First off I'm not a huge fan of lists like this for several reasons. The first and most important reason is that I don't really agree with what I've listed below. This list would be different if I were to make it an hour from now, it would probably contain most of these films but I'm certain that I would make changes to some of the rankings. Do I really think that Honeymoon was better than Whiplash? Not really but I did have a great time watching it and I only went by what my ample gut was telling me at the time I was writing this. I loved all these films, but in different ways and for varied reasons. The only reason that I am compelled to make a list at all is because I do enjoy looking back at the year as a whole and it forces me to revisit some quality films. I already made a list of movies you may have missed so this is a more current and complete list of the films I loved from 2014.
15. The Zero Theorem
Qohen Leth (Waltz) is a reclusive computer programmer working on the zero theorem, a theory that all existence is meaningless and nothing is connected. This film fits in perfectly with Gilliam's other future films Brazil and 12 Monkeys and I can comfortably say this is Gilliam's finest film since 1985s aforementioned Brazil. While the film is dealing with the meaning of life and existence its never heavy handed and is often quite funny. Familiar themes from other Gilliam films like big brother, government and madness are all explored but he clearly was thinking about technology with this outing.
14.Two Days One Night
Sandra (Cotillard) has come out of the hospital to some very unwelcome news, during her stay in the hospital she has been fired. The infinitely wise and spineless management decides, the only way Sandra can hope to stay employed at the factory is to convince her co-workers to give up their much-needed yearly bonuses. Now, over the course of one weekend, Sandra must confront each co-worker individually in order to win a majority of their votes before time runs out. The insanely versatile Marion Cotillard gives a near career best performance as Sandra in Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT. This is a perfect example of minimalist storytelling allowing for performance and emotion to take center stage.
The less said the better. This is a strange film that has a divisive ending. Nothing about this film is safe or easy. Much like the directors prior film Prisoners you will spend sometime in a world that you would never want to be a part of.
Minimalist storytelling at its finest. This film is comprised of a series of phone calls made by Tom Hardy while he's driving. Each phone call gives us greater insight to our character and builds a surprising degree of tension for such simple film. Tom Hardy and his gorgeous lips for any amount of time is worth the price of admission but this time he is working with a great script and an innovative director unlike when insert Dark Knight Rises insult here.
11. The Rover
Fuck Mad Max Fury Road. That's all there is to it. If you want a post-apocatyptic car chase set in Australia look no further than The Rover. I'm not sure why this film didn't click with audiences this summer but it was an overlooked gem that features great performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. By the way is it just me or is A24 killing it right now?
Dan Gilroy's thriller "Nightcrawler" is about about an amateur cameraman who parlays his eye and his nerve into a successful small business, deceiving, manipulating and exploiting everyone who stands in his way. Shot by Paul Thomas Anderson's regular cinematographer Robert Elswit through what could be a Night Vision Rot filter, it's a film about how sociopaths get over on everyone else, and a portrait of a disturbed, marginal loner that would fit perfectly on a double bill with "Taxi Driver" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer." It's also a media satire in the spirit of "Network" and "To Die For" that takes the slogan "If it bleeds, it leads" to its horrifyingly logical conclusion. It's a comedy.
9. Still Alice
With a combination of power and grace, Julianne Moore elevates “Still Alice” above its made-for-cable-television trappings, and delivers one of the more memorable performances of her career. This movie made my list strictly for Moore's performance. Its honestly something to behold. The woman is a national treasure.
The director has described his second feature as “basically Bresson’s ‘Diary of a Country Priest’ with a few gags thrown in,” a description that for all its absurdity nails the essence of this caustic yet contemplative film: Leisurely paced, unapologetically talky and overtly concerned with matters of spiritual import, “Calvary” may not achieve the record-breaking success of “The Guard” (still the most successful Irish indie of all time). But for sustained maturity and tonal mastery, it upstages McDonagh’s debut.
This is cinematic adrenalin. In an era when so many films feel more refined by focus groups or marketing managers, it is a deeply personal and vibrantly alive drama. Damien Chazelle has taken a relatively staid subject like the relationship between a music student and his teacher and turned it into a thriller built on a brilliant undercurrent of social commentary about what it takes to make it in an increasingly competitive and cutthroat world.
This film doubles as both satire of and homage to audience-of-none outsider art, embracing the absurdity of the band’s experimental process for its full comic effect. In addition to Frank, the Soronprfbs consist of burnt-out band manager Don (Scoot McNairy), passive-aggressive percussionist Nana (Carla Azar), aloof French-speaking bass player Baraque (Francois Civil) and mystery woman Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an ice-cold theremin player deeply suspicious of everyone else’s motives.
A honeymoon is in many ways a transformation, the melding of two lives. For some it can mean the loss of individuality to gain to deeper sense of connection to another, for others it simply means a time of hope and promise. The honeymoon phase is a time of deep passion and optimism, our eyes are wide and the world is full of possibilities. Director/Writer Leigh Janiak with her film Honeymoon has taken this time of unlimited potential and driven a spike through its still beating heart.
Depending on how you approach it, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is either a lament for an old fashioned, actor-driven style of independent cinema, dying on its feet in an era of superhero movies, or a celebration of the continuing potency of such cinema.Either way, it is superb filmmaking in which everyone involved, from the writers to the stars and the brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who trumps his own work on Gravity), pushes themselves to the absolute limit.
3. Gone Girl
David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's enormously popular 2012 thriller about a deteriorating marriage and a wife gone missing, is precise and thoughtful -- it's as well planned as the perfect murder, with its share of vicious, shivery delights.
2. Blue Ruin
This is an honest look at revenge. We all like to imagine if we set out on a path of revenge we would react and act like Liam Neeson in Taken but the truth is most of us would act like Dwight in Blue Ruin. We would make mistakes and hurt the wrong people, leave behind evidence and do countless other things that would never make the cut in a Luc Besson picture.
Foxcatcher is described as -The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher lead by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances, but that in no way does justice to the film that Bennett Miller has created. Much like his previous film Moneyball, its a movie far better seen than discussed. That's not to say that both films will/have not inspired interesting conversations but that both films are understated character studies and must be seen to be appreciated.