My 10 Favorite Films of 2014

In no particular order. With the caveat that there are few films out there I haven’t seen yet that I want to.

Calvary: An unflinching document about faith. About a “good priest” who is chosen to walk in the footsteps of Jesus at a time when the Catholic church is seen as a corrupt, monstrous, relic.

Boyhood: Perhaps the most authentic film document of a boy becoming a man, by simple fact that it followed one particular boy for 12 years. That would perhaps be enough to garner praise, but director Richard Linklater also lucks out with a solid, committed, cast. Dreamlike, utterly real.

Snowpiercer: A perfect political allegory for our current era of corruption and disfunction. One that mixes subtle with ludicrously blunt symbols that lay out the arguments about how to fix the broken system that keeps us all alive. A dark but ultimately hopeful parable.

Only Lovers Left Alive: This is a film about Romantics living in a world that no longer understands or comprehends what they are. Vampires in a world of “Zombies.” Like all Romantics, they spend a lot of time hanging out, listening to music, discussing genius, driving at night, and trying to keep a lid on the drama. Great soundtrack.

Ida: A beautiful mediation on belief and identity, on being unable to escape, in the end, who we are. On pasts that some would prefer buried. On desire. Simplicity and complexity. About innocence lost, and whether it can be regained.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: I’ve grown to appreciate Wes Anderson’s increasingly complex confections. They wear their artifice on their sleeves, yet, that same artifice, I think, makes me care about them more. I know they are players performing a play, and that thought thrills me in ways a “realistic” picture cannot. This film is Anderson at the height of his powers.

The Lego Movie: This is the most sly, subversive, film that is trying to sell you toys that you may ever see. A technical marvel, to be sure, but also a wonder of imagination that actually captures what imaginative play is like. Also does a fine job parodying action films while being a great action film.

Citizenfour: This has been a great year for documentaries, and Citizenfour, which chronicles the leaked NSA documents from government contractor Edward Snowden (now living in exile in Russia), is a harrowing thriller despite it largely taking place in a hotel room. Laura Poitras injects an ominous atmosphere that slowly envelops you in these tense proceedings.

Life Itself: This is a film about life, death, and movies. About the life and last days of famed movie critic Roger Ebert, it is a love letter to film, and to loving film, and finally, to love itself. Is there something in my eye?

Finding Vivian Maier: An enthralling deep dive into a lost treasure of street photography, and the strange, reclusive, soul who dedicated her life to documenting the world around her. There’s currently legal battles brewing over ownership of these pictures, but don’t let that stop you from marveling at this look at art, obsession, and posthumous fame.

GUILT LIST (2014 Films I want to see, but haven’t been able to, for a variety of reasons): Birdman, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Mr. Turner, National Gallery, and Inherent Vice. So it is possible that one of these could displace one of the others I have listed, but I feel pretty good about the list as it stands.

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