Michelle Douvris ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Movies Section Editor
Selma is one of those rare films that can manage to invoke social change while still being artfully and technically astounding. Director Ava DuVernay simultaneously captures the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., contributes to critical national discussions regarding race, and uses the medium of filmmaking to tell her story in a powerfully compelling way. This certainly isn’t your average historical drama. Anchored by a career-defining performance by David Oyelowo and produced by none other than Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt, here’s to hoping that this film will garner the kind of attention it deserves.
Whiplash is perhaps one of the most surprising films of the year, a movie that was shot, edited, and sent to the Sundance Film Festival all within 10 weeks. Yet somehow under this crazy time constraint, up-and-coming director Damien Chazelle managed to create a fascinating drama about an aspiring jazz drummer who won’t let anything, or anyone, get in the way of becoming one of the greats. Miles Teller is fantastic as Andrew, but J.K. Simmons is absolutely electrifying as his instructor, Terrence Fletcher. With these kinds of performances, along with Chazelle’s first-rate directing, Whiplash is a must-see.
Boyhood benefitted from the get-go with it’s captivating premise; who wouldn’t want to see a movie made over a period of 12 years? Yet while it’s amusing to see the characters of this sprawling film age before our very eyes, it’s the little details that make this work soar. Director Richard Linklater couldn’t have known years ago what would now invoke so much nostalgia for his viewers, yet he managed to create a living, breathing, time capsule of a young man’s childhood that has delighted audiences far and wide.
4. Gone Girl
David Fincher was the perfect choice to adapt Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller Gone Girl for the screen, successfully capturing the unique tone that made the novel such a hit. His stylized take on the project, combined with a surprising amount of dark humor and a phenomenal score from frequent collaborator Trent Reznor, heighten the quality of a film that could have easily been a kitschy guilty pleasure. But one of Gone Girl’s elements that cannot be overlooked is its impeccable casting. Rosamund Pike completely embodies Amazing Amy, no easy feat considering her incredibly complex, unpredictable nature, and the supporting cast is stellar, featuring great performances by Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, and Tyler Perry (!)
A great word to sum up Nightcrawler would definitely be “daring”. Dan Gilroy’s dark crime drama is gutsy in all the right ways, from its offbeat narrative to its protagonist, Lou Bloom. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers what may be his best work to date, transforming into a bulgy-eyed, greasy-haired “business man” with questionable intentions. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow Lou on his journey to success within Downtown Los Angeles’ underground world of crime journalism. If you feel secure enough in your moral sensibility, that is.
6. The Theory of Everything
Many critics argue that The Theory of Everything is overly sentimental and doesn’t deserve all the accolades it’s been getting, but the performances alone brought this film to a respectable #6 on this list. Eddie Redmayne’s transformation into renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking is extraordinary, and his level of commitment to the role is certainly something to marvel at. Felicity Jones also delivers a bravura performance as Jane Hawking, and when you add in the fact that The Theory of Everything is based on a true story, you have a heavy hitter come awards season.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was easily one of the most unexpected successes of 2014. At this point it’s easy to expect a particular level of quality from Marvel, but few people were able to predict just how thrilling this space adventure would be. Perhaps the reason for its success was the fact that it didn’t take itself as seriously as every other superhero movie. Guardians’ filmmakers opted for a much more light-hearted, humorous take on the genre and ended up creating a breath of fresh air, not to mention a solid first installment for a new out-of-this-world franchise.
Foxcatcher has been building up buzz for a long time, largely due to Steve Carell’s dramatic turn as eccentric billionaire John du Pont. Based on the true events involving Team Foxcatcher and du Pont’s relationship with Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, the film is a great showcase for the talents of not only Carell but Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as well. Bennett Miller has impeccably crafted a slow-burning sports drama that erupts in a thrilling conclusion.
9. The Skeleton Twins
The Skeleton Twins is one of 2014’s underrated indie gems, starring Saturday Night Live MVPs Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. What’s so captivating about this film is that it doesn’t conform to one easy-to-label genre, instead combining both highly comedic and intensely dramatic moments- sometimes within the same scene. The Skeleton Twins is a surprisingly poignant little film that shows the world that Wiig and Hader are not just talented comedians but highly skilled, versatile actors.
10. Into the Woods
Stage musical adaptations have proven to be a hit or miss in the past, and frequently flounder because they fail to win over die-hard fans of their source material. However, Into the Woods is a solid movie musical, intelligently capitalizing on the current fairytale craze yet boasting a stellar cast and impressive production value. Meryl Streep is unsurprisingly spellbounding as the witch, but many other players deserve recognition. Emily Blunt is as charming as ever, and Chris Pine blends his comedic chops with a notably admirable singing voice. Into the Woods is an enjoyable holiday treat with enough surprises to enchant a wide range of audiences.
Under the Skin
The Lego Movie
The Grand Budapest Hotel
X-Men: Days of Future Past
And The Worst Films Of The Year:
The Other Woman