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The Best of 2014

2015-03-30


by: Kyle Armstrong

Before starting this list let me say I have not seen all the films I should've for this list, I have yet to see Inherent Vice and I made this list before watching Snowpiercer, so consider this a list of the best of 2014 at this moment and just before the pretentious Oscar show.

10. Captain America: Winter Soldier: Phase 2 Wasn't the best Phase for Marvel Studios. While Thor 2 was the best of the two Thor films, that isn't saying much, Iron Man 3 was disappointing and while we still technically have Avengers Age of Ultron and Ant-Man left (Both of which I am pretty excited for), I feel as though we could've gotten so much more. While for now I am done with the Iron Man films and would like to see it as a sad trilogy with an amazing first film and being done with Thor until they write and direct a better film, Winter Soldier gave me a taste of what is to come with Captain America and I want more of what's to come. Captain America has shown us in the films something that the comics have been arguing for years, the superhero genre can be so much more than what it is, we can show these characters as detectives, as intergalactic bounty hunters, as spies and it works because it fits and it is something fresh for these characters. The last time I seen this was the Dark Knight, something that Man of Steel later tried to do and failed. It is just great to see this again.

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Even if this is one of Wes Anderson's worst, it is still a masterpiece. With its bright color scheme and dark tone, Grand Budapest is a triumph. The goofy, satirical manor of the film gives it more personality. It reminded me of his Rushmore days with the overall film, which is great to see again. With its sarcastic and silly tone, Grand Budapest is kind of what it means to be alive, it is about the joy of living. I see the bright colors and fast paced scenes of this film and I feel good about what I am watching. It brings in this feeling of nostalgia of why we love Wes Anderson.

8. The Wind Rises: I found The Wind Rises to be very odd, odd in a beautiful way. Like Princess Mononoke, it holds this question in the core of the movie, who is the real villain The knowingly evil or the unknowingly evil? We cannot truly say Jirô Horikoshi was "evil" or can we? He later feels bad for what he finds out his designs are being used for, but he just wants to create. That can also say much about us as well, we can judge this character, but what if we were in that same situation? What if what we loved to do were used against others? This movie questions our morality throughout and in ways we could be questioning ourselves. Sometimes the mouth made sound effects can get a little distracting, however, I get the reasoning of it being there. The Wind Rises, if it is Miyazaki's final film, it is a nice ending to an amazing journey.

7. The Lego Movie: I didn't think much of this movie when I first heard about it, but when I watched it, I was amazed. I like to think of it as this anti-Toy Story, because it isn't supposed to be comfortable and have all the answers (No offense against Toy Story), some movies are supposed to be that way, but the Lego Movie didn't want to have the answers. We felt for these characters, when Emmett was shown as this lonely man who just wanted some attention and someone to notice him as "special", we felt for him when he realized he had no real friends and was the "nobody". 2014 was a really good year for animated films and the Lego Movie, in my book, proved to be one of the best. It proved to be so much more than a movie to promote a toy losing its popularity to video games, some ironically have to do with the product itself. Legos aren't dying, they just haven't been exactly the same. This film is fun and witty.

6. Force Majeure: This is an extremely dark comedy and says so much about our lifestyle, that is why I love this film. This is about a man who struggles with the idea of manhood and fatherhood because of a controlled avalanche where he failed to protect his own family. It tests the idea positions and roles we play in society, this is what makes it kind of tragic as well. While we have this character breaking free from his role, we also see the tragedy in the fact that he cannot live up to this role, seeing himself as useless. Force Majeure turns out to be overwhelming and beautiful.

5. The Babadook: Annabelle wishes it was the Babadook, being a smart, self aware, horror film, that even after the film, questions are still raised. Almost every shot is so creative with characters that I actually care about. In many scenes we are shown the character's reaction from Mister Babadook's point of view or we see the Babadook's outfit behind a complete stranger, as if society is the real Mister Babadook, creating such stories outputting social norms emotionless, making assumptions of people we don't even know well enough, but we can not kill the Babadook we can only contain it, so it cannot consume us. This brilliant Australian horror film will most likely get a horrible American remake and that horrible American remake will probably get a horrible American sequel, however, not even that can take away from the brilliance of this film. This is a love letter to classic horror films, with homage paid to the Shining, Amityville Horror, and Halloween. The Babadook is with no doubt the best horror film I have seen all year, not to mention one of the best horror films within the last 10 years.

4. Under the Skin: This can also be considered one of the year's most underrated, but it isn't as if I can't see why, it is a really heavy film. This is (ironically) one of the most down to Earth sci-fi films I have seen and really says something about the way we live and humanity in general, who is right and who is wrong. We have this general idea of who we really are and what we would do in such situations, but do we? Maybe this "morality" that we have such high standards for, doesn't exist. I see much of 2001 in the film, a movie I was thinking about the entire way through, and yet, it is much of the opposite of 2001.

3. Whiplash: The first long shot in Whiplash is beautiful. We see a hallway that is deserted and a room that would otherwise be empty if it wasn't for Andrew and a set of drums. I haven't seen such love of jazz since Round Midnight, Young Man with a Horn, and A Man Called Adam, even these films share the reality of these down and out characters who want to express their love of music. J.K. Simmons' character is such a no nonsense jerk that is not afraid to torture his students to teach a lesson, yet there are times where he looks to be this sympathetic, sad man. The performance is so well done that I don't mind feeling bad for this (If portrayed wrong) character who would seem like a horrible person.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy: Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but I think for me Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite Marvel film and one of my favorite comic book films in general, up there with Tim Burton's Batman. Going back to the topic of freshening the comic book film genre, this is something I really want to see more of, an expansion on Marvel's big universe. I am getting worn out of Iron Man and Thor, I don't mind sequels, but I do like flavor, I'm excited for Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, and Inhumans, just as excited as I am for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but maybe the Civil War storyline wouldn't feel so rushed, if Phase 2 had more variety. I have heard many of good reviews and I have heard plenty of bad reviews, showing it as a corny space opera starring a frat boy, well, maybe it is corny and maybe the main character has some frat boy-ish qualities, but that's what makes it good, many of our favorite films are corny, but that's why we love them. Guardians of the Galaxy is a love letter to the greats like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Serenity with a villain that is satirical of those tough posing, unmemorable villains and ironically is why he is so memorable.

1. Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): With its amazing score and brilliant script, Birdman delivers something I have not seen in a film for a long time. The most sarcastic, dark, and self aware film I have seen this year, not to mention left me with the most questions. A knock-out of a film with its mind blowing visuals and mind set. Definitely one of the years smartest, funniest, and visually appealing films of 2014. The story does not seem to be that complicated, however, it gets more and more complicated when pulling back each layer (and this film has many layers). All of this and more is why Birdman is my favorite film of 2014.

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