I had a really great time at the cinema in 2014, and these are my top five favorite films.
I loved this film! I went to see it three times, it moved and inspired me, and even
brought me to tears. Interstellar feels like a return to the cinema of the past. It’s full of grand imagery, thundering romantic music cues and features an epic science fiction adventure plot that has very real human stakes. It’s fitting that a film so closely modeled around Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey would have a similar weight and gravitas, but unlike 2001, Interstellar is a much more emotional and idea-centric film, and director Christopher Nolan isn’t afraid to communicate these emotions and ideas through dialog that may seem overly theatrical to some–but for me it works. Nolan is dealing here with themes that most filmmakers never will, and he needs a broader dramatic vocabulary to examine them: the way in which humans feel abandoned by the divine, the concept of a higher power governing the universe, and the way the passage of time effects us. Though it’s editing stumbles slightly near the end, the film never slows down or feels dull, even at it’s almost three hour running time. The acting is superb, the music is glorious, and the finale is perfect. If you haven’t already done so, watch this film!
As everyone has already noted, this film was shot over a period of 12 years. It
focuses on a boy, his relationship with his family, and the joys and turmoils of
childhood and growing up. The camera follows him from year to year as he literally
grows up in front of the lens. What resonates so much with me is that I was a boy
during some of the years this film was shot, and as my younger brother and I watched,
we found ourselves identifying with the cultural touchstones that appear on screen:
Presidential elections, computers and video game systems, Harry Potter mania, sports events, popular music and fashion trends–the best part is that these touchstones aren’t
being recreated like most period films, they’re actually being captured as they
happen. Director Richard Linklater has a wonderfully relaxed cinematic style, and he’s not
afraid to make a film with low stakes that breathes. You’re not going to find much
dramatic tension or classical storytelling here, but what you are going to find is an
uncanny capturing of an era, and a bittersweet, dead-on look at what growing up as a
boy in the United States is like. What pleases me most about Boyhood is that it’s
permanently captured the period of my childhood, and it’s something I come back to
and enjoy for the rest of my life.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the darkest, most violent Wes Anderson film to
date, but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny, and it has all the wit and mannered charm
of the rest of his filmography. The film centers around a hotel somewhere in Europe and its larger than life, gold-digging clerk who inherits a priceless painting from a family
that is clearly up to no good. Told through multiple narrators, time periods–and
even aspect ratios–the film remains a fairly simple heist story, featuring a
hilariously complex prison break and some cartoonish action sequences–I think
Anderson is still kind of hung up on the wonderfully two dimensional stop motion
effects he achieved in Fantastic Mr. Fox. In the end, the film is about the darkness
of Fascism and the way in which it permanently changed Europe, but that’s mostly lost
in the cacophony of it’s slapstick climax and ornate art design. That’s not to say the film
doesn’t work. It’s a joy to behold as well as a dramatic punch in the gut, and
perhaps one of Anderson’s most emotional films to date. The ending is simply
devastating, but not without its sweetness. Critics have observed that Wes Anderson
is in love with the past and has never really felt comfortable with the modern world
he lives in, and nowhere is that more apparent than in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
I’ve reviewed Nighcrawler already, and you can read that review here. It was one of the most engaging films I saw in 2014. Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is an amazing cinematic creation, and the way this character plays with your emotions throughout the film has to be seen to be believed.
5. Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow is that rare summer film that doesn’t pander to it’s audience. Instead it presents it’s complex science fiction plot through a smart, economical series of images and relies on the audience’s intelligence to sort everything out. It’s also rare for its character development–there are no lazy “types” here and even the smallest side character gets his moment to develop. Tom Cruise is excellent as an unsympathetic military PR man fated to become a selfless hero questing to save mankind, and Emily Blunt is surprisingly believable as a battle hardened warrior, despite her petite frame. Did I mention the excellent art design? It really is nice to look at and makes the world of the film feel both mundane and lived in, even as men in CG mechanical suits fight giant CG robot octopus aliens. All around a rare feat and a pleasant surprise, Edge of Tomorrow feels like a film that will be considered a classic someday.