It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means. Time for some lists! Here are my top 10 movies in 2014, in alphabetical order instead of ranked numerically, because winnowing this list down to 10 was difficult enough. All that’s important is that Snowpiercer is my number one. Always.
I get a little wimpy when it comes to horror movies, so I don’t see many of them, but man, am I glad I saw The Babadook. There’s more to it than stupid jump scares (looking at you, The Woman in Black)—underneath the “holy shit!” moments and general creepy atmosphere, Jennifer Kent’s debut feature has a lot to say about parenthood, repression, and dealing with grief.
Alejandro González Iñárritu knows what the fuck he is about. Everything about Birdman came together wonderfully: The casting of Michael Keaton as a washed-up superhero actor looking to reclaim some of the artistic integrity he thinks he lost; the glorious, looks-like-it-was-done-in-one-shot cinematography, the jazzy score, the Keaton-Ed Norton underwear fight.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Iranian noir vampire western with feminist leanings? You don’t saaaaaaaay? A Girl Walks is undoubtedly the most stylish movie of the year—it made me feel about 10x more cool than I really am (already pretty cool) by proxy. There were certain shots, done in gorgeous black and white by DP Lyle Vincent, that literally took my breath away.
I know this film is flawed. I know that if I truly delved into it, the plot would fall apart. Christopher Nolan is not a perfect filmmaker—he never has been, and I don’t want him to be. I don’t give a shit. He does what he does (*coughdeadwives*), and he does it well. In Interstellar, what he did was space porn and “Yay! Science, motherfuckers! Science!” None of that “Wahhhh wahhh, technology is evil and scary, why must we play God?!” bullshit. Just good, old-fashioned “Let’s go to SPAAAAAAAAACE!”
The LEGO Movie
How is something that’s essentially Product Placement: The Movie so damn good? Phil Lord and Chris Fucking Miller, that’s how. They could direct Howard the Duck 2, and the final product would make me cry with laughter and/or general emotional overwhelmitude. (That second one got me with The LEGO Movie. It’s the reconciliation between live-action Will Ferrell and his son, and the message that no matter how old you are or what path you’ve chosen in life, you can still recapture your childhood and do what makes you happy. No, I’m fine. It’s OK.
Everybody go watch this so I have more people to cry with about Anne Dorval’s performance as a woman having to deal with her juvenile delinquent son, please and thank you.
The Raid 2
Here’s a good indication of how excellent The Raid 2 is as an action movie: I was having Thanksgiving dinner with some friends, one of whom hadn’t seen it. The rest of us insisted that she just had to see the Hammer Girl fight… oh, and then the car chase… OK, might as well watch the entire final act of the movie now, because you can’t miss that fight with Knife Guy. By virtue of determination and willpower alone, we didn’t end up showing her the entire film piecemeal, but it was a close call.
The latest entry on this list, Selma earns its place by virtue of how it had my heart in my chest for about 90% of its running time. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know David Oyelowo delivers a spot-on performance as Martin Luther King—accuracy of voice and movement, but not to the point where you feel like you’re watching an impersonation. If he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, I just don’t know. But a pleasant surprise for me was Carmen Ejogo, whom I’d never seen in anything, as Coretta Scott King.
I was pret-ty dang enthusiastic when I saw Snowpiercer, instantly labelling it the best sci-film of the decade so far and basically saying that it changed my life. Sixth months later, I still stand by that. The performances, the script, the story, the design—there is not a single part of this movie that does not work for me. Also, director Bong Joon Ho eats ice cream during interviews.
Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, starring Jack O’Connell in his Big Hollywood Debut, is a bust of a film—dull, with a weirdly tacked-on “Goddddd!” thing at the end and ill-defined character relationships that led to some distraction and headscratching on my part. But Starred Up, in which O’Connell plays a juvenile offender “promoted” to an adult prison for his violent behavior, is proof of what he can do when the script isn’t bland as fuck. (Seriously, where were the Coen Brothers on Unbroken? ‘Cause I don’t see it.)
For full disclosure, there are several movies that, based on general critical consensus and/or my own taste, might have been among my top ten of the year if I’d gotten around to seeing them. And they are: Still Alice, Under the Skin, The Theory of Everything, The 2 Faces of January,Citizenfour, Edge of Tomorrow, Wild, Mr. Turner.
Runners-up are Boyhood, Zero Motivation, Blue Ruin, Frank, The Boxtrolls, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Whiplash.