LATEST PAPER
68° Good Evening
68° Good Evening
Entertainment

Best movies of 2014: 'Boyhood' tops the list

Leaving aside the strange and troubling end to the year in film, when a Seth Rogen comedy somehow set off a geopolitical crisis, 2014 offered your everyday assortment of quality independent films, smart and probing documentaries and just enough from the major studios to avoid succumbing to the total despair of one franchise after another.

Yet the movie atop this list of the year's best films, which has found its way to the front of many others in recent days, stands out because there is simply nothing like it in cinematic history. And if for no other reason, the experience of discovering "Boyhood" made this a movie year worth remembering.

These are one man's informed (though hardly exhaustive; there's plenty I wish I'd seen) picks for the best of 2014.

1. “Boyhood”

Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, shot in pieces over
Photo Credit: Matt Lankes

Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, shot in pieces over the course of 12 years, tells the story of one boy’s life from age 6 to 17. But it’s really the story of all of our lives; the movie unfolds in those quiet and seemingly insignificant moments that collectively congeal to shape a consciousness and it’s imbued with a deeply humanistic awareness of time’s endless forward march. Our memories inextricably entwine with protagonist Mason Jr. and the movie becomes as much about our experiences as youths and adults as his own.

2. “Ida”

Another indispensable examination of time and identity, this
Photo Credit: Music Box Films

Another indispensable examination of time and identity, this extraordinary Polish film from Pawel Pawlikowski follows a novitiate in 1960s Poland who learns that she was born Jewish and lost her family in the Holocaust. It’s a work of austere brilliance, a national allegory as well as a personal story, with an abiding quiet that barely masks the extraordinarily pained interiors.

3. "Life Itself"

The late Roger Ebert was unquestionably the most
Photo Credit: Magnolia Pictures, Kevin Horan

The late Roger Ebert was unquestionably the most influential film critic of all time, responsible for popularizing the form through his relatable and deeply intelligent writing and his years on television with Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper. He’s certainly the reason I’m here. But his life amounted to so much more than that, as revealed in his documentary by Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”), which finds its center in its depiction of the ways Ebert carried on living a public and prominent lifestyle in the wake of a devastating illness that left him unable to speak or eat. The film’s about nothing short of what it means to live and die with the utmost dignity.

4. "The Babadook"

The horror genre is well equipped to probe
Photo Credit: TNS / Matt Nettheim

The horror genre is well equipped to probe the deepest and darkest parts of the human psyche. But its full potential is rarely unlocked, usually shelved at the expense of reductive stupidity. In “The Babadook,” one of the most auspicious debut films in memory, writer-director Jennifer Kent masters the genre. It’s an expressionistic masterpiece that’s at once creepy and deeply emotional, and destined to be remembered as a classic on par with “The Shining.”

5. "The Theory of Everything"

There aren’t any great innovations in James Marsh’s
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

There aren’t any great innovations in James Marsh’s “The Theory of Everything.” It doesn’t reinvent the form. It simply tells the story of the marriage of Stephen and Jane Hawking in a fashion that elegantly mirrors the complicated connection of man and wife and the struggles of disability with the larger celestial questions that have long preoccupied its famous protagonist. The acting by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones is especially first-rate.

6. "Whiplash"

This riveting two-hander is centered on a battle
Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden

This riveting two-hander is centered on a battle of wills between a drummer (Miles Teller) in music school and the psychotic instructor (J.K. Simmons) who believes his harsh methods are the key to developing the next great artist. It’s a marvel of narrative economy from writer-director Damien Chazelle, packed with tension and a complex sense of the personal and spiritual costs of mastering your art.

7. "The Immigrant"

Sadly mistreated by The Weinstein Company, which barely
Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Sadly mistreated by The Weinstein Company, which barely released it in theaters before dumping it on Netflix, this grand old-fashioned drama from writer-director James Gray (“Two Lovers”) brings alive the immigrant experience in 1920s New York with authenticity and mood to spare.

8. "The Homesman"

Tommy Lee Jones’ finest directorial effort is a
Photo Credit: MCT / Dawn Jones

Tommy Lee Jones’ finest directorial effort is a feminist Western that stars a great Hilary Swank and asks necessary, troubling questions about a long history of gender discrimination in this country and the ways it has traditionally manifested itself in this most American of genres.

9. "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

The finest film of Wes Anderson’s unique career
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The finest film of Wes Anderson’s unique career is filled with the melancholic sense of loss; it’s an elegy to a European continent forever transformed by the Second World War and a man, brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes, who represents a time gone by.

10. "Birdman"

A meditation on celebrity, fame and the increasing
Photo Credit: MCT

A meditation on celebrity, fame and the increasing corporatization of show business at the expense of artistic freedom, this fascinating experiment, shot and structured to appear as if it unfolds in a single take, seems even more relevant now than it did several months ago.

Runner-up: "Nightcrawler"

This scarily apt media satire had the best
Photo Credit: Open Road Films / Chuck Zlotnick

This scarily apt media satire had the best male performance of the year (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Runner-up: "Mr. Turner"

This elegant character study from Mike Leigh combines
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

This elegant character study from Mike Leigh combines beautiful imagery with a perceptive look at the interior life of a great artist.

Runner-up: "Zero Motivation"

This terrific Israeli comedy evokes the ennui of
Photo Credit: Zeitgeist Films

This terrific Israeli comedy evokes the ennui of mandatory military service in a desert office.

Runner-up: "Selma"

In “Selma,” filmmaker Ava DuVernay forgoes mythology for
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

In “Selma,” filmmaker Ava DuVernay forgoes mythology for a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. as a smart and determined political operative, brilliantly pushing forward the Voting Rights Act in 1965 through marches in the eponymous Alabama city, with other enormously courageous individuals at his back.

Runner-up: "Citizenfour"

The documentary “Citizenfour” shows us history in real
Photo Credit: RADiUS-TWC

The documentary “Citizenfour” shows us history in real time: as filmmaker Laura Poitras captures the initial Hong Kong hotel room meetings with Edward Snowden and the bombshell surveillance disclosures that spurred one of the seminal moments in American history, which we’re still very much experiencing at this moment.

Worst movie of the year: It's a toss-up

It’s a toss-up, really, between the staggeringly stupid
Photo Credit: David C. Lee; Sony Pictures Classics

It’s a toss-up, really, between the staggeringly stupid “Winter’s Tale” and the inane ensemble piece “Third Person.”

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Entertainment photos & videos