My top ten:
10. A Most Wanted Man
The subject matter of spies and betrayal probably took on more meaning for me because this was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performance, but everyone is amazing in it. A fantastic slow burn to the amazing ending.
9. Under the Skin
I haven’t seen Jonathan Glazer’s other movies, but I will now. This movie is creepy, fascinating in an almost morbid way. Its also one of Scarlett Johansson’s best performances. See this, don’t see Lucy.
8. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The animation at first seems cheaper and cruder than what you’re typically used to from Studio Ghibli, that is until you see the characters move. It’s a very deliberate stylistic choice, to lend this folktale a storybook look that pares down the art to its bare essentials. It’s incredibly beautiful, and for a thousand-year-old story about a girl whose happiness is suppressed by those around her, it is amazingly relevant for 2014.
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Because it is so lighthearted and childlike, I think it’s easy to dismiss this as “Minor Anderson”. But accomplishing this kind of tone is incredibly difficult. I think it’s Anderson’s best movie since Darjeeling Limited. And who knew Ralph Fiennes had such good comic timing?
6. The Babadook
You know, I was scared shitless watching this, but the scenes which actually disturbed me more were the ones where the mother deals with grief and insanity with borderline negligence. Amazingly polished for a first time director, and it has a truly great child performance as well (the kid has to be simultaneously sympathetic and really, really annoying).
5. The Lego Movie
My kids have watched this probably a hundred times (we have it on a DVD player in the car) and it hasn’t gotten old for me yet. The animation is top notch, the humour is endlessly amusing, and the whole thing is just kind of joyous and rewatchable in the way few movies are.
Hard to say whether Jake Gyllenhaal is better in this or in Nightcrawler, but Enemy is the better movie overall. It’s unsettling and fascinating from start to finish. I’ve heard many different interpretations of this movie; mine is that it’s about a guy who keeps getting pulled back into his own nightmare of infidelity and loneliness. It’s also got the best ending of any movie this year.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
The best comic book movie this year, and maybe the second or third best ever made depending on how you rank Dark Knight and Avengers. I love the characters, the over-the-top plot, and the crazy Space Opera settings. It’s sheer fantasy pulp entertainment. The 12% of a plan scene is also the best scene in any comic book movie.
2. Gone Girl
It’s a gleamingly polished and darkly entertaining thriller that is as well-crafted as any you’re likely to see for a while. I’ve already had a ton of good conversation about this with lots of different people, and it has inspired a variety of interpretations and topics. Did the filmmakers intend for all of this or none of it? That’s part of what makes it great. Rosamund Pike should be a shoo-in for a best actress nomination, and it’s also the first movie I can remember where I thought Ben Affleck was well cast. Terrific supporting performances from Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens as well.
“I just thought there would be more.”
After I saw this I knew it was the best movie I had seen this year. Probably in several years. And then reading how popular it has been with so many reviews and people who have seen it online, I wasn’t really surprised. I defy anyone to see it without feeling its impact. At almost three hours, it still feels too short. It feels like the culmination of what Richard Linklater has been working towards his entire career and it’s kind of a miracle that it works as well as it does, or that it was even made. I just feel thankful for having seen it.