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09 Jan 2015

The Year's Best: Our Reviewer Reveals His List of 2014's Top Films

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Michael Keaton and crew are fantastic in Birdman, the best film of 2014. Michael Keaton and crew are fantastic in Birdman, the best film of 2014.

Academy Award nominations will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 15.

But who cares about those? You should only care about what I, your trusted Independent film reviewer, thinks. Right?

Here’s my list of the Top 10 films of 2014.

1. Birdman: In a year of many incredible directorial feats, the top honor goes to Alejandro González Iñárritu. By making his film about a washed-up actor (Michael Keaton) look like one continuous shot, he pulled off a technical miracle.

He didn’t stop with visual wonder, because his film is hilarious and emotionally impactful, and stacked with amazing talent, including Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis. After much debate, inner turmoil and anxiety-ridden sleepless nights, I am deeming this the year’s best film. It wasn’t an easy call; any of the next three films could have taken the title, too.

2. Whiplash: Miles Teller, amazing in The Spectacular Now, put himself through the wringer for this one—and that wringer is named J.K. Simmons. Simmons, as the meanest, most bad-ass music teacher to ever occupy a film, is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. Strangely, Teller isn’t getting the same buzz. He goes toe-to-toe with Simmons, and he does his own drumming, which is phenomenal.

3. Boyhood: This is an amazingly cohesive movie for something that was filmed a little bit at a time over the last 13 years. The film looks as if it was filmed all at once; the performances are consistent and strong; the story is powerful. Director Richard Linklater’s very best movie.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson has one of the most impressive streaks going in Hollywood. Over the past 18 years, he has made eight features, all of them either very good or excellent. This one, in which Ralph Fiennes plays an oddball concierge, ranks among his best.

5. Selma: David Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in director Ava DuVernay’s stunning depiction of the civil rights march from Selma, Ala. If you weren’t fortunate enough to see the film during the opening-night screening at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (which featured the presence of Oyelowo and DuVernay), never fear: It opens in wide release later this week.

6. Frank: Michael Fassbender wears a huge mask for the majority of this film; this is a movie that delves into the eccentricities of being in a band trying to create meaningful music. It’s a funny, overlooked gem.

7. Edge of Tomorrow: Tom Cruise dies thousands of times in Doug Liman’s crazy, hilarious and ingenious take on the alien-invasion genre. It’s surprising that more people didn’t see this. Even Cruise haters could take pleasure in seeing him die in so many ways.

8. Foxcatcher: Steve Carell disappears into the role of John du Pont, the crazy rich guy who took it upon himself to shoot and kill one of the wrestlers on a team he created. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are heartbreakingly good as the Schultz brothers, two Olympic gold medal-winning siblings who, unfortunately, worked for du Pont when he had his breakdown.

9. Interstellar: This was a great year for science fiction, and Christopher Nolan’s take on space travel is grand moviemaking. It’s a film that dares to go everywhere. Also, it has the year’s best piece of late-in-the-movie casting.

10. Under the Skin: Another great science fiction movie. This is the year’s trippiest film. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien that is wearing human skin, driving around Scotland and picking up guys. (In actuality, many of the real men she encountered had no idea who she was.) It’s an interesting way to cast a film—and the results are surreal.

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