2014 was a great year for the cinema industry from a critical standpoint, even if it was a terrible year business-wise. Failing box office returns were almost a good thing; I enjoyed the quieter transitional period for U.S. film before we head into a year laden with mega-franchises (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Avengers, etc.).
I discovered comparatively smaller movies in that time, including Nightcrawler, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fury and Under the Skin. Even some blockbusters intrigued and satisfied (Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow come to mind). 2014 also saw Christopher Nolan and David Fincher return to the big screen with Interstellar and Gone Girl, respectively.
Perhaps most importantly, 2014 was the year of one of the biggest talent of all young directors. Canadian director Xavier Dolan came back to us this year sporting his masterpiece, Mommy. With all of that in mind, here are my favorite films of 2014!
10. The Connection (Cédric Jimenez)
The Connection (La French) – starring Oscar winner Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche – is a fantastic French thriller. It’s about the true story of a judge, Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin), who tried to catch and arrest all of the members of a famous French crime syndicate called The French Connection. One of the leader of the gang, Gaëtan ‘Tany’ Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), runs an international business around drugs, and Michel quickly becomes entrenched in tracking him down.
The movie offers an authentic reconstruction of the south of France in the 70s. It also features a perfect tandem between Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche who both work brilliantly off of one another. At first, I had some worries about this duo playing serious characters in a dramatic film because they are more famous for roles in comedies before (The Players and OSS 117, for example).
I was completely wrong; the two are totally credible as cop and criminal, due in large part to the strong direction from young French director Cédric Jimenez. In my humble opinion, Jimenez has now made the best french gangster movie since Mesrine Parts 1 & 2 (released in 2008, starring Vincent Cassel).
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn)
Guardians of the Galaxy is, for me, what a “popcorn movie” should be: funny, ballsy and supported by rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. With that recipe, James Gunn directed certainly the best Marvel Studios movie since The Avengers. It’s probably no coincidence that both films follow the adventures of a ragtag group of superheroes – it’s an appealing format for the genre.
Indeed, it’s refreshing to discover a brand new badass super team. Even if it’s not the best movie I’ve seen this year, it’s clearly one of the best blockbusters – right next to Interstellar – of 2014. And I’m happy to see it succeed in a tough year for the U.S. and worldwide box office.
8. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
The last Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival is a long but engaging movie. If you know the work of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys, Distant, and more), you know what kind of movie Winter Sleep is. For me, it was the first movie from the Turkish director that I’d seen. What a wonderful discovery.
This contemplative slow-action drama takes place in a remote area of the Cappadocia region in Turkey. Winter Sleep is an incredibly deep and intense masterpiece. Between anxiety and melancholy, you follow a family where each member is trying to find their raison d’être. This movie will affect you; you can’t escape from an experience like this unscathed.
7. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
Nightcrawler is anchored in the stuff of our society. The story focuses on the information we get from the media and how those inputs can manipulate us.
The movie is supported by a creepy ambiance and an outstanding performance of Jake Gyllenhaal. The actor brings to life his character, Louis Bloom, who is full of cynicism and incapable of any empathy: a real sociopath. Next to Source Code (from Duncan Jones) and Zodiac (by David Fincher), it is certainly one of the major roles of his filmography.
This may be jumping the gun as far as lists go, but thinking back on Nightcrawler, I wonder if Louis Bloom is in some ways the masculine version of [spoiler] Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) in Gone Girl [/spoiler]. For both characters, the end justifies the means. Neither character is bothered by eventual collateral damages or humans victims. There’s probably an essay in there somewhere.
If you’re still not convinced you should see the film, I highly recommend Jonny’s review.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
As with other Wes Anderson movies, you have to savor the sweetmeat the director offers his viewers. The Grand Budapest Hotel does not escape that rule – but the taste of that sweetmeat has become deliciously bittersweet.
This time around Anderson introduces us to a wonderful hotel. At the Grand Budapest, the privileged are lethargic witnesses to history. The director succeeds in taking us far in his world with a sound backdrop (WW II) and his typical visually splendid universe. Mix in an all-star cast and you have all the ingredients necessary for a superb Andersonian adventure.
Here’s a (largely) positive review of the Grand Budapest Hotel written by Søren.
5. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako)
Timbuktu was an official selection at the last Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, it didn’t win any prizes, but its consolation is contention in the next Oscars ceremony for Best Foreign Language Film. It deserves it.
Timbuktu is a powerful movie about the war in Mali between the Salafists and the locals. Abderrahmane Sissako’s film is an ode to bravery, freedom and life, and stands proudly against religious dogmatism. It shows us how differently people can interpret the same religion; on one side, you have peaceful Muslims – on the other, militant extremists. The topic is sensitive and politically engaging, but Sissako avoids major stereotypes and shows us African cinema at its best.
4. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)
Many things have been written already about Interstellar. Like my colleagues Nate and Søren, I enjoyed Christopher Nolan‘s latest. True to his pedigree, there are of course imperfections and incoherences – but I wasn’t bothered by them at all.
I think this is the first time that Nolan totally got me, emotionally speaking. And, in a period with all of these franchises, reboots and comics adaptations, it would be a pity to ignore a blockbuster with original story.
I also enjoy when you can debate for hours about different theories around a given film. That’s why I like cinema, and that’s what I did with Interstellar. Thank goodness Nolan’s still around to release movies which stimulate my imagination so well.
3. The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki)
Hayao Miyazaki returned for the last time this year with The Wind Rises. And, even if it’s an animated picture, it deserves its third place in my top ten because it’s incredible how deeply Miyazaki plays with the audience’s emotions in this film. Through his interrogations of the human being and its behaviors, the Japanese director offers us one more wonderful and touching movie full of grace and poetry. I couldn’t agree more with Søren’s review.
2. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
If you are frequent readers of Movie Fail, you certainly read Søren’s review of Fincher’s latest drama. Søren hated it mostly because of Nick and Amy’s behaviors and what they say about our society. I won’t write a detailed rebuttal here, but let’s just say that I disagree with my dear editor in chief. Gone Girl was one of my most anticipated movie of 2014, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it still exceeded my expectations.
If Gone Girl is among my top two favorite movies of the year, it’s because of the foreboding tone of the film, the fantastic cast and the talent of its director and its editor. But more than anything, I love Gone Girl because of Rosamund Pike’s character, Amy, who remains one of the most interesting character I’ve seen at cinema in a long time. In my humble opinion, Amy’s character is simply the best [spoiler] villain [/spoiler] in cinema this year.
1. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
“Xavier Dolan is a 25-year-old writer and director from Canada. He’s already produced of five movies and won 36 awards in festivals ranging from Toronto to Cannes. The phenomenal young filmmaker is back this year with Mommy. The film won the Jury Prize at the last Cannes Film Festival.
To be clear, the mostly dithyrambic echoes you may have heard from critics since the press screening at last year’s Cannes are true. Mommy represents something totally refreshing. As with his previous movies, Dolan uses old recipes in a new way to produce something original.
I’m not usually comfortable with melodramatics movies. I have a deep aversion for tearful or heartbreaking narratives full of pathos that conclude with abrupt and artificial happy endings. Nonetheless, some directors transcend this genre. Xavier Dolan, with his youthful brashness, is definitely one of them. Although Mommy succeeds in provoking a whirlwind of feelings, a brilliant energy across the movie tempers the pathos with positivity.”
Read my complete review here.
Click here to see the other 2014 lists from Movie Fail!