Everyone is doing their “top 10” or “top 20” or “top X” lists so I figured I’d chime in on a topic I’m fairly familiar with. There are some SPOILERS so please don’t read if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned.
Sadly, this list does not consider the following movies I’ve yet to see which I feel might otherwise have a shot at being mentioned here:
- Starred Up
- Obvious Child
- Dear White People
- Under The Skin
Number 10: The Guest
A strangely compelling if totally unbelievable thriller that succeeds nearly entirely based on its star Dan Stevens’ hypnotic allure. The actors playing the teenaged children of the family he terrorizes, Maika Monroe and Brendan Meyer, are also strong performers. And it’s always great to see Fringe’s Lance Reddick do his badass thing.
Number 9: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Given how lifeless and boring the original Captain America film was, it’s shocking how entertaining and satisfying this follow-up is. The addition of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to the cast of characters definitely has a lot to do with that. Too bad they didn’t give Emily VanCamp more to do.
Number 8: GBF
It may make GBF (Gay Best Friend) sound derivative to call it a “gay Mean Girls for the 2010s” but if you ask me, that’s higher praise than most gay films can aspire to. At this point, 95% or more of gay cinema is worth skipping—happily that is not the case for GBF.
Number 7: Gone Girl
Despite requiring a lot of suspension of disbelief, there’s no denying Gone Girl is a fascinating film. Ben Affleck is fine but the real stars of the film are the women: Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, and Kim Dickens. Watching the psychopathic nature of Rosamund Pike’s character slowly unspool is disturbingly captivating.
Number 6: Veronica Mars
The most anticipated and successful Kickstarter film project in history delivered exactly what all the much-beloved TV show’s fans wanted… and more. Let’s hope a sequel is in the works because really, can you ever have enough Kristen Bell and (Canadian) Enrico Colantoni?
Number 5: The Fault In Our Stars
I can’t deny it—I’m a sucker for a tearjerker, especially a teen tearjerker, and if you didn’t cry during the funeral “rehearsal,” then I just don’t want to be friends with you.
Number 4: Edge of Tomorrow
That a Tom Cruise film is this far up on my list is surprising but while he is totally serviceable in the film, the credit for the film’s success and appeal has to go to Emily Blunt, hands down. What should have been a very derivative “sci-fi Groundhog Day” instead becomes something original and gripping.
Number 3: X-Men: Days of Future Past
The latest X-Men film could have attained this slot solely on the basis of its final few minutes, where director Bryan Singer (and the man most associated with the X-Men films) takes great delight in using time travel to erase the most egregious entry in the X-Men film series (Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand) from continuity. It is completely worth the price of admission just to see that. So add in amazing special effects, appearances by nearly everyone from both sets of X-Men movies, and Patrick Stewart literally going tête-a-tête with James McAvoy, and you easily have one of the best films of the year.
Number 2: The Imitation Game
I was expecting a lot out of this movie—and in nearly all cases, it delivered. I would have liked to see more flashbacks to Turing’s high school days and I definitely didn’t like that the main story was told as a flashback itself. Moulin Rouge! has the same problem: you are told from the get-go—owing to the framing device—that the love story is doomed. I didn’t need that spelled out for me in that film and I similarly didn’t need to be hit over the head at the outset of The Imitation Game that “things will go terribly wrong.” Maybe that’s because I’m already well-acquainted with Turing’s tragic end and maybe that isn’t the case with the majority of the movie-going public who will see the film but gee, that has all the subtlety of a hammer to the face.
The gay press tried to make the lack of a gay sex scene (or any overt gay affection, really) in the film a news story prior to its wider release, and perhaps because of that I didn’t find that absence terribly jarring. In a way, the movie dealt with Turing’s homosexuality as I would expect it would have been dealt with at the time—very obliquely—and that seemed to suit the story, and the extremely repressed way Cumberbatch portrayed Turing, well. The schoolboy scenes communicated, in a very timeless way that I could relate to despite the approximately 60- to 70-year gap between my school days and Turing’s, what it’s like to be a boy in love with another boy.
So despite its structural issues, a very excellent film with great performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley, and the gorgeous Matthew Goode.
Number 1: Pride
There really are no other contenders this year that are even close. I have no idea how the creators of Pride managed it but somehow they made a movie that deftly portrays at least five vastly different types of story, from the traditional coming out story, to an AIDS cautionary tale, to a classic fish-out-of-water comedy, to a David-vs.-Goliath parable that ends in defeat yet is somehow uplifting, and—perhaps most impressively–the most accessible pro-union film I have ever seen. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any pro-union films but this one somehow embodies every positive ideal of the labour movement. Usually movies trying to tell this many disparate types of stories stumble well before they’re out of the gate (e.g. this year’s Life After Beth and Kat Dennings’ little-seen Daydream Nation from 2010) just on tone alone… and yet Pride doesn’t. It lovingly weaves together all these archetypal stories and leaves you satisfied, and even moved, on every front.
Add in Bill Nighy and Paddy Considine, and top that off with Imelda Staunton, and you have a film that simply cannot be beat, even if they had skipped the cameo by Russell Tovey. 🙂
If I wasn’t sure myself that this was the best movie of 2014 (and possibly the best movie I’ve seen since A Single Man), I went to see it with a friend of mine with whom I sometimes dread seeing movies because he just doesn’t connect with most things that make it to the theatre. Seeing a movie with him and expecting him to enjoy the experience is a bit like going to Vegas and hoping against hope you’ll beat the House. And we have a long history of seeing gay-themed movies together and just ending up having to wade through barely-mediocre shlock. Finally, while I cry at movies fairly easily, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him cry at one. Well, until now.
And there you have it: this movie made him cry. Case closed: Pride is the best movie of 2014.