The time has come for “Top ___” lists and I’m trying to get at least one of them up before 2014 is over. My good buddy, Jordan, will not let me forget all the years that my lists have come late and I’ve promised him to get these up sooner than later.
I have not seen all of the films I wanted to see in 2014, but based on what I have seen, these were my favorites (though maybe not the “best” quality). So, in semi-particular-order here we go:
11. Horrible Bosses 2 – This is really more “honorable mention” territory. I saw this movie for my birthday and it was just good,
clean dirty fun. It helped to see it with some of my favorite people from back home and just have a hearty laugh. I found it better and funnier than the first. Had I been in a different mood at the time, maybe it wouldn’t have made the list, but I’m glad I saw it when I did. Jennifer Aniston just knocks my socks off in the role. Everyone says she’s not “diverse” enough, but come on. This is great stuff!
10. The Lego Movie – Oh, Chris Pratt. You make everything better, especially my beloved Legos.
9. Maleficent – I feel like this was Angelina Jolie’s year. She infused Maleficent with such humor and devious charm adding heart and emotion to the caricature of Maleficent that we see in (my favorite Disney animated film) Sleeping Beauty. I genuinely adore this film and its ability to surpass Maleficent’s long historical misunderstanding to show us the lighter side of the woman, the terror, the legend.
8. Wish I Was Here – A welcome addition to the Braff filmography. I have always loved his films and this is no exception. I was sorry to see that it didn’t do better in the theaters, but am so thankful to have seen and enjoyed it. I only wish I’d known sooner of the Kickstarter campaign for it and could have been a part of that. I love getting on board those types of projects.
7. This is Where I Leave You / Begin Again – I’m lumping these two together because they are essentially about growing up and finding oneself despite their very different settings (suburbs vs. city, family dynamics vs. navigating the perils of love and career). I could not have appreciated more the complex emotions portrayed in each production. I just so genuinely enjoyed both casts in their entirety. If I had to, I might give the edge to “Begin Again” because I can’t get enough Mark Ruffalo. Ever.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Marvel Cinematic Universe films make me happy. They just do. DC films make me introspective and gloomy (though I do love them), but MCU is just different. They have a different vibe. MCU gets it. They get me. The Winter Soldier’s tie into into Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD definitely helped pique my interest in seeing it AND elevated my love for the story. The wonderful thing about this movie, and most of the MCU films, is the heart behind and weaved throughout the story. This one was really an ode to the love we find in genuine friendships like that between Steve Rogers and Bucky.
5. Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen. Colin Firth. Emma Stone. Hamish Linklater. Enough said.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy – There has not been a superhero film this good since “The Avengers.” It was so good, in fact, that my husband even liked it. That, in itself, speaks very highly of its appeal and ability to bend genre and reach across the superhero/non-superhero fan divide. James Gunn’s script was flawless, as was every single performance in the entire movie. And, honestly, how are you not a Pratt-fangirl/boy by now?
3. Veronica Mars – This is really a no-brainer. I was a contributor to this film on the first day of the Kickstarter campaign. For us “Marshmallows,” it was really the perfect closure for Veronica’s story with just enough open-endedness to leave the hope for a follow-up film. The movie even appealed to my grandmother, who has never seen the show and is decidedly outside of the target demographic. Well done, all.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel – A year in which a Wes Anderson film doesn’t make my list of favorites would be a sad year, indeed. This was, perhaps, my absolute favorite of all of his films. Ingeniously told and brilliantly performed. The wisdom in the addition of Ralph Fiennes to the Anderson cast line-up cannot be overstated.
1. Interstellar / Unbroken – In the final analysis, each of these films is about ultimately about hope with emphases on other prescient and vital life virtues. As I sat down to write this list, I really could not decide which to put at the top. Interstellar was such an imaginative and far-reaching endeavor with each cast member putting forth among the greatest performances of their respective careers. I have never seen a Nolan film I didn’t genuinely love. I tell you truly: this is my favorite of his epics. Matthew McConaughey just keeps taking his craft to new levels of brilliance. As for Unbroken, as I said, I think this was Jolie’s year. Her eye for detail and ability to bring the truth of Louie Zamperini’s story to the screen is unsurpassed in its flawless emotional honesty. Jack O’Connell is my breakout star of the year. I’m so glad that Louie, himself, was able to see his larger-than-life story brought to screen before he passed. This one serves to bring us all hope and to display the transformative power of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
There were a great many films I did not get to see this year, but I saw enough fantastic ones that I felt comfortable making my list this year without having seen everything. Among those I missed this year but hope to see before the Oscars: Boyhood, Selma, Into the Woods, Big Eyes, Cake, Nightcrawler, Fury. Had I seen all of those, I can imagine my above list would have been MUCH longer than it was.