This was a great year for movies, so I didn’t want to just discuss my top ten. There were so many movies that were worthy of consideration. I’ll post the full list Thursday, but first here are the films that, while not worthy of top ten rankings, are surely praiseworthy. With so many great films released, there is no shame in silver!
- WHAT IF?
I am a sucker for indie dramedies. This probably shouldn’t be as high, but you go watch 145 movies and make your own list, RYAN! While it treads familiar ground (can men and women really be friends), the chemistry between my crush Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) and Daniel Radcliffe (Woman in Black 1) really made this movie work. This is now out on iTunes. This would be a cute movie to get you in the mood for love as Valentine’s Day approaches.
It is always fun when you leave a theater asking yourself “Do I love or hate what I just saw?” That was Snowpiercer. In the end, I decided that there was more brilliance than absurdity to this action noir about class division set entirely in a perpetually moving train on an Earth that have frozen over. The visuals and moral quandaries introduced as the lower class makes their way from the back of the bus to the front is an incredible journey for the audience. This movie has its flaws, but it made me think about a lot of things other than just how good of an actor Chris Evans is in non-superhero films.
“To find out that you had a friend you never knew existed, is the best feeling in the world.” This amazing quote from Pride pretty well sums up this excellent piece of cinema. Garcia saw this one first and he was so confident that I would like it that he made a unilateral bet. He said that if this biopic about 80’s Thatcher era miners supported by gay activists at the dawn of AIDS didn’t land in my top twenty, he’d buy me lunch. I could have knocked this one down three spots to get a free meal, but this is where the movie belongs and Ryan is awarded with the smug satisfaction that he won. This is worth a lot to Mr. Garcia…
- GONE GIRL
I love David Fincher. He’s one of my top five directors. I even moderately enjoyed Aliens 3. This adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same name (she also adapted the screenplay) is a property custom made for Fincher. Ben Affleck continues his resurgence; quieting Batman casting critics by showing he’s a very talented actor. Clue fanatic Neil Patrick Harris was excellent as a creepy rich stalker. Even Tyler Perry brings a nice flavor as a high price defense lawyer. But it is Rosamund Pike as the leading lady that steals the show. She is just so brilliant. My only beef was that I read the book and though I loved it, doing so actually hurt my enjoyment. This is a story so predicated on twists that knowing what is going to happen shifts how you process the plot.
- THE GOOD LIE
Though she is on the cover of the poster and did press for the Good Lie, this is interestingly not a Reese Witherspoon movie. To her credit, she used her fame to get the film made and distributed but did not require the script to be beefed up to make it about her. She could have easily shifted the focus to her character like Sandra Bullock did in The Blindside (of course, Bullock looks at the Oscar on her mantle and feels zero remorse) but instead she let the three Sudanese refugees take the starring role and the result was a really excellent movie. These guys are so charming in their roles that they honestly make a Chicken Crossing the Road joke funny. Sentimental, but worth checking out.
If this movie had been made using different actors or CGI to show the life of this one family over 12 years, then the film would be probably around the 40’s in my list. Not bad, but a pretty conventional story of family dynamics. Where Director Richard Linklater scores is that he filmed a few weeks every year for 12 years to make this amazing tapestry using the same actors. So it is more about the concept and execution over plot and script. Still worthy of a 25 spot jump because it is so impressive. I wouldn’t give this Best Picture (nomination yes. Win no.) but Linklater certainly deserves Best Director. He took a huge chance that this would never see a cinema and the results were amazing. His biggest piece of luck was how good of an actor Ellar Coltrane became. Kind of like the Harry Potter kids, he really grew as an actor over the years and he was ready to shine in the important emotional moments in the teenage years.
- EDGE OF TOMORROW (aka- LIVE, DIE, REPEAT)
So many people blame the box office disappointment of this movie on poor marketing. I disagreed. I knew this movie looked great but I, like the rest of the world, really don’t like Tom Cruise anymore. He did a good job, and obviously I loved this movie, but it led me to wonder if this would have been bigger hit without Cruise? Emily Blunt was AMAZING in a brilliant script. Please, please, please let her be cast as Captain Marvel! Imagine her in this role with Hugh Jackman, Ryan Gosling, or even Chris Pratt. How would it have been? I loved this movie, but not because of Cruise.
- X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
For much of the year, this was my #1 movie. I was not excited about seeing this, but it over performed expectations by leaps and bounds and fastball specials. Lawrence, Jackman, Fassbender, and McAvoy showed incredible chemistry and it is always great to see Stewart and McKellern together. Where XMen loses points is on the ending focus on fixing continuity. When a series has to use time travel to fix problems in a film series, it might be time to call it a day. After a brilliant film like DoFP, I am NOT excited for Apocalypse. Interestingly, this need to timeline repair is the same reason I never really liked the X-Men comics.
- LOVE IS STRANGE
A beautiful movie about two men who after a long, committed relationship decide to finally get legally married. As a result, the breadwinner is fired and their lives and livelihood take a turn for the worse. The chemistry between Molina and Lithgow is amazing. There is nothing strange about the love between these two characters. Only beauty.
- FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
This movie about an eccentric (to put it kindly) nanny whose brilliant street photography is discovered by a junk peddler after her death is exactly what a documentary should be. This was a subject that NO ONE should conceivably care about yet the director made it compelling, interesting, and dynamic. This was flat out a brilliant documentary about a bizarre, but undiscovered, genius.
COME BACK TOMORROW FOR THE TOP TEN!