Thursday, February 19, 2015

50 Best Films of 2014 - #20 - #11

Now into the top 20 films from 2014

20. Under the Skin

A tricky one to recommend, Under the Skin is enigmatic and utterly, shockingly strange, and while I loved it obviously and I know others who did as well, I also know a fair share of people who would ask me why the hell I wasted their two hours, or they would turn it off halfway through in disgust. This is really only a safe bet if you meet one of these two conditions: a) you are physically attracted to Scarlett Johansson, or b) you find strange, abstract cinema with some real depth and meaningful thematic substance appealing.  

I will leave it at this: there is some really interesting stuff happening here regarding the way we view and treat women in society.

19. Blue Ruin

I really expected this to be a by the numbers, you can see what is approaching around every corner revenge thriller. I was so damn wrong. Blue Ruin is smart, edge of your seat stuff, if you have Netflix streaming I highly suggest checking it out.

18. Life Itself

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I used to walk to a store nearby to purchase a newspaper every Friday specifically for the movie reviews, and it wasn't a difficult decision whether I should pick up a Sun-Times or a Tribune. I wanted to read the words of Roger Ebert, and even when I disagreed with the man, I always admired him. Life Itself is a wonderful documentary that serves as a tremendous tribute to Roger, but the best thing about it is that it is honest rather than simply positive pandering. Steve James doesn't mind showing that his subject was flawed because it is human to be flawed, and as a result the film is truly special.

17. Foxcatcher

A chilling and brilliantly performed picture based on a true story, I was engrossed inside the world crafted by Bennett Miller from start to finish. Foxcatcher is a cold and dour experience without a doubt, and one looking for anything light and fun will surely be counting the minutes until it's over, but if you are like me and find odd amounts of joy watching something ominous this may work wonders for you too.

16. Inherent Vice

Luckily for me, I had read the delightfully strange source material this was based on before seeing the film, the novel by Thomas Pynchon of the same name, so I knew what to expect going in. I knew much of the narrative would seem incoherent and the style of storytelling would feel out of sorts, but strangely that was what makes Inherent Vice such a blast to witness unfold. Sure, it's a mess, but what a glorious mess it is. Directed by one of the brightest modern auteurs working today, Paul Thomas Anderson, even if you have no idea what the hell is going on you have got to admire just how well crafted the ride is.

15. Nightcrawler

Lead by my favorite male performance of the year by Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, Nightcrawler is another dark and creepy entry into my list, but unlike Foxcatcher it also has a wickedly clever sense of humor as well. The fact that this ended up at #15 on the year is a testament to just how strong 2014 was in cinema, because my goodness I love this movie.

14. The LEGO Movie

The first movie from 2014 I saw ends up being one of the finest of the year. It isn't often I can say that because typically the early months are the doldrums of the theatrical calendar, but The LEGO Movie turned out to be shockingly great. So clever, so warm, so much damn fun with a third act twist that brought quite a few tears to the eye, what initially felt like it was destined to be solely an advertisement for toys turned out to have an important and meaningful message in the end.

13. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Back in 2010, I was one of the few people who felt the first How to Train Your Dragon was the best animated film of the year. Understandable because the also amazing Toy Story 3 was released during that very same year, but How to Train Your Dragon just had this magical feeling that cast a spell on me and won me over immediately. I was concerned the sequel would be a let down, but that skepticism vanished quickly as the characters, the story and the stakes all matured since the release of the original. For quite some time this movie held my top spot of 2014 and with each revisit I am reminded why. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an amazing film for any person of any age. 

12. Like Father, Like Son

The switched at birth story has been done before, but never this eloquently and with this much realism and passion. Like Father, Like Son is heartbreaking and thought provoking cinema, asking a rather important question: what makes a child yours? Is it the blood and genetics you share, or is it something more? A truly beautiful film, and as a father I made a very strong connection with this work.

11. The Raid 2

The first Raid film completely caught me off guard as I had assumed I would be bored by something that was essentially non-stop action, and instead I was pumped full of adrenaline and exhausted by the end of that insanely intense, blood soaked film. Within the first minute of The Raid 2, as the movie opens outdoors with a wide shot that is far different from the cramped and claustrophobic nature of the first film, it is clear director Gareth Evans wants bigger and better things with the sequel. That is exactly what he delivered, as this time around things are far more story oriented, yet when the action does show up it is just as intense and just as awesome as before. 

Next up, the top ten films of 2014. The picture above is from a work that landed not only on the list, but in the top 5 of the year.


  1. Only seen 3 of these (Lego, Under the Skin, and Life Itself) and they all deserve mention on a best of list.

    1. I specifically HIGHLY recommend Like Father, Like Son Nathan. It is on Netflix and as a father, I would imagine you will connect to it the same way I did.