Even though this was one of my busiest years yet, I still had time to see over 350 films, a third of which were released in 2014. I saw old classics that I had never seen before like “Amelie” and “Spirited Away” and new classics like “Birdman” and “Joe”. I completed my Oscar Challenge this past January-February, which was 46 days, 42 films, and 15 shorts, even going so far as to pick 17 out of the 24 categories correctly. And I am already looking forward to this year’s Oscar Challenge which will begin in two short weeks.
As far as my top 10 films of the year, I feel like I described it perfectly last year:
“I look at these films as ones I’d never want to lose, ones that I anticipated months and even years before their release dates, ones that I remember fondly as I sat in the theater viewing them, most of them even multiple times and then ones that I sought out to purchase when they became available on home video. These films are the ones I will remember decades from now and will refer to as my favorite films that year. These films encapsulated what I go to the movies for, whether it be the performances or the story, the era or the genre. No matter the reason, I loved these films without a shadow of a doubt. This is my brutal honesty, against the norm or not.”
10) “Transformers: Age Of Extinction” (Dir. Michael Bay)
If there’s one film on my top ten that will get me the most grief, it is “Transformers: Age Of Extinction,” but to be fair, I’ve loved all of these films in this franchise. I often say these films could be Optimus Prime simply transforming for two hours and I would still love them. Give him all the crap you want, Michael Bay knows how to make an action film that excites the child side of me and with rich colors and way too many explosions, it’s impossible for me to look away.
9) “Interstellar” (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Even when Christopher Nolan has a slight misstep, it still resonates as one of the best films of the year. One of the only problems with “Interstellar” is that is overreaches and becomes too complicated for its own good. And to become more complicated than “Inception” is saying something. But with epic cinematography and amazing special effects, along with stellar performances from Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, “Interstellar” still lands effectively enough.
8) “The Rover” (Dir. David Michôd)
A simple revenge flick set in a subtle post-apocalyptic Australia, not only does Guy Pearce steal the show chasing after his stolen car, but even Robert Pattinson begins to redeem himself as an actor. Certain films have a darkness element to them that cannot necessarily be described and “The Rover” has it, making you think anything is possible within the confines of that film. This clinches a spot on my top ten by having one of the best conclusions to a film all year.
7) “Snowpiercer” (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Highly original, “Snowpiercer” took everyone by surprise this year by bringing a foreign director to the world of big budget, Hollywood-like film-making. Surrounded by a cold and snowy post-apocalyptic world, the last surviving humans are on a train barreling around the world. Complete with a class system that sees the back of the train living in squallier, Chris Evans’ character leads a rebellion to the front of the train, showing some of the most imaginative characters and set designs of any film this year.
6) “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” (Dir. Matt Reeves)
Not only are the motion capture and visual effects taken to another level in “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” but the character development and quality of the story are as well. Introducing exciting new characters played by Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman, this sequel builds off the first film wonderfully while making you invest even more in this band of apes.
5) “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (Dir. The Russo Brothers)
Ten films down and Marvel is still making solid superhero films, this time with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which takes some of the best villain elements of “The Dark Knight” and puts them in an espionage thriller backdrop. Everyone involved, including Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Redford, are at their bests, delivering one of the most engaging and game-changing Marvel Cinematic Universe films yet.
4) “Joe” (Dir. David Gordon Green)
To be perfectly honest, it’s been awhile since David Gordon Green or Nicolas Cage did anything particularly memorable, but “Joe” is a huge step in the right direction. Reminiscent of the mood created in last year’s “Mud” and starring Tye Sherdian (also from “Mud”), Green develops such deep characters and weaves a story full of such complications and conflicting emotions, that it is impossible not to feel something during this film.
3) “The Drop” (Dir. Michael R. Roskam)
Thanks to an impressive trailer featuring the unique music of Robert Delong, I had been anticipating “The Drop” for most of last year. Tom Hardy steals the show in this slow burn drama based on Dennis Lehane’s 2009 short story “Animal Rescue”. Playing the soft-spoken Bob, Hardy plays off the supporting cast perfectly, featuring one of Naomi Rapace’s best performances yet and one of James Gandolfini’s final roles. With everything leading up to one particular night in the film, the eventual conclusion and mild twist left me so in awe that it instantly became one of my favorite films of the year.
2) “Breathe In” (Dir. Drake Doremus)
After having only seen two of his feature films, Drake Doremus is becoming one of my favorite directors. First with “Like Crazy” becoming one of my favorite films of 2011 and now with “Breathe In” landing in the top 5, the man has a way with crafting romantic emotional dramas. Most of the credit goes to Felicity Jones, an actress that I have a huge crush on right now and is stealing the show in every film that she graces. Her quiet demeanor and impeccable control over the way she wear her emotions on her face make her so much fun to watch. Dealing with the complicated emotions of marriage, new love, age differences, and family dynamics, Doremus can say more with one scene than many dramas can say with an entire feature.
1) “Whiplash” (Dir. Damien Chazelle)
Much like my reaction to “Her” last year, “Whiplash” had me breathless on more than one occasion. As an aspiring musician, films based around music often strike a bigger chord with me and delving into the psyche of commitment towards the craft and the ultimate drive to become the best, highly connects with me. I have always enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ work, but he takes his career to an entirely new level with his Oscar-worthy performance as the oppressive conductor who will compliment you one second and toss a cymbal at your head the next. And the drum sequences, in particular the ones involving blood and, of course, the climax of the film, are jaw-dropping, literally putting you on the edge of your seat. This was my favorite film of the year as soon as I saw it, and nothing has been able to top it.