|Photo credit: Jennifer Finley (j-fin) on Flickr|
Again this year, I missed many of the summer blockbusters as well.
Indeed, many of the best films I saw this past year were movies that I originally missed in the theaters in prior years. I saw many late 2013 Oscar-bait films in theaters earlier this year.
To make this abbreviated 2014 list (split, as usual, into two sub-lists), I scanned the top grossing movies of the year, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2014. I also consulted Metacritic.
In rank order of my preference, these were the best 2014 films I saw this year, so best as I can recall:
The Grand Budapest Hotel **
Gone Girl **
Venus in Fur
** I saw these films in the theater.
The top two films are doing well in end-of-year critic lists, so I anticipate they will be competitive for Oscars. The Grand Budapest Hotel was hilarious and Birdman was unique, though I'm not sure I liked the ending (or interpreted it correctly). Basically, that film can be viewed as a critique of superhero action films, even though it stars a number of actors who made lots of money from their work in those kinds of movies.
Wild and Locke are substantial films that provide real showcases for their lead actors, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy. Both seem deserving of Academy Award nominations.
I read Gone Girl in 2013, so I was already familiar with the twists and surprises. Still, this was a fine film and worth viewing.
Frank twists the typical rock band bio-pic into unexpected directions, though other members of my family were split as to whether it was watchable. Venus in Fur is a provocative Roman Polanski film that is trying to say something artistic about the theatre, but also comments on gender relations. It is a two-person film featuring a male director casting a leading actress for his adapted play.
Filth is from the same mind as Trainspotting and includes a number of scenes that are provocative, but perhaps not entertaining. I did not much care for the adapted The Double.
The rest of the my 2014 list consists of genre films -- bawdy comedies, action flicks and science fiction. They are not ranked very carefully, though I think that the ones near the top are superior to the ones near the bottom:
Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat.)
Guardians of the Galaxy
22 Jump Street
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes **
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I've switched the positions of Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy twice already on that list. The latter film has a much stronger sense of humor, but I am a huge fan of Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow is a science fiction-action movie take on the concept. That said, I'm far more likely to watch Guardians a second time when it finds its way to cable.
Both 22 Jump Street and Alan Partridge featured characters that Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Steve Coogan have played before. Sigh. Moreover, both are unusually violent for comedies. Nonetheless, they are quite funny and 22 Jump Street clearly recognizes the limits and dangers of repetition.
I viewed Captain America on a very small screen on a plane, but I did not care for it very much. I had similar reactions to the Iron Man and Hulk films, so perhaps Marvel isn't appealing to me all that often (Guardians is a notable exception). I wish the filmmakers of the bottom three movies had been a bit more creative and less reliant upon CGI and explosions. For me, of course, the gold standard is Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
Here's the annual list of 2014 movies that I intend to see in the future (hopefully in 2015):
Adult World, American Sniper, The Babadook, Begin Again, Belle, Big Eyes, Birder's Guide to Everything, Blue Ruin, Boyhood, Cheap Thrills, Chef, Dear White People, The Drop, Equilizer, Fault in Our Stars, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, Fury, Get on UP, Godzilla, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Ida, The Imitation Game, The Immigrant, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Joe, John Wick, Le Week-End, The LEGO Movie, Listen Up Philip, Lone Survivor, Lucy, Manuscripts Don't Burn, A Most Wanted Man, A Most Violent Year, Mr. Turner, Neighbors, Nightcrawler, Night Moves, Noah, Non-Stop, Obvious Child, The One I Love, Only Lovers Left Alive, Palo Alto, Railway Man, Rob the Mob, Rosewater, Selma, St. Vincent, Theory of Everything, Top Five, Two Days One Night, Under the Skin, What If, Whiplash, and the Zero Theorem.
Keep in mind that I didn't get around to seeing many 2013 movies from last year's wishlist:
12 Years a Slave, 56 Up, Ain't them Bodies Saints?, Despicable Me 2, The East, Ender's Game, Fruitvale Station, Kill Your Darlings, Love is All You Need, Manhunt, Much Ado About Nothing, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Place Beyond the Pines, Prisoners, Short Term 12, Spring Breakers, Stories We Tell, The To Do List, Trance, You're Next, and We Are What We Are.
Yes, somehow I've missed the acclaimed 2013 Oscar winner. Shame on me. Virtually all of those films are now readily available -- as DVDs at my University library or as recordings on my DVR. A few are on Netflix.
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