The movies of 2014 was a mixed bag. It was the year of over hyped films like Interstellar and Foxcatcher that didn’t live up to my expectations. Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were huge hits, but didn’t shake up or add anything new to the genre. Snowpiercer was original, but became more an exercise in gratuitous violence than great storytelling. So, what’s left? Here are the ten best movies that I saw in 2014.
Director Richard Linklater (The “Before” Trilogy) is one of the most diligent filmmakers of our time. Linklater follows newcomer Ellar Coltrane from the age of six to eighteen showing the growth of a young boy and his older sister (Linklater’s real daughter) who come from a broken home.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the callous Louis Bloom, who enters into the world of L.A. crime journalism. Gyllenhaal gives an amazing performance as the film reveals a side of the news that is equal to watching your food being killed before it hits the plate.
Finally, Brad Pitt doesn’t phone in his performance. ‘Fury’ is an exceptional character study about a five man tank crew who must depend on one another during the final days of World War II in Europe. But the film centers on the relationship between a hardened Staff Sergeant (Pitt) and a scared shitless former Army typist (Logan Lerman) turned gunner, who has never seen battle.
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ is the most ambitious sequel of 2014. The superhero adventure changed the entire Marvel film and TV universe by revealing that the sinister organization Hydra is deeply embedded in S.H.I.E.L.D.. It does all of this while displaying some impressive action and reminding us what Ben Franklin once said, “He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.”
6. Gone Girl
David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac) directs this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s brilliant novel ‘Gone Girl’. Ben Affleck stars as Nick an unaffected bar owner suspected of killing his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), who disappeared on their fifth wedding anniversary. ‘Gone Girl’ is a great film adaptation because Fincher recognizes that Flynn’s unique way of storytelling is a big part of the narrative.
5. Edge of Tomorrow
Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 Japanese graphic novel ‘All You Need Is Kill’, Tom Cruise plays a military officer who relives the same day over and over again after coming in contact with an extraterrestrial enemy. ‘Edge’ has action, heart and a great story. It’s an instant cult classic.
Miles Teller stars as a promising young jazz drummer lead by a perfectionist instructor played by J.K. Simmons. Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’ is more than it’s great performances by Teller and Simmons. The film is like watching a great boxing match where the underdog ends the bout with a surprise K.O..
3. Get On Up
‘Get On Up’ chronicles the life of “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) from his humble beginnings to become one of the most influential musicians in history. Tate Taylor (The Help) directs this surprisingly amazing biopic about a music figure who not only influenced everyone from Michael Jackson to The Rolling Stones but changed what it meant to be a performer.
2. Magic In The Moonlight
Woody Allen is the greatest (and most Academy Award Nominated) screenwriter in history and the romantic comedy ‘Magic In The Moonlight’ is just another example of his intellectual ability, creativity and originality. The film tells the story of a atheist illusionist (Colin Firth) who is brought to the French Riviera to help unmask a possible clairvoyant swindler (Emma Stone), who believes in the supernatural.
1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel) wrote and directed this meta-comedy about a former superhero movie star (Michael Keaton) who must overcome his ego and acting revival (Edward Norton) as he mounts a Broadway play. Why is ‘Birdman’ my favorite film of 2014? It’s the most original film of the year and the writing is Oscar worthy. ‘Birdman’ does what ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ (2013) failed to do. It pleasantly surprised and impressed me as a viewer at every turn.