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It has been an incredible year for movies and for me, it was a crazy year that included me seeing more new movies in theaters than ever before. For that reason, I decided to expand my usual top ten list to fifteen as I try to pick between the loads of films I saw this year.

15. Inherent Vice

I don’t know if I fully understand how I feel about Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, but as the days go by since I last saw it, I still am drawn to it. There is something about the mood, the score, and look that brings me in even though I haven’t fully developed a feeling towards the story. It will probably rise in ranking over the years, but for now, it sits here at fifteen.

Overall, Inherent Vice is something of its own and the narrative that Anderson presents to us is something unlike the typical mystery story and by the end, much like Bigfoot, we are asked to either get with the program or just give up on trying to be on board. This disconnect between the options is made much tougher for us as there is never a style or score that can bring us all together, but that is clearly Anderson’s intention.”

Read my full review here.

14. Obvious Child

After seeing this film over the summer, I found it so interesting and honest. With repeat viewings, I found that Obvious Child is a wonderful portrait into the in-between life of 20-year-olds in modern times and is anchored by a career performance by Jenny Slate. The film is funny, sincere, and odd at times but overall, it is one of the year’s more honest films and one that I will return to multiple times.

Obvious Child is dealing with a tough subject but treats it with care and shows that not everything has to be a dramatic typhoon. Slate brings humanity to the role and knocks it out of the park. Her ability to bring emotion and weight to her every expression makes the part more endearing than what it was on page. The film also always reminds you to remember that family is there through everything and sometimes family comes in the guise of someone not directly related to you, but who cares about you more than you know.

Read my review here.

13. Interstellar

Opinions of the story aside, Christopher Nolan brought one of the most immersive cinematic experiences since last year’s Gravity with his own space epic, Interstellar. It may go far away with its plot at times, but overall, the film is a statement into the great beyond and something that is worth the trip even if it isn’t perfect. Yes, it takes from 2001, but it also tries to introduce some new eyes to the epic and there has to be merit in that.

Interstellar is a film about ideas and those who want to take those ideas farther than others and doesn’t that seem to be the focus of Nolan, who amidst this collection of re-done plots and regurgitated franchises, is able to capture the spirit of intuitiveness and ask the questions that most big budget filmmaker is afraid to ask. Yes, it wasn’t perfect, but nothing really is. In this regard, I have to agree with Donald and be happy with what we have.

Read my review here.

12. Edge of Tomorrow

One of the best things about the movies are those films that come out of nowhere to surprise and inspire you, which was just the case for Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow. While it could’ve been yet another Tom Cruise action setpiece, it became much more and was one of the year’s best blockbusters. Cruise plays against type for most of the movie and Emily Blunt gives one of the best female action performances in a long time. Much like the plot, this is one that I will watch over and over again.

Unlike most summer tentpoles, Edge of Tomorrow pushes the limits and succeeds with a high concept script and action/mayhem that feels like being in a video game but doesn’t bog down like previous video game efforts. It is a film that will grow with each viewings and deserves some attention for being different than other blockbusters coming out.

Read my review here.

11. Selma

While being an escape is one function of movies, they can also function as glasses for our culture around us. While Selma takes place in 1965, the events and actions ring true in today’s world also. Anchored by excellent directing by Ava DuVernay and performance by David Oyelowo, Selma is a movie that not only presents its story exceptionally well, it also brings it home and makes us look within ourselves and how we fight social justice.

Selma is more a story about us now rather than in the past as much it is a story about the people of Selma, Alabama in 1965 than Martin Luther King Jr. He is just a figure in a long battle that will eventually come to a conclusion, much as Selma is just a film that strikes us at this point in our timeline. But much like King, we must decide our step, whether it be forward or backward, and the movie works as a fantastic model for how to achieve this.”

Read my review here.

10. The LEGO Movie

Much like Edge of Tomorrow, there wasn’t a more mundane concept than The LEGO Movie. But just like the other, and thanks to the execution by writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the film worked and was incredibly satisfying. Even though it would’ve sold us just on humor, the film also gave us a lot to think about when it comes to where we stand in life and how we decide our own destiny.

The Lego Movie is honestly a perfect movie because it works on multiple levels and has entertainment for kids, teens, and adults. It is a movie I just can’t imagine anyone hating because it is just so much fun the entire time. But maybe I shouldn’t tout it so much and think everyone should like it because wasn’t that the point of the movie? Not conforming. But the song did say everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”

Read my review here.

9. Nightcrawler

One of my favorite performances of the year is in Nightcrawler and that is because Jake Gyllenhaal has further cemented himself as an actor to reckon with due to his transformation in this film. It may not be his best work (even of this year), but it controls this film and the intensity that comes with it. Nightcrawler is a film that moves quickly and jumping on board with Gyllenhaal’s dark Leo Bloom is incredibly satisfying. He may be twisted, but he gets the job done (and so does this movie).

“Nightcrawler is haunting, yet there is a load of dark comedy that lightens up the unbearable acts that Louis is performing. While at times, you stare horrified at the choices he makes; in the end, you, much like Nina, look past it because what he has (or how he acts) is just too damn good to pass up.”

Read my review here.

8. Calvary

I fought with this one and where it should be ranked. In a year that featured some much work that dealt with religion, Calvary was the only one that took a mature examination into faith and sin. It is a film that makes you internalize your own guilt with your faith and leaves you emotionally drained and thinking. I loved that about it and loved this movie.

No review for this film.

7. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

I love animated movies. They allow us to take even the most normal stories and create extraordinary worlds around them. While we may have seen the tale of a girl coming to the big city, it hasn’t been done so beautifully as it was in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Animated by Studio Ghibli, this film shows that the craft of animating is still alive and that hand-drawn animation can still be as gorgeous as anything from a computer. It also has a character in Kaguya that is both inspirational and lovely and while require more viewings over the years.

“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is something special and it is refreshing to see an animated film both tell an emotional story, and use the animation style to its best advantage. While I wouldn’t expect anything less from Studio Ghibli, it was eye-opening to see the studio push the boundaries and even go for an new style that looks nothing like the one that made the company famous and still tell a story that ranks up with the other classics.”

Read my review here.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

As I said in my review, this is a film that we will be nostalgic about in ten years. It embodies the modern blockbuster by taking from elements of the classics. A killer soundtrack, tortured but lovable characters, and an adept eye for action and drama, Guardians of the Galaxy never feels like a Marvel movie but more of a sci-fi epic in the ranks of Star Wars. Deep down, I go to the movies like an 8-year-old and this movie spoke to me the second it started. There is no question it will only get better over the years and I will be there excited to see it more.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is something different in Hollywood. Instead of trying to milk our nostalgia by just showing us what we want and leaving it at that, it tries to create new moments that we will be nostalgic about years from now. It is fantastic to see a Star Wars-like movie that has the energy of the original trilogy, and makes us forget, for a minute, that the prequels happened.”

Read my review here.

5. Birdman

A bullet to the head of a film, Birdman blew me away after the first viewing and while I didn’t go higher in my second one, it still holds as one of the year’s best achievements. Michael Keaton gives one of the performances of the year and the cast of Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Emma Stone try to keep up (and do a good job of it). Aesthetics aside, the film holds up with an examination into the human condition and how we feel about ourselves even when we may not be as relevant as we were in our prime years.

Whatever agenda Inarritu has, Birdman is one of the year’s best with two stellar performances by Keaton and Norton. Behind the social commentary is a rich story of redemption and whether what Riggan is doing is purely for him to become a better person or for him to feel better about the craft he is participating in. At times inspiring, Birdman soars.”

Read my review here.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

A movie that really only gets better with age, The Grand Budapest Hotel still grows more and more as I watch it (I originally had it behind Birdman and it could continue to rise). It still isn’t Wes Anderson’s best work, but it is one that has some surprise honesty and emotion behind the perfectly placed set and quirky characters. Ralph Fiennes may have the best Anderson performance yet and is majorly snubbed for his work in this movie.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel is another journey into a unique Anderson world, maybe his uniquest yet. You come for the Anderson aesthetics but stay for these characters that make you laugh and smile. While it still carries the feeling and look of a Wes Anderson picture, at the same time it is a film that everyone can embrace and is one that shows that this auteur has not lost a step yet.”

Read my review here.

3. Boyhood

While it can be easy to contain Boyhood as the movie that was made over 12 years, there is also a rich sense of storytelling that director Richard Linklater is most known for that makes the film even more of an experience than just seeing a boy grow up over the years. It also helps that the setting and some of the activities that he participates in were things that I remember from growing up, but that doesn’t hold Boyhood hostage from being a movie that should relate to everyone.

“I think Boyhood will take a few viewings to come full circle. It is a movie that introduces a lot and is almost obscure at first because of the way Linklater pieces it together, but in the end, it is a film of immense importance in the landscape of cinema and one the year’s best.”

Read my review here.

2. Whiplash

There is so much intensity in Whiplash that it never feels like that normal story about a student overcoming adversity to achieve their goal with the help of a teacher, and that’s because Whiplash isn’t that movie. It is the horror version of that. Featuring my favorite performance of the year (by J.K. Simmons), the film is a nightmare of a story for teaching and one that takes you deep into the world of jazz like you’ve never seen it before. Miles Teller is able to capture the lead role well, but Simmons as Fletcher is above everything as his performance transcends the film and scares me during Farmers commercials now.

“This film never allows you to feel comfortable, and while maybe deep down you also want to go out and hug your dad like Andrew does during his Carnegie Hall performance, the movie is so good that you’ll head back for more also.”

Read my review here.

1. Life Itself

While movies are also a form of escapism, they also can speak to you on a personal level and help you to re-think where you are at a point in your life. That’s what happened to me and Life Itself. While I was a fan of Roger Ebert’s, I never fully comprehended the fight that he went through and the perseverance that he showed in his last years like was shown in this film. Yes, the film challenged me to get better at the craft that I adore, but it also challenged me to be a better person and show more empathy for the people around me. Life is short, but with it we can make something amazing. Thanks Roger Ebert and thank you Life Itself.

“Life Itself is the best film of 2014. As Ebert put it, movies are like a machine that generates empathy. This film generates empathy for a man, a man who struggled through life immensely in his last few years. It generates empathy for the profession that he helped to define. It generates empathy for each person who watches it to want to be a better person and to strive to be more like Roger. Life Itself challenges you and makes you think, not in a bad way, but in a way that could set you on a course to making your life, and the others around you better. A amazing trait for an amazing movie.”

Read my review here.

Honorable Mentions:

Frank

Gone Girl

The Boxtrolls

The Trip to Italy

Begin Again

My favorite performances of the year (in no particular order except for #1)

1. J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

2. Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

3. Reese Witherspoon in Wild

4. Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

5. Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

6. Macon Blair in Blue Ruin

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