It's that time of year again. Time for my annual best of and/or favourites lists. This one is a bit late in coming to fruition (said tardiness is explained below) but here it finally is. So, without further ado, here are my choices for the Best Films of 2014. Have at 'em!
1. Inherent Vice - I like to get a list like this done sometime around New Year's Day, but this year I held off two weeks, in order to have the chance to see this film first. I mean, come on, it's not like a Paul Thomas Anderson film is going to be left off any top ten list of mine. Anyone who knows me, and/or knows my taste in cinema, damn well knows that. And yup, here it is...and in the top spot at that. Based on Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel, Anderson has weaved together a brilliantly perverse neo noir. Taking on the influences of such films as Nick Ray's In A Lonely Place, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, and Howard Hawks' Big Sleep, the latter of which in turn, is based on the Raymond Chandler novel, the main literary influence on Pynchon's own writing. Anderson has also given Cheech and Chong and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic strip as influence. Yeah, so this is another batshitcrazy work from the current master of batshitcrazy filmmaking.
2. Boyhood - Richard Linklater has always been one of the more intriguing of American auteurs, and he has topped anything and everything he has done before, with Boyhood, his magnum opus. Twelve years in the making, being shot intermittently throughout all that time, Boyhood takes a look at Mason Evans, as played by Ellar Coltrane, in what seems like elapsed photography filmmaking. It actually is quite remarkable a cinematic feat, and in another year, a year without a Paul Thomas Anderson film, Linklater's film would be the top dog.
3. Birdman - Remember Michael Keaton? Yeah, me too. And now he's back...and playing basically a version of himself. Keaton's has been actor in the film is trying to make a comeback on Broadway, after decades of obscurity after giving up playing a famed superhero on screen. Yeah. Mexican auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has given us another visually spectacular film. Oh, and Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone give it a good go as well.
4. Under the Skin - It's been nine years since Jonathan Glazer gave us the mesmerizing Birth, and now he is thankfully back in the director's chair once again. Coldly calculating and deftly intricate, this film, the story of an alien being, played by ScarJo herself, luring unsuspected horny men to their ultimate demise, is an ethereal piece of filmmaking, indeed.
5. The Babadook - This fascinating Aussie horror film does not rely on the typical jump scares of most modern genre works, instead opting for an old school building tension kind of thing. A building tension that eventually leads to a screamingly terrifying climax. And the performances of Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are both rather spectacular. This is the way horror movies should look and feel. Bravo, indeed.
6. Only Lovers Left Alive - A vampire movie as only Jim Jarmusch could do it. Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as centuries old vampires (and no other two actors could be more suited to the job), Jarmusch's lush and moody film weaves around the narrow old alleyways of Tangiers and the dark decay of Detroit's dead streets, with a keen cinematic eye, his camera acting as a lurid voyeur into the nightly world of these beautifully love sick creatures. If The Babadook is how a monster movie should be made, then Only Lovers Left Alive is how a vampire film should be made.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy - I usually do not go all gaga over such blatant big office boffo movies like this top grosser of the year, but this one is different. Sure, I'm a comic book fan from waaay back, but even so, not many comic book movies end up making my top ten lists. Again, this time it's different. This old school, Indiana Jones-esque space romp is seriously a fun ass movie experience. I am Groot!
9. Snowpiercer - This Bong Joon-ho film (produced by Park Chan-wook) is yet another one of those dark dystopian dramas, but unlike the vast majority of the genre, this one is actually good. Very good, even. One might even say pretty darn great. Set in 2031, after the sudden onset of a second ice age (brought on when scientists tried to counteract the climate change problem), the film follows the few survivors of said second ice age, who all happen to live on the titular speeding train. Stark and quite harsh, as many Korean films are, this one also has Tilda Swinton. So there!
10. Edge of Tomorrow - Normally one would not expect to see a Tom Cruise vehicle on a top ten list of mine (though Minority Report was on my best of list from that year), but this sci-fi doo-dad, based on a Japanese comic book, and directed by Doug Limon, an actioner auteur if ever there was one, is surprisingly deft and gripping, and even rather humourous at times. Imagine that.