14 best movies of 2014

Wed. December 31, 2014 12:00 AM
by Gregg Shapiro

Screen Savor: 14 best of 2014

By Gregg Shapiro

Not the best year for film by a long shot, 2014 wasn't the worst year either. As in recent years, indie films, ranging from comedies to dramas to docs, were the place to look for the best of what was out at your favorite art house or multiplex. A few big budget Hollywood blockbusters kept us entertained, but they also disappointed in record numbers (Is the Transformers franchise at an end yet? How could Into The Woods get so tangled in its own branches?). Below is a list of the fourteen best movies of 2014, along with some honorable mentions, as well as a few of the very worst of the year.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight) – Don't call it Michael Keaton's comeback, call it his breakthrough. Inventive and hallucinogenic, with potshots at Hollywood and Broadway, as well as a mini-tribute to Raymond Carver, Birdman soars.

Boyhood (IFC) – Richard Linklater's groundbreaking cinematic achievement is original and epic. Let the imitations begin.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) – Wes Anderson's next logical (and magical) step after Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Love Is Strange (Sony Pictures Classics) – As timely as it is timeless, the second installment in Ira Sach's New York real estate trilogy, features an Oscar-worthy performance by John Lithgow.

Obvious Child (A24) and The Skeleton Twins (Roadside Attractions) (tie) – Comedy took a bold leap forward in 2014, and these two daring movies are prime examples. Joni Mitchell said it best when she sang, "laughing and crying/You know it's the same release." Brava Jenny Slate! Bravo Bill Hader!

Ida (Music Box Films) – Pawel Pawlikowski's post-Holocaust drama is nothing short of a work of art. Almost every black and white frame is worthy of exhibition in a gallery and the screenplay (co-written by Pawlikowski) is haunting and brilliant.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel) / Mr. Peabody and Sherman (DreamWorks Animation) (tie) – If you wanted to have fun at the movies, these were the two to see. Galaxy made comic book movies safe for comic book haters and ... Peabody...was the most subversively queer kids movie of the year.

The Way He Looks (Strand) – A different kind of coming out/love story about a blind gay teen's first crush.

Chef (Open Road) / The Hundred-Foot Journey (Touchstone/DreamWorks) (tie) – Foodies had a couple of tasty treats this year to satisfy their cravings for epicurean entertainment. Helen Mirren served up snooty French realness in the The Hundred-Foot Journey, while writer/director/actor Jon Favreau shared the screen with a food truck.

The Normal Heart (HBO) – No, The Normal Heart never made it to the big screen (thanks to Barbra Streisand), but Ryan Murphy's brave film adaptation found a home on cable, and in the process probably reached an even broader (and grateful) audience.

The Fault In Our Stars (Fox 2000) – The perfect antidote to dystopian Y/A lit movie adaptations (see The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, The Maze Runner, et al), Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort play the most appealing star-crossed lovers since Romeo and Juliet.

Honorable mention:

The Imitation Game, St. Vincent, Big Hero 6, Locke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Belle, Life Itself, Gone Girl, Get On Up, Neighbors

Simply the worst:

Winter's Tale (WB): Is there anything worse than an abysmal film adaptation of a beloved novel?

Jersey Boys (WB): Is there anything worse than an abysmal film adaptation of a beloved (jukebox) stage musical? Maybe Clint Eastwood should stay away from all cameras, period.

Maleficent (Disney): Is there anything worse than a failed attempt at bringing a cartoon character to life in an unpleasant live action film adaptation? Maybe Angelina Jolie should stay behind the camera.

America: Imagine the World Without Her (Lionsgate): Pitiful propaganda for Fox News junkies from goony right-wing nut job Dinesh D'Souza.