2014 Top 10 Films

List by-Jarrett Leahy

Another year in movies has come and gone, and with award season in full swing, it’s time to finally choose my Top 10 Films for 2014. For many movie fans/cinephiles, creating an end-of-year Best Of List is a diverting event in which hours are spent agonizing over which movies are worthy of making the cut and which aren’t. As many of us know though, Top 10 Lists are simply a personal snapshot of a movie year, and as time passes, feelings about films can and do change, for the better and worse. For instance, taking a look at my list for last year, I’m shocked to see that I had not included Noah Baumbach’s sublime indie, Frances Ha, which easily should be in the Top 5. However, looking back on the first time I watched the movie, I remember being intrigued but not wowed. It was only after many re-watches that I completely fell in love with Frances Ha, long after 2013 Top 10 List was finalized.

I tried to postpone the creation of this post for as long as possible, hoping the opportunity to see a few late stragglers would arise. But as January now comes to an end, it has become quite apparent that I can’t delay any longer. And as much as it pains me to create this list without seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, it’s obvious that my “beloved East Texas” will not offer the opportunity to view one of my favorite director’s latest creation any time soon. So I shall just have accept that Top 10 lists are never set in stone, and Inherent Vice just might be my Frances Ha for 2014…if I’m lucky 😉 So here we go…

HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Drop; Nightcrawler; Edge of Tomorrow; St. Vincent; How To Train Your Dragon 2; X-Men: Days of Future Past; Whiplash; The One I Love; The Raid 2; Under the Skin

10. The Double
– Playing both Simon and his doppelganger James, Jesse Eisenberg skillfully floats from one persona to the other, highlighting his two principal personae, socially awkward wimp and pompous jerk. Joining Eisenberg is Mia Wasikowska, who continues to impress in her blossoming young career. While it appears I’m in the minority on The Double, I simply love what Richard Ayoade was able to create with this blackly comedic ode to Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece, Brazil.

9. Only Lovers Left Alive– Offering two of 2014’s coolest performances, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play vampire soul mates to perfection. A hipster alternative to those who tend to shy away from more traditional vampire films, Only Lovers Left Alive is one of the most mainstream creations of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, a founding father of independent cinema.

8. Enemy– For many, Nightcrawler was Jake Gyllenhaal’s best film of 2014. While I too enjoyed Nightcrawler (as seen by its inclusion in my Honorable Mention list), the Gyllenhaal film that left me completely spellbound is this Denis Villeneuve creation. One of the more polarizing films of 2014, I found Enemy to be a hypnotically intoxicating drama. Admittedly, some have had real issue with Villeneuve’s choice for the ending, and others don’t like the film’s ambiguity, but for me, I love how Enemy kept me guessing and never fully revealed all its secrets.

7. Gone Girl– While I’ll be curious to see how well Gone Girl ages and whether it holds up to re-watches (a sign of a truly great film), there’s little denying that upon initial viewing, David Fincher created a pulp, tour de force that can only be described as deliciously naughty. I’m happy that Julianne Moore is getting so much Oscar buzz for her role in Still Alice, but I must confess Rosamund Pike’s sociopathic portrayal of Amy Dunne will always be the best female performance of the year.

6. Life Itself (2014 BEST DOCUMENTARY)– Being limited to only ten spots makes it very difficult to justify putting a documentary on an end-of-year Top 10 list; doing so is a testament to how much affection I have for Steve James’ poignant tribute to the most beloved film critic/historian we will ever have. A true fan of cinema, I really believe Roger would be pleased with how James put together this documentary, as Life Itself does an admirable job highlighting the good times and rougher moments of this talented Pulitzer Prize-winning writer’s journey, including his struggles battling cancer. I’ve experienced Life Itself twice, and it left me misty-eyed both times.

5. Ida (2014 BEST FOREIGN FILM)– A story of a novitiate whose discovery of a long-lost aunt uncovers harrowing family secrets, Ida is blessed with two impressive performances from Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska, a novice who amazingly had never acted before her portrayal of Anna. By far the most breathtaking cinematography of any film from 2014, Pawel Pawlikowski’s dark and painfully moving masterwork left me speechless.

4. Calvary -When a parishioner threatens to kill Father James at week’s end, the stoic priest must decide if the impending danger is real or just a meritless threat. John Michael McDonagh’s black comedy is another that left me speechless and remained just as moving upon second viewing. It’s a crying shame that Brendan Gleeson didn’t receive more critical praise for this career-defining portrayal, and I personally want to send some love out to Kelly Reilly, who is quickly moving up my list of favorite actresses.

3. Birdman– Getting the chance to revisit Birdman a few weeks ago confirmed what I (and so many others) had originally assessed–Birdman is an amazing piece of cinema. Any other year, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s beautiful, avant-garde masterpiece would be at the top of this list, and the fact that it isn’t makes me truly excited about what 2014 has given me. All the praise Michael Keaton has received is well deserved, but my favorite performance is that of Edward Norton, and it kills me that he won’t win this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar (early congrats J.K. Simmons).

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel– Lavishly sumptuous with a perfect cast, The Grand Budapest Hotel highlights the comedic talents of Ralph Fiennes.  After my initial viewing I gave The Grand Budapest Hotel a B+, which is a solid rating, but by no means a grade that screams number two film for the year. However, after FOUR additional viewings, each one more exuberantly captivating then the last, Wes Anderson’s latest masterful concoction steadily climbed my list and finally landed at this runner-up position. And even more personally impressive, The Grand Budapest Hotel dethroned Rushmore as my favorite Anderson film. “Take your hands off my Lobby Boy!”

1. Boyhood– A twelve-year project that allows us to watch a young boy (and girl) grow before our eyes, Boyhood is a true cinematic achievement that delivers a time capsule of this post 9/11 period of explosive cultural and technological changes. Some may find this choice to be obvious and slightly anti-climactic, but after walking out of the theater back in August, I knew there would be little chance for any other film to take the number one spot from Richard Linklater’s unpretentiously poignant and sublime look at growing up. Boyhood is the “coming of age” film to which all others will now be compared. This makes back-to-back #1 movies for Linklater, joining Before Midnight in that honor.

Here’s hoping 2015 is a great year in movies for you all. Happy viewing…-JL


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