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Top 10 Films of 2014 (Bumbray) + Video!

As far as movies go, 2014 started with a bang, with January having marked easily the best edition of the Sundance Film Festival I’ve ever attended. Four of the films on my top-ten premiered there. From this point, the year went from strength-to-strength. While the media might have you think movie-going was down, that was only true in regards to blockbusters, although people sure did turn out to see anything Marvel put out because (ta-da!) they made good movies. If tent-poles like TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 grossed below expectations, that’s only because they were rather poor and word of mouth was bad (although I think EDGE OF TOMORROW deserved to make a lot more money than it did).

2014 was an especially strong year for indies, a fact that was reinforced by this year’s TIFF, with many of the Sundance titles getting a second wind, and movies like NIGHTCRAWLER and THE IMITATION GAME blowing everyone away. As so, here’s my Top 10 for 2014, which hopefully will prove to be a good mix of the very best the year had to offer.

Check out JimmyO's Top 10 RIGHT HERE!

See the Video Top 10 Below!

1. Whiplash

For me, 2014 is the year of WHIPLASH. What’s interesting is that it didn’t immediately sink in for me just how good Damien Chazelle’s WHIPLASH was. I gave it a rave out of Sundance, but it took a second viewing this fall for me to appreciate the fact that it’s not just “one” of the great movies of the year, it’s “the” great movie of 2014. Calling it FULL METAL JACKET at Julliard makes it sound a bit gimmicky, and if there’s anything WHIPLASH is not, it’s that. Miles Teller and J.K Simmons are ideally cast, and if Simmons doesn’t walk away with the Oscar for best supporting actor this year, I can only assume the voters didn’t bother to watch it.

Check out JimmyO's Top 10 RIGHT HERE!

2. Nightcrawler

Back at TIFF 2013, I was floored by two back-to-back performances given by Jake Gyllenhaal in Denis Villeneuve movies, PRISONERS and ENEMY. Having seen those, it was obvious that Gyllenhaal was in the middle of a Matthew McConaughey-style metamorphosis into a top actor, and Dan Gilroy's NIGHTCRAWLER continued that evolution. It’s arguably the best thing he’s done since DONNIE DARKO, with him playing a vicious sociopath freelance cameraman with no qualms about putting people in the cross-hairs if it gets him some juicy footage he can sell. If it bleeds, it leads. In any other year, NIGHTCRAWLER probably would have been my top pick.

3. Boyhood

Having been filmed in secret for twelve years, BOYHOOD is easily the year’s most ambitious film, and not coincidentally one of its very best. This is more of an experience than a conventional film, being a fictional take on the UP series done by Michael Apted for the last fifty years. Richard Linklater shot this one in secret for more than a decade, and the final product has to be everything he’s hoped of and more. One wonders if Linklater, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are out there somewhere doing an ADULTHOOD on the sly. I hope so.

4. A Most Violent Year

I saw this one pretty late in the game, but I’m sure glad I did. Director J.C Chandor has made three movies so far: one good (MARGIN CALL), one very good (ALL IS LOST), and now, one great. He gets better with each movie, and this is his great one. Oscar Issac is incredible as a heating oil business owner working in Manhattan in the winter of 1981 (the year I was born!). A friend of mine told me this was like THE GODFATHER if Michael was trying to go absolutely legitimate with Kay as the criminal, and in a way that’s pretty accurate. Jessica Chastain plays against type as his ballsy, brassy wife, while Albert Brooks continues his post-DRIVE reinvention as a character actor, playing Issac’s attorney in a totally strait-laced fashion. This one is a real winner, and one hopefully people embrace once it hits theaters December 31st.

5. Interstellar

It’s a bit exasperating for me to see the backlash against Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, which I’d argue was inevitable, as there’s been something building up against him ever since THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Is INTERSTELLAR perfect? No, but people are so pre-occupied with saying what it isn't nobody seems to appreciate it for what it is which is a highly emotional, beautifully shot and directed sci-fi odyssey people will still be talking about long after other movies from this year have faded into obscurity. No director working today gets held to a higher standard than Nolan, and if anyone else’s name was on INTERSTELLAR people would be calling it a masterpiece.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL would probably be on every critic’s top 10 list had it been held for the fourth quarter. Instead, in a financially smart move Anderson and Fox Searchlight put it out last winter, at a time art-house audiences were being severely under-served. As a result, this became Anderson’s highest grossing film ever, and a real crossover, worldwide hit. It’s easy to see why, as it’s incredibly witty, charming, and features a possible career-best performance by Ralph Fiennes. Still, I can’t help but think if it had been saved for Christmas they’d have a better shot at some Oscar love.

7. Birdman

As far as comebacks go, they don’t get any better than what Alejandro González Iñárritu’s BIRDMAN has done for Michael Keaton. While Keaton’s exile was self-imposed, it can’t be denied that the part was tailor-made for him, having rose to fame playing Batman in the Tim Burton movies at a time when typecasting really could hurt a career (as movies are more comic-booky now it seems like less of an issue). Keaton’s arguably the best he’s ever been here, although I suggest people check him out in CLEAN & SOBER to see just how good he always was. For all the plaudits being thrown Keaton’s way, let’s not forget Iñárritu’s contribution, with him and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki making BIRDMAN seem like one continuous, virtuoso shot, one upping what Lubezki and Iñárritu’s pal Alfonso Cuarón did in CHILDREN OF MEN and GRAVITY. Hopefully people see this one on the big-screen, where it belongs. I can’t imagine it would have the same effect at home.

8. The Raid 2

Remember THE RAID 2? After this premiered at Sundance last year, a lot of us (myself included) were calling this one of the best action films of all-time. Sadly, audiences did not turn out to see this in droves when Sony Classics put it out in theaters last spring. That’s a real shame, as the experience of watching THE RAID 2 in theaters simply can’t be replicated at home. It needs to be seen with a screaming audience, and sadly I’m sure many of you did not get that opportunity. Still, it remains an insanely good action movie, with set-pieces that are absolutely jaw-dropping, including the amazing car-chase, which I think is one of the best action scenes ever shot. Director Gareth Evans is the most exciting action director out there, and I can’t bloody wait to see what he comes up with next.

9. The Skeleton Twins

It’s a real shame that more people didn’t turn out to see THE SKELETON TWINS in theaters. A heartwarming indie-comedy, SKELETON TWINS features best-ever work from stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, both of whom prove more than able to tackle drama while still delivering plenty of laughs. They play brother and sister, and years of working together on SNL have given them the ability to brilliantly play off each other, while conveying lots of very real affection. It’s pretty perfect little film and director Craig Johnson is a co-writer (with Mark Heyman)-director that’s worth keeping an eye on. This also gets my vote for the year’s funniest scene – an impromptu lipsynch by Wiig and Hader to Starship’s eighties cheese classic ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”

10. Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel’s been on a roll for a long time now, but this has probably been their best year ever. While neither CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER nor GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY out grossed THE AVENGERS, they both proved that the public is absolutely ravenous when it comes to the company’s films. Most importantly, both movies took risks, with WINTER SOLDIER arguably being the most serious Marvel superhero film to date, with the reward being that it more than doubled its processor’s take at the international box-office.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was an ever bigger gamble, taking a relatively obscure (to the general public) property and allowing James Gunn to make a far-out space opera that’s radically different from anything the company’s tried before. The gamble paid off – big time. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the biggest box-office hit of the year in North America, and lead Chris Pratt has become an instant mega-star. The film itself is probably the most purely fun blockbuster of the year, and easily the most energetic and visually striking. Between the two, Marvel seems like a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. If they keep making movies as good as these, that’s just fine with me.

Runners-up

If I were to list all of the movies I loved this year, this list would easily go to twenty-five and beyond. Notable films that didn’t quite make my top ten include the Argentinian comedy-drama WILD TALES (soon to hit Sundance), INHERENT VICE (which is even better upon a second viewing), FOXCATCHER (which would have made the list had I not seen A MOST VIOLENT YEAR late in the game), the MLK drama SELMA, SNOWPIERCER, LOCKE, JOE, THE IMITATION GAME, the action-packed THE EQUALIZER, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and more.

Two movies worth singling out include COLD IN JULY and THE GUEST. Both films were affectionately done, old-school actioners, evocative of the very best movies made by John Carpenter in his prime. COLD IN JULY’s Jim Mickle and THE GUEST’s Adam Wingard have both shot up to the top of my list for most exciting directors in the biz. Both movies also feature iconic performances, with COLD IN JULY’s Don Johnson getting his best part since Sonny Crocket, and THE GUEST’s Dan Stevens utterly reinventing himself following his run on DOWNTON ABBEY.

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