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The Best Movies of 2014

January 26, 2015

By John Corrado

Boyhood PosterI heard the usual conversations about the proverbial “death of cinema” throughout 2014.  But there were many movies released last year that provided the most compelling arguments you can make as to why this simply isn’t true.

There were obviously some duds and commercial cash grabs, a selection of which qualify as the worst movies of 2014.  But these misfires couldn’t take away from the brilliance and artistic expressionism of the films both big and small that have landed on my annual top ten list and rundown of honourable mentions.

And the ten titles that I have finally selected are not only exceptionally well made, but also great examples of film as an art form.  An art form that is vital and very much alive, and continuing to be used in exciting and unique new ways.

After finally publishing my lists of the Best Documentariesand Best Albums of last year over the weekend, this concludes my coverage of 2014 in review.  I have already written at length about all of these films, and will therefore keep my descriptions and reasons for inclusion short and sweet.  Enjoy!

#10: Force Majeure: Although a relatively late addition to my list, when I finally caught up with Force Majuere a few weeks ago, the film blew me backwards.  Director Ruben Östlund has crafted a work of absolute genius that keeps us hooked with perverse curiosity to the complex dynamics between Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), whose marriage is crumbling while on a skiing vacation with their two kids.  This is a compelling and wildly entertaining dissection of relationships, gender politics and societal expectations, that cuts deep and explodes with the same force as the avalanche at the centre of the story.

#9: Snowpiercer: Chris Evans delivers the best performance of his career as a rebel fighter leading the charge from the poor back to the affluent front of a train circling the frozen planet in director Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer, the best science fiction film of 2014.  This is a stirring and thought provoking vision of dystopic future, that achieves visual poetry through the haunting imagery, and takes our breath away with some of the most exhilarating and spectacularly choreographed action scenes in recent memory.  A tightly wound experience, with nonstop tension coursing through its veins.

#8: Selma: With a brilliant performance from David Oyelowo, who perfectly embodies Martin Luther King Jr., Selma is an impeccably staged period piece that stirringly recreates the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, while powerfully showing how the fight for equality continues to this day.  Featuring some of the most evocative images of any movie this year, this is an incredibly powerful experience that couldn’t have come at a more socially or politically relevant time.  A monumental achievement from director Ava DuVernay, and one of the most important films of 2014.

#7: Pride: Based on the true story of a group of lesbians and gays from London, who came to the aid of striking miners in a small Welsh town in 1984, Pride is a profoundly affective crowdpleaser that left me wanting to stand up and cheer.  All of the actors come together to create a rich group of characters that we find ourselves genuinely rooting for, and director Matthew Warchus perfectly mixes humour, drama and politics without ever taking a wrong step.  A triumph that deserves a bigger audience, Pride took me through the whole range of emotions, and left me feeling better about the world.

#6: Mommy: A deeply moving and brilliantly acted drama about the undying love between a mother (Anne Dorval) and her challenging son (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), Mommy provided one of the most blindingly powerful experiences of last year, pulsating with raw emotion and deep feeling.  Director Xavier Dolan is in complete command of his craft, ingeniously framing the story within a perfect square and powerfully using this aspect ratio as a metaphor of their boxed in lives, and unforgettably utilizing a selection of perfectly placed pop songs.

#5: Birdman: Seamlessly edited to look like a single take, and perfectly pulled together by director Alejandro G. Innaritu, watching Birdman is often like witnessing a sustained magic trick.  The entire ensemble cast is electric, and in the best comeback story of 2014, Michael Keaton is outstanding as a washed up superhero actor struggling to mount his first Broadway play.  A brilliantly written look at the need to matter in a world where celebrities are born out of going viral and then forgotten just as quickly, Birdman is easily one of the most entertaining and exhilarating films of 2014, with a mesmerizing sense of rhythm and energy that never lets up.

#4: Nightcrawler: Leaving the press screening of Nightcrawler, I was so stunned that I could barely walk straight, and that’s about the highest praise I can offer this exhilarating, disturbing and thought provoking thriller.  With intoxicating cinematography and a brilliant screenplay, this is one of the most tightly constructed films of 2014, and also a vital look at how we view violence in the media.  Jake Gyllenhaal is mesmerizing to watch as a freelance crime journalist who will do anything to make the headlines, and Rene Russo is his match as the ruthless news director equally willing to step over the moral line.  A modern classic.

#3: The Grand Budapest Hotel: Director Wes Anderson has a gift for balancing unique characters with bittersweet emotion, both of which are perfectly woven together in his masterpiece The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Taking place between both world wars, the film recounts the life of dedicated hotel concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), and his faithful lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), brilliantly using different aspect ratios to represent each decade of this uniquely told story.  Every scene is a work of art, and The Grand Budapest Hotel works beautifully, providing marvellous entertainment and ending on a deeply poignant note that has stuck with me throughout the year.

#2: Whiplash: The strive for perfection has rarely felt more pressing than it does in Whiplash, a gripping music drama that plays with the charged intensity of a thriller, through to the unforgettable final scenes.  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons deliver career best performances, and Damian Chazelle directs with energizing style, including stunning camerawork and brilliant editing.  Playing to a propulsive jazz score, Whiplash is just as energizing as any musician’s solo, and one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of 2014.  This is a film that bleeds and leaves scars.

#1: Boyhood: There’s no denying that Boyhood was the crowning achievement of 2014, a film that movingly shows life unfolding over the span of twelve years, as Mason (Ellar Coltrane) matures from the first grade to his first day of college right before our eyes.  With his mother (Patricia Arquette), father (Ethan Hawke) and sister (Lorelei Linklater) providing a compelling backdrop, this is one of the most profound statements on growing up that I have ever seen.  With the dedication of director Richard Linklater, who started filming back in 2002, the film unfolds beautifully and serves as a mesmerizing time capsule of the first part of the 21st century.  Although I’m a few years older than Mason, and haven’t had all the same experiences as him, Boyhood feels like a part of my life.

Honourable Mentions:
American Sniper
Big Eyes
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chef
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The Double
Edge of Tomorrow
The Fault in Our Stars
Foxcatcher
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Guest
How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Men, Women & Children
St. Vincent
The Theory of Everything
Two Days, One Night
Under the Skin
The Way He Looks
Wild

The Worst Movies of 2014:
A Fighting Man
A Million Ways to Die in the West
The November Man
Sex Tape
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Third Person
Transformers: Age of Extinction

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