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Top 10 Films of 2014

10. Birdman

The technical element of this film is dynamic and left my eyes glued to the screen the entire time. An intelligent screenplay filled with philosophy and conversation guides the edited as a single shot film to gratuitous moments. Funny when it needs to be and daring to be different, the film never suffers from its gimmick. Reminiscent of a stream of consciousness, when a man’s antagonist is his past, one way to fight it is through an understanding of a changing world which Riggan belongs. This is accomplished through his interaction with other characters, all delivering fantastic performances, especially Edward Norton. 

9. Gone Girl

I mean a film by David Fincher always deserves to be in my list of favorites. I was a fan of the book and was a little worried about a film adaptation, but with Fincher on the helm I was excited and he definitely delivers with a phenomenal cast. Rosamund Pike is fantastic as Amy Dunne and also dominating the cast is a supporting performance by Carrie Coon (who is also fantastic in The Leftovers). Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still  engaged and surprised, based solely on the directing choices made by Fincher. 

8. Ida

Very much controlled by its gorgeous cinematography, Ida is much more than a film focused on a road trip. It balances this typical situation with the themes of faith and identity at its core. It is subtle and simple yet engages its audience through the beautiful shots of its subject and environment. 

7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This film has my favorite opening and closing shots of this year, yet the cyclical element is strengthened by the development of Caesar. I was reminded of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko through the determination and leadership qualities of the protagonists. We also have forms of conflict between and against the ape vs. human hierarchy. Toby Kebbell as Koba is a welcome addition to the already fantastic motion capture performances initialized by the first film and his characterization is one of my favorites of the year.

6. The Lego Movie

A testament to nostalgia and creativity, a film about toys was not supposed to be this good. With Lord and Miller on the helm and a fantastic voice cast, The Lego Movie stands as an evident triumph in animation and storytelling. It is packed with humor and heart, enough to be loved by any one of any age. I mean sure I was disappointed the only Bionicle reference was a half second cameo, every other cameo or licensed character was never wasted. This film was everything I expected and more: colorful, energetic, and creative.

5. Whiplash

Intense cannot even describe this film. With each beat of the drum, moments of the film will cause a whiplash in understanding the complex and dangerous relationship between Andrew and Fletcher. As each character attempts to outdo each other, the film reaches one of the most memorable climaxes of year. It is packed with adrenaline and energy and very deserving of its title. 

4. Snowpiercer

Whether it is a journey or a destination, Curtis (Chris Evans) travels from one end of the train to another. The symbolism of the train holds a truth while each cart feels vastly different from the last. Each resembles a different world. A heavy social commentary is also present through the range of grittiness through the treatment of those towards the back of the train. The focus on humanity and the morals of an individual is put at the forefront through the strength and decisions of Curtis. This leads to a hard hitting, uncomforting plot twist which may seem to derail the film, but stays on track through a gripping performance by Evans.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel

In his latest, Wes Anderson tackles many genres in a satisfying way. A memorable performance from Ralph Fiennes leads a vast and perfect ensemble cast in this adventure heist caper. Anderson never leaves the audience bored in this film through his fun story and a submission to a world.  Changes with aspect ratio tracks us through time and never distracts from the whimsical world Wes delivers. 

2. Boyhood

It is appropriate that the protagonist, Mason is a skilled and passionate photographer because the snapshots of life offered and sewn together deliver a work filled with consistent celebration and grief. As an individual sharing an age with Mason, this is the obvious choice for one my favorite films of the year, and I know I’m not the only one. There is just something so special about this film that speaks to life from a distance. A timeline of events seamlessly put together and thematically important, this is not only a film about a boy, but also his mother.

1. Nightcrawler

A film where I found myself neither rooting nor jeering against the protagonist. This indecision is anchored by Jake Gyllenhaal’s superb performance as Louis Bloom, a man who puts himself into a dark, dangerous world of the underbelly of journalism. It’s a Lynchian concept without much Lynch, but still works in its own right. The nature of media is also put on question and in relation how humanity consumes the news by delving where this news comes from. There are tones of noir, which brings a sense of thrill to the audience. I enjoyed every second of this and was on the edge of my seat. It was uncomfortable to watch, which made it much more of an experience.