Elessar’s Top 10 Movies of 2014

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Hello all. It’s Elessar, your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer. [Editor’s Note: He’s not exceptionally friendly, and we’re still not sure what neighborhood he’s from]. Since I missed giving you a review last Saturday, I decided I would give you my top 10 of 2014 in the middle of the week, and a proper review Saturday.

2014 was…an odd year. So many of the big directors were either busy with something else or taking it easy, that it allowed some of the odder, more interesting directors to come out of the shadows and take their shot (although I didn’t get to see either Cronenberg’s or Gilliam’s new movies). As a result, this top 10 is one of the more eclectic I’ve had, and my top 10s tend toward the eclectic side as is.

Not that it wasn’t also a good year. Weirdness tends to breed variety and this year’s crop was pretty exceptional. I normally feel kind of awkward about some of the movies sitting at the bottom of the year, but this year I’m pretty satisfied with the results. So without further ado, here are my Top 10 Best Movies of 2014.

#10: Big Eyes

Amy Adams may look alarmed here, but that's only because she's remembering a certain scene in The Master

Amy Adams may look alarmed here, but that’s only because she’s remembering a certain scene in The Master

I haven’t got a chance to review this one yet, so I’ll limit what I’m gonna say. That said, the number 10 spot was pretty close. Belle was very nearly in this spot and I’m sure if I’d managed to see Selma or Inherent Vice before the end of the year, they’d have made a good case for being on this list.

Still, I feel pretty sure in this choice. It’s the first sign I’ve seen in years of the Tim Burton who made Ed Wood and Big Fish, who could make stories about human beings, with real emotions. And if all I have to do to get to see more of that Burton is praise this excellent movie, then I will shout its praises from the rooftops.

#9: Foxcatcher

If Steve Carrel wins, he needs to say "I love statue."

If Steve Carrel wins an Oscar, someone needs to ask him where he got it so he can say “I don’t know.”

There’s a lot of things good about this movie (not least Steve Carrel’s excellent performance) but one of the things I like the most is how relevant it is. I don’t think it set out with that intention, it’s far too paired down and subtle to dive all the way into metaphor. But with questions of toxic masculinity and how men relate to each other flying around the cultural sphere, this movie can’t help but be relevant.

But even without that, it’d still be one of the best movies of the year. A fantastically subtle actor’s showcase, with just the right amount of dread and atmosphere in the proceedings. And it’s always nice to see a comedy actor trying to make the Tom Hanks/Robin Williams jump to legitimate drama, and even nicer to see them actually pull it off.

#8: The Lego Movie

It's very hard to make jokes about this movie, since it's already funny.

It’s very hard to make jokes about this movie, since it’s already funny.

Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. This movie, by all rights, shouldn’t work. It should be a 2 hour commercial, a bunch of cliches, stupidity and mindless, useless action thrown together for kids whose parents don’t give enough of a f**k to give them quality entertainment, as if they’d do that for any other aspect of their kids lives…I have a lot of anger about this issue, okay?

But here it is. With a well done deconstruction of the overused ‘Hero’s Journey,’ a wonderfully anarchic sense of humor and a surprisingly meta third act twist, The Lego Movie is one of the best movies of the year…Also: Spaceship.

#7: Nightcrawler

"Hey remember when I was in that Prince of Persia movie? No? Good."

“Hey remember when I was in that Prince of Persia movie? No? Good.”

I don’t know if I’d have gone to see this movie with my friend, The Guy in the 3rd Row’s recommendation, but here it is. I don’t know why it never occurred to me, but this movie functions almost as a brutal parody of the ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ narratives, and a dark reflection on what kind of person you’d have to be to make it that way.

It’s also one of the most genuinely frightening movies all year. Gyllenhaal is so adept at pulling off the ‘monster in human skin’ character that you almost forget that he isn’t actually an alien or reptile. He is a real person who just happens to be like that. And that’s almost more frightening.

#6: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I'm still not sure why it's called that...

I’m still not sure why the hotel called that…

That this movie isn’t as good as Wes Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom was a given. I don’t know too many movies that are as good as Moonrise Kingdom. Hell, I don’t know if Wes Anderson is capable of making a movie as good as Moonrise Kingdom again… look I really like Moonrise Kingdom, okay?

But that doesn’t mean this one can’t also be brilliant. Even while his visuals and style are clearly stylized to the point where they might as well be cartoons (and one of his best actually WAS animated) but his stories and his characters are still so recognizably human. And especially here, amid one of his most subtly tragic stories, that makes all the difference.

#5: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

"...all those who choose to oppose his shield must hmmm hmmm hmmmmm...

“…all those who choose to oppose his shield must hmmm hmmm hmmmmm…

It’s been a long time (2011) since a superhero movie wound up on my top 10 of the year. There have been a couple near misses (Avengers came close in 2012) and a handful of solid hits in the past (Dark Knight topped the list in 2008) but even as superheroes became more prevalent, their presence on my top 10s seemed to wane.

Maybe this one finally broke through and made it onto the top 10 because it remembered something: Just because you’re a big action movie, with the backing of one of the most ruthless, money focused studios in the business, doesn’t mean you can’t be about something. And this movie, bless its heart, managed to be about something. Now where is Hawkeye?

#4: Gone Girl

This remake of Gigli goes pretty hard off the rails.

This remake of Gigli goes pretty hard off the rails.

I never got around to reviewing this one, partially due to Remaketober, and partially because I wound up staring at my opening sentence of the review for hours, wondering how I could discuss it without spoiling it. And it turns out, I can’t. So I’ll just say this movie is f**king incredible. NEXT!

#3: Boyhood

"I was in Fast Food Nation too ya know."

“I was in Fast Food Nation too ya know.”

Richard Linklater, one of the best and yet most unknown (outside of specific circles) directors working today managed to put together one of his most ambitious projects. Filming a movie over 10 years is a hard sell, and without the right story and the write script, it would seem like a pointless gimmick.

But it works. It works because the story is about growing up. Even the adults in Mason’s lives are growing and changing around him, and the movie makes that, the theme of growth and adulthood, so central to the narrative, that it almost feels like it wouldn’t have worked without getting to see them all grow up in front of our eyes. And it’s certainly worth taking the journey.

#2: Snowpiercer

I'd like to congratulate whoever decided to do a dark reboot of Thomas the Tank Engine.

I’d like to congratulate whoever decided to do a dark reboot of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Snowpiercer feels like a movie that was custom made to be at the top of my top 10 of the year. I mean, dark sci-fi? Check. Topical point to make with sci-fi metaphors? Check. Intensely violent? Ohhh check. Korean director? Check…okay, that one is less of a sure thing, but you get my point.

And yet, I’m not really all that into being pandered to. No, Snowpiercer earned its spot this high on the list, by being smart, and insightful and never going for the easy answer. When I think for a moment, I can easily conjure what the dumb version of this movie would look like, and I want no part of it. So thank you Snowpiercer, for being such a great movie.

#1: Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na Birdman.

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na Birdman.

It’s entirely possible I’m overhyping this movie. I don’t care. It’s entirely possible that not everyone will love this movie as much as I do. I don’t care. It’s possible that my experiences and my education and my life make me uniquely suited to love this movie. Say it with me now: I don’t care.

Birdman is my best movie of the year, not just for being the best movie (in my opinion) but because it’s the movie that most deserves to be named the best movie of the year. Because it’s the movie that, when I finished it the first time, I immediately wanted to see it again. It’s the movie I can’t stop thinking about, turning over and over in my head to find new ways to approach and analyze it. It’s the movie I can’t wait to hit DVD so I can watch every goddamn special feature they’ll pack into it.

And that’s why it’s my best movie of the year.

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Elessar

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile with an obsession with Nicolas Cage and a god complex. His favorite movie is Blade Runner and his least favorite is The Condemned...which probably says more about him than he wants it to.

Latest posts by Elessar (see all)

Elessar

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile with an obsession with Nicolas Cage and a god complex. His favorite movie is Blade Runner and his least favorite is The Condemned...which probably says more about him than he wants it to.

2 Comments:

  1. I have yet to watch Gone Girl but I’m reading the book right now. Great post!

    • I haven’t gotten a chance to read the book yet (I’m given to understand the movie left some stuff out) but I’ve heard it’s really good. I just couldn’t figure out a way to discuss the movie, or it’s themes and how good some of the acting was without spoiling it.

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