My five favorite films of 2014, in alphabetical order.
In less skilled hands, Boyhood’s twelve years in production might not have amounted to much more than a (very ambitious) stunt, but instead, Richard Linklater’s landmark coming-of-age opus is accessible without being straightforward, and thoughtful without being ponderous. Its 165 minutes are breezy and unrushed, and yet it is over before you know it. I guess kids really do grow up fast.
This year’s biggest and most pleasant surprise, The Lego Movie demolished my expectations even as it categorically met them. At the end of the day, it is still a long-form advertisement, but its wit, inventiveness, and heart are an order of magnitude above peers whose toy-hocking agendas are less transparent. Self-aware and uncynical, it succeeds by practicing what it preaches: The Lego Movie believes in itself.
Under the Skin
Dark, hypnotic, and singularly unnerving, Under the Skin’s outsider perspective on humanity somehow feels more like an arty nature documentary than a work of science fiction, and it is probably the most memorable representative of either genre in years.
We Are the Best!
We Are the Best is as true a representation of being thirteen as I’ve seen. No gauzy nostalgia, no contrived precociousness, no bullshit. Just an unembelished look at three willful girls managing the bumps of early adolescence by making a delightfully inept racket at the tail end of punk’s first wave.
After many years of reliably solid supporting performances, J.K. Simmons is finally out in front with a potentially career-defining role that is as compelling as it is troubling. Whiplash beat me up more than any other film this year, and I’m grateful for it.