Our Favourite Films of 2014

Tucker Johnson
The Immigrant
Inherent Vice
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Babadook
They Came Together
The Rover
Life Itself

Scout Tafoya

Below is a list of films that I saw and loved last year, that only just saw US releases this year. My complete, long-as-christ's-beard list will go up very soon. 

1. The Immigrant
2. Vanishing Waves
3. A Field In England
4. Stranger By The Lake
5. The Congress
6. Moebius
7. A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness
8. Gebo & The Shadow
9. Me & You
10. Outrage Beyond

Michelle Siracusa
1. Snowpiercer
2. Nightcrawler
3. The Babadook
4. The Boxtrolls
5. The Guest
6. Grand Budapest Hotel
7. Only Lovers Left Alive
8. Cold In July
9. Under The Skin
10. The Rover

Sean Van Deuren
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Wind Rises
Under The Skin 
Only Lovers Left Alive 
Life Itself 
Obvious Child 
Listen Up, Philip 
A Most Wanted Man

Kyle McDonald
Journey to the West
Over The Garden Wall
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
A Field In England
The Lego Movie
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Under The Skin

Brettney Young
We Are The Best!
Edge of Tomorrow
Grand Budapest Hotel
Big Hero 6
Grand Seduction
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
The Lego Movie

Mark Lukenbill
See You Next Tuesday
Under the Skin
It Felt Like Love
Butter on the Latch
Gone Girl
Adieu au Langage
Night Moves

Person to Person

Approaching the Elephant

Olivia Collette

This list comes with the caveat that because I’m not a full-time critic, there’s a whole lot of cinema I still haven’t seen. Since much of it has already appeared on other full-time critics’ top 10 lists, it seems pointless to belabour the points already expertly drawn out by these fine folks. So I’ll stick to just a few of my faves. Warning: spoiler-ish details ensue.

The Congress
Animation has the potential of being graphene for the imagination, so I’m always disappointed when it’s used to look life-like. In Ari Folman’s previous film, Waltz with Bashir, animation was a tool to exhume and reconstruct memories, long crippled by the fog of PTSD. In The Congress, Folman collaborated once again with animator Yoni Goodman, this time to convey the fluidity of a hallucinogenic state, coupled with the idea of a world we’d prefer. The film explores the ramifications of fame on our collective consciousness, while challenging the notion of self-preservation and just how much of yourself really belongs to you. Goodman’s animation doesn’t try to be realistic, and the world he and Folman create is fragile and unreliable. It’s paved in betrayals of the mind, but it’s more candid about it than reality.

The Babadook
The scariest movies observe the horrors that live inside the mind. At the heart of this story is a mother, Amelia, who still hasn’t processed the grief of losing her husband as they were en route to the hospital to deliver their baby, or the resentment she feels towards her son Samuel for surviving what her husband didn’t. If this film is the spiritual sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, Amelia is the mother Rosemary turned out to be: exhausted, embittered, cursing her parental duties and her problem child. There are so few actors in The Babadook, and any character who’s steady or dependable enough to latch onto is never around for very long. The Babadook “monster” turns out to be a MacGuffin, because the film is more interested in the unsettled psyches of a mother and son who are essentially at war with one another. The film is a bloody good horror that spills very little blood.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
I don’t know if The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most Wes Anderson of all Wes Anderson films, nor if it’s the best among them. There’s certainly some maturity to the production, and because I wrote about Alexandre Desplat’s score for Matt Zoller Seitz’s upcoming book on the film, I’m biased about the way music textures the movie, or even how it establishes comedic beats. The reason it’s on this list at all is because it’s quite simply an entertaining romp. Looking just at the casting: Ralph Fiennes is wildly hilarious, Tilda Swinton is never too big for a small part, and a grunt from Willem Dafoe is more menacing than most movie villains with a gun manage to be. There’s a lot more going on in this film than a first viewing will catch, which speaks to the great amount of detail Anderson writes into his scenes. Altogether, it’s a fun trip to his distinct universe.

Jodorowsky’s Dune
What happens to movies that never get made? Usually, they’re forgotten forever in showbiz purgatory. But Alejandro Jodorowsky has proof that his mid-1970s version of a Dune movie could have happened. Reams of it! It’s all documented in a thick pre-production book that includes some of the most valuable drawings that may have been put together in a tome: concept art by H. R. Giger, storyboards by cartoonist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, and production design by Chris Foss. Jodorowski also managed to recruit Dan O’Bannon for special effects, Pink Floyd for music, and he cast no less than Orson Wells, Salvador Dalí and Mick Jagger in key parts. In my favourite sequence, the storyboard is animated to show us of what the opening scene of Jodorowsky’s Dune would have looked like, and it’s a very exciting 30 seconds. But Jodorowsky’s project was too ambitious, and despite rampant Dune purism among the novel’s fans, I doubt that even its most loyal disciples would have sat through a 15-hour film. Still, wouldn’t it be great if they made a TV series out of it? I know it’s already been done, but Jodorowsky’s crazy wasn’t on it.

Lucas Mangum

Cheap Thrills
Blue Ruin
Guardians of the Galaxy
20,000 Days on Earth
The Babadook
The Lego Movie
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Honorable Mentions: Chef and Occulus

Daniel Khan

1. Citizenfour
2. Mr. Turner
3. Listen Up Philip
4. Under the Skin
5. Snowpiercer
6. Force Majuere
7. Only Lover Left Alive
8. The Babadook
9. The Dance of Reality
10. Nymphomaniac
11. The Grand Budapest Hotel
12. The Immigrant
13. Ida
14. The Rover
15. The Blue Room
16. Selma
17. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
18. Venus In Fur
19. They Came Together
20. John Wick

Honorable Mentions:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Unknown Known, Birdman, Beyond the Lights, Gone Girl, Cold In July, Love Is Strange, Life Itself

Noah Aust

The Immigrant
Beautiful and heartbreaking. Film at its purest. This isn't the real world, this is the world of cinema, melodrama, doomed antiheroes and tragic love triangles. It's a reworking of Fellini's La Strada, but while that had elements of neorealism, The Immigrant is planted firmly in the world of operatic make believe. But it's a world I desperately want to believe in. Film critics talk about 'the death of cinema,' and sometimes it feels like they're lamenting this antiquated bourgeoisie artifact. But I'll miss cinema like The Immigrant.

Zero Theorem
I fucking love Terry Gilliam. Watching Baron Munchasen at six or seven changed my life; ever since, his films have basically defined the medium for me. So it's possible that I approach his new work with a certain level of bias. But holy shit, I loved Zero Theorem. It's his most mature film yet. Brazil was an adolescent punk rock rally against the system. It was exhilarating in its clumsy, angry energy. The message wasn't that complex-- it's the institution, guys, we're all cogs in the machine!!!-- but that didn't matter. The joy came from watching Gilliam hurtle every thought, idea, gag, anxiety, and fantasy against the screen.

Zero Theorem is an older, sadder vision. This time the conflict is personal. Even though the plot sounds typically zany, at its heart it's a very simple, quiet story about one man's struggle with anxiety and depression. The world seems dystopian, but that's only because it's shot through our protagonist's incredibly subjective viewpoint. The apocalypse is internal. Everybody else is having a blast. Everything feels a little sadder, a little more worn-out, bargain bin. (Gilliam's budget restraints definitely add to the feeling.) Usually Gilliam treats his characters a little like bugs, cackling as he brings down his boot. By the end of Zero Theorem, nobody's cackling. The smirking dark comedy is over. Gilliam's garish cartoon characters have turned into actual people, and Cohen's fate made me really, deeply, honestly sad.

I thought it was brilliant. The acting, the camerawork, everything was absurdly wonderful. I loved Keaton's character, and I loved how his artistic quandaries mirrored so many of my own creative anxieties. It's cathartic to watch your deepest fears projected and made fun of on a movie screen.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Kind of like The Immigrant, I was completely swept away by the beautiful storybook feeling of it all. Wes Anderson has this really unique style, and he keeps trying it out on different genres, trying to make sense of it and figure out what it means. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, I think it finally clicked. At the film's tragic ending, his aesthetic suddenly made sense to me. All the quirky affectations, the nouveau frills, the Wes Anderson-ness of it all took on this enormous dramatic weight of the loss of innocence. The storybook life ends abruptly, and we're left with an old man alone with his memories.

The Double
Loneliness and isolation have never been so fun. I loved the strange Kafka-esque world and the plot that clicked together like clockwork. In the film's first half, its absurdist style suggests a series of isolated, meaningless episodes. In the second half, you realize it's all cleverly concealed setup, and it all pays off with an amazing punchline. There are references to Švankmajer  Kafka, and Dostoyevsky, but it feels less like a postmodern remix and more like the latest in an old, classical storytelling tradition.

I love this movie's passion. I love its hyper-saturated zeal, with everything cranked up to manic surrealism. Put every 21st century anxiety into a blender, throw in Hong Kong action cinema, absurdist political theatre, and Tilda Swinton channeling somebody's nightmarish grade school teacher, and this is what you get. Above all, I love a movie with the guts to say "Sometimes it's better to blow up the train."

I also reallllly dug Mike Fink's webseries Mick Fink.

No comments: