Before I reveal my top ten list I will first mention 5 honorable mentions and even include my worst film of the year. Unfortunately I didn't get to see many Oscar nominated films yet partly because some of them have just been released or have not been released yet.
Edge of Tomorrow:
A bad-ass science fiction film that failed at the box office but succeeded with critics. This film is a complete return to form for Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt proves to be one of the coolest new action heroes.
One of the best pure action films in years. The film delivers on all counts and is non-stop fun. Keanu Reeves is back in one of his best roles in recent years.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The best Marvel movie since The Avengers. This movie surpassed the quality of its predecessor and moved in an interesting direction. Instead of being another period piece this is a fun action-adventure peppered with thriller elements.
X-men: Days of Future Past
Another great super hero film that improved upon its predecessor
An interesting film that I am still confused by. This film is so rich and can be re-watched numerous times and you will discover something new on each viewing.
Worst Film of 2014
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Michael Bay brings this horribly awful franchise to new lows. This film may also be the most boring film of 2014.
Top 10 Favorite Films of 2014
10. A Most Wanted Man
This is the best espionage film since Zero Dark Thirty that shows the dark and morally grey nature of the war on terror. While the film, unfortunately, has German agents speaking to each other in English, this is perhaps the film’s only large flaw. The performances work well and specifically Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a fantastic, down-trodden performance. What makes this a good film and a good adaptation to a John Le Carre novel is how it captures the cynicism of grim political realities.
A beautiful and bleak film from the director of Moneyball, Bennett Miller, about John Du Pont and the events that occurred at his farm in the late 1980s and 1990s. The story is chilling and disturbing yet still manages to be entertaining. The film is beautifully composed and perhaps one of the best looking films of the year. The greatness lies not so much in the character study but rather in the dynamic between the characters and the natural aesthetic, both look and storytelling wise, of the film.
8. The Guest
This film is an enjoyable throwback to John Carpenter films and, more generally speaking, 1970s and 1980s slasher, action and thriller films. This film is so damn fun and fulfilling playing with tropes and conventions of the genres. What makes this self- referential film work, however, since there are countless films that try and fail at commenting on their own genres, is the confidence and love the director and writer clearly have as well as their technical competence.
7. The Admiral: Roaring Currents
This is one of the coolest Korean period pieces in recent memory. It’s also one of the best executed naval battle movies since Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The film is about the battle of Myeongnyang, which is basically the naval equivalent of the battle of Thermopylae (The battle featured in the film 300), where a few Joseon kingdom ships held off an entire Japanese fleet. The film’s battle is epic, rousing and bad-ass.
6. The Immigrant
The newest film from director James Gray is a beautiful period piece melodrama starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marillon Cotillard. Like James Gray’s other recent films We Own the Night and Two Lovers the film is a pure genre film that is completely sincere in its motivations. I would draw comparisons to Michael Mann and the way he deals with the crime genre, there is purity in the way he approaches every film and in the Immigrant the excess of suffering is beautifully portrayed.
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
My favorite blockbuster of the year was the sequel to the unexpectedly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film is to its predecessor what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins; a darker and better sequel that is more epic in scope and that improves upon every aspect of the original. Also, like the Dark Knight Trilogy this is a smart blockbuster that draws parallels between real life political situations in a Shakespearean manner. Additionally unlike most blockbuster films, like the Marvel films, there is a real, tactile feel to the film, a real aesthetic.
4. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson’s drug infused noir is languorous, confusing and, at times, seemingly pointless film and that is exactly the point. This film infuses my beloved noir genre with 1970s drug culture and remnant hippie culture in a satisfying way that replicates the confusion and mood of The Big Sleep combining it with the hilarity and fun of the Big Lebowski. On top of this it looks absolutely gorgeous as it was shot on film.
3. Two Days, One Night
This is another naturalistic film whose plot is seemingly banal; a woman trying to keep her job by campaigning and pleading with her fellow workers to vote against firing her. This is complicated by the fact that the other employees can either have a bonus or keep her employed. The film is efficiently rendered by the directors and the film is excellently paced. Obviously Cotillard gives a masterful performance as the lead and the way she portrays mental illness feels honest. What works best about the film as well as the central performance is the subdued and nuanced texture that permeates the work.
Richard Linklater takes his relaxed naturalist approach to new heights in this story about a boy growing up. The structure of the film takes is the next logical step to his previous work, specifically the Before Trilogy. Time is used as a resource, where natural aging increases the realism of the experience. This decade spanning film makes the normal and the banal beautiful and poetic. Whatever your age, though the film will be extremely resonant with millennials, you will recognize something from your upbringing or, if you are older, from raising a child. The film was a special theatrical experience and was beautiful on every level.
To those of you who know me this should come as no surprise. The new Christopher Nolan film looks like 2001: A Space Odyssey with the emotional family core of Contact. If this doesn’t interest you I frankly don’t know what will. This was a different film in many respects for Nolan as it had no noir elements and was, to some degree, a film about a parent-child relationship. This is not to say that the film lacked the Nolan touches but merely that it was new territory for him to explore. He had touched upon the importance of familial bonds in Inception and even in The Dark Knight trilogy but never to such an explicit and emotional extent. Interstellar offered a theatre experience unlike any other film this year making me emotional and awe-inspired. Christopher Nolan is a director who has achieved such a high degree of clout in the industry that he is able to make high budget passion projects such as these and still deliver a bold, uncompromised and masterful vision of cinema.