With the Oscars coming up this Sunday night, this is my ranking of the 38 movies that came out in 2014 that I watched between January 2014 and February 2015. I still have not seen Still Alice, Wild, or Two Days, One Night, three movies that have actresses up for Best Actress, nor PTA’s Inherent Vice, up for Original Screenwriting, but I’ve watched mostly everything else worth seeing. (Sorry, The Judge).
I wish I had more time to see a few more non-Oscar movies before compiling this list, such as Calvary, Only Lovers Left Alive, Mr. Turner, Under the Skin, and Godzilla, but alas, I ran out of time. I’ll get to them eventually.
I will follow up this post (BEFORE THE OSCARS, I PROMISE) with one focusing just on the 8 Best Picture nominees. I have a lot to say about a few of them, so I’ll keep my comments on them in this post relatively brief.
Anyway, since I like stream of consciousness rants, here we go, from worst to best:
- North Korea, why didn’t you bomb us for The Interview?? We certainly deserved it, and not because it showed us killing your leader. It was just an affront to the art of cinema.
- I don’t know what Noah‘s production team was smoking. I sort of get that they wanted to make the movie feel like it was both ancient and futuristic/alien at the same time… but could their costumes have been a bit more…um, biblical? And not like they bought them at Target and made them frayed and dirty?
- How did Foxcatcher, Into the Woods, and A Most Violent Year get ANY critical praise at all this year?ZzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzZZZZzzzzzzzzzzZZZzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzz
- DID YOU KNOW BOYHOOD TOOK 12 YEARS TO FILM? AND THAT OUR MAIN CHARACTER TOOK 12 YEARS TO BECOME AN ASSHOLE? AND THAT IT TOOK 12 YEARS FOR PATRICIA ARQUETTE TO REALIZE SHE WAS A TERRIBLE MOTHER? AND THAT IT TOOK 12 YEARS FOR ETHAN HAWKE TO REALIZE HE REALLY THREW HIS LIFE AWAY BY SLACKING OFF AND NOT BEING A GOOD FATHER? AND SO ON AND SO FORTH AND ONTO MY NEXT POST…
- Here we go. I’m going to get a lot of flack for this. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and X-Men: Days of Future Past were all critically acclaimed blockbusters…and were all completely blown out of proportion by fans and critics alike. While none of them were bad movies, per say, they were in no means that special either.
- I was terrified of The Babadook until I actually watched The Babadook. If that makes any sense at all.
- I wish I remembered Joe… I liked it and thought it was decent in the moment, but thinking back on it, I can only remember the earlier Matthew McConaughey version called Mud. Hell, the same kid was in both movies!!
- I’m sorry, but due to my sister, I… I… (I feel like Squidward being unable to say his apology to Spongebob aloud here) I…oh, hell, I happen to enjoy One Direction’s music (THERE, I SAID IT), and thus, their concert movie, Where We Are, was definitely worth my time. As it was a concert movie, though, and had no plot, it therefore ranks below most of the other movies I saw from 2014.
- Jersey Boys and American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s decent efforts from 2014, were enjoyable and (from what I can tell) faithful adaptations of their source material, while being a bit under par from his normal quality output. Jersey Boys had the perk of being partly shot and set in the town next to mine (though maybe being associated with Belleville, NJ, is really not that much of a perk at all), and who can beat the music of the Four Seasons? American Sniper was certainly emotionally draining, but it was in no way worth all of its hype or derision at all. That being said, Bradley Cooper’s chest deserves its own Oscar category.
- Annabelle was a fairly straight-forward horror movie in terms of plot and character archetypes. That being said, it certainly had me on the edge of my seat at times and even caused me to yell out loud in the theater. As a lover of Mad Men, I loved the film’s setting. And after seeing the immensely superior Rosemary’s Baby for the first time a week or so later, I could tell that much of the film’s aesthetic and setting owed itself to Polanski’s seminal film. My only major complaint, which is actually my only complaint with Annabelle‘s 2013’s predecessor, The Conjuring, a movie I absolutely loved, was that the Annabelle doll was just too damn scary – absurdly so – before even getting possessed!! It was laughable to me that no one in either movie questioned why any doll like this should even exist, let alone be allowed to reside in someone’s house – AND IN A BABY’S ROOM, AT THAT!
- The music was the best part of The Theory of Everything. Sorry, Eddie. You did a good job, but your movie just felt like an alternate take on A Beautiful Mind.
- Ida: beautifully shot, subtly acted, and almost silent. I like when modern films are shot in black and white, and along with The Grand Budapest Hotel, this was the second film I saw that was shot at a 1:33 aspect ratio. And plot-wise, what could be better than a Polish nun-in-training learning that she’s actually Jewish from her Communist official aunt?
- Apart from a strange modern coda that didn’t really fit the rest of the movie, Dracula Untold was an exciting, medieval actioner with vampires that actually lived up to their mythological reputation. Is it bad that I enjoyed this box-office flop much more than the “Big Four” blockbusters that I mentioned above. Is there something wrong with me, or everyone else?
- I definitely cried at The Fault In Our Stars and thought there was genuine chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, even though I could barely stand a chapter of John Green’s book. I guess that says something about the acting, no?
- The Imitation Game: very good World War II biopic the first time, a bit tedious and preachy the second. More on this in my later post.
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was at times the most entertaining of the three Hobbit monstrosities and also – by FAR – the most offensive. Nothing in the Star Wars prequels, not even Jar Jar Binks, is as absurd as Legolas (might I remind you that Legolas HAS NO RIGHT EVEN BEING IN THESE MOVIES!!) defying gravity in slow motion to run up falling rocks mid-fight as if they were a staircase.
- I love James McAvoy normally. I REALLY love James McAvoy as a psycho, vulgar, druggy Nicolas-Cage-in-Bad-Lieutenant police detective. Jim Broadbent and Imogen Poots also make Filth a film that is definitely worth seeing, if for sheer shock value.
- Overall, I wasn’t too impressed by the plot of Nightcrawler, BUT Jake Gyllenhaal made up for the script’s shortcomings with a performance for the ages. His gaunt, sunken, wraith-like Leo Bloom is the 2010s’ version of De Niro’s Travis Bickle, except even more reprehensible.
- Intersteller was a much longer, mainstream version of Danny Boyle’s superior Sunshine, one of my favorite movies from recent years, though going in, I expected it to be a lot worse than it actually wound up being. I thought most of it was completely preposterous, especially the end, but the acting, visuals, and music sold the movie as a whole for me. And is it just me, or am I the only one who can’t take Matt Damon seriously? I know he was Jason Bourne and all, but all of his Jimmy Kimmel appearances are too much for me to handle. So the big reveal/cameo/twist with Damon made me laugh, not gasp.
- Can they make a mid-quel to a film that’s already a prequel, mid-quel, and sequel to another film? Because I think Eva Green’s Artemisia NEEDS her own movie. Most of 300: Rise of an Empire was pretty mediocre, the expected stylized schlock of the first 300, but there’s a reason this was close to being in my top 10 for the year.
- Snowpiercer is one of the more bizarre but welcome additions to the science fiction genre, and totally worth downloading late one summer night last year. Tilda Swinton makes the movie, in case you haven’t heard by now. And poor Chris Evans can’t catch a break with cold substances… first Sunshine, then Captain America, now Snowpiercer…
- Mitt was a great 22nd birthday present, so thank you, Netflix. For anyone interested in politics, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or independent, this documentary was an intimate portrait of a man running for President, and, in stark contrast to how he carried himself outwardly during the 2012 election, it actually showed that Mitt Romney was a man.
- A quarter of the way through The Lego Movie, I was seriously confused about all the hype. Halfway through, I was enjoying it but only thought it a cute little Disney knockoff, a Wreck-It Ralph-lite. Three quarters, and I was eating my words, mind completely blown. Please, experience it for yourself. The ending is so worth the time and enduring that annoying song.
- If Tom Hardy had simply used the Welsh accent he used in Locke as his voice for Bane in the awful The Dark Knight Rises, then he would have been absolutely terrifying, not the Darth Sean Connery laughing stock he wound up being. Also, to have an entire film set in a car and consist of only close ups of a single actor’s face, his dashboard phone menu, and of the exterior of his car, and STILL be as engaging and as morally profound as Locke says something about Hardy’s acting and the film’s writing.
- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance) is a gimmick. But, unlike Boyhood, it is a gimmick that actually works, though I enjoyed it significantly less the second time viewing it. If the film were not shot as if it were done in a single take, the movie would of course be lessened, but its acting is still superb enough to carry it past its cinematography.
- Selma, a movie I expected to be super preachy, would up being one of the best historical dramas I’ve seen in a while, and apart from the mention of Ferguson in the end credits’ song (my one complaint about the movie), it remained pretty apolitical the entire time. Oyelowo, Wilkinson, and Roth were all eerily close to their historical counterparts.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel is not my favorite Wes Anderson movie (that probably goes to Rushmore or Moonrise Kingdom), but it is his most lavish and grand and possibly his most zany, and fairly perfect in its composition (literally), and it certainly deserves all the praise it’s been getting.
- I miss Roger Ebert. I didn’t agree with him politically really at all, and even disagreed with him on a number of film reviews, but he was my go-to movie critic, as I’m sure he was for millions of others, before a movie came out, and if he didn’t like a movie, he was usually in the majority. Life Itself is a must see doc. It is terribly sad at times but also incredibly life-affirming and uplifting, and overall one of the most wonderful films I’ve seen in a long time.
- Very few things have ever made me laugh as much as the end credits sequence of 22 Jump Street. Add in Ice Cube’s explosion during dinner and Channing Tatum’s realization over why Ice Cube was so angry, and you get my favorite comedy of the year. Yes, it was better than the first movie. By a lot.
- A movie that can elicit anger that hurts my stomach, shock that makes me yell out loud, and triumphant joy that makes me jump out of my seat is something special. Whiplash is that type of movie.
- Gone Girl lived up to its expectations, which was a thriller about bad people in an awful marriage doing twisted things to one another. I read the book after seeing the movie and Fincher and the film’s cast really did do the book justice. And I really hope Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris references how his dalliance with a woman did not exactly end too well here…
- I did not have any more fun seeing a movie in 2014 than when I saw Edge of Tomorrow in theaters over the summer. What could have been another crappy, forgettable, video gamey, generic science fiction/alien invasion/action/disaster movie wound up being an emotional, well-acted, and surprisingly hilarious and fresh take on the genre. This Groundhog Day-meets-Starship Troopers-meets-Minority Report mashup reaffirmed that Tom Cruise can be a very good actor when given good material, and that badass female characters are so much cooler than badass male characters. If Eva Green was awesome in the mediocre 300 sequel, Emily Blunt was incredible in a film that will actually be remembered in a few years!