Ep. 32 – CineSnob’s Top 10 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2014

January 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net bring 2014 to a close. They discuss their Top 10 films of the year, as well as the 5 worst movies they saw all year.

[0:00-8:47] Intro & year in review
[8:47-1:39:27] Top 10 Films of 2014
[1:39:27-2:11:19] Bottom 5 Films of 2014
[2:11:19-2:16:18] Teases for next week and close

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CineSnob.net’s Top Ten Films of 2014

December 31, 2014 by  
Filed under CineBlog

Here is a look at the Top Ten Film Lists of 2014 for all three CineSnob.net film critics – Cody Villafana, Jerrod Kingery and Kiko Martinez. Below that is a consensus list for the entire site. Thanks for being a fan of CineSnob.net! We’ll see you in the New Year!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say …2014 was yet another disappointing year at the movies. Maybe my expectations are too high? I’m not sure. Either way, it is yet another year with a lot of good, solid movies, but few that reach the levels of greatness that might make a list like this easy to compose. Still, out of the 180 films I saw this year (someday…someday I will catch up to Kiko) there are a handful that stood above the pack. Note: Apparently the theme of this year’s list is “parental relationship issues,” as at least six of these movies have a major plotline of the strain of a parent/child relationship. You could argue that another two could fit the bill as well.
– Cody Villafana, CineSnob film critic

10. The LEGO Movie
(dirs. Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
Is there anything that co-directors Lord and Miller can’t do in the world of comedy? Further perpetuating their rightful spot on the list of the most unique and exciting filmmakers working today, Lord and Miller’s “The LEGO Movie” took a the concept of a simple age-old toy (and yes, a couple of pre-existing characters) and churned out an incredibly original, legitimately hilarious, and wildly fun film. While it is not uncommon for animated films to feature adult oriented humor and themes, “The LEGO Movie” features rapid fire, consistently funny jokes and a creative energy that you rarely see in an animated film. Lord and Miller, somehow, managed to capture the essence and breakneck sense of their style and humor into another animated film. Chris Pratt and Morgan Freeman are your voice-acting standouts, but everyone involved is fantastic. At this point, I firmly believe that Lord and Miller can take any project and turn it into a unique piece of gold.

9. Ida
(dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
After no foreign films made my list last year, I’m very happy to be able to place the Polish film “Ida,” at No. 9 on my list. As the story of a young nun-in-training who unexpectedly finds her last remaining relative and some unknown details about her past, “Ida” is the most subdued coming-of-age tale in ages. Shot in stark black-and-white, cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewsk create a beautiful palette with uniquely composed shots and taking advantage of the rule-of-thirds. Even though much of the subject matter is dark, actress Agata Trzebuchowska brings such sweetness to title character Ida that it sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. This film is currently available for streaming on Netflix instant.

8. Wild
(dir. Jean Marc-Vallée)
Reminiscent of something you might see from director Danny Boyle (“127 Hours”), “Wild” is a study of a character in a precarious position with flashbacks to see the journey she took to get there. Though it is occasionally a little too frenetic and perhaps a touch long, “Wild” still serves as an emotionally gripping meditation on not only the loss of others, but also the loss of ones self. It features a stripped down and emotionally vulnerable performance from actress Reese Witherspoon that is among the best of her career. Additionally, the themes and scenes involving Witherspoon’s interaction with her mother, played by an incredible Laura Dern, are among the best storylines of any film this year.

7. Citizenfour
(dir. Laura Poitras)
Regardless on where you fall on the subject of Edward Snowden and his leak of NSA documents and procedures, “Citizenfour” feels more important and essential than any other documentary this year. Largely taking place in a hotel room in China, “Citizenfour” is quite literally a first-hand account of Snowden blowing the whistle on the NSA and revealing secrets to the journalists that broke the story open. The footage is mesmerizing as the audience is treated to, for better or worse, a monumental historical moment. It is a glimpse into the thought process, motivations and a little bit of the paranoia of Snowden who explains in his own words why he did what he did. He is quite easily the most fascinating documentary subject I saw in 2014.

6. Blue Ruin
(dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
There is something to be said about a film that is simple, yet expertly crafted, which seems like an apt description for “Blue Ruin.” There isn’t a whole lot of complexity to this revenge story, yet the film is so well paced and phenomenally directed by Saulnier that it becomes entirely engrossing. Using gorgeous shots and attention to detail (especially with the recurring palette of the color blue) Saulnier’s film is quiet, moody, bloody and intimate, culminating in the best revenge film in recent memory. Go check out the synopsis, details and cast of Saulnier’s upcoming 2015 film “Green Room” and you will quickly see why he is one of the most intriguing filmmaking voices to watch in the future. This film is currently available for streaming on Netflix instant.

5. Starred Up
(dir. David Mackenzie)
Though many may believe that actor Jack O’Connell will have broken onto the scene with Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” it is the British prison film “Starred Up” that will truly mark 2014 as the year of his arrival. It may touch on a few of familiar themes in past prison movies, but what sets “Starred Up” apart is the complex relationship between a father and son who are both in the same prison. Adding to the mix is a major storyline involving an in-prison anger management group led by a volunteer that, admittedly, speaks to my day job in the mental health field. First time screenwriter Jonathon Asser (a therapist himself) is a natural, able to convey authentic, natural dialogue in the context of the groups as well as building wrinkles and dynamics into the aforementioned relationship that contributes to “Starred Up,” being one of the standouts of the year.

4. Chef
(dir. Jon Favreau)
Taking place in the ever-expanding world of food trucks, Favreau’s “Chef” is absurdly likeable. Above everything else, “Chef” is a story about the connection between father and son, which is a bond that stands out as one of the best and most authentic father/son relationships in a quite a while. The sense of sweetness that runs through “Chef” is genuine, and is equally matched by the levels of humor that Favreau churns out of a really great script. Though the film may come off as a little lighthearted, “Chef” is immensely charming and out of all the films on this list, is the first one I’d recommend to the casual moviegoer. Oh, and pro tip: don’t watch the glorious scenes of food porn on an empty stomach.

3. Selma
(dir. Ava DuVernay)
There is perhaps no film released in 2014 more timely than DuVernay’s “Selma.” As a tale of the events surrounding marches from Selma to Montgomery for the voting rights of African-Americans in the 1965 led by Dr. Martin Luther King, “Selma” contains images that will certainly be affecting to much of its audience. David Oyelowo is absolutely electric as MLK, in a transfixing performance that is sure to lead to many, many future roles. As an interesting wrinkle, the filmmakers were unable to procure the rights to King’s actual speech transcripts, which makes Paul Webb’s convincing screenplay all the more impressive. Equal parts sad and powerful, “Selma” is unflinching in its portrayal of the brutality faced by African-Americans in the 1960’s and one of the best civil rights movies that I, personally, have ever watched.

2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
(dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Out of all the films I’ve seen in 2014, the one I can’t stop thinking about is Iñárritu’s “Birdman,” which features the year’s best in a lot of different areas. First and foremost, Michael Keaton is sensational in the role of Riggan Thomson, an actor known for starring in an action film series who wants to be treated as a serious artist. It is a performance that is equal parts neurotic, quirky, nuanced and hilarious and Keaton, more than any other actor in any other category deserves an Oscar this year. Second is the film’s visual style, specifically the brilliant cinematography by Academy Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity”). Stitched together to make the film appear as, essentially, one long, unbroken take, Lubezki’s sprawling, swooping tracking shots give this small film an amazing sense of grandiosity. Finally, “Birdman” is the best-written film of the year, with a razor-sharp screenplay that is often hysterically funny, bitingly satirical, and a compelling study into the fear of fading out of relevance. In any other year, it may have been enough to capture the top spot…however…

1. Boyhood
(dir. Richard Linklater)
All the superlatives and accolades Linklater’s astonishing “Boyhood” has received may not quite do justice to this monumental cinematic achievement. Filmed with the same cast over the span of 12 years, “Boyhood” is more of an experience than merely a movie, and is easily one of the most unique and ambitious films I’ve ever seen. Some may call it a gimmick, and perhaps it is, but watching the years seamlessly melt away on screen, all while seeing not only physical growth in characters, but growth as people and the evolution family dynamics is nothing short of brilliant. Not enough can be said about Linklater’s direction, which nears perfection. Little nuances like an incredibly smart use of music from the time period the film was shot to clue the audience in on the year show that Linklater had a giant, epic ambition and carefully thought out how tie the pieces together. Likely to become a hallmark “coming-of-age” film, “Boyhood” ascends its technical feats to be a well-acted, sharply written, funny and moving meditation on growing up.

Honorable Mentions: The Imitation Game, I Origins, A Most Wanted Man

 

Unlike my counterparts, I found 2014 to be a perfectly fine year for movies. But it was the year I finally had enough of the Transformers films. Anyway, here are my top 10 for 2014.
– Jerrod Kingery, CineSnob film critic

 

10. 22 Jump Street
(dirs. Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
This sequel to an incredibly funny movie–that had no reason to exist in the first place–commenting on the state of movie sequels was simultaneously amazingly smart and utterly hilarious. Channing Tatum continues to impress as a comedic actor, and Jonah Hill successfully bounces between physical comedy roles like this and more dramatic fare. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller probably had the best 2014 in Hollywood (see entry No. 5 as well) and have rightly vaulted to the A-list of directors.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
(dirs. Anthony and Joe Russo)
In my initial review of the film, I wrote that “’The Winter Soldier’ feels like the first Marvel film since “The Avengers’” dominated the box office to actually live in and shake up the world that film left behind.” While “Guardians of the Galaxy” got most of the positive buzz for Marvel this year, it was truly Cap’s second solo adventure that upped the ante for superhero films.

8. Citizenfour
(dir. Laura Poitras)
Incredible timing and wonderful luck smiled upon director Poitras when an encrypted email regarding illegal wiretapping and surveillance by the NSA turned out to be from Edward Snowden, the world’s most notorious whistleblower. Capturing the events as they unfolded, Poitras and her team deftly maneuver through the pitfalls of exposing what they see as a widespread injustice while also fearing for their own safety.

7. Selma
(dir. Ava DuVernay)
It’s hard to believe that the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most prominent human beings of the 20th century, had yet to receive the biopic treatment. Director DuVernay’s “Selma” wisely closes the scope on King’s life, avoiding the typical biopic trap of covering too much ground, instead focusing on the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. David Oyelowo as King and Tom Wilksinson as LBJ turn in powerful performances, avoiding hagiography and portraying both icons as powerful men with agendas.

6. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
(dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
I did something I never do and re-watched “Birdman” recently to see if my initial opinion (good but not great) had softened a bit, and I’m glad to say that it had. Michael Keaton, in a thinly-veiled satirical take on his own life and career, is darkly brilliant. Edward Norton, while we’re at it, deconstructs the asshole Method actor reputation he’s cultivated during his career without an apology in sight, and director Iñárritu’s one-take approach is a technical marvel.

5. The Lego Movie
(dirs. Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
If some junk like “Big Hero 6” walks away with the animated Oscar over the brilliant, subversive, post-modern family film “The Lego Movie,” may every member of the Academy be cursed to walk a mile every day on a bed of the sharpest Lego bricks. Directors Lord and Miller again take what should be an unfilmable property—a movie about Lego bricks!—and spin it into absolute gold. The film’s charming faux stop-motion and vocal-generated sound effects make the whole endeavor feel like something every kid could cook up in their bedroom.

4. A Most Violent Year
(dir. J.C. Chandor)
Modern TV and film is overflowing with anti-heroes, characters we root for when they decide to take the path of least resistance and give in to a life of crime. Oscar Isaac’s heating oil magnate Abel in “A Most Violent Year” is different, an hard-working man who resists the urge to become a gangster, even as finances, hijackings, and the district attorney tighten the screws on his life. It’s like the origin story for a character from “The Sopranos” we never saw.

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
(dir. Matt Reeves)
Though this sequel to a prequel is named somewhat confusingly (“dawn” and “rise” are essentially synonyms), everything else about this big-budget sci-fi disaster film is spot on. Led by another amazing performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, the army of motion-capture apes is one of the most impressive, breathtaking special effects ever rendered on a movie screen. For all intents and purposes, these creatures are real, and the film wisely respects that. This is blockbuster filmmaking at its absolute finest.

2. Wild
(dir. Jean Marc-Vallée)
Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors, wrote the screenplay for “Wild,” and it shows. Reese Witherspoon, in a career-best performance, plays real-life Cheryl Strayed as a patented Hornby asshole, looking for redemption for an ugly turn in life by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Channeling Danny Boyle, director Vallée peppers Cheryl’s lengthy, lonely journey with stream-of-consciousness thoughts and flashbacks to her mother, brought to life beautifully by Laura Dern in a performance filled with body language and a sadness that lurks just below the surface.

1. Boyhood
(dir. Richard Linklater)
To say that Linklater’s 12-year experiment watching his actors grow feels effortless almost seems insulting, but what could have been nothing more than a stunt becomes so engrossing you’ll forget that nearly three hours just rolled by when the movie is over. As a slice of life of Texas in the 2000s, “Boyhood” deftly signals the passage of time with pop songs and the evolution of cell phones. While the performances from the kids aren’t stellar (Linklater’s daughter is a particular weak spot), the film comes alive when Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are onscreen.

 

Mustering enough strength to compile a Top 10 Films list for this year (in between sobbing uncontrollably over the fact that filmmaking demigod and personal obsession Paul Thomas Anderson would not find a place on the roster) was more challenging than usual. Nevertheless, after battling in the trenches and seeing a grand total of 211 films, here is a look at the best in 2014.
– Kiko Martinez, CineSnob founder and editor

10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
(dir. Matt Reeves)
There were some impressive live-action summer blockbusters this year, but nothing was quite as exhilarating – with the same emotional depth as a Shakespearian tragedy – than this sci-fi sequel featuring the most striking use of motion-capture technology ever. First-class visual effects aside, these CGI simians offered a startling look at the complex ideologies of waging war.

9. A Most Wanted Man
(dir. Anton Corbijn)
Late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final curtain call as a leading man comes courtesy of this slow-burning espionage thriller adapted from a John le Carré novel about a Chechen immigrant who may be an Islamic terrorist. For audiences who are patient with meticulously paced narratives, the spy story is an intelligent, mature and riveting piece of filmmaking anchored with subtly by Hoffman, an amazing talent lost far too soon.

8. Two Days, One Night
(dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
Point a camera at actress Marion Cotillard for the duration of a feature drama and remarkable things are bound to happen, especially with an such an engaging script by Belgian filmmakers the Dardenne brothers. As Belgium’s official foreign language Oscar submission this year, Cotillard is captivating as a working class woman who has one weekend to convince coworkers to turn down a bonus so she can keep her job.

7. Citizenfour
(dir. Laura Poitras)
No matter where you stand on the issue of global surveillance programs, there is no denying the powerful and fascinating footage captured for this documentary on former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden. Playing out like a classic political thriller, Poitras finds herself on the frontlines of this game-changing event. Watching this real-time whistleblowing is nothing short of unbelievable.

6. Wild
(dir. Jean Marc-Vallée)
Actress Reese Witherspoon becomes one with nature in this emotionally affecting biographical drama adapted from writer Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about her 1,000-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon, as a damaged and self-destructive woman, gives the most genuine and beautiful performance of her career, and Laura Dern epitomizes what it means to have a full heart but live a fragile life.

5. Ida
(dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
Elegantly shot, Ida is the official foreign language Oscar submission by Poland this year. Set in the 1960s, the film follows a young Jewish novitiate nun who journeys with her estranged aunt to find the final resting place of her parents who were killed during the Nazi occupation. Sober in tone, but not without its moments of pure joy, the haunting black and white art-house film is brilliantly crafted.

4. A Most Violent Year
(dir. J.C. Chandor)
Latino immigrant and heating oil business owner Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is determined to expand his company, but finds it difficult when his trucks are consistently hijacked. With the city’s DA office watching him, Abel and his mob-tied wife (Jessica Chastain) must decide how hard they will push back to ensure their American Dream doesn’t fade away. Atmospheric and intense, consider this a sort of anti-Goodfellas, but something Martin Scorsese would value wholeheartedly.

3. Selma
(dir. Ava DuVernay)
As the first major historical film ever to be released on the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., DuVernay and her cast, including a top-tier performance by actor David Oyelowo, have made an important film that centers on the 1965 Voting Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. From the intriguing backroom politics to the sacrifices made during the era, screenwriter Paul Webb turns a well-documented history lesson into essential cinema.

2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
(dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
As much of a technical achievement as it must have been to make it all work, this ambitious dark comedy featuring a noteworthy turn by actor Michael Keaton and is guided by a whip-smart, witty and self-aware script. Everything feels erratic on screen and punctuated well by a madcap, (mostly) percussion score that drives the narrative forward and makes everyone soar.

1. Boyhood
(dir. Richard Linklater)
Trying to fathom the 12-year-long journey Linklater and his cast took to form this soul-bearing, intimate and genuinely uplifting drama would be counterproductive to the intent of this once-in-a-lifetime coming-of-age film. Everyone should allow it to just wash over them and give into its masterful execution. Epic is an understatement.

Honorable Mentions: The Babadook, Big Hero 6, Blue Ruin, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Chef, Edge of Tomorrow, Finding Vivian Maier, Force Majure, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Life Itself, Locke, Obvious Child, Whiplash, X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

CineSnob.net Consensus List: Top Ten Films of 2014

1. Boyhood
2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
3. Selma
4. Wild
5. A Most Violent Year
6. Citizenfour
7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
8. Ida
9. The LEGO Movie
10. Chef