First I want to show you my list for honorable mentions, I know some you may rate higher but here are the ones that just barely missed my top 10.
X Men Days of Future Past
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Theory of Everything
Edge of Tomorrow
Under The Skin
Gone Girl and Under The Skin were the closest, but I have to admit that while Eddie Redmayne was great as Stephen Hawking the movie itself felt to me like it was trying too hard. I also am sure having Interstellar in honorable mentioms will cause some waves, but even though the visuals were amazing the dialogue was not even close to as good.
Anyway now let’s start with the runner up, you might be surprised but there were so many good movies this year that this got hard to decide.
Runner Up – Foxcatcher
This year was full of unsettling characters foreboding, where this movie is no exception. Steve Carrell has shown he is far from only being Michael Scott, but even more so Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo deserve credit as great actors here who help carry the movie. Definitely not the best of the year, but I liked it a lot.
So now onto the top 10, annnnnd *drumroll*
10 – The Lego Movie/Guardians of the Galaxy
Not every movie can be dark and depressing, and both of these are as much of an antidote to others on this list as possible. Chris Pratt not only was great in Lego Movie but also Guardians, and I really can’t decide which I like more so decided both Pratt movies get there to a spot in the top 10. For being more than just fun, but for being the kinds of movies that can make your day.
9 – Selma
I liked this movie and what it was standing for, in fact parts of it were inspiring and I took note for my own story I’m writing. Portraits of the injustices were upsetting and you really wanted to see the characters succeed in their quest to make a difference. In a way they did, but as injustices continue it’s clear there is still a lot fo work to be done. At first I wanted to put this movie higher, but it ended up having stretches that failed to keep my attention which was unfortunate. At the end of the day judging the movie by its content (to paraphrase one of the best men of the last 100 years), it falls short of some of the true innovation that you see further on.
8 – Grand Budapest Hotel
There’s a technique that Wes Anderson uses in his filmmaking of showing one picture for a few frames of film before moving onto another, and for that alone the man is an artist painting images on the screen with his lens. What becomes really interesting however is how each character ends up becoming connected with the others through one person and another until you have dozens of characters that indirectly are connected like a Kevin Bacon game. I really liked this movie and would watch it again, but don’t know if I could put it at the top of my list based on the brilliance of its direction alone.
7 -The Imitation Game
The movie is almost entirely about secrets, not just the secret codes that they are trying to break but the secrets existing between people and which to reveal and which to keep. I’ve seen a little bit of Sherlock and from what I saw I expected the same confidence here, but instead Benedict Cumberbatch plays someone incredibly awkward and unable to relate to others while possessing a unique way of thinking and intelligence. The story is about Alan Turing, who until less than 2 years ago was a criminal until being pardoned, and this man not only is the originator of modern day computer science but drastically helped change the way World War II went without anyone knowing for 50 years. In a way this is a sad story as like many geniuses it seems he was never really content while he was alive, but bringing recognition to someone who made such a difference in our lives ends up being uplifting in its own way and Cumberbatch is great.
6 – Nightcrawler
Ugh, oh man this movie is dark. Dark, dark, dark and I’ll give fair warning that if you got squeamish during Drive (this movie’s GOOD twin), then you might not want to see this. However I admit I don’t think I looked away once during the entire movie as it was like a car crash in fact at some points it is actually ABOUT a car crash. Except not only is about those accidents and the people who get the footage of accidents like car crashes, but the culture that wants to see as many of these as possible and the news crews who want to bring them to us. Jake Gyllenaal as Louis Bloom is vile and on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker, a kind of Donnie Darko character he hasn’t gotten close to since but even more memorable.
5 – Wild
I remember a time that I hiked through a few different towns in Italy by myself without any connection to anyone, going through each part fueled only by my determination as I analyzed my life with each step. That may have been a few miles, but in this movie Reese Witherspoon does this for 1100 with nothing more than quotes from her favorite writers and iodine to purify drinking water. The movie is based on the memoir from Cheryl Strayed where she hiked from California to Oregon, but even more than that in an inspiring and cathartic way shows what she does to overcome the drugs and pain she found after her mother died. Maybe I’m the only one who noticed but I thought the cameo from Art Alexakis from Everclear was a nice touch, as he himself lost people to drugs in Oregon and California but managed to overcome that. I’d highly recommend this movie to anyone, as it was powerful and stuck with me.
4 – Boyhood
A few years back I had an idea for a movie if I ever got to actually make one, where you would film people over a few years and then you would see them actually age over the course of a few hours. I have been a fan of Linklater since Before Sunrise, but this might be his best yet as he had been going through with the idea I thought was original before I even had it. Ethan Hawke has always been one of my favorites, but Patricia Arquette finally becomes more than just my favorite part of True Romance (sorry Medium fans) by making each of her scenes feel like a documentary. That’s what is so great about this movie is it doesn’t have a conventional storyline like most movies, but instead feels like it’s about a real life and growing up itself.
3 – Whiplash
I went to college and studied music, I had teachers and instructors who were at different levels of intensity but none even close to J.K. Simmons in this movie. I went into the movie wondering how anyone could be better than Ed Norton in Birdman, but the unpredictability of Simmons where one moment he would smile and then the next throw a chair at you was impossible to turn away from. Not only was the performance good but the music was also mesmerizing, Miles Teller who I recently thought did well in The Spectacular Now is coming forward as a force to be reckoned with and does extremely well playing the student drummer literally willing to bleed to make his teacher happy. I don’t want to give anymore away as it’s possible I may have said too much, but the ending was unforgettable and maybe the best in any movie I saw this year.
2 – Snowpiercer
Starting with an event that leaves only a few people around has happened many times before and is far from unique, however the way that it imagines what happens next and how those people go to that place is unlike any movie I’ve seen before. The basic premise is that international governments decide global warming needs to be stopped in some way, so they attempt to engineer the climate to cool instead with the intent of bringing balance. However (as I’m sure you guessed), the climate cools so much all at once that the world becomes nothing but ice. So how would people survive in a world almost completely frozen? This is where the movie gets interesting, because they are all on a train that continually travels the world, and the part of the train you are on is decided by how much you paid for your ticket. I could go on and talk about Tilda Swinton being creepily unforgettable or how you never know what’s going to be in the next part of the train, but really the movie speaks for itself.
1 – Birdman
Like any kid around in the early 90s the first Batman was the coolest movie ever when it came out, but after Keaton decided not to be in the third Batman he mostly disappeared other than arguments over who was the best Bruce Wayne (Keaton come on people). This movie with its frenetic drum based jazz soundtrack changes Batman into Birdman while keeping Keaton, and shows a man struggling to reestablish relevance for himself in a world where new comic book movies push him into obscurity. And where the movie really becomes interesting is instead of him trying to revitalize his Birdman character, he decides to reinvent himself through a stage play all while his Birdman voice (funnily similar to the voice Bale used for Batman) slowly breaks apart his sanity all syncopated to those drums and made to look like one long take. Emma Stone as his daughter shows she is one of the best actresses around today, and Ed Norton as an extreme method actor is particularly brilliant and possibly the highlight of the movie, but seeing Keaton back in business would make even Robert Downey Jr. impressed.
Thanks everyone for reading, and if there are any honorable mentions you want me to write about I will.