Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Top Films of 2014 - Javi's Picks

I was going to start with an introductory paragraph, and then I read Scott Wampler's Top Ten for Badass Digest and I realized I couldn't top it, so here it is: Unoriginal opening sentence wherein I express the belief that 2014 was a fantastic year for cinema. Standard-issue follow-up statement relaying how this overwhelming number of great films made it difficult to narrow down my favorite titles into a manageable list of 10. Vaguely patronizing mention of the self-imposed "rule" that was applied during the creation of said list ("Must be titles that most people would have had a chance to see in a theater, not just at a film festival"). Paragraph closes with a bit of whinging about how I've not yet seen Inherent Vice or Selma, and am thus unable to factor them into the list below

The movies in this top ten were movies that really stuck with me were the films I was able to remember frame-by-frame a specific scene or sequence. Anyway, you can check out my picks in no particular order after the break. 

What is there to say about this movie? It's one of the highest grossing movies the year about a bunch of A-holes who happen to be Marvel Universe D-listers until very recently. GUARDIANS succeeds in being a good combination of the best aspects of action sci-fi tropes and mixes them with a talking raccoon and a CGI tree. But seriously, it's an achievement of James Gunn being able to translate his weirdo indie sensibilities into the best of mainstream movie making. Plus, it has one of the most heartfelt moments in movies this year with the "We are Groot" scene.

This movie just had everything you could hope for in a comedy. The animation, while it was CGI, was top notch, and everything from the set and character design to the voice acting was amazing. I know that it might be a bit of a stretch, but I totally thought of Charlie Chaplin's MODERN TIMES in terms of the social commentary and hilarious physical comedy. Plus, the themes and messages of the movie are so layered, I have heard at least five different interpretations of this movie. 

This low-budget sci-fi movie is one of the only movies I've bothered to review twice. The strength of the movie is in its concept and in its writing. A dinner party of eight friends is interrupted by a comet passing by when strange things began to occur. I won't spoil anything else, but suffice to say, that there's a reason why I reviewed it twice. You need to watch it at least once to get the concept, and then a second time to watch it after all of the spoilers have been revealed.  Streaming link.

This is the second year in a row where a movie by director Adam Wingard has made my top ten. THE GUEST was one of my favorite movies from Fantastic Fest, and what YOU'RE NEXT did for horror, this did for action thrillers. The movie, starring Dan Stevens, is a stylish and lean movie with one of those best soundtracks in recent memories. The movie deals with a charming young soldier who comes to "help" the family of a fallen comrade, but as always, he's not what it seems. What you'll find with this lean action movie, is some cleverly written dialogue with action scenes that have cuts longer than .01 seconds. Plus, as a totally straight dude, Dan Stevens is dreamy. If you so choose, you can buy the Blu-ray on Amazon here

Alejandro Jodorowsky recently came back into focus as the subject of the documentary, JODOROWSKY'S DUNE, about his failed attempt at creating an adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune novel. What's ironic is that while the very good documentary is getting acclaim and notice, it seems no one paid attention to his first movie in 23 years which is a shame. His movie LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD (or THE DANCE OF REALITY) is a surreal autobiographical movie chronicling his relationship with his pro-Facist father and his more hippy mother as well as an extended period of his childhood. The movie perfectly captures the weirdness of childhood and the way that we can remember things in a more exaggerated manner. At times, the movie, unique in its story since it even includes sequences of Jodorowsky himself narrating what is going during certain scenes, feels it was made about my childhood and my experiences. Just even remember certain scenes can strangely bring me to tears. I absolutely loved the movie, and while it's a difficult watch at times, it can be a rewarding experience. 

Part 1 of the Jake Gyllenhaal shout out is technically a 2013 movie that could absolutely not be seen until 2014, but Gyllenhaal's follow-up collaboration with PRISONERS director Denis Villenevue far surpasses its predecessor. With a stunning dual performance by Gyllenhaal as two different men: a quiet college teacher and an outspoken actor. And the way that their chance meeting changes their lives is a suspenseful and strange story that has one of the biggest WTF endings that make you rethink everything you've seen.

Part 2 of the Jake Gyllenhaal shout out, NIGHTCRAWLER once again finds him in a demanding role as the sleazy Lou Bloom. We first meet him stealing some copper and assaulting a security office and after a bit he finds him involved in the business of nightcrawling, which is simply filming gruesome accident and crime scene footage for local news. He's that American corporate go-getter attitude personified as a shell of a person with every human interaction being nothing more than a business transaction from which he needs to profit from. The movie is relatively light on the plot, but each crime scene that Lou films is somehow still full of tension between him getting caught or seeing what depraved depths he will sink to in order to get the best shot.

Back in the day, Scarlett Johanson movies were something that I avoided like the plague. Whether it was either the casting director's fault or her own, her whole schtick of being the sultry seductress was just not my thing. But somewhere along there, she became one of my favorite actors working today. UNDER THE SKIN is one of those movies after only having seen once stuck with me. With everything from Mica Levi's disorienting soundtrack, to the beautiful cinematography by Daniel Ladin, and Joanson's performance of an alien inexplicably seducing men and capturing them in black goo for unknown purposes, it's one of the most unique movies of the year.

The story about a jazz drumming student recently accepted to the best band in a top music school is one of the most tense movies of the year, and it's a showcase of director Damien Chazel with lead actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. With themes about personal responsibility and determination, it not only features amazing scenes of Miles Teller (and probable stunt double) drumming but the scariest performance of the year with J.K. Simmons' cutthroat instructor, Fletcher. In an era where every kid gets a "participation" medal, it's important to know when to push yourself harder to achieve your goals, but just as important you have to know when to quit.

Flawed as this movie was, there is a lot to love about it. Director Gareth Edwards understands how to create moments of great tension, dread, and awe with Godzilla and it pays off in big ways. There are moments of this movie that I still remember just from the impact that they had on me when I saw them on the big screen. The design is hands-down, the best modern update of the monster if we take into account the '97 movie, the Millenium Toho design, and this one. It is a bit of a shame that the human story wasn't that great, actually, it was pretty bad, but they are there to serve as our POV in this world where monsters are real and are destroying the city. Aaron Taylor-Johnson's character serves perfectly for that and not much else which is fine because this movie is about man facing the possibilities that they have no control over their own fates in the context of a badass radioactive monster movie.

Honorable mentions:


One of the best festival movies that hasn't come out but you should totally track down:

A gripping and tough drama about a detective whose own brother was kidnapped by a pedophile at a young age, and who must track down a serial child molester. His method is sadistic and cruel, tying up the family and forcing the parents to watch as he molests the child. It's a dark movie and very difficult to watch, but it's expertly written, directed, and acted. Look for it when it eventually gets US distribution.

No comments:

Post a Comment