Four of my ten highest-rated movies in 2014 were actually 2013 releases. This has caused me to add a PS to my last year’s Top Ten (see below) and acknowledge what a bad year 2014 was for movies. There is a chance that there will be 2014 releases still to come my way that will improve the list – A Most Violent Year and Two Days, One Night come to mind – but I suspect that this year will go down as one of the weaker in history. The fact that 7 of my 10 are Oscar nominees reflects a lack of depth: I don’t think I’ve ever been so short of idiosyncratic choices. So, with apologies for being so unoriginal, here is my list:
1. Boyhood – Far and away the best movie “experience” of the year as well as the most innovative moviemaking. It was more real than reality TV, with situations that everyone could identify with. The plot was life itself, only with better actors.
2. Selma – An important story, skillfully told. Perhaps the best thing is that the movie didn’t try to do too much. It left me curious, and hungry for more.
3. A Most Wanted Man – Just as Selma was filmed in brown, this was filmed in gray, a bleak, smoke-filled tone that encapsulated the spirit of this Cold War spy thriller, a worthy ending to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s great career.
4. The Imitation Game – Two stories on parallel tracks probably shortchanged each other, but both had impact and both came with delightful period attire and a great cast.
5. American Sniper – I read this as a strong, if subtle, anti-Iraq War statement, but more to the point a probing character study of what it takes to be a soldier, or what being a soldier takes from you.
6. Ida – Gorgeous black-and-white cinematography matched the purity of nun Ida’s faith and reminded me of Eastern European New Wave cinema of the ’60s.
7. Grand Budapest Hotel – The cleverest film of the year, from our most idiosyncratic director, held together by Ralph Fiennes and the spirit of a Charlie Chaplin silent movie.
8. The Theory of Everything – Two of the year’s best performances made this a story about a relationship, more than “a crippling disease and super-difficult math,” although that did add a dimension of importance.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy – Maybe nothing original here, but every scene was rollicking fun and nobody took themselves too seriously (cf. Interstellar).
10. The Drop – The year’s best straight action film, with a good story, gritty setting, unusual lead character adroitly played by Tom Hardy and the usual fine work from, RIP, James Gandolfini.
Acting Awards: Without seeing Julianne Moore or Marion Cotillard, my nod goes to Patricia Arquette, who gave life to Boyhood. She is Oscar-nominated for Supporting Actress instead (for which she’s a shoo-in). I have seen all the Actor nominees, and while Benedict Cumberbatch and Bradley Cooper are totally deserving, I vote for Eddie Redmayne, who acted with his eyes when his body couldn’t move anymore. In addition, I liked the score of The Imitation Game, and I thought The Homesman was the most beautiful movie I saw, although it’s not nominated for anything.
Top Ten 2013 – Part II
1. Big Bad Wolves – Quentin Tarantino couldn’t’ve done it any better.
2. Omar – The agony of Palestine, personified.
3. Nebraska – Bruce Dern and June Squibb are wonderful, but it’s Will Forte’s son that caught my attention.
4. August Osage County – As good as the stage play, which is unusual, thanks to Streep and Roberts.
5. The Wind Rises – An animated look at the engineer who designed Japan’s WWII airplanes, sheer artistry.
6. The Past – Ambiguity, in people and relationships, kept us guessing, and thinking.