With the Academy Awards approaching, it is time for me to unleash my list of the top 10 films of 2014. There are many acclaimed films from the year that I still need to see. I am particularly eager to see Inherent Vice and Selma but for now, these are my picks. Be sure to check out the trailers that I have included for each film. I tried ranking the films as best I could.
1) Filmed over a period of twelve years, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is an ambitious film that shows one boy’s transition into manhood. There is no Hollywood dramatization here; only raw slices of life.
I love coming of age stories so naturally, I was eager to see Boyhood and it was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped. Boyhood is the ultimate coming of age film that captures life’s many ups and downs in such an intimate manner. Like the film’s protagonist Mason, I am a nineties child of divorced parents so the film brought back many memories. The seamless transitions from one time period to the next transported me to a specific moment in time. However, one does not need to be of my generation to appreciate the pop culture references. More than anything else, Boyhood is an examination of what it means to be human and for that reason alone, the film has universal appeal. There is no traditional narrative driving the film. Rather, Boyhood flows effortlessly from one point of Mason’s life to the next, much like memories work.
Ellar Coltrane is a natural talent as Mason. Even though it is Mason’s eyes through which we view the world, careful attention is paid to the other major characters especially his mother Olivia, played beautifully by Patricia Arquette. I left Boyhood with a surge of emotions. It is a beautiful film that deserves every bit of praise it has received. It is an instant classic whose impact is felt long after the credits roll.
2) Christopher Nolan has a gift at telling epic stories while retaining a human element. This statement rings especially true in his latest film, Interstellar. On a visual level, the film is simply spectacular. The effects are practical and very realistic. Nolan is one of the most visionary filmmakers of our time. I was introduced to him with Memento (2000), which challenged the viewer’s construction of time and narrative structure. Nolan went on to make one great film after another, most notably 2010’s “puzzle movie” Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy which breathed new life into the Batman legacy. Interstellar ranks among his best and is an incredible experience.
3) Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is an unsettling modern science fiction classic with tones of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. From the first time I saw the film’s trailer, I knew I had to see this film. I was not disappointed. It certainly is not a film for everyone but I absolutely loved it. Glazer’s vision is an original one in what proves to be a haunting and ethereal filmgoing experience.
4) David Fincher’s latest film Gone Girl is an unpredictable crime thriller full of plot twists and commentary on gender politics and male/female dynamics. It is an uncompromisingly dark film that is deeply unsettling. David Fincher has made several great films, including Seven (1995), Zodiac (2007), and The Social Network (2010). Gone Girl is one of his absolute best.
5) Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure is pure cinema that achieves a level of emotional complexity that most films cannot. It is an insightful, funny, and very realistic look at an unstable marriage that reaches its tipping point.
6) Wes Anderson has a style that is immediately recognizable. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the best Wes Anderson film I have seen; a pure entertainment. Anderson incorporates a plethora of famous actors and infuses the film with his characteristic offbeat humor.
7) The Babadook is an Australian horror film that explores themes of motherhood, loss, sexual repression, and loneliness. Jennifer Kent, making her directorial debut, is well aware of the trappings of the genre and is able to transcend them. The Babadook is a film about monsters both internal and external. It has a psychological depth and complexity unlike most modern horror films. As the mother Amelia, Essie Davis is simply fantastic. In fact, her performance is my favorite from an actress in 2014. To put it simply, The Babadook is the best horror film I have seen in years.
8) Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is a film unlike any I have ever seen and is great on so many levels. I have always been a fan of Michael Keaton. This is Michael Keaton’s movie. He is simply fantastic and his performance here remains my favorite from an actor in 2014. The supporting actors are great as well, most notably Edward Norton. Birdman is dark, funny, unpredictable, and original.
9) Nightcrawler is a strong directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. It is a dark, unsettling film that achieves a high level of realism. Jake Gyllenhaal is proving to be one of the best actors of his generation Nightcrawler is very much Gyllenhaal’s movie and he is wonderful in it.
10) Guardians of the Galaxy is a refreshing, fun science fiction film with an incredible soundtrack featuring many great songs from the 1970s. One of the film’s strengths is its characters who are lovable and funny.