New Year. But 2014 was a milestone. I was able to gain access through friends and colleagues as well as the film magazine I write for, access and information to more global cinema than I ever had before. There are millions of sites in addition to just Netflix that offer chances to explore cinema beyond your wildest imaginations. If you ever come across many “year-end lists” of the Top 10 films of 2014 or whatnot, and you start to think “hell, I haven’t seen any of these movies”…. you might want to look a little harder, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. That being said, there is something in-built about being brought up on Hollywood cinema, so you’ll find at least 1 or 2 of those on my lists every year unless it was a really bad year for Hollywood overall.
Here are the Top 10 BEST FILMS of 2014, with pictures, a small excerpt, and each film name had a link to its IMDb page so you can explore it further; for some, I have written full reviews over the past year, so in addition to the excerpt, there is a link for the full review. These films are considered ‘2014 films’ due to their U.S. release date.
As always, discussion is more than welcome and even better, also list your own Top 10 (or 5 or whatever number) movies of this year! I’d love to see what everyone else liked.
1. Jodorowsky’s Dune / dir. Frank Pavich (USA)
One of the most intriguing and fascinating cinematic subjects of the last half-century, Jodorowsky’s Dune dispels the questions surrounding what many people call “the greatest movie never made”. It builds it intrigue through a thoroughly engaging and brilliant central filmmaker, Alejandro Jodorowsky, who is a very divisive individual. Listening to him talk about a magnum opus journey which he never ended up completing is both compelling and a nice little slice of life lesson that sometimes things just aren’t meant to work out the way you’d hoped. Its a movie that is right up my alley because it is a story of cinema, of one filmmaker’s struggle and audacity to bring together the project of his dreams and hard lessons he learns along the way.
2. The Lego Movie / dir. Phil Lord & Chris Miller (USA)
I didn’t have more FUN watching a movie this year than when I watched The Lego Movie. Filled with topical jokes that are handled with a witty sense of humor, Lord & Miller’s film manages to transcend the age-old cliche’s of kids animated films having nothing but toilet jokes and bad puns and instead, injects observational humor, play on words, and a searing sarcasm and satire of the corporate-government relationship that it ends up being not only one of the most enjoyable film-going experiences, but also, one of the most meaningful.
3. Foxcatcher / dir. Bennett Miller (USA)
What works throughout Foxcatcher is the ability of every facet of the film to keep you on edge about its characters next reactions. They are all volatile beings, even Dave Schulz who continuously fights to find a place for his family to “settle” cannot seem to get any footing, and grows frustrated juggling his home life with his desperate brother and the estranged du Pont.
FULL REVIEW HERE
4. A Field in England / dir. Ben Wheatley (UK)
Ben Wheatley is one of the most groundbreaking filmmakers of the last 5 years. This guy makes movies that make your head spin, make your gut wrenched and leave you breathless and terrified. A Field in England is the weirdest movie of the year, a psychedelic historical thriller about betrayal, mental torture, other dimensions, and doing a lot of shrooms. Each frame, black & white it may be, lights up with electricity and the soundtracks deafening notes and reverberations add to the characters absolute terror, stuck and alone. This movie isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can open your mind, A Field in England will gladly take it, throw it in a blender, and serve it to you in a tall glass.
5. BIRDMAN, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance / dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (USA)
The film is like one of those physics textbook problems… a box on an incline with a certain mass, a certain frictional coefficient, and you must figure out every thing else with everything you know.Birdman has a secondary title, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance because it calls into question what is the difference between the theatrical and cinematic, between art and entertainment to try to decipher what, in turn, is the same. When the crowds of New York follow and film Riggan, you hear more shouts of “Birdman” than you do Riggan Thompson. Does entertainment, an actor’s entrapment within a franchise or a suit rid him of any merit to his own acting? How much can you really “act” behind that costume anyway?
FULL REVIEW HERE
6. Fandry / dir. Nagraj Manjule (India)
What we see in Fandry is a piece of history, where sophistication or advancements in industry and the quality of living are less important to social class than say, the shade of one’s skin (the main character we see is significantly darker skinned than the pale upper-caste folk) or the fact that they were born into a certain occupation.
FULL REVIEW HERE
7. Edge of Tomorrow / dir. Doug Liman (USA)
As far as Tom Cruise ‘star vehicles’ go, Edge of Tomorrow is the best one to date**. It cheekily references Cruise’s aging persona (he’s made fun of for being old and out of shape, and for the first time in his career, considered inferior to the younger much more able-bodied fighters in the film) while at the same time gives him an opportunity to do what he does best on screen (save the day) by giving him the ability to keep repeating his day multiple times. A superhuman ability to counter his failing physical biology. It also channels an unseeing relationship between Groundhog Day’s premise and the ability to reset in a video game. This is the type of thinking that should go into a summer popcorn movie.
FULL REVIEW HERE
8. Miss Lovely / dir. Ashim Ahluwalia (India)
Through its patterns, textures, light and dark, Miss Lovely is a foreign film and an Indian film, about a foreign world residing within India itself. It may take a while for many avid Indian-film watchers to digest the movie, just because it is so different from anything that Hindi cinema has come out with in a long time.
FULL REVIEW HERE
9. Charlie’s Country / dir. Rolf de Heer (Australia)
In a year in America battered by race-relations and a never ending and infuriating cycle of ignorance between the violence between black teenagers and the police, Rolf de Heer’s emotionally affecting drama Charlie’s Country will offer some Australian perspective to the American social issue. It’s a film which brilliantly captures the alienation and community struggle of Australia’s black Aboriginal populations. Building contrasts between the modern and artificial lifestyles of Australia’s colonists and the natural, organic, tribal ways of life of the natives, de Heer makes it clear that through the advancement of civilization and through the increased regulations of a political system, those holding onto their roots find it harder and harder to cope, and soon, unfortunately, they see no other way than that of retaliation.
10. Blind / dir. Eskil Vogt (Norway)
Eskil Vogt’s Blind is stimulating in its ability to channel a physical disability such as blindness into a sexual fantasy of wonder, betrayal, and the unknown. As your sight disappears, the other senses embolden, but Vogt concentrates on the wildness of the mind. As a lonely wife going blind, Ingrid starts to envision her husband taking every chance he can get to cheat on her. She envisions a love story between a battered woman and a sexual pervert. The crazier her mental visions become to compensate for her loss of eyesight, the more tumultuous her marriage, the more dark and terrifying her surroundings. Blind is a hidden gem that I would recommend to anyone who wants something original, intriguing, and yet, something to make you feel strangely good.