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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

END OF YEAR
THE TEN BEST FILMS OF 2014



Tessa Thompson (left) and Marques Richardson (center) in Justin Simien's "Dear White People".
  Roadside Attractions

       

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Tuesday, December 9, 2014

*-contains a correction - asterisk denotes two films exchanged places from their initial spots

Simply put, my ten best film list of 2014 reflects what I call "theater of the mind filmmaking" -- the kind that indulges your "third eye", your imagination, trusts your sophistication and invites new angles of thinking, stimulation and provocation, while edifying and entertaining.

It was, as usual, a great year for independent filmmaking, a poor year for Hollywood film quality, and an even worse year for women as actresses and directors -- although some women made significant marks behind the camera, in the U.S. (Ava DuVernay, Laura Poitras), in Iran (Ana Lily Amirpour) and Australia (Jennifer Kent).

Honorable mentions: "Locke", "The Babadook", "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night", "Inherent Vice", "Chef", "Godzilla", "Life Itself", "Let The Fire Burn", "The Equalizer", "She's Beautiful When She's Angry", "Kill The Messenger", "The Imitation Game"



Warner Brothers

10:
THE LEGO MOVIE


Enough joy and gaiety to delight and uplift.  Constant laughs, adventure and splendor, with a very good script -- unusual for many animated films today.  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had me singing, for two hours at least, that "everything is awesome.  And this gay, merry film, based on Lego characters, was.



9: CALVARY


Fiercely cynical, John Michael McDonagh's drama throws end-of-the-world turmoil into a small village in Ireland, in which a priest is told he's on very thin ice.  Brendan Gleeson gives the year's best lead male performance as the priest.  Blunt, powerful and played out in one scene like a Last Supper, "Calvary" is intense, poetic and, despite some formulaic flourishes, a suffocating experience.



8: DEAR WHITE PEOPLE


Justin Simien's effective, penetrating satire on race, racism and culture on a predominantly white college campus in America is deeply thought-provoking, honest, funny and painful.  The dialogue in "Dear White People" is the dialogue that occurs in the minds of many blacks and whites but is often unsaid.  At least sometimes.  This important and valuable film is required viewing, and even more required discussion, afterwards.  Tessa Thompson is excellent as a student at the center of Winchester University's racial turmoil. 



7: CITIZENFOUR
 

Directed like a spy thriller, "CitizenFour" is a breathtaking, riveting documentary about the NSA surveillance of millions of Americans in the USA, a revelation disclosed last year by Edward Snowden.  Laura Poitras, who constructs this film brilliantly, went to great lengths to get it made and to keep confidential her communications while doing so.  This film never stopped being fascinating.



*6:
BIRDMAN



One of the craziest films you will see.  Rife with manic energy, "Birdman" is the stuff of theater.  Many of its theatrical moments are movie-like.  Many of its movie moments are theatrical.  This satirical tale of a faded action hero (Michael Keaton) who tries a second life as a stage thespian is rarely boring.  Filled with introspection, cynicism and excellent acting, "Birdman" is superbly written and very funny.  Edward Norton is outstanding.  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu departs from his usual involved and lugubrious work to produce a real live-wire classic.




*5: SELMA
 

Ava DuVernay's superb drama about the events of March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama resonates and uplifts.  This resounding, important, must-see film has scope, depth, intimacy and nuance.  Ms. DuVernay turns in the year's best directing effort.  "Selma" boasts an excellent cast, fine cinematography by Bradford Young and one of the two best lead male performances of the year (David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr.)  The film opens on December 25 in New York and Los Angeles.  Everywhere in the U.S. January 9.


Paramount Pictures



4: BOYHOOD



This is the year's great filmmaking achievement.  Richard Linklater filmed "Boyhood" over a 12-year period with Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and Mr. Linklater's daughter, Lorelei.  Organic, profound and absorbing, this epic effort is highlighted by Ms. Arquette's excellence but elevated even further by superb editing from Sandra Adair.  "Boyhood" isn't just a coming-of-age, it's a coming-of-life.




3: UNDER THE SKIN



A24

A phenomenal and unique film by Jonathan "Sexy Beast" Glazer.  This experimental sci-fi mystery drama focuses on a woman who journeys through England and Scotland.  We don't know who she is or what she's looking for.  We watch.  We discover.  Scarlett Johansson, in the year's best lead performance by an actress, dominates this scary, suspenseful and unsettling film.  Mica Levi's score pulses and defines the film's uncomfortable atmosphere.




2: IDA



Music Box Films

Pavel Pawlikowski's film from Poland is indelible.  "Ida" is stunning, and glorious in black and white.  Photographed exquisitely by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, "Ida" chronicles an 18-year old who finds out more about her history.  "Ida" is the year's best foreign language film and it is simply beautiful.  I loved every frame, every moment and every feeling of "Ida".  "Ida" is a true treasure that will endure for ages.  Agata Kulesza (above, in the title role) gives the year's best supporting performance by an actress. 




1: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL



Fox Searchlight

There's everything to love about Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel".  I laughed loudly.  I marinated in each shot, each intricately constructed image, and the peerless production design of Adam Stockhausen.  He deserves many awards.  Watching "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was like watching life in a candy store.  Pure animated confection.  I couldn't get enough.  And though the film, Mr. Anderson's best, is on Blu-Ray in the U.S. beginning today, December 9, you owe it to yourself to see it on the big screen.   This quaint, affectionate and glorious effort stars Ralph Fiennes, brilliantly nimble and charismatic, and the year's best ensemble cast.


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