Before we launch into 2015, it’s necessary to deeply reflect upon the past year through the only format that matters: the Top 10 List. You see, in a few days, I’ll be launching into my j-term class about the Cold War through film. In preparation, I’ve compiled my personal list of the best films of 2014.
There’s always a certain injustice in top 10 list making. Films get left off, personal preferences trump artistic triumph, or maybe vice versa. And frankly, I’m no A.O. Scott. There’s a lot of movies I haven’t seen yet, and I am by no means qualified to decide what great cinema is. So I’m just gonna be real transparent about the arbitrary nature of this process. I’m not saying these are the best films of the year, but they are the ones that came to mind when I thought about my favorite movies of the past 12 months.
So, click an image below to begin the slideshow, and chime in if you agree, disagree, or have other suggestions!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Kristin Wiig is a national treasure. She shines again in The Skeleton Twins as a woman dealing with inexplicable unhappiness. But as brilliant as Wiig is, it’s Bill Hader who steals the show as her estranged brother. The word dramedy gets thrown around a lot, but this film truly is as funny as it is heartbreaking. The Skeleton Twins has the makings of an indie classic: great band tees, great performances, and perhaps the greatest lip synching scene in the history of cinema. Photo via more.com
Justin Simien’s debut feature film is stylized, cool, and above all, smart. It’s a rare jewel: A truly great, thoughtful college film that effortlessly combines the intellectual with the cultural. Dear White People is film about race, gender, and sexuality, but it’s not a piece of critical theory. It’s a fun, fresh story that also manages to interesting and important. In short, Animal House it is not. Photo via sundance.org
Is this a particularly critically acclaimed film? No. Should it be? No. But it’s my list, and if I want to throw in a pleasant, Canadian-Irish rom-com, I will! What If is driven by wit and indie charm to reach beyond the mediocrity of its predictable script. And maybe the main reason to watch? Harry Potter’s got game! Seriously, Daniel Radcliffe is fun and sharp and charismatic…I mean, for a muggle, that is. Photo via twitter
I honestly don’t think Jake Gyllenhaal gets the credit he deserves as one of the best actors working right now. In Enemy, he does double duty, playing two different roles beautifully, subtly, and with so much craft that is mesmerizing to watch. Overall, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of The Double is shocking, surreal, and layered. And that ending?!?! But seriously, if anybody wants to talk about this movie, let me know, because it’s not a film to be passively consumed. It’s confrontational in the best possible way, and leaves you with the spectacular sensation of having more questions than answers. Photo via salon.com
The genre “abortion comedy” doesn’t sound like a winning combination, but in the hands of Gillian Robespierre, it absolutely is. Jenny Slate stars as an emerging (read struggling) adult, and gets to showcase the full scope of her talent as she was never able to do on SNL. She’s funny, and relatable, and heartbreaking, oftentimes in the same scene. Jake Lacy does an excellent job as Slate’s romantic interest, especially as the film culminates in one of the most satisfying, perfect, and real endings of any film this year. Plus, Obvious Child is named after my favorite Paul Simon song. (Full disclosure: I can’t super think of any other Paul Simon songs right now.) Photo via youtube.com
Like What If, Belle is another film that will probably only appear on my Top 10 list, but so be it! As someone who grew up in a haze of period dramas, I can honestly tell you that this is a good one. The film, which is based on a true story, deals with institutionalized oppression, race, and gender in ways no other regency drama ever has. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of the breakout stars of the year thanks to her portrayal of the mixed-race daughter of a British admiral discovering her privilege and oppression. And like any good period drama, you know you’re in for some stunning costumes and a gorgeous score. Photo via usatoday.com
I mean this in the most affectionate way possible, but this is one of the most French films I’ve ever seen. Not just in language, but in essence. Plus, everyone is smoking. All the time. Bird People takes place in a Parisian airport hotel, but thanks to a pretty big twist, the film becomes about so much more than that. Josh Charles, one of my favorite actors, anchors the artsy, bold, emotional, film. Really fascinating storytelling and innovative filmmaking by director Pascale Ferran make it worth a watch for any movie fan. Photo via cinema-scope.com
Speaking of twists, The One I Love was one of the twistest films of the year, and maybe of all time. I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen it, but I will say it’s a drama about relationships and identity…in the most interesting possible way. I haven’t ever seen a film like it, and I don’t think I’m likely to anytime soon. As the film’s stars, Mark Duplass shows why he is one of my favorites and Elizabeth Moss puts on a great, almost unforgettable performance. It’s the kind of movie that haunts you with questions, thoughts, and theories long after you watch it. Photo via tribecafilm.com
Okay, so maybe a frat house comedy staring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron doesn’t exactly scream “great film,” but honestly, Neighbors is worth a watch. It partakes in the same trend of comedic self-awareness we also saw with movies like 22 Jumpstreet this year. Neighbors is aware of its genre and its problems, as evidenced by Rose Byrne’s role as Rogen’s wife—and her refusal to be relegated to the role of a nagging woman. Rogen, Byrne, and Ike Barinholtz are genuinely funny, as is the whole film. If only Zac Efron and Dave Franco were a little better looking… Photo via hollywoodreporter.com
I still get a little nervous talking about this movie in fear that Babadook might come get me. This Australian horror flick is not only a good scary movie, it’s just a great movie. The Babdook is simple and understated where it needs to be to fully engross its audience. Full disclosure: I was in physical pain watching the horror of this movie, and yet, thanks to the fascinating narrative, didn’t want it to end. Photo via ign.com