Well, it’s not quite February 2015, so I’m only slightly embarrassingly belated in my 2014 year in review. I just had to spend January catching up on a bunch of movies I missed — a little bit of due diligence before summarizing the year. As I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t any sort of “Best of 2014” or Ten Best list… it’s just my favorite movies of the (82?) films I had a chance to see. I won’t waste space listing all the ones I didn’t get a chance to see, but there are only so many hours in the day.
2014 TOP TEN
1. UNDER THE SKIN — No other film in 2014 or in any other year since probably 2008 held me in such rapture from the opening shot to the final one. Glazer’s masterwork is unforgettable for me; maybe not for all tastes, but I can’t shake it and I think it’s as profound and disturbing as it is technically flawless. One for the ages.
2. BOYHOOD — Wouldn’t be surprised to see this grow in stature over the years, much like BEFORE SUNRISE did in my mind. It’s not just the incredible feat of production; it’s the small moments: the specific, singular, individualized observations of what it means to be alive today in America. Let a dozen other filmmakers each make a project over 12 years and I still don’t think any of them would make something that resonated as emotionally as BOYHOOD.
3. LOVE IS STRANGE — Certainly the sleeper pick of the litter; it escaped me during its theatrical run and bowled me over on home video. This is gorgeous filmmaking, as much for what it doesn’t show as for what it does. It’s respectful of its audience, never pandering or over-explaining, and never once even remotely condescending to any of its characters. A small but unqiue treasure. Warning: you may sob like a baby.
4. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT — So assured, so intelligent, so mature. It’s hard to imagine any other filmmakers in the world able to tell this story this effectively, because the synopsis is pretty dire. And as limited as Marion Cotillard was in THE IMMIGRANT, she was really unleashed here by the Dardennes; this is the performance of the year.
5. THE BABADOOK — If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.
6. SNOWPIERCER — It has evaporated a bit in my brain since I saw it over the summer, but what a weird, original piece of entertainment. And it sports quite an arresting, memorable performance from the frequently great Tilda Swinton. Also, it was impossible for me to watch season 3 of The Newsroom without seeing Alison Pill in a totally different light.
7. GONE GIRL — Cleverly written, demonically entertaining. Fincher’s best book adaptation since FIGHT CLUB and I haven’t even read the book; he just found the perfect tone and pacing for this darkly funny look at American marriage and institutions at large. Looking forward to seeing it again.
8. FORCE MAJEURE — Apparently Östlund’s earlier films are just as interesting; I hope I get to see them, and many more in the future. This guy can put an image together.
9. JODOROWSKY’S DUNE — I was surprised to see this received by some as nothing more than “a glorified DVD extra,” or some puff piece documentary praising Jodorowsky. Even weirder, these same critics were up in arms at anyone who didn’t realize ROOM 237 wasn’t endorsing the ludicrous theories it depicted. So why weren’t they aware that this film doesn’t necessarily endorse everything Jodo does? This is a look at megalomania for all its positives and negatives. And I can’t be the only person who enjoyed this movie who also has no interest in seeing an actual DUNE made by Jodorowsky. The behind-the-scenes of the almost-was has to be way better.
10. THE SKELETON TWINS — Another sleeper; I’d seen this dismissed by many, but also as a comedy. This is no comedy. It’s a capital-D drama that happens to star two actors famous for prior comedy work, and who do some funny things in this film. Even Luke Wilson turns in a terrific supporting role, and it’s hard not to get choked up in a couple places. Formulaic at times, and on the surface it’s nothing new, but it’s so well done and it feels like the little engine that could. Nice work.
Didn’t Quit Make the Cut — But See Them Anyway: MANAKAMANA, EDGE OF TOMORROW, THE GUEST
Flawed, But Underrated or Underseen — Give These Films a Chance: NIGHTCRAWLER, LOCKE, PROXY, JOHN WICK, 22 JUMP STREET, INHERENT VICE, NIGHT MOVES, LUCY
And now for my personal Oscars. I never got any good suggestions for what to name these, so here are my unnamed awards:
Best Director — Jonathan Glazer, UNDER THE SKIN
Best Actor — Jake Gyllenhaal, NIGHTCRAWLER
Best Actress — Marion Cotillard, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
Best Supporting Actor — Edward Norton, BIRDMAN
Best Supporting Actress — Patricia Arquette, BOYHOOD
Best Screenplay — Richard Linklater, BOYHOOD
And as usual, I have no Worst List. I don’t really see the point in listing the worst films of the year, or even the ones I liked the least. You could see in my reviews what I didn’t like, and there’s no need to pile on. I also don’t want to bring attention to movies I think other people should hate — if you liked LET’S BE COPS or X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST or A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, then great. We go to the movies to enjoy them; I won’t try to take that away. I hope everyone likes every movie they see. Even if they suck!
So that’s that; please add comments to the comment section with anything I forgot, overlooked, got wrong, or otherwise. Or you can always find me on Twitter (@TwinCinema). Thanks for reading Private Joker’s Head.