2014 was a fantastic year for cinema! There was truly an abundance of riches to choose from. Below are the titles that left the biggest mark on me. To be eligible for a spot on this list a film had to either have a theatrical/VOD release in 2014, or screen at one of the local film festivals. In regards to the latter, this is why Under the Skin made last year’s list instead of this year’s. So without further ado, here are my top ten films of 2014:
10. What We Do in the Shadows
In a year that saw several intelligent comedies hit theatres and the festival circuit, few made me laugh harder than What We Do in the Shadows. Similar to Only Lovers Left Alive, which just barely missed the list, the film finds an inventive way to breathe new life into the genre of the undead. Winner of the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award at TIFF, and a highlight at the imagineNATIVE Film Festival, Taika Waititi’s film is a crowd-pleaser that turns conventional vampire tropes comedically on its head.
9. Gone Girl
It is hard to make your two main characters both lovable and hateable at the same time, but David Fincher pulls it off swimmingly in Gone Girl. Few films had me both on the edge of my seat and comtemplating the nature of marriage like this film did. Not only was I completely enthralled with this tense tale, but it is one of the few adaptations that had me eager to read the source material the minute the final credits began to roll.
A compelling David versus Goliath tale, Leviathan is an example of master filmmamking at its best. Weaving together a narrative that shows the unholy bond between church and state, Andrey Zvyaginstev’s metative work features characters as rich as the vibrant cinematography the film employs. Bringing an intoxicatingly grand scale to his intimate story, Zvyagnstev’s film is one of the most captivating dramas of the year.
7. Force Majeure
The notion of man as protector is a myth and Ruben Ostlund’s film knows this. Exploring the male ego, and the underlying pride associated with it, the film is a wonderfully uncomfortable dark comedy. What makes Force Majeure truly exceptional is the way it not only puts audiences right in the middle of the conflict, but also forces them to question what they would do if caught in that same predicament.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson hit another home run with his deliciously original period comedy. Blending a slew of genres together from romance to slapstick comedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel is endlessly watchable. Anderson manages to create a film that is accessible while still keeping his distinct voice at the forefront.
5. Dear White People
Justin Simien’s brilliant racially charge comedy was one of the best filmmaking debuts of 2014. This film not only made me laugh, but spoke to me on a personal level. In a year where race in America was a hot button issue, Dear White People found a humourous and thought-provoking way to remind us that much more work is needed before racial harmony can truly be achieved.
Reflecting on the worst aspects of our self-obsessed society, Dan Gilroy’s film is as much a scathing commentary on the viewer as it is the media. Achored by Jake Gyllenhaal’s brilliantly dark performance, Nightcrawler is equally chilling and thrilling. The film takes great pleasure in reminding us how far our moral compass has swung in the wrong direction.
3. The Overnighters
Exploring how the recent economic crisis has impacted a small North Dakota community and their pastor, The Overnighters has not left my mind since I saw it at Hot Docs back in April. The definition of being in the right place at the right time; Jesse Moss’ film takes several unexpected turns and forces the audience to question the motivations of the pastor at its core. Morally complex and endlessly riveting, The Overnighters is amongst the year’s best documentaries.
It is impossible to talk about Boyhood without mentioning its construction. In many ways it is the technical achievement of its 12 years in the making process that is just as important as the film’s plot. Capturing the awkward and seemingly timeless feel of youth, Richard Linklater’s film is a masterful piece of cinema that we will be discussing and dissecting for years to come.
Xavier Dolan has already amassed a small canon of films in his young career, but Mommy is his greatest achievement yet. Perfectly encapsulating complexities of parenthood, Dolan takes a rather novel premise and weaves together a beautiful piece of cinema. An emotionally gripping film, that is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, the most stunning thing about Mommy is that Xavier Dolan has not even reached his full potential yet.
Honourable Mentions (in no particular order): Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, The Babadook, IDA, The Special Need, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Life Itself, Locke, Blue Ruin, Whiplash, Ned Rifle, Edge of Tomorrow, Predestination, Housebound, Vessel, Felix and Meira, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Ukraine is Not a Brothel, The Wind Rises, The Guest.