The following are eight films this year that I thought were great. I didn’t feel comfortable putting two more on there for the sake of fulfilling the expected ten as I truly did not think there were others I saw that should have been on this. With that in mind, there were many I wanted to see that I didn’t, so this is list is by no means self-contained.
In alphabetical order:
Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
The movie that stands to be the one that everyone and their mom will tell you is just plain ol’ brilliant. They’re right. It follows fading superhero actor, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), as he attempts to revitalize his ebbing career with a serious Raymond Carver play. Spectacular performances all around, but Edward Norton as the arrogant co-star and Lindsay Duncan as the withering theatre critic, will stay with you long after the movie ends. Not to mention that Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is probably the best of the year.
Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
As David Edelstein of Vulture put it: “I’m not saying Boyhood is the greatest film I’ve ever seen, but I’m thinking there’s my life before I saw it and my life now, and it’s different.” Shot over the course of 12-years, it can be argued that Boyhood is the most ambitious film of all time. The 12 years in and of itself may not make it so, but the unprecedented amount of honesty and authentic beauty coaxed out of a fictive narrative, is undeniable.
Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me yet. Reminiscent of an early Miloš Forman, Ida is the story of an orphaned, soon-to-be nun (Agata Trzebuchowska), who is informed by the nuns of her convent that her aunt has been discovered. They advise her to seek out her aunt and stay with her for as long as necessary, before taking her orders. Ida is surprised to find that her aunt Wanda, (Agata Kulesza) is a promiscuous, drunk, ex-judge, who informs her, to her even greater surprise, that Ida is Jewish. They embark on an unlikely journey to find Ida’s parents, one, at once asymmetrical as it is familiar.
A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor)
This is one for all you Philadelphians to look forward to as it doesn’t come out technically until New Year’s Eve. Starring Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) as immigrant, heating oil entrepreneur, Abel Morales, A Most Violent Year, is like if Sidney Lumet made The Godfather and it took place in 1981 New. Morales wants to purchase a piece of land for his company, making his financial future uncertain, and compromising his ability to be realistic about the ever growing violence of the city.
Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre)
A comedy about abortion. No really. And the abortion happens. And even more delightfully, there’s no question that it won’t. This is a remarkable feat and, with Jenny Slate as our heroine, it’s a movie that is sweet, funny, honest, and brave.
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
If you’re someone who needs answers, this movie probably isn’t for you. The plot, that of an alien seductress (Scarlett Johansson), is nebulous at best. But the viewing experience, is haunting, evocative, and deeply unsettling. Also, I’m a notorious Scar Jo hater, but as an alien with little to no emotion, she’s tops.
We are the Best (Lukas Moodysson)
As a lady in a punk band a movie about teenage girls in a punk band is maybe a predictable choice. But I’m not going to apologize because this movie rules. It’s 1982 in Stockholm and Bobo and Klara are two best friends, weirdos pushed to the outskirts of their Abba-loving middle school. They agree to start a punk band. They don’t know how to play their instruments and that’s the point. They end up recruiting Hedvig, a quiet Christian girl who plays classical guitar because, “it’s political of us to hang out with the less fortunate.” This film will reaffirm any aging ideals you hold and force you to look back with fondness on the possibilities of youth.
Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Based on the memoirs of Cheryl Strayed, Wild features Reese Witherspoon as the writer, while she takes on the Pacific Crest Trail after the unexpected death of her mother, a growing attachment to heroin, and the dissolution of her marriage. Witherspoon gives an emotionally and physically exhaustive performance that may be her best yet. For those who prefer the journey to the destination, Wild pushes the visceral, internal struggle to the foreground and allows the story to exist, comfortably, in the background.