best film: Birdman’s bold cinematography and visual high-wire-act transcends a film that already had acting and writing good enough to land solidly into the top 10 even if it was directed by Ron Howard or something. It’s has the multiple narratives intertwined like all of Inarritu’s work, but it does so in such a bold pictorial way. With his one-take work here he puts himself in the company of his countryman Cuaron, Hitchcock (rope), Kubrick, Godard (weekend), PT Anderson, Scorsese, Murnau, Ophuls and Renoir. He even borrows from I Am Cuba to change how actors are framed in modern cinema. It’s a stunning achievement.
most underrated: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy is his best film to date and solidly in my top 10 but it is way down at the 27th slot of 2014 on TSPDT. Dolan works quickly. At age 25 this was his 5th film (all 5 in my archives) but this is the strongest visually. He’s finding his voice and when he has Antoine-Olivier Pilon literally expand the frame with his hands it blew me off my chair. It’s his 400 Blows and it’s a damn good film.
most overrated: Ostlund Ruben’s Force Majure is solidly on the TSPDT top 10 of the year and I can’t find a spot for it in my top 10-15. I liked it, and the opening visual joke and ensuing drama and conflict—I just thought it was a 90 minute film that went on for 120. But, I look forward to a second viewing.
gem I want to spotlight: There’s three I could easily pick. The Grand Budapest Hotel may be Wes Anderson’s greatest work (look forward to my upcoming study prior to Isle of Dogs in March 2018 here) and I love the aspect ratio work and art within art narrative structure and pontification. I could easily discuss how much I adore Cary Fukunaga’s True Detective and how his tracking shot in episode 4 may be the peak of television as an artform. I also want to mention the duke of burgundy and Peter Strickland. Strickland is a talent who clearly sets his sights high for artistic cinema and nobody saw this or talked about it.
trends and notables: I still think the lead story here is the Mexican auteurs of the era. We had Cuaron in 2013 with Gravity and now Inarritu here with Birdman (and we’re not done yet looking ahead to 2015). Both films, along with 2011’s Tree of life have Emmanuel Lubezki as the DP and that’s enough to call him, especially since all three are distinct and with different auteurs, the greatest DP of all-time. Behind that we have Linklater with back to back years with a top 5 film. One way he’s able to do that is the daunting cinematic and artistic task of filming Boyhood over the course of 12 years. It’s a formidable undertaking- so ambitious. Behind these storylines we have the arrival of the previously mentioned wunderkind Xavier Dolan (not his first archiveable film but first top 10 film) and Damien Chazelle with Whiplash– his first film in the archives. It’s far from his best work but sadly 2014’s A Man Most Wanted would be Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last archiveable film (22 films in the archives as of right now). He’d pass way too early at age 46 (about the age like Nicholson was in 1983 and think of all he’s done since then).
best performance male: I feel like a broken record but there are bunch of great options to choose from and performance here in 2014. My top pick, and it’s not by much, is Michael Keaton in Birdman. Inarritu always gets good performances from his actors (multiple noms in 21 grams, great work in babel, etc) but Keaton tops them all and he’s the show-runner in the year’s top film. Extremely close behind him is Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s a comic performance that at least the equal of his dueling 1990’s performance of extreme seriousness in Schindler’s List and The English Patient. Some critics actually thought Edward Norton gave the best performance in Birdman and although I’d disagree, it’s not an uninteresting debate. Though he won the oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club and stole scenes from Leo in The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, 2014 marks the peak of Matthew McConaughey to date with tremendous work in both Interstellar and True Detective. I’d have to chicken out and call it a tie for the 5th slot here with Miles Teller and Jake Gyllenhaal both doing great work in Whiplash and Nightcrawler respectively.
best performance female: I have five strong nominees (if you will) here but no clear front-runner. I want to pick Anne Dorval for her work in Mommy but I probably need a second look to confirm. Rosamund Pike easily gives the performance of her career to date in Gone Girl and Emma Stone holds her own with both Keaton and Norton in Birdman. Patricia Arquette is, in many ways, the heart and soul of Boyhood and Marion Cotillard continues her run of brilliance showing she can be a neo-realism actor in the Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Gone Girl
- True Detective
- Two Days, One Night
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives