Thursday, February 19, 2015

50 Best Films of 2014 - #30 - #21

On to the next ten, my #30 through #21 favorite films from 2014...

30. The Fault in Our Stars

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of this film, from the glowing review I wrote when I saw it in the theater last summer to the fact that I included Shailene Woodley in my personal choices for Best Actress of the year recently. I refuse to pretend the tears I shed from this story and the performances that carried it never fell from my eyes. A gut wrenching yet beautiful movie.

29. Selma

An expertly made biopic that nearly avoided all of the traditional tropes that make me roll my eyes at these types of films, Selma gets right what a movie like Unbroken got so, so wrong. Getting punched hurts, unless you get hit every two minutes for two straight hours, which was essentially the narrative of the latter. Eventually you are desensitized to the brutality and you just quit on the experience, where as in Selma, when it hits, it hits hard because it knows just when to land the blows. This is a pretty great and important film.

28. Finding Vivian Maier

A truly fascinating documentary about a eccentric and mysterious nanny who lived a secret, brilliant life as an absolutely amazing photographer. Despite her incredible artistic vision with the camera, she never showed a single picture to anyone, and her massive and breathtaking collection was finally discovered after she passed away. Not only does this film cover her life and her jaw dropping talent, but it asks a pretty important question as well: if someone goes to great lengths to hide something while they are alive, is it fair to show the world after they are dead? Or should privacy extend beyond the length of our lives?

27. Edge of Tomorrow

Easily one of the best surprises of 2014 for me, Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow seemed like a turd when I first saw the trailer, but after catching wind of a whole lot of positive word of mouth I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did. A smart, exciting and fun summer blockbuster, and say what you want about Tom Cruise but no one else could play a role like this so damn well. His personal life and religious beliefs aside, Cruise is still an outstanding talent and he demonstrated that again here, and the chemistry with Emily Blunt didn't hurt matters either.

26. John Wick

An action film starring Keanu Reeves titled John Wick? Well, this is obviously going to be terrible. The premise is what? His dog is killed so he gets revenge? You've gotta be kidding me, what a train wreck...

Much like Edge of Tomorrow, this is another example of why I shouldn't judge a work before I see it. John Wick is smart, intense, ultra-violent fun, and that silly premise about the dog makes total sense when framed inside the narrative. Not only does it make sense, it actually strongly resonated emotionally. Sure, if this was real life I would be disgusted with the type of killing spree he goes on as a result of a pet dying, but this isn't real life. This is a movie, an escape from reality, and inside this world I was rooting for John throughout.

25. The Guest

The Guest is a wonderful blend of neo-noir modern cinema and a completely ridiculous yet fun horror film from the 1980's. Carried by an incredibly charismatic lead performance from Dan Stevens and the perfectly executed vision of director Adam Wingard, this was one bad ass, tasty treat. Oh, and that last act Halloween school dance set piece with a brilliantly utilized fog machine? Absolutely amazing.

24. X-Men: Days of Future Past

I was pessimistic about how this film would turn out, what with the massive cast and ambitious to a fault sounding premise. I anticipated a jumbled, messy narrative. I was wrong. The latest X-Men installment was not only top notch superhero comic book fun, what impressed me the most about this movie was the patience it showed to make sure it told a story first, with the action and the special effects taking a back seat when they needed to. Thanks to this extremely impressive effort, I have no pessimism whatsoever about the follow up due out next year. Bring it on.

23. Calvary

Prior to seeing Calvary, I had heard it was a "dark comedy". This may be true, but I think a much more fair label would be a dark, meaningful drama with some comedy bits sprinkled in to ease the tension and lighten the mood. What Calvary does extremely well is explore the unfortunately twisted and uncomfortable relationship society has with the Catholic church thanks to the many documented cases of abuse, and also the tense nature of the role faith in general plays in our lives today. It's a shame that we have to be cautious of a man of the cloth, but given the track record, how could we not?

22. Enemy

What if you saw your exact double? Not just a person who resembles you, literally your exact twin that has no relation to you in any genetic sense. What would you do? 

I will tell you what you should do: watch Enemy immediately. Beware though, this doesn't play like a traditional film and the ending is both terrifying and utterly confounding.

21. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2013 was a down year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, I had some fun with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, and neither were terrible films by any means, but after the high that was the first Avengers, they certainly felt like somewhat silly and underwhelming let downs. Well, the good news is 2014 turned out to be a banner year for the studio, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier coming first and being just so flat out awesome. After I saw it, I declared it was the best movie yet from the MCU and I stand by that...sort of. At that time it was, but (spoiler alert for the future of this list) a different 2014 release went above and beyond and soared straight to the top.

Next up, I will enter the top 20 of 2014. The image above is from an extraordinary little gem that I never saw coming.


  1. Until I met you Scott, I thought I watched a lot of movies. But in each of your "best of the year" sections, I have only seen 2-4 of them. We'll see if I get better with the final two sections.

    1. haha what can I say Nathan, you are essentially witnessing where every moment of my free time goes. I can't help myself.

    2. I have found that over the past 10 years, I have moved into watching TV much more. Time wise, I can fit in a 30 or 60 minute episode much easier with limited evening time because of kids. I also love serialized storytelling and investing in a character/story. The past 10-15 years has really been what I consider the Golden Age of TV starting with shows like Sopranos and The West Wing leading to now Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and House of Cards.

    3. Plus I still read a lot of comic books

    4. Ahhh House of Cards, I actually have been running through season one and will be doing the same with season two again, in anticipation to binge watching the new episodes next weekend. It has been what is playing on the TV as I write these "Best of..." blog posts. Love that show so much.

      I totally get what you are saying, I stay up late in order to watch so many movies. Even so, I absolutely love finding a gem on Hulu that is 80ish minutes, because it's hard to find time for 3 hour epics and still get enough sleep.