Best Films of the Year
- Birdman. I don’t even like this director. And the drum solos were too loud and obnoxious. And I’m no fan of Michael Keaton. However, Birdman is filmmaking of the highest order. An extremely smart and funny script, high-octane acting from a magnificent cast, and utterly epic cinematography make this the film of the year.
- Boyhood. Yeah, it’s a gimmick. But maybe the greatest gimmick in the history of fiction film. Writer/director Richard Linklater actually filmed for a week every year for twelve years to create this tapestry of a very normal Texas boy growing up. There’s really no other movie like it.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel. Director Wes Anderson’s latest puppet-show-with-real-actors-movie is probably his best. It’s a deliriously entertaining contraption, full of humor, humanity and sadness. The craftsmanship is of the highest order, particularly in the acting, design, and score. The fact that the production designers got to show us the hotel in three different time periods really pushes this one over the top.
- The Congress. It’s not just weird, it’s out of its mind. And that’s why I loved it. Robin Wright playing herself and selling her image to be used to make movies is the least weird thing that happens in this deliriously inventive fantasy.
- Selma. A smart and disturbing look at the Civil Rights Movement.
- Whiplash. An off-the-chain meditation on the artistic impulse.
- Nightcrawler. One of the better LA movies in a great while, anchored by a stunning lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.
- The Drop. Down and dirty crime drama, Brooklyn-style.
- Wild Tales. A spectacular collection of hilarious and horrifying revenge stories from Argentina.
- Pride. The most fun you have at a movie about a wrenching coal miners’ strike.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The only blockbuster on the list. It gets extra credit for not being a comic book superhero movie.
Honorable Mention: Snowpiercer, Calvary
Michael Keaton, Birdman
*Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Tom Hardy, Locke
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Honorable Mention: David Oyelowo in Selma; Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner; Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game; Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox, Andy Serkis in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Brendan Gleeson in Calvary; Miles Teller in Whiplash, Tom Hardy in The Drop
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
*Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Honorable Mention: Robin Wright in The Congress
Emma Stone, Birdman
Amy Ryan, Birdman
*Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Lara Dern, Wild
Renee Russo, Nightcrawler
Honorable Mention: Jillian Bell in 22 Jump Street
*J. K. Simmons, Whiplash
Matthais Schoenarts, The Drop
Ed Norton, Birdman
*Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Damian Chazelle, Whiplash
Ava DuVernier, Selma
Honorable Mention: Michael R. Roskam for The Drop, Damián Szifron for Wild Tales
*Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giocobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
Damián Szifron, Wild Tales
*Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
*Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
*Adam Stockhausen, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Kevin Thompson, Birdman
Kim Jennings and Elizabeth Keenan, Selma
Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
*Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Robert Elswit, Nightcrawler
*Song of the Sea
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
*Finding Vivian Maier
The Galapogos Affair
Special Mention for Ensemble Acting Excellence
Best Guilty Pleasure
Can We Please See More of…
India. I love movies set, or even partially set, in India. I may never visit there, but I really really enjoy the country from a distance. Thank you, The Lunchbox and Million Dollar Arm.
Kim Dickens. Gone Girl reminded me how much I always enjoy her fierce on-screen presence. She needs to be in more movies.
Lake Bell. I just really love her. She needs more good parts. She made Million Dollar Arm better.
Corey Stoll. Just cast him in everything already.
Jillian Bell. She KILLED in 22 Jump Street, and I’m trying to not hold Inherent Vice against her.
The charismatic Matthias Schoenarts!
The dependable John Ortiz, one of those inspired character actors who make everything they are in better.
“They never see you coming, do you Bob?” A chilling moment of revelation delivered by John Ortiz’s Detective Torres near the end of The Drop
Things get real in Birdman: Lesley: “I wish I had more self-respect.” Laura: “You’re an actress.”
Pretty much everything Jillian Bell said in 22 Jump Street.
Funniest Movie of 2014
22 Jump Street
Reasonably Entertaining… Won’t Kill You To See
Dear White People
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Lego Movie
Edge of Tomorrow
Muppets Most Wanted
Million Dollar Arm
A Most Wanted Man
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
The Trip to Italy
The Skeleton Twins
The Two Faces of January
Into the Woods
Exemplary Practitioners of the “Ray and Tayler Rule” (getting in shape when you get cast)
Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy
Zac Efron in Neighbors
Most Interesting Presence in Movies
Tilda Swinton, for the umpteenth year in a row.
All Movies Are Fiction. Right?
I normally don’t get that upset when “based on a true story” movies blur the facts for dramatic purposes. But in the case of American Sniper, Clint Eastwood showed us a puzzlingly whitewashed portrait of a very complicated real life dude. There’s an interesting film to be made about Chris Kyle, to be sure, but American Sniper ain’t it.
Further Proof that Tom Cruise Should Make a Science Fiction Movie Every Couple of Years
Edge of Tomorrow
Most Fun Bad Movie of the Year
Into the Storm. Yeah tornado porn!!
Excellent Super-Weird Movies
The One I Love
Tim Roth as George Wallace in Selma
Overrated Oscar Bait
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Worst Title of the Year
The Imitation Game. Alan Turing is famous for three accomplishments: 1) Helping to crack the Enigma Code, 2) helping to invent the computer, and 3) developing the Turing Test for artificial intelligence. The film is about the first thing, but is named for the third thing. That’s just dumb and obtuse.
Ernest and Celestine
Jodie Foster Award for Worst Lead Performance
Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher. A prosthetic nose and a flat, inflectionless voice is not how the acting thing is done. Extra credit for Carrell because of all the bewildering praise his performance has garnered. So he was not only Jodie-Foster-Bad, but he fooled millions into thinking he was actually good.
The Worst Films of 2014
Love is Strange. No, love is boring. Really, really boring. And badly edited and written. This is the second film I’ve seen from director Ira Sachs. I think it’s time to really consider a Federal Constitutional Amendment to keep him from making any further films.
Stranger By The Lake: If being gay was a choice, this movie would inspire me make a different choice.
Godzilla: Giant monster porn is so, so, so uninvolving. It it weren’t for man-candy Aaron Taylor-Johnson and his shoulders, I would have very likely swallowed my tongue long before the end credits.
Cold in July: A really flimsy thriller.
Inherent Vice: Further proof, as if any was needed, that director Paul Thomas Anderson loathes the audience.
Zero Thereom: Further proof, as if any were needed, that it’s time for Terry Gilliam to find a new line of work.
*Foxcatcher: A stunningly boring, pointless movie full of long, tedious scenes that go nowhere.
The Farewells of 2014
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Ann B. Davis
Please let me know what you think!