Featured: Top 10 Best Movies of 2014 (Brendan’s List)
You have to love this time of year. Getting to reflect on 2014 and coming up with our best’s of the year is always a lot of fun. This was my first time doing the InSession Film Awards, and man, we had some great conversation. Along with handing out some fun awards, we also discussed our Top 10 Movies of 2014 and I think we all had some pretty great lists. Like JD said, coming up with just 10 was almost impossible since there was a ton of great films to choose from, so here I have listed my Top 20.
That being said (after the jump), let’s get into it and go over Brendan’s Top 10 Movies of 2014.
Brendan Cassidy’s Top 10 Movies of 2014:
The year 2014 was a weak year for biopics, and the one I predicted would be the weakest of them all turned out to be the strongest one in many years. Selma is not just about the great Martin Luther King, but instead focuses on a specific moment in his life that truly defined the man we would remember him as. Unlike most convoluted biopics that showcase an individual’s entire life, Selma strictly focuses on the march from Selma, AL to Montgomery in protest for voting rights after the Civil Rights Act is passed. In this film, MLK is a flawed man, one who is so devoted to his cause that he sometimes forgets about the safety of his people, only to realize this in a beautiful final sequence of redemption and honor that is so well earned. Brutal and shocking in parts, this is a perfectly well-realized biography. And David Oyelowo gives a star-making performance, and the supporting cast also helps create a multi-dimensional character film. Everyone needs to see this one. Look for our review of this coming soon.
It really took some time for me to realize this film’s greatness, but nonetheless I have finally arrived at that point. Snowpiercer is one of the most unique post-apocalyptic film’s I’ve ever seen, and my pick for the best science fiction film from 2014. Taking place entirely on a train that’s now home to the rest of humanity, after an attempt to end global warming kills all life in our planet, the story focuses on a group of “free loaders” forced to the back of the train (think third class on the Titanic), and their journey to take control of the engine at the front and bring order. But that is just a narrow-minded way of telling this story, and it eventually presents an interesting argument about social class that wasn’t expected, almost an allegory for our current political state. The writing and directing is top notch, the action is fun and shocking (that classroom scene still scares me), and the story is unique. Oh and Tilda Swinton is my pick for Best Supporting Actress in this, what a riot she was. Check this one out. Click here to hear our full review.
Calvary is a beautiful “who-done-it” mystery about our perception of faith, the church, and the priesthood in this day and age. Here we follow Father James, played wonderfully by Brendan Gleeson in the most underrated performance of the year, who is the pure definition of a good-hearted man and priest to his church and people. And yet, others’ perception and respect toward him is always troubling and quite harsh, to say the least. After being told someone will murder him in 7 days, he is forced to examine his life and the people around him, those who show him no respect but also those who surprisingly do, creating a great juxtaposition on our varying viewpoints of faith. In the end though, it all boils down to forgiveness. Calvary boasts one of the year’s best original scripts, the film is both hilarious and deeply saddening, and we also get one of the best scores and father-daughter relationships of the year. A challenging film, but absolutely worth your time. Click here to hear our full review.
7) The Lego Movie
EVERYTHING IS…….oh you get the idea. This was the biggest surprise of the year for me, and upon viewing I didn’t expect to get one of the funniest films I’ve seen in recent memory. While the story itself is nothing new, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller cram their script with witty and laugh-out-loud gags by the second, and for me it all works. But what really sells it is the film’s surprising final act, one that pulls the rug from under our feets and becomes a beautiful tale of inspiration and creativity through the minds of innocence, and I was in tears by the end. Also featuring beautiful and complex animation, an INCREDIBLE voice cast (Chris Pratt rules), and that friggin’ addicting theme song, this will become an animated classic. Click here to hear our full review.
With beautiful black-and-white cinematography and two extraordinary female performances, this is a movie that captures both a particular time and place as well as a conflicting way of life in wonderful fashion. Our central character, about to take her vows to become a nun during 1960’s Poland, uncovers a mystery about her past and her Jewish family history, and thus becomes torn between a life she was raised and a life that’s in her blood. This internal struggle is one of the best I’ve seen in years, and how this ultimately affects her aunt (in another extraordinary performance) helps enhance the themes of internal doubt, not just about religion but about life in general. Beautiful film. Click here to hear our full review.
I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again, this is the Taxi Driver of our generation. Just like what Taxi Driver did for New York City, Nightcrawler does the same thing for Los Angeles, perfectly capturing a crime-ridden world that only enhances the film’s themes of obsession and the current job market, but in a truly frightening way. It’s hard to believe this is a first time directing job, but Dan Gilroy (brother to Tony Gilroy) is a revelation; I swear, the second half of this film is some of the most tense filmmaking I’ve seen in many years, and I was shaking in my boots. Beautiful cinematography, clever writing, and to top it all off, a transformative performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, my pick for the best lead performance from 2014. In fact, Gyllenhaal is not even in this movie, it is only Lou Bloom. This is a crime thriller that will be remembered. Click here to hear our full review.
4) How to Train Your Dragon 2
And the best year for animated films continues with my pick for the greatest animated sequel of all time (yes, that even includes Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3). How to Train Your Dragon 2 is The Empire Strikes Back of animated sequels, continuing the lighthearted and touching story of a boy and his pet dragon, but builds on it in the best and most surprising ways. Tackling darker themes with great maturity, this film takes huge risks and harkens back to what I love about The Lion King, and is a perfectly realized tale about the journey to becoming a man, and most importantly what it means to be a true leader. Boasting beautiful animation, a great script, wonderful voice talent, and one of the year’s best musical scores (and original song for that matter), this earns its dragon’s wings buy not only improving on its predecessor, but it makes the first film even better, and the first one was spectacular already! Click here to hear our full review.
And the award for Best Director goes to? Well, I know who I would pick. What Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu was able to achieve in this film is still astounding to me. Made to look like it was shot in one take, Birdman follows Riggan, a man struggling with his own insecurity trying to overcome his past and make a new start that others will acknowledge. Yet at the same time, this movie makes an interesting commentary on the nature of art and entertainment in this day and age (superhero movies are a prominent theme), creating a funny, touching, strange, and incredibly beautiful film all at once. The cinematography is mindblowing, functioning like its own character in the film by creating a sense of paranoia and disorientation behind the stage. And Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and the rest of the cast are revelations here. To anyone who loves film, theatre, or art in general, NEEDS to see this movie. Click here to hear our full review.
Never has a movie reached such a powerful climax that I just wanted to erupt into applause and press the replay button. Whiplash is a monster of a film, paced with a kinetic energy that moves like its own jazz piece. Not only does it make for the most electrifying film of the year, but it earns even more respect as a film that presents another argument in how greatness is achieved, and yet also has the guts to NOT answer the morality of these methods, letting the audience take part in the debate. Miles Teller is a revelation, and J.K. Simmons…..why bother? Give him the Oscar already! Click here to hear our full review.
1) The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
What would the world be without Studio Ghibli? I can answer that, an empty and meaningless place. Leave it to the great Isao Takahata (known for the wonderful Grave of the Fireflies) to return with not only the best animated film I’ve seen this year, not only the best overall film I’ve seen this year, but one of the most beautiful film experiences I’ve ever had, one that had me absolutely sobbing in the theatre. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a poignant fantasy about a young girl, torn between a life of nobility and the normal and innocent life she truly wants. But that’s not all, this isn’t just a perfect “coming-of-age” tale, but it’s also a dark and visceral look at the horrors and misfortunes that we all endure in this world, and how many will choose to hide from it before realizing that joy and happiness can still be found in the simplest things, and this world is full of them. Beautifully animated, a fully realized story, and a stunning score make this one hard to top, and I’ll be watching this masterpiece for the rest of my life. Click here to hear our full review.
To round out the rest of my Top 20, here is the rest of my list:
11) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
12) Under the Skin
13) The Wind Rises
14) Guardians of the Galaxy
15) Gone Girl
16) Inherent Vice
17) Force Majeure
18) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Let us know what you think. Do you agree or disagree? We’d like to know why. Leave a comment in the comment section below or tweet us @InSessionFilm.