Oh, what’s that? Why wait until February to release a year-end best movies list? Because some people like to wait until they’ve seen movies to pass judgement on them. That’s right, entertainment industry, I’m calling you out on ranking movies that are popular against movies you haven’t even seen while pretending like most of the year didn’t even happen.
We live in a world where studios pump out their best movies in December. January-April acts as a cinematic doldrums of sorts and October-December is an embarrassment of riches.
Luckily, 2014 had a nice crop of movies throughout the year (as this list will attest). The movies on this list comprise a mix of comfort food and vegetables. However, I’ll point out that these are honestly the movies I most enjoyed during a great year of film. Get ready, because here comes Brian Bolt’s list of the best movies of 2014 (vegatables and all).
Jean-Marc Vallé’s brilliant follow-up to 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. By far Witherspoon’s best performance and it’s insane that no one’s talking about the incredible editing the film uses to advance its narrative. What makes the movie good is that Vallé tells an engaging story about a woman’s struggle to piece herself back together. What makes the movie great is how danger is perpetually lurking just outside the foreground.
It’s an important movie with a capital O. That’s right, Oprah’s involved, but don’t let that affect how you approach the film. It’s not a history lesson. It’s a complex look at a man who was profoundly charismatic yet deeply flawed. David Oyelowo’s performance will probably live on as the definitive portrayal of King and, as for the film itself, it crackles with the broad spectrum of human emotion.
The year’s best visual tone poem. It’s certainly not a feel-good movie but it’s intensely watchable from beginning to end. Steve Carell should’ve been nominated and won for Best Supporting Actor (instead of Actor) for his stunning portrayal of a real-life psychopath. Director Bennett Miller also deserves mention for masterfully placing a creeping sense of dread into every frame.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
A fascinating look at a world where humanity fights for survival. Things quickly turn Shakespearean in this Apes sequel (far superior to its predecessor) and the film is the better for it. The plot is top-notch and the pacing by director Matt Reeves is excellent. By far the best sci-fi movie of the year.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
Another in a series of films on this list that outpace their predecessors, Hiccup and Toothless prove that kids’ movies can be just as emotional and thrilling as anything else.
An inside look at the world of musicians. Spoiler: it ain’t pretty. Star turns from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons make this a can’t-miss feature.
A captivating film and the only one on this list with a “how-did-they-do-that” conceit. Alejandro Iñárritu’s direction is only rivaled by Michael Keaton’s powerhouse performance as an ego-driven protagonist on the edge of destruction.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
By far the most fun I had at the movies this year. There’s so much to love about Guardians, but I’ll leave you with one indelible image: Baby Groot.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The superior (just barely) superhero movie of 2014. This movie takes the patriotic ideals of Steve Rodgers and rips them to shreds. It questions why America needs its captain and, for that, it gets the number 2 spot.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Hysterical and incisive. Every time I watch it, I discover another brilliant piece of the mise-en-scene placed purposefully there by the incredible auteur Wes Anderson. Hands-down the funniest, cleverest, sharpest, most lovingly crafted movie of 2014. It definitively deserves the top spot.
And finally, ladies and gentlemen, because Oscar season is upon us, I present to you my Oscar ballot of the principal categories. “Will Win” designates my final pick for Oscar night.
Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Because the Academy is vain enough to pretend to be self-deprecating. However, Birdman’s pretty great.
Will Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Should Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
A man who seriously deserves it. I can’t imagine the prize going to anyone else (suck it, Linklater).
Will Win: Julianne Moore
Should Win: Reese Witherspoon
Moore has gotten most of the attention this year (and she’s great, don’t get me wrong), but I’d love to see a Reese upset this year. There’s just a lot more going on in her performance in Wild.
Will Win: Michael Keaton
Should Win: Michael Keaton
While Eddie Redmayne is brilliant, he didn’t own Theory of Everything the same way Michael Keaton made Birdman his movie. A fantastic performance that came out of nowhere.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Should Win: Patricia Arquette
By far the weakest category of the year. Wasn’t particularly thrilled by any of the nominees but Arquette is the best of a so-so lot.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Should Win: J.K. Simmons
Because he’s soooo good in Whiplash.
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Are you kidding me? It’s a lock.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: Jason Hall, American Sniper
Should Win: Jason Hall, American Sniper
He’s not the frontrunner, but he does the most with his source material. In a race packed with biopics based on memoirs, Hall adapted his the best.
With that, ladies and germs, I’ll sign off. Enjoy Oscar night, everyone! May the Academy gods shine kindly on your betting pool.
And always remember, “Get your hands off my lobby boy!”