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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, September 14, 2015

The 2014 RyMickey Awards - Best Picture

I watched quite a few movies released in 2014 -- 185 to be exact -- and I think it was overall a pretty good year for films.  Admittedly, the year was a little lacking of those really emotional pieces that moved me or gave me chills, but my top fifty films listed below are a really solid mix of drama, comedy, action, sci-fi, and horror.  Whatever your cop of tea, 2014 had solid films for each genre.  I'm actually quite pleased with my Top Twenty which is populated with some big budget studio pics and low budget indie sleepers which you may never have heard of before.  Take a gander at a few of them (particularly if they're available via a streaming service) and let me know your thoughts.  Let's create a discussion!

Best Picture of 2014
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix / SoA = Streaming on Amazon Prime)

#50 - Guardians of the Galaxy    --    #49 - Black or White (SoN)
#48 - Dear White People (SoN)    --    #47 - Dom Hemingway
#46 - Honeymoon (SoN)    --    #45 - St. Vincent
#44 - Beyond the Lights (SoN)    --    #43 - Starred Up (SoA)
#42 - Last Days in Vietnam    --    #41 - As Above So Below
#40 - They Came Together (SoN)    --    #39 - Fort Bliss
#38 - Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1    --    #37 - The Sacrament
#36 - Enemy (SoA)    --    #35 - Boyhood
#34 - This Is Where I Leave You    --    #33 - X-Men: Days of Future Past
#32 - Still Alice (SoN)    --    #31- Chef (SoN)

Honorable Mentions
  • #30 - What If -- B -- An amusing romantic comedy starring Harry Potter himself
  • #29 - The One I Love (SoN) -- B -- While not perfect, it's incredibly unique and definitely worth checking out
  • #28 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- B -- The best Marvel movie to date
  • #27 - Interstellar -- B -- Has its problems particularly in the first third, but it is surprisingly captivating over its lengthy runtime
  • #26 - Under the Skin (SoA) -- B -- Weird and not for everyone, but an interesting sci-fi/horror mash-up
  • #25 - Blue Ruin (SoN) -- B -- Really solid low budget film noir
  • #24 - Only Lovers Left Alive -- B -- A different type of vampire story with two very good leads
  • #23 - The Lunchbox -- B -- A lovely tale about two people who are falling in love with one another despite never having met
  • #22 - Into the Woods -- B+ -- A nice addition to the cinematic musical genre with a stellar cast
  • #21 - The Babadook (SoN) -- B+ -- Good horror flick with two fantastic lead performances
And the Top Twenty...

#20 - The Good Lie - B+
While Reese Witherspoon gets top billing in this, The Good Lie isn't her film at all.  Instead, she takes a back seat to the incredible "based on real events" story of four Sudanese refugees who, after a harrowing childhood, find themselves immigrating to America over a decade later.  Humor and heart is present here and I was captivated by the refugees' journey.

#19 - Ida - B+
Even just looking at that image above, you can see the stunningly gorgeous black-and-white cinematography of Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal on display in director Pawel Pawlikoski's film about a Polish nun who searches for her family before giving herself over fully to the Lord.  Ida is a film about World War II, but it's unlike any other WWII film you've probably ever seen.  (SoN)

#18 - Coherence  - B+
My suggestion for watching Coherence is to view it with another person.  That way, at the end when your mind is a complete jumble because of what you've seen, you can turn to your friend and ask them what in the heck just happened.  While I may be overstating the film's lack of its titular noun slightly, Coherence is a jigsaw puzzle of a movie that questions our perceptions of reality.  (SoA)

#17 - Grand Piano - B+
At a brisk 74 minutes long (that's excluding a four minute opening credit sequence and twelve minute (!!!) of closing credits), Grand Piano is pulpy fun.  While certainly cheesy, it utilizes its overly exaggerated moments of tension to create a surprisingly enjoyable roller coaster ride that relishes in its implausibility.  (SoN)

#16 - Noah - B+
Finally a movie that talks about religion in a way without hitting me over the head with treacly morals and blatant proselytization.  Writer-director Darren Aronofsky takes liberties with the biblical tale of the title character, but he's crafted a thoughtful big budget experience.  (SoN)

#15 - Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - B+
I can only assume that if you've gotten to this point in this post, you're completely confused as to why this film has found a place in my Top Fifteen Movies of 2014.  Although I may be ridiculed for this, Alexander is a charming kid flick that does an excellent job in creating an atmosphere that is humorously enjoyable to both kids and adults alike reminiscent of Disney pics of yore like The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday.  

#14 - The Fault in Our Stars - B+
I never expected to like The Fault in Our Stars, but thanks to two nice leading performances, this teen romance won me over.  Yes, it's overly saccharine, but it balances that sugary sweetness with some modern-day sarcasm.

#13 - A Most Violent Year - B+
A film that feels soap operatic and oddly intimate at times, A Most Violent Year successfully emulates the 1980s era in which it takes place, feeling almost like an ode to the Coppola and Friedkin films that populated the 1970s.  While not a gangster film, per se, those types of overtones loom over and create an atmosphere where both the characters and the audience are always a little on edge.

#12 - Wild Tales - B+
The last 2014 film that I watched nearly lands a spot in my Top Ten.  This foreign flick is an anthology of six stories focusing on how different people deal with stressful situations.  Comedic and dramatic, director Damián Szifron has crafted a film that may seem disjointed simply due to its "short stories" nature, but actually is intriguingly connected thanks to its concept.

#11 - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - B+
The highest-ranked narrative film on this list that didn't find itself pop up in any other RyMickey Award categories this year, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues a franchise populated with stunning special effects and thought-provoking stories. 

The Top Ten Movies of 2014 can be found by clicking that little "See More" verbiage to the left.  So click it already!

#10 - The Grand Seduction - B+
Charm can carry you far in the RyMickey Awards and The Grand Seduction has plenty of it.  
With a great cast, it's tough not to have a smile on your face as you watch this tale of a young, reckless doctor who visits a Canadian fishing town to help the kooky, elderly residents.  (SoN)

#9 - Edge of Tomorrow - B+
The best "popcorn movie" of 2014, Edge of Tomorrow was under-seen in America, but I can't emphasize enough how much fun this Tom Cruise-starrer is.  The clever ways director Doug Liman and his screenwriting team make the film -- which repeats itself over and over again as part of its plot -- consistently engaging are surprising and entertaining.

#8 - Selma - B+
Rather than focus on the entire life of Martin Luther King, Jr., Selma wisely focuses on a short period involving his attempted 1965 fifty-four mile march from Selma to Montgomery.  With a great lead performance from David Oyelowo, the film resonates considering all the racial chaos going on in our country nowadays.  It makes me long for a cogent voice like King's who understood the media and how to utilize it to his advantage.

#7 - The Theory of Everything - B+
With the exception of my #1 film, The Theory of Everything is the 2014 film I actually liked the most.  However, it has a few third act problems that land it a few notches lower than I'd prefer it to really be.  This is a lovely romance with two absolutely fantastic lead performances.  Couple that with some fine direction and excellent below-the-line craftsmanship (score, costumes, etc.) and you've got the film that actually moved me the most in 2014.

#6 - Life Itself - A-
I'm a film guy and a huge reason I'm a film guy is thanks to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.  Life Itself details the final years of Ebert's life and his tumultuous love/hate relationship with fellow critic Siskel.  As I said in my original review, I'm sure Ebert wouldn't have anything good to say about this little blog, but I do think he'd get a little kick out of the fact that he and his longtime partner inspired a generation of kids like me to love the cinema.  (SoN)

#5 - Snowpiercer - A-
I am not a particular fan of Asian cinema nor am I familiar with the kung fu flicks of yore for which they're well known.  Snowpiercer stylizes those old school action flicks and meshes it with a serious drama to create a visually stunning, well acted, and provocative film.  It also has the best production design of any film of 2014.  (SoN)

#4 - The Imitation Game - A-
I've always thought that biopics were not my cup of tea, but I've been proven wrong a couple times over the several years I've written this blog.  The Imitation Game is paced extraordinarily well and cleverly meshes three timelines in the life of WWII code cracker Alan Turing to great effect.  This could've easily been a boring historical docudrama, but it rises above the stolid, heavy feeling that sometimes accompanies period pieces to become a movie that emotionally resonates.

#3 - Foxcatcher - A-
Some may find Foxcatcher slow-paced, but I found the deliberate methodicalness of Bennett Miller's film to be quite impactful.  The languid air that surrounds the real-life characters that inhabit the piece creates an ominous heaviness that mirrors the oppressive weight that the film's leads feel in their life.  A fascinating true story that's truly scary.

#2 - Whiplash - A-
Along with fellow Top 20 finisher Grand Piano, Whiplash adds to the impressive year of writer/director Damien Chazelle, a new and exciting voice on the cinematic landscape.  Here, he makes jazz music invigoratingly exciting, creating new and oddly visceral ways to pull the viewers in to the images (and sounds) we're seeing (and hearing) onscreen.

#1 - Gone Girl - A
Being the aficionado of Hitchcock that I am, I'm picky when it comes to thrillers and mysteries, but Gone Girl is the kind of film that great director would be making were he around today.  I recently watched this film a second time within the past few weeks and I was thrilled that it held up as well as I remembered.  In fact, as its ranking shows, not only is it my favorite film of 2014, but it's one of my favorite films of the past decade as it takes on not only the mystery of a missing wife, but also a skewering of our media-driven society.  With a fantastic cast led by two great performances (particularly that of Rosamund Pike as the wickedly psycho Amy), Gone Girl is sexy, violent, and full of twists and turns without ever being ludicrous.  David Fincher's film is a suspenseful masterpiece.  

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2013    --    2012
2011    --    2010

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