5. The Imitation Game
A truly remarkable film that is actually getting the recognition it deserves. Benedict Cumberbatch vividly brings Alan Turing to life; all of his complications, motivations, and secrets are there for us to put them together by the end of the film. Not only is Cumberbatch incredible, but the movie itself is deftly constructed so as to not reveal all its cards until the very closing moments. It is a puzzle you want to put together, and you feel all the more satisfied once it is complete. Its timeliness also is key because of its connection to the Gay Rights Movement both here in America and the world in general. It is a reminder of the treatment of just one of the many groups in history that were subjected to cruel punishments, alienation, and fear of being themselves.
4. Under the Skin
Under the Skin surely passed under the vast majority of people’s radars. A highly independent film from British director Jonathan Glazer, it focuses on an alien played by Scarlett Johansson. We do not get a lot of backstory, not a lot of dialogue, and no clear way as to piece the film together. Yet, by the end, you want to watch it a second time because it is wholly unforgettable. In my review, I wrote that it was one of my most difficult reviews because, “of how it shatters the conventions of filmmaking resulting in one of the most original movies in years.” It was like nothing I had seen before. With little influences from Kubrick and Tarkovsky, it has some of the most haunting and original visuals seen in quite some time. It is a challenging film, but one that should be seen at least once.
I was a bit hesitant to see Birdman because of my feelings towards its director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who I feel has his films feature too many plot points and characters that never feel resolved at the end. Luckily, Birdman focused on one man, Riggan, who was trying to break away from his earlier typecasts as the titular Birdman by making a play. It is very aware of the fact that it is trying to critique Hollywood these days, and it has a lot of fun with that too. But its most recognizable aspect, other than its excellent performances by Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone, is that it is shot and edited in a way so as to make it look like one long take. It is a dizzying, thrilling, and enigmatic film that feels so weird but so right.
Whiplash is one of the most anxiety-inducing films you will ever see. It drags you along with its kinetic editing, career-defining performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, and the fact that you get so caught up in the story that you cannot look away even though it is actually horrific. Going in you might expect it won’t be so bad. A boy wants to make it big in a jazz band in one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. Yet, minutes after meeting Fletcher (J.K. Simmons,) things go south extremely fast. Fletcher is cruel, diabolical, and perhaps the best villain of the year. Simmons gives the best performance of his career here. He is so evil—throwing chairs at his students, verbally abusing them and reducing their hard work to shreds. Whiplash is one of the most unforgettable films of the year, so do yourself a favor and check it out.
If you follow my blog, this should not come as a surprise. There is not much else to say about Boyhood that I have not already said when I ranked it as the best movie of the summer, and what I said about it in my review. It is a once-in-a-lifetime event. The stars aligned and gave us one of the most remarkable films ever made. Filmed over 12 years, where thankfully nobody died or gave up, Boyhood does not have any themes or messages; it is simply about growing up. For those who were growing up in the last decade—like myself—it is even more impactful because you can see your own life and moments you experienced on the screen. Everybody can relate to this movie in some way or another, and it is a reminder of how magical the movies are.
There we have it—my Top 10 of 2014. I would have liked to include many others, but unfortunately I only could pick 10. Hopefully 2015 will be as good as this year. With the coming of Star Wars, Jurassic World, the new Avengers, and many more, it will surely be a busy year for people like myself.
What were your Top 10 films of the year?