We’re not quite sure how to look at 2014, the year in film. Though it has featured some well made and well-intentioned films, something about the year as a whole has felt a bit empty. Perhaps this is a good thing as there are no clear award front runners (as of yet), and it is undeniable that independent film has had a generally good year. From Sundance introducing audiences to the likes of ‘Whiplash‘ (and ‘Boyhood,’ although unofficially) to the European festival favorites of ‘Mr. Turner‘ and ‘Maps to the Stars,’ Hollywood’s hold on quality filmmaking seems to weaken by the year. That being said we cannot deny the truly great filmmaking behind blockbusters ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Interstellar” (all of which appear on our honorable mentions list).
2014 was also a big year for us as a publication, we have expanded throughout the US with coverage coming from all the major film destinations including Sundance, SXSW & Tribeca. Additionally, we have also expanded coverage to Europe with our Senior Editor having relocated to Amsterdam. With this, events such as IDFA have already been covered, looking forward to Berlinale, Venice & Cannes in the year to come.
So take a look at our picks for best films of the year, tell us what you think we got right and, as usual, what we may have gotten wrong. Obviously, these kind of lists are highly subjective, but this one is made from each respective contributors “best of” lists. Enjoy!
What can be said about Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ that has not already been said. A 12 year in the making masterpiece of modern cinema, playing as the most organically unfolding film ever made. Backed by strong performances (including Patricia Arquette in an oscar-caliber, career high, as well as Ethan Hawke as a father in need of maturation), ‘Boyhood’ is surely unlike anything ever seen before. Taking a young Ellar Coltrane, as Mason, and following snippets of his life over a decade+ span, Linklater’s film does not feature a single incident of sensation, grandeur or gimmick, rather an ever unfolding, twist through childhood, with perhaps the biggest gut punches coming from those around him.
Whiplash – Review
Sundance winner, festival darling and 2014’s purely independent film of the year, Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash‘ could very well be ‘Mr Hollands Opus’ with R Lee Ermey at the helm. Perhaps in the years most intense performance, noted character actor JK Simmons may have won himself an oscar as the strict, yet determined head of a Julliard-like music academy. ‘The Spectaculer Now’s Miles Teller plays Simmon’s latest student/victim, yielding the teacher – mentor a power struggle ‘Foxcatcher‘ could not quite grasp.
Birdman – Review
In perhaps the “comeback” performance of the year, Michael Keaton brings an unflinching honesty to Alejandro G, Innaritu’s tale of an ex-super hero. Unfolding with the illusion of a single take, the ultra-meta satire features the year’s finest ensemble cast, interjecting magic and heart into one of the year’s boldest experiments.
Under the Skin – Review
With a rare blend of fantasy, erotica and realism, Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin‘ is an art house blend of auteurship and voyeurism. As an alien stuck in Glasgow, Scarlett Johanssen’s dead-eyed seductress plays as the years most understated performance. By drawing randoms from the crowd, as well as influence from Lynch, Roeg and Kubrick, ‘Under the Skin’ is dark in every corner, de saturated in space and form.
Maps to the Stars – Review
In a year heavy on satire, David Cronenberg’s festival hit ‘Maps to the Stars‘ may have been its most sarcastic. In a performance rivaling in quality to her surefire Oscar contender in ‘Still Alice,’ Julianne Moore here plays an aging, desperate star, trying to be cast as her own mother in a biopic of that stars tragic life. John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson all popup in this, Cronenberg’s best since ‘Spider.‘
Mr. Turner – Review
Cannes Film Festival best actor winner Timothy Spall portrays the grunting, heaving pre-impressionist JMW Turner with all the grit and gristle one might expect from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. A masterpiece of biographical cinema, vast in scope and intimate in tone, Mile Leigh crafts ‘Mr Turner‘ with a rich palette of great performances and Dickensian proportions. The portrait of artist as man has never been so comprehensively portrayed.
Nightcrawler – Review
Perhaps the ‘American Psycho‘ of the 21st century, Dan Gilroy’s scathing assault on the media and the market ‘Nightcrawler‘ is a slow burner with a punch. Jake Gyllenhaal’s bug-eyed Lou, a sociopathic puppet to the professional template, begins an exclusive partnership with a local news station in the selling of police scene footage, with stabbings, shootings and home invasions never far away. Sharp performances, biting satire, and a tone that sticks around, ‘Nightcrawler’ doesn’t shy away from some of todays most important discussions.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Jim Jarmusch’s story of eternal love see’s Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as immortal vampires, lovers and philosophers, stuck somewhere between Tangiers and Detroit. With underlying sarcasm, and keen observation, Jarmusch and company presented an elegant and witty addition to an otherwise exhausted genre. Featuring inherent melancholia, centered around a seen-it-all ennui, ‘Only Lovers Left Alive‘ may be the first (and best) representation of the trials in hipster immortality
A Most Violent Year
JC Chandor’s third feature is his best, a chilling and atmospheric thriller about the heating oil industry in 1981 New York. It mines incredible performances. Oscar Isaac evokes a young Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain plays his icy and naive wife, risking their fortune on the brink of collapse.
The years most frightening film comes in the form of Australia’s ‘The Babadook.‘ When a single mother (Essie Davis, in one of the year’s finest performance), plagued by the loss of her husband, struggles to control her young soon, the mysterious Babadoock folk tale he obsesses over becomes increasingly, frighteningly close. Written and Directed by guts by first-timer Jennifer Kent, ‘The Babadook‘ proves an exciting debut feature from a strong voice in modern indie cinema.
Honorable Mentions: Starred Up, White Bird in the Blizzard, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Still Alice, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar, Force Majeure, Blue Ruin, Life Itself, The Double, Ida, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Citizen Four, Edge of Tomorrow
– IndieNYC.com writing team.