LOOKING BACK

Looking Back: Jeremy Chooses His Top 10 Favorite Films of 2014

by
December 29, 2014

Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2014

"This has been such a bad year for movies." That odd statement inevitably rears its head throughout social media pretty much every year. The easy response, the right response, to such a statement is, "You haven't seen enough movies." There are always great films out there just waiting to be found, incredible pieces of cinema mixed in with all the weekly, standard garbage lovers of film have to sift through. It's always worth sifting through to find the diamonds in the rough, those quality treasures of exceptional filmmaking and storytelling. So now I present to you my own Top 10 Films of 2014 that I am thankful to have discovered.

To find all of Jeremy's reviews from 2014, click here. Listen to Jeremy on The Golden Briefcase, too.

#10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Leave it to Matt Reeves, the man who made Cloverfield such an epic and interesting event and actually gave us a damn good American remake to Let the Right One In, to take the Planet of the Apes franchise in directions both exciting and intelligent. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is more than just a solid follow-up to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a solid enough blockbuster of its own. Dawn effortlessly depicts a civilization on the brink of taking over this planet, a revolutionary war picture that stands up to the best of them, and a highly engaging entry into one of the greatest franchises sci-fi cinema has to offer. That's to say nothing of the incredible special effects and motion capture technology working to bring Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell's respective characters, Caesar and Koba, to phenomenal life. It's an adventure well worth taking and a science fiction motion picture that ranks among the best.

#9. Why Don't You Play in Hell?

Why Don't You Play in Hell?

Shion Sono's incredible, bizarre, feverish, whirlwind of a movie is everything a lover of cinema is looking for. The director who gave us such recent gems as Love Exposure and Cold Fish may have very well crafted his masterpiece with Why Don't You Play In Hell? The only apprehension with making such a statement comes with knowing Sono's skills as a filmmaker are only getting stronger. His latest, Tokyo Tribe, is definitely one to watch in 2015 and may very well be better than this one. For now, though, Why Don't You Play In Hell? stands as an exceptional work of art, dizzying in its frantic pace yet worked together with an extraordinary design. It's the kind of work that makes one draw comparisons with the greats, and Sono's film would be right up the alley of any Tarantino fan. Why Don't You Play In Hell? is a film that defies description, and it's just as well. You should be seeking it out to experience it for yourself.

#8. Whiplash

Whiplash

Before 2014 I had never heard the name Damien Chazelle, but now, after having watched his feature film debut, Whiplash, I can safely say it's a name in filmmaking I will continue to seek out. Whiplash is an intense look at perfection and what it takes to reach such a thing. JK Simmons' performance as a ruthless instructor of a music conservatory has been drawing comparisons to R. Lee Ermey's drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket, a comparison worth making. The role is that intense. The scenes are that unnerving. But at its heart Whiplash serves as a painful truth. Perfection requires ruthless instruction, and the absolute worst thing you can do to motivate someone to perfection is by telling them, "Good job." Through wicked-speed editing and marvelous camera work from cinematographer Sharone Meir, Whiplash is a furious and powerful film from start to finish, a total-package motion picture that should end up as required viewing in today's high schools. That may be a little extreme, but the kids will, at least, get the point.

#7. The Babadook

The Babadook

It goes without saying that the best films found in the horror genre are those going for much more than cheap thrills that make their audiences jump. What should be expressed, though, is subtlety in that message is key to making great horror. The Babadook is great horror. The debut film from Jennifer Kent, it succeeds in cinematic terror from its atmosphere, scares, and subtext. The two former have their key moments, including one frightening monster design. But the subtext of the depression that seeps into the broken mind of a single mother, struggling at every turn with her troubled child after her husband has died a horrible death.

The Babadook symbolizes that darkness that can crawl its way into such a person's mind, and Kent's handling of every aspect of this tale is subtle yet all the more horrifying. Add to all of that arguably the strongest performance of the year by a female lead. Essie Davis emotes pain in every frame of the film. She's as much a factor in creating The Babadook's sincerity as the nightmarish film Kent has built around her. Yes, The Babadook can include itself in the chapter on great works of cinematic art. It does so by transcending the entire genre in which it places itself.

#6. Jodorowsky's Dune

Jodorowsky's Dune

I've always seen Alejandro Jodorowsky as a filmmaker to admire above one to like. The man is definitely a visionary, but, personally, I never grasped the emotional depths of his films. The documentary Jodorowsky's Dune changed all of that. Director Frank Pavich tells the tale of Jodorowsky's legendary attempt at bringing Frank Herbert's Dune to the big screen. The ultimate film failed to be made, but the artwork, production design, and visual aids Jodorowsky and crew created built the science fiction movie universe we know and love today.

It amazes me to think not only of this amazing vision of sci-fi that never was against the science fiction that wouldn't have been created - or drastically changed - had Jodorowsky succeeded. Stars Wars and Alien are just a few examples - the only examples you need in this case - of artistic designs inspired by what could have been with Jodorowsky's Dune. Beyond that, the film explores the visionary director's passion, the love he has in what he does and the very size of it. This documentary makes me now see Jodorowsky as a filmmaker whose passion is large enough to create cinematic universes, the films that often have people making comparisons to Kubrick and 2001. For the sheer enjoyment of discovering the size of this man's passion, I couldn't help but find a place for Jodorowsky's Dune on my Top 10 list.

#5. The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie

For the longest time during 2014 this was the movie to beat in my view. The LEGO Movie overshadowed the incessantly hokey and pandering family genre in which it lay, not to mention the toy-int0-movie adaptations that still yearn to become a Hollywood thing. To be perfectly honest it wasn't that big of a surprise this film turned out as well as it did. With Phil Lord and Chris Miller on board everything was going to be awesome.

The juggernaut filmmaking duo could have easily put two films on this list, 22 Jump Street being one of the funniest and most clever films of the year, never mind within its own bloated genre. The same can be said for The LEGO Movie, that one animation movie that comes around every so often and perfectly nails everything it's going for. From the animation style to the pitch-perfect voices - Will Arnett as Batman? Come on! - to that damn song. You know the title. Sing it with me. Everything very much is awesome.

#4. Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher

To avoid spoiling anything about Foxcatcher, whenever I'm describing it to someone, I go to director Bennett Miller's past work. He did Moneyball and Capote, and, looking at those film next to each other, you get an idea of what to expect from Foxcatcher. At once a 30 for 30-style tale, some forgotten moment in sports history that haven't been discussed in some time and the masterly crafted reenactments of those moments. Miller continues to prove his worth in the director's world, patiently moving his story at a deliberate pace towards its inevitable conclusion.

It doesn't matter if you've heard how Foxcatcher ends if the journey getting there is as expertly put together as this. A flawless execution is filled with flawless performances, from Steve Carell's immersion into the creepy character of John du Pont…I'm sorry, Golden Eagle, to the magnificent pair of hulking hearts found deep within the performances of Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Foxcatcher is a classic case of brilliant, old-school Hollywood filmmaking, the kind of film that rarely gets made any more. Thankfully, every now and then, they find a way into film history, and, if history is to continue repeating itself, Bennett Miller is sure to be the filmmaker who will bring them to us.

#3. Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

When Jim Jarmusch speaks it's usually a pretty good idea to listen. When he speaks as he does in Only Lovers Left Alive it's enough to bring even the most cynical viewer of film to tears. The love story of two vampires, Adam and Eve, is as bumpy as it is beautiful, as rugged as it is effortlessly smooth, the storyteller fitting in moments of dark humor along the melancholic way. He glides stars Tom Hiddleston - proving here why exactly he was in the running to headlong a remake of The Crow -  and Tilda Swinton through his hypnotic world of the supernatural with results both comic and sad never forcing too much or holding too far back. Jarmusch's storytelling voice and filmmaking eye often come together with masterful outcomes. Only Lovers Left Alive, with its expertly crafted words, playfully literate structure, and sincere world-building, easily ranks among his greatest works to date, arguably at the top. Hell, give Jarmusch the keys to The Crow franchise…starring Hiddleston. At the very least we know it'll be interesting.

#2. Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice

Some movies require repeat viewing. You have to sit through it a few times to take in all the subtext and subtle agendas. Then there are films like Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel about drugs and kidnapping and sex in drug-fuelled California of 1970. The film requires repeat viewing simply to latch onto the general plot. That would be a daunting task were the film not the dynamic, thrilling, trippy ride that it is. Anderson has created a stoner comedy for the modern age, smart enough to know what it is but not so pretentious that it hides what sense of humor it has.

Joaquin Phoenix gives a raucous lead performance as a PI trying to work through his stoner haze to actually do some good in the world while Josh Brolin turns in a solid and hilarious supporting turn as his straight-arrow, LAPD nemesis. Also notable are the supporting players - Martin Short, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, and the rest of the eccentric lot - who litter Anderson's world with outlandish vibrancy. The atmosphere may have grown dull and stale in this '70s-era California, but the players remain ever-colorful. Anderson remains firmly at the top of his game. Every piece of cinematic art serves as evidence for why he is well-regarded as master of his craft. Whether it's a serious, turn-of-the-century drama against decadent oil fields or a bizarre tale of one man's vision for a new religion or, yes, even a stoner comedy, Anderson's subtle stylings and impeccable eye for detail makes each and every one of his films an event picture. Here's to 20 more years, at least, of having PT Anderson at the top of his game.

#1. Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Over 2014's Summer, at the Rolling Roadshow event where I first saw Snowpiercer, it didn't take long for Bong Joon-ho's film to completely and utterly captivate me. The basic conceit had me interested, a sci-fi, action epic where the remaining humans left on the planet live their lives on a train that's constantly in motion, constantly circling the Earth, and the class system built within that can go nowhere but towards revolution. To read the original source material, the French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, you realize just how much Bong and Kelly Masterson had to invent to create the film they've given us. Within the film, however, little details begin to emerge from the first time you experience it, details that resonate all the way through to your sixth or seventh time boarding the adventure.

From Tilda Swinton's phenomenal, near unbelievable, performance - I still laugh out loud when she says, "Size 10 chaos." - to those long shots where Bong allows you to see the movement of the train from the interior all the way to those final 30 minutes when Ed Harris turns in a dynamite villain performance as essentially a fairy tail villain. Wilford is a crazy man, holding all of humanity in his toy train while he gets to play God. And the children. Oh, the children… I'll remain vague as there are some secrets in Snowpiercer that should not be given away freely.

Every nut and bolt on this post-apocalyptic train are perfectly placed, efficiently tightened, and the entirety of the work moves at a seamless pace. There are big ideas and layers of hidden meanings scattered throughout Snowpiercer, questions it demands you raise and just enough of the puzzle to come up with your own logical answers. Snowpiercer is the perfect cinematic toy a movie-lover with child-like curiosity could hope to find. There are many locked doors in Bong's twisty and serpentine fairy tale, and finding the keys on your own is the reason why his film is so rewarding.

Honorable Mentions: 22 Jump Street, Afflicted, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, Big Bad Wolves, Blue Ruin, The Boxtrolls, Boyhood, Calvary, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Citizenfour, Cheap Thrills, Cold in July, Dead Snow 2, The Drop, Enemy, Escape from Tomorrow, Filth, Force Majeur, Frank, Fury, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Guest, Honeymoon, Housebound, The Internet's Own Boy, Interstellar, The Interview, Joe, John Wick, Locke, Magic in the Moonlight, Moebius, Neighbors, Nightcrawler, Noah, Obvious Child, The One I Love, The Overnighters, The Purge: Anarchy, The Raid 2, The Sacrament, Selma, The Skeleton Twins, Starry Eyes, The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears, Stretch, The Theory of Everything, They Came Together, Under the Skin, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Wetlands, and Wild, so don't tell me there were no good movies in 2014.

What I Missed: 20,000 Days On EarthBeyond the Lights, Big Hero 6Cake, Dear White PeopleThe DogErnest & Celestine, The Fault In Our Stars, Ida, Life Itself, Mommy, Mr. Turner, Particle Fever, Top Five, The Tribe, The Trip to Italy, Two Days, One Night, Venus in Fur, and We Are the Best!

Stay tuned, because Ethan Anderton and Alex Billington will be delivering their favorite films of 2014!

What do you think of Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2014? Agree or disagree with these picks?

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  • Bo
    Glad to see Calvary in your honorable mentioned list, Jeremy. But seriously, The LEGO Movie? Ummmm....well...let's forget that as to each his own, eh? However, check out The Girl Who Walked Home Alone At Night! Nothing like it has come down the pipeline in a long time. Worth viewing!
    • Paulie Walnuts
      Hey, the Lego Movie rocked, Bo! If that is your real name, Bo! I bet you're a man but with a broad's name! hahaha!!! I'm just bustin' yer chops sonny, see that's what I do, I'm Paulie Walnuts for cryin' out loud!!
      • Bo
        I don't mind you bustin' my chops, Mr. Walnuts, for cryin' out loud!...lol...I thought your reply was funny, so thanks for that. However, might I point out that Bo Jackson the great football player might take offense to your stance that Bo is a girl's name. Same with that ex-Green Beret/Navy Seal killer guy Bo Diehl; him especially I'd beware of. It is my real name and I'll just have to take your word on the Lego Movie rockin'. One's man floor is another man's ceiling and it looks like this movie is your ceiling. I'lll give you one guess whether it's my floor or not! Thanks again for bustin' my chops even though your perceptions of the name seem distorted. I am a guy and I don't look like Bo Derek, although I'd like a good look at her...still...later gator!
        • Angry Lester Jackson
          I'm with Paulie, the first name I thought of was Bo Derek. And sorry but I'm not gonna be especially worried about an ex-Green Beret/Navy Seal killer guy. See I don't walk around being scared of people who try to intimidate me by things like that. Or some drunk who tells me to "watch myself" cause he's been in prison, or someone who tells me he spent 3 years in the Marines. Really, I am sorry that I'm not going to live scared. BTW Paulie, T says hi.
          • Bo
            Okay Mr. Brave Angry Lester Jackson! Where the hell did you come from? My joking, and it was joking as I'm not too sure you got that what with your proclamations of bravery. It was all a joking affair between myself and Paulie Walnuts. You did get that I hope. If not then I'm not too sure I believe all your bravery statements as one who really is doesn't have to do such reassuring of others that they are; they just are! Get what I mean? And since you did bring it up I doubt very seriously if you would, to his face, tell Bo Diehl the Navy Seal killer guy that he had a girls name. Nah. That would me a pretty stupid thing to do to a macho real life killer guy. But me? I don't give a shit. I've had the name Bo long before the Derek gal came along, or Bo Jackson, or Obama's dog Bo, or the QB for ole Miss that I watched play yesterday named Bo Wallace. See? Lot of guys around with the name of Bo...like Sam or Jim or Dan or Larry. You two thinking of girls when you hear that name makes me wonder about ya all...lol... It was all a joke between me and another so why you jumped in with your macho posturing is beyond me. But hell, you're welcome. Just remember, it was all in good fun started by the funny guy Paulie Walnuts. Righto cheerio?.. You big, brave not afraid of killers or Marines and never, ever, ever, ever walk around being scared of people who try to intimidate you. Paranoid by any chance? Sorry Angry...just havin' a bit of fun here and bustin' your chops (to use Paulie's wording) like me and Paulie were doing...between ourselves until you came along puffin' your chest out...man oh man...you gettin' any of this Mr. Walnuts? I'm shakin' in my boots so much I'm gonna change my name to Sue, if Johnny Cash don't mind!...ROTFLMAO!!!!
          • AL
            Easy there turbo
  • Ricardo_PT
    Really good top 10 😉 I was let down by Snowpiercer in the end, but the movie has some great moments. The "school" scene is one of my favorite of the year, loved that scene and Alison Pill did a wonderful job!
  • DAVIDPD
    THE BABADOOK was sadly another film that was ruined for me by the mass hype train. I did find it to be good, but sadly not nearly as good as most proclaimed it was. // Very happy to see SNOWPIERCER on the list, but at Number 1?! Eeeh. I don't know. // Thanks Jeremy.
  • Tuomas Lassila
    The Lego Movie better than Guardians Of The Galaxy and Captain America 2? No way.
  • Narbeh Mirzakhanian
    List is a joke with Inherent Vice on there. But hey, to each his own.
  • superultraboy
    Winter Soldier was rock solid.
  • Critics of the list: These are Jeremy's picks. Loving movies is subjective. If you love something different shout it out. That's what the comment section is for.
  • Avi
    it thought it was a great year of movies,didn't see everything but what i saw i liked very much. 1 mr peabody and sherman 2 housebound 3 gone girl 4 the guardians of the galaxy 5 fury 6 the edge of tommorow 7 x men,days of future past 8 the obvious child 9 enemy 10 under the skin
    • Paulie Walnuts
      What??? hahahaha!!!! Gone girl?!?! hahahahaha!!!! This guy is funny, I like this guy, eh yo!!
      • ari smulders
        haha walnuts thinks he is the mastermind of cinema! nobody cares what you think and especialy the women in you life! haha great!
        • Angry Lester Jackson
          Nice name.... Ari Smulders. That alone is laughable.
          • Mike Nunyabizness
            Normally when you state " that alone is laughable " you need to point out what else was laughable otherwise that makes no sense to type that alone. When you are being condescending you might want to not make stupid mistakes yourself.
  • Nash
    I would choose a different top 10, but this is a good list because all of the movies on this list are good movies!
  • Tester
    I appreciate the list but I will never read your reviews quite in the same way after seeing what you selected as your #1 movie..
  • TheOct8pus
    Good list. But once again, just one man's opinion. Jeremy - you should really go out and see Big Hero 6
  • avconsumer2
    Whoa... different tastes for sure.
    • John Doe
      Tell me about it.
  • tyler
    snowpiercer was not good at all...dull story...dull acting.... it looked like something the scifi channel would put out.. ranks right up there with sharknado.
    • Mike Nunyabizness
      While I agree it wasn't that great, to say it is something scifi channel would put out is disingenuous at best and at worst utterly moronic. The production value alone proves you are wrong. That comparison is like having McDonalds and a top sirloin ground steak side by side and saying "eh, they are both hamburgers" , like I said disingenuous and that's giving you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Paulie Walnuts
    What?? Snowpiercer??? hahaha!!! Lego, Godzilla, Winter Soldier, Guardians!!! That's ok we all have our opinions and I'm just breaking your balls!!
    • AL
      Snowpiercer was amazing. Miles ahead of Godzilla for sure.
  • Get On Up nowhere on this list. Shame. Bosworth was worth the price of admission. Not all black characters dies 1/3 a way into the film.
  • wake up
    what about boyhood
  • bostonred
    Snowpiercers dialogue was a bit too blah to be a number one. It was original but not overly. Its message was obvious. I loved the film, but it lacks greatness. No chance it is number one. Boyhood on the other hand!!!. One critic said it best, Everyone agrees that Boyhood is one great film and everyone is right. I rarely agree with the masses, but there are many moments in boyhood that months later still resonate. That is what great films do. They haunt you. They stay with you. They force you to feel, good and bad. Snowpiercer was entertaining and original. Boyhood was all that and then some.
    • AL
      I felt the exact opposite as you.
  • You definitely missed Predestination!
  • Christopher Gourgouras
    22 jump street was terrible
  • John Taylor
    Saw LEGO movie. Too much Batman to ever want to see it again. The rest? Not worth getting interested in at all.
  • Bigthermal89
    Snowpiercer deserved nr.1 Marvels movies(Guardians should have been there) = okey.. Godzilla was good enough.. Thats it
  • Death2Trollz
    Yeah, stopped taking this list seriously when he called Cloverfield "epic and interesting"

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