Edit: You know that moment you have new software and make horrendous mistakes when publicizing what you wrote? I do. I deleted a draft that made a point of Birdman being the movie of the year by far. Instead of rewriting that point towards the end of this, I'll just tell you that's what I think here. I hit publish and send and started reviewing with pride all of my work minutes later just to have a G.O.B. moment and realized I made a huge mistake. However, it's a good welcome as to what to expect from me in the future.
At this point, everyone is done looking back at 2014. But not me! And not just because I'm lazy and take forever to write. Mainly because I don't start doing a retrospective of the year, while the year is still current. I need that year to be over to evaluate it. But also, I might just be lazy. Now, I can't make a list of the best movies of 2014. Not because I can't make up my mind or because I have some kind of hatred towards people who claim something is "the best"; but because I am very terrible at watching movies. I actually watch a good amount of movies and made it a point to try and watch as many films as I could this year. But I'd feel terrible saying that this is the "best" movies of the year when I know that I haven't seen a lot of good movies. And look, I try to watch a lot of "good movies" but I'm not important enough to get to see them for free. While I open my wallet to see that indie art-house that every other bearded person is talking about, sometimes I hesitate. Sometimes just want to see Liam Neeson crack some dude's skull for 90 minutes. (I saw both Non-Stop and The Equalizer this year...in theatre.) So without further ado, I present to you:
My Ten Favorite Movies Of 2014
"I want to share this with you."
This is a delicious movie. Jon Favreau shows us his love for food with vulnerability and beautiful food preparation sequences. Yeah, that kinda sounds like an insult or some kind of back-handed compliment; but to say it's 'food porn' seems to sully it as well. Your mouth will water throughout this passion project that's a machine made to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Favreau directs himself as Carl Casper, a chef who doesn't understand social media and tweets his way into trouble. Casper is a wizard in the kitchen who is constantly surrounded by beautiful food and somehow even more beautiful women. However, his success in the kitchen has always been on his boss's terms and has been at the expense of his family life. "Chef" is a touching movie about finding yourself that only dips into eye-rolling territory a couple times. The film has a great cast that seems to all be having a fun time. This isn't as big as Swingers but it's incredibly delightful and strongly stands out in my mind when I think back on the comedies from this year.
Written and Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, and Sofia Vergara.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
"Ain't nothing like me but me."
Just like Rocket Raccoon, this movie is one of a kind. I thought this movie might have been a savior. A franchise that has never been attempted and didn't have a huge fan base. The biggest movie stars aren't seen on screen. With an indie director in charge of the chaos. It almost seemed like Disney was sleeping as opposed to purposefully creating the most financially successful film of the summer. However, just like Rocket Raccoon, this crazy lab experiment could be the death of us all. This just proved to Marvel and Disney that they can announce a franchise, get us all excited in advance and rake in the money. So they've announced all the movies they're going to make for years to come. You used to need a half-decent script to make a movie, now it seems like all you need is advance ticket sales. This might prove fun for comic book movies but it could be terrible for original films.
But... about the actual movie. It's a blast to watch. Pratt is goofy and loveable. He's a unique hero for this unique movie. This movie's heart more than makes up for any little stumbles it has. You can't argue this movie's heart. People were tearing up in the theatre at the line, "We are Groot." That kind of thing just doesn't happen at a bad movie.
Directed by James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker and Vin Diesel
8. Edge of Tomorrow
"What do we do now?" "I don't know we've never made it this far before."
Groundhog Day: The Action Movie should have been a whole lot more popular than it actually was. Perhaps it was the terrible title. You might know Edge of Tomorrow as:" Live. Die. Repeat. Cruise. Blunt. Edge of Tomorrow" as the blu-ray packaging suggests. We can point fingers till the cows come home as to why this movie didn't become a huge summer blockbuster but I loved it despite. Cruise isn't the ridiculous hero that we're used to in this one. It's a nice change of pace from the painfully unbreakable Ethan Hunt. He's a coward cursed with the capacity to relive a terrible, no-good, very bad day. Time traveling movies are always held up to more scrutiny due to the fact that we, the movie going public, are brilliant astrophysicists that know logical time travel versus ridiculous time travel; but I think L.D.R.C.B.E.O.T. is relatively inoffensive when it comes to time traveling. The fun of this movie is the fact that a guy who is comically bad at being in an action movie gets a second (third, fourth and so on...) chance at being a hero. Which is kind of what we all want, a chance to reset the video game now that we know where the bad guy is coming from. Cruise is a charming coward, Blunt is a dreamy ice queen and Paxton has a Kentucky accent. It's all you need in a summer action movie.
Directed by Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton
7. Top Five
"You want rigorous honesty?"
Chris Rock has made a movie about Andre Allen, a celebrity known for stand-up and being a cliché silly character in movies , who must reevaluate life in an important crossroads in his career. Allen wants to make a serious film about a real issue and has to insure a wild amount of interviews and press to promote his film. Despite Allen's attempt to make a film of substance all anybody wants to talk about is his cliché character from silly movies and ask when he will return to stand-up.
Chris Rock did a ridiculous amount of press for Top Five. And he always was asked when he was going to return to stand-up and asked about SNL! Bro, did you even watch the movie?!
That aside, this movie was honest and a good look at things that bother Chris Rock. It wasn't Before Sunrise but at the same time I don't think it was trying to be. One of the best moments is a DMX cameo. For better or worse, I don't remember Ethan Hawke getting advice from DMX. The movie doesn't pull any punches and isn't for everybody but sometimes honesty is the best policy.
Written and Directed by Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, and Cedric The Entertainer
"Love is the one thing that transcends time and space."
Christopher Nolan movies are polarizing. At this point in his career all of us have pretty much made up our mind as to what we think of the guy. A friend of mine (who I feel terrible that I can't credit) told me he of his plans of seeing this movie as, " I'm gonna get stoned, see the movie, enjoy the hell out of it and never watch it again." Instead of using this space to tell you a plot synopsis or to tell you how amazing McConaughey is, or that Bill Irwin is a national treasure, or bemoan the fact that Anne Hathaway is criticized whether "she tries too hard" or because "we know she is capable of so much more"; I'm going to use it for run-on sentences and to tell you my theory and defense for Christopher Nolan movies.
It's so much cooler to show everyone how smart you are than to actually admit that you liked something. We all got super excited about Inception, then someone showed us that Inception had plot holes and told us we must be idiots to like that movie. Here's the thing: if as sci-fi movie is completely plausible with no fantastic aspects to it whatsoever it would just be a drama. (Maybe "Science" devoid of fiction?) It's okay to like a movie that isn't 100% realistic. It's okay to like a movie that has a plot hole. Did the movie make you feel something? Did it take you away, sweep you off your feet? Christopher Nolan's latest string of movies should be looked at as a painting. When you look at them, they're beautiful. You feel something. You have an interpretation of it and sometimes it's quite a bit different from the person next to you. And when you get up close you realize that there's some flaws and perhaps you feel tricked. But it took talent and technique to trick you. If you look at a painting with your arms crossed desperately searching for flaws you're not going to be moved like the person next to you who just wants to enjoy something. We shouldn't just watch Nolan movies like this, but all movies. Enjoy a movie every once in a while.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, and Michael Caine.
5. The Lego Movie
"You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things."
I know...following up a defense of Nolan and art with a children's movie is beginning to make you suspect why my opinion even matters to you, but have you even seen The Lego Movie?! Because if you have, I'm sure you loved the movie. The dudes behind 21 Jump Street made a very enjoyable family movie full of silly jokes, good morals, and biting satire. It's not the average kids movie, it's on the level of the first Shrek. (Before it was a ridiculous franchise it was a great movie.) Among other lessons we learn: not everything is awesome, sometimes you're not that special, and embrace who you are. Who would have know with a cast like this Liam Beeson and Morgan Freeman get the biggest laughs and Will Ferrell makes you get the feels? This one is special and it makes you feel special even if you've always felt just normal.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell and Liam Neeson
4. Gone Girl
"You two are the most fucked up people I've ever met and I deal with fucked up people for a living."
This suspense movie is our Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct. It's almost unfair. If Fincher had a Vine account it would be littered with heavily filtered, super scary six second videos of Fincher's cereal. Affleck was perfect, but Rosamond Pike was so brilliant that I hope I never meet her because I'm sure I would be paralyzed. I haven't read the book but people claim it's a faithful adaptation, so there's that. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen, even though I wanted to. I struggle to find things to say that doesn't ruin the story and I feel not enough people have seen this yet. So, if this hasn't been spoiled for you yet, count your blessings and go find it.
Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
"Think before you act."
From the very beginning of the movie it is clear that the world that we know, the world from Rise of the Planet of the Apes (the world of James Franco) is gone. We moved from B.F. to A.D. Now we live in a world where humans are struggling to hold on to any semblance of civilization. While apes are just beginning to build theirs. That's really all you need to know. How can you doubt that's not a good movie? I mean that works for the "who are the real animals?" theme these movies ask. It's no secret to us now that Andy Serkis has been mo-capping his way to Oscar relevance for years. And he now has competition, because Toby Kebbell's Koba is just as captivating as Caesar. So much so that I began calling people "Kobas" in the summer because I felt so strongly about this character. The humans are good, but the ape scenes are so entrancing. You want everyone to get along. You want to think two groups so different can coexist. You want to think the dwindling majority will give up power with grace so that the rapidly growing minority will not use their newfound power to oppress minorities like the former leaders did. Of course I'm not taking about America! This is just a silly summer movie I'm talking about, right? But unlike America we know a monkey riding a horse with a machine gun is going to show up at some point because we've seen that trailer like a million times.
Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Toby Kebbell
2. Grand Budapest Hotel
"You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant...oh, fuck it."
Wes Anderson movies always seem like books. I think that's why I always like them so much. I also assume this is why people can't stand Wes Anderson movies. To their point this movie is about a guy describing the story of how he came across the story of one of his most celebrated novels. Or course the majority of the film is the novel itself, but still it's super Wes Anderson-y. That aside: the script is amazing. Dialogue and narration is beautiful and poetic yet abrasive and disturbing when needed. The cinematography is gorgeous. The story is a delight. And Ralph Fiennes is absolutely amazing. The cast is great. Everyone does a wonderful job. But Fiennes sparkles off the screen. The guy is the most interesting thing I've seen this year. He's hilarious and heart-breaking. The film itself is a beautiful dark comedy, not to be missed.
Written and Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrian Brody, Edward Norton, Saorse Ronan, Wilem Dafoe and F. Murray Abraham
1. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
"Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige."
This is the movie of the year. In my humble opinion, it's the list. This film is a beautiful masterpiece about out need for attention and validation. And like last year's Gravity, there are so many times when you think to yourself: how did they do that? There's no way this is one shot!... right!? The movie examines why we work so hard to be taken seriously. How much we will work so we're not the butt of a joke. We constantly torment ourselves to seek out validity for someone to tell us all of our toil is worthwhile. Artists are constantly destroying themselves over passion projects so at the end of the day they will have peace and a sense of accomplishment. However, what if their art is destroyed by critics and no one will ever take it seriously? Michael Keaton is amazing (as is the entire cast) while struggling to convince people to take him seriously and give him validation that he is not a joke. The thing about being vulnerable is that people might not see what you're doing as worthwhile and see the sadness as... well not art but truly sad and therefore make a joke out of what you do. Or worse claim that you are not capable of art because you are not an artist, you are a sell out. We all must sell out sometimes to do what we feel like we really want to do. Before you get to upset, remember, even this movie has special effects (even if used to make a statement about special effects in movies). Does he really have powers??? Yes. We all do. We all can fly and be deemed beautiful, but at what cost? Can't we just see it for ourselves, without needing the approval of others or going on some soul crushing journey that causes us pain? Or is our spilled blood necessary to be an artist? A tax to fly.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifanakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts