An update of the January 3 post, with the inclusion of
four five more films: American Sniper, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year, Still Alice, and Words and Pictures. An asterisk [*] indicates a Best Picture Oscar nominee.
* * *
I thought 2014 was an exceptionally good movie year. Almost everything I was able to see was either excellent or very good. I hope the list I’ve compiled below will inspire a reader or two to catch one or more of them.
- Birdman * Rising above past perceptions. The perceptions others have, and the perceptions one has of one’s self.
- Grand Budapest Hotel * “It was an enchanting old ruin. But I never managed to see it again.” (I’ve seen this one twice.)
- Wild “You can always quit”—whether it’s a 1,000-mile hike, or life itself.
- Selma * “Those that have gone before us say, ‘No more!’”
- Into the Woods …and leaving a trail of Sondheim breadcrumbs to help find your way out.
- Boyhood * “I thought there would be more.” Growing up fast—before the camera, and before our eyes.
- Whiplash * Is nothing worth getting to, unless you’ve endured some suffering to get there?
- Snowpiercer “We control the engine, we control the world.” What’s left of it.
- Guardians of the Galaxy The Marx Brothers in space, with a 70s soundtrack.
- Edge of Tomorrow Groundhog Day—except these groundhogs are deadly aliens. “You better make sure you die.”
- The Immigrant “Is it a sin for me to survive, when I have done so many bad things?”
- Magic in the Moonlight Is the magic real? Some of it isn’t, some of it is.
- The Drop “I had something once. I was respected. I was feared.” —James Gandolfini, in his last movie
- Chef “I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this.” Referring to being a father, and to being a chef, in that order.
- Le Weekend Exposing the weaknesses in a marriage; one that may or may not be ending.
- A Most Violent Year Oscar Isaac as a man resisting violence, despite the movie’s title and pressure from everywhere.
- Mr. Turner You’ll never look at a Turner again in the same light.
- Gone Girl “The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? […] What have we done to each other?”
- A Most Wanted Man Hoffman’s last film. “Most of us don’t get to choose. But you did.”
- Skeleton Twins Sibling rivalries, sibling similarities.
- Nightcrawler “What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?”
Get On Up James Brown’s world. Chadwick Boseman channels it perfectly.
American Sniper * Deadly accuracy from a distance, at the price of an ever-increasing emotional distance.
Calvary A week of deadly reckoning for an Irish Catholic priest.
The One I Love “Let’s try and re-create that moment…” and each other.
Inherent Vice “Chinatown—if J.J. Gittes was a stoned hippie. Is its incoherence a vice?
St. Vincent Vincent (Bill Murray) is not a saint.
Imitation Game * A man with a big secret attempts to uncover the Nazis’ big secret, and pays dearly for all his efforts and successes.
Still Alice Julianne Moore’s mesmerizing transition from brilliant communicator to a woman unable to recognize her own daughter.
Big Eyes Big fame, big money, and a big lie.
Theory of Everything * A relationship made in heaven. But will it stand the test of time?
Godzilla The familiar roar is back: Long live the King of the Monsters.
The Lego Movie Colorful, clever, and it all fits together.
Lucy Refreshingly, a female lead in a plausible story that becomes unlikely and finally ridiculous.
Jersey Boys Jersey—but not quite enough Broadway.
Rosewater Good, but dry.
A few disappointments:
Monuments Men The Dirty Dozen but, on a scale of 1-12, it’s only a half-dozen.
The Judge Dismissed. Too many irrelevant subplots.
Words and Pictures The words fail, and so does the picture, in spite of Juliette Binoche’s artfullness.
Noah Giant boulders that walk and talk, and carry trees? Just say ‘no.’
Interstellar The launch (the movie’s first hour) is successful, but then there’s a major script problem.