, but as those expand to a wide release in 2015, they will count as 2015 releases–in my book, at least.

EVERYTHING I SAW IN 2014, RELEASED IN 2014:

I was ALMOST 50-50 for how I saw movies this year. I went to the movies 30 times, and I saw 31 movies on home video.

This means that on average, I saw between 2 and 3 movies in theaters, as well as between 2 and 3 on home video, each month in 2014.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to see no less than 3 movies in theaters each month, making for an objective of 36 movies a month by the end of 2015–a projected 6 more than the grand total this year.  It may be a little difficult, but I’m up for any challenge (within reason, that is), so this might actually be the first New Year’s Resolution I stay with.

I Managed to See 30 Movies in Theaters (49.2% of my total)…

none in January

2 in February
Philomena
Nebraska

2 in March
Son of God
Need for Speed

2 in April
Noah
Divergent

2 in May
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Godzilla

2 in June
The Fault in Our Stars
22 Jump Street

4 in July
Tammy
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Boyhood
Lucy

1 in August
Magic in The Moonlight

1 in September
The Drop

6 in October
Gone Girl
Annabelle
The Judge
Fury
John Wick
Saw 10th Anniversary

6 in November
St. Vincent
Interstellar
Gone Girl (this is the only movie I’ve ever seen twice in theaters)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Dumb and Dumber To
Foxcatcher

2 in December
Top Five
Unbroken

…and I Managed to See 31 Movies on DVD, Blu-ray, Video-On-Demand, or Streaming (the remaining 50.8% of my total).

none in January

none in February

1 in March
Veronica Mars

2 in April
Inside Llewyn Davis
August: Osage County

2 in May
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Her

1 in June
The Grand Budapest Hotel

11 in July
Life Itself
The Monuments Men
300: Rise of an Empire
Under the Skin
Labor Day
Mood Indigo
Endless Love
Nymphomaniac: Volume I
Nymphomaniac: Volume II
The Raid 2
Gimme Shelter

4 in August
Enemy
The Square
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
Locke

1 in September
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

1 in October
Venus in Fur

4 in November
Fading Gigolo
Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill for
Ida
A Most Wanted Man

4 in December
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super-Sized R-Rated Version
The Interview
If I Stay
The Trip to Italy

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18 thoughts on “Best of 2014

  1. What a great list! Boyhood, Enemy, Under the Skin, Gone Girl, and Foxcatcher all made my Top 10 as well. Ida and Life Itself were good enough for me to recommend. The other 3 I haven’t seen. You should watch Big Eyes, Birdman, Chef, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nightcrawler ASAP. Any of those could be in your 2014 Top 10. 🙂

  2. Also: Chef, The Hundred Foot Journey, Wild, and Guardians of the Galaxy are all very good. I believe Chef will make it in my honourable mentions (as will The Hundred Foot Journey. I really liked Wild, but I really like movies that take place in nature so I guess, again, that’s just me…)

  3. Good New Year’s Resolution!
    I agree with the worst list. Tammy was a terrible movie. I plan to watch a few more films that are released in the Oscar period (I guess that’s just me), so by February 22, my full list will be out.
    I’m glad you have a unique list, one with movies that appeal to you the most. Not just ones that win the most awards. Again, great list and I look forward to watching many of these movies. (personally, I disliked August: Osage County a lot!)

    • Thank you, and Happy New Year!!

      Tammy was such a disappointment! I remember laughing so hard at the trailer, but I might have laughed once or twice at the actual movie.

      That’s a logical way of tackling the list, in my opinion. Like I said, I’ll be updating my list around Oscartide because, as you said, there’s still some more to see.

      Glad you enjoyed my list! 2014 was a really great year in movies. I gave out more than ten 4-star grades to films released over the past year.

      Might I ask, what didn’t you like about August: Osage County?

      • I’m shocked critics are saying 2014 isn’t a good year in film. In my own opinion, 2013 and 2014 have been the two best years for film that I can remember. 2014 wasn’t big on blockbusters, but high quality movies were released.
        August: Osage County was just so stressful to watch. I enjoyed the acting, but I felt it was just kind of a mess. Maybe I didn’t get it? I don’t know. It’s just not one I found particularly enjoyable.

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