So my friend/film extraordinaire Michael Robinson (trust me, he owns more movies than Blockbuster ever did, and a wider variety too) has ranked his top film fav’s for WMTM! Check out his article:
2014 Films Review by Guest Writer Michael Robinson
2014 has been an incredible year in film and showcases themes that vary drastically from those that 2013 had to offer. From subjects ranging from strains on a marriage to the excess of Hollywood, many of the top films of the year brought something new to the table. After some deliberating, here are my top 15 of 2014:
15) The One I Love
This is an independent film focused primarily on the two main actors (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) as they go away for a weekend to work on their marriage. Weird things begin to happen in the guesthouse as a bizarre game begins between the two. The One I Love focuses on the trust between a married couple and how much strain a relationship can take.
14) The Grand Budapest Hotel
I am a huge fan of Wes Anderson so this was a no brainer. The dialogue is the best he has ever written and the style is absolutely stunning. While it’s not as deep as I wanted it to be (Why the three timelines when things only happen in one?), it is still incredibly enjoyable and worth exploring.
This is a film that had to grow on me. I walked out thinking it was alright but found myself talking about it with everyone. It’s a smart commentary on the sensationalization of the media and features a brilliant performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.
12) Gone Girl
David Fincher is a director who always brings great movies to the table but never incredible ones. To me, this is Fincher’s first incredible movie (mostly due to the on point script by Gillian Flynn). This is another film that focuses of the turmoil of marriage, especially what happens when you pull back the curtain. The characters are very complex and you begin to question everyone involved.
Who would guess that the film that won Sundance would be amazing? The movie focuses on Andrew, a music student at a prestigious school where he aims to be in the top jazz ensemble run by Fletcher, played expertly by J.K. Simmons. This is a film that echoes the jazz that the band plays. From the editing, to the tension, it is crafted incredibly well and ends on the perfect note.
10) Only Lovers Left Alive
I love everything Tilda Swinton does and this may be one of her finest. Only Lovers focuses on two rock vampires (completely the director, Jim Jarmusch’s style) as they come together again after years apart. The chemistry between Swinton and Tom Hiddleston is electric and with Mia Wasikowska in the mix, things get complicated very quickly. The film is expertly crafted and one not to miss.
9) The Tales of the Princess Kaguya
This is the first film Studio Ghibli has released since Hayao Miyazaki has stepped down and it looks like the company is still in good hands. The film focuses on a girl who is born out of a bamboo tree and raised by a bamboo cutter. She defies the mold of society and acts as a commentary of the limitations of women in Japan. The music is great and the style is absolutely incredible (it contains one of my favorite scenes of the year). Make sure to check out this powerful animated film.
8) The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her
This came out as two separate films screened together (each taking the point of either the female lead, Jessica Chastain, or the male, James McAvoy) and as a combined, shorter filmed called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them. While I have not seen the Them version, I highly recommend the separate, longer Him & Her. You see the strains of a heterosexual relationship fallen apart through both the man and the woman’s side. It’s an emotional experience that I haven’t gotten anywhere else.
7) Stray Dogs
I saw this film during the summer and it has been haunting me ever since. The Malaysian director, Ming-liang Tsai, crafts a slow burning commentary on the lower class and the struggle to survive and take care of children. Each shot is expertly crafted, taking several minutes of screen time each for a total of 77 shots over the course of the two and a half hour film. It requires a lot of patience but the reward is incredible.
This isn’t just a film, it’s a historical document. Laura Poitras talks with Edward Snowden before he released what he knows to the country, allowing people to see what exactly happened leading up to the NSA crisis two years ago. Few filmmakers take the risk that Poitras does and the result is an inspiring, frightening , and incredible film.
5) Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer ventures into the extreme of bizarre and exquisite with Under the Skin. The loss story follows an alien, played by Scarlet Johansenn, as she wanders Scotland to abduct men. Well, that’s the premise but the film evolves so much from there, with perfect editing and the best soundtrack of the year by Mica Levi. This is an artistic masterpiece.
Ida is a movie you have to see to believe in. As a polish black and white film about a nun who is looking for her parents, it’s a tough sell. Yet Pawlikowski makes it work. The cinematography is beautiful and the very different 1.33:1 ratio really makes it stand out. There are so many scenes in this 80 minute film that stick out to me and it’s a movie going experience I won’t soon forget.
3) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Here is another foreign black and white film, yet this one is very different. It’s an Iranian Vampire Western and the first time director Ana Lily Amirpour really makes the film soar. Few movies have ever given me the same amount of glee when watching them, from the female vampire lead flying down the streets on her skateboard to the best acting cat I have ever seen, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a treat that anyone should seek out and see.
2) Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
There are so many layers to this commentary on Hollywood that one viewing doesn’t do it justice. The actors are all absolutely brilliant and the cinematography is phenomenal. The characters really come alive and the whole film just comes together to really work.
How can I not fall in love with Richard Linklater’s 12-year tale of growing up in the 2000’s? There is so much that the director does that is so subtle but so remarkable. Each character is crafted beautifully and really comes alive and grows in front of you. You see Mason mature throughout the small points in his life. You see him go from a six year old boy who just wants to watch TV and mess with his sister to a teenager going to college and being independent for the first time in his life. This is a wonder of a film and the best of the year.
There are many other great films that came out this year, with Obvious Child, The Blue Room, The Immigrant, The Dance of Reality, Foxcatcher, Top Five, The Babadook, and many more that I Ioved but couldn’t include.My top rated film list will most certainly change once I see the following: Selma, The Imitation Game, Wild, Leviathan, Two Days One Night, Mr. Turner, Inherent Vice, Locke, Winter Sleep, Force Majeure, and A Most Violent Year. 2015 already looks promising with some sundance films already looking interesting as well as some that have made the festival rounds but not released (Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria should be sought out as soon as it officially hit theatres in March).