I saw 98 films released in the year 2014. Give or take a few titles. Most of them were pretty whatever, but some of them were pretty great.
It’s the middle of January 2015 now, everyone else published their top 10 lists weeks ago, and the Oscar nominations were announced this morning. I think the Oscars are dumb and bad, so here’s my best of 2014 and some super cool awards that I’ve decided these movies deserve.
Most Madeleine Movie of 2014: ENEMY (Dir. Denis Villeneuve)
It was a pretty good year for doppelgängers. Although I really loved Coherence (which really belongs on this list), and found The Double pretty charming, Enemy was by far my favorite film on the topic. A tense and atmospheric psychological thriller, with plenty of Jake Gyllenhaal to ogle. Enemy‘s metaphorical display of evil and corruption, partnered with the terror of literally confronting oneself — this movie gave me everything I want. Especially weird sex clubs.
Sexiest Bug Eyes: NIGHTCRAWLER (Dir. Dan Gilroy)
2014 was a year where I got to fawn over three creepy Jake Gyllenhaals in the theaters, and although two of them were in my favorite movie of the year, the third definitely had the sexiest bug eyes. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a terrifying representation of blind ambition, a character who is so dedicated to obtaining power through advancing in his career, it’s scary. I highly recommend this if you’re the vindictive type, there are sequences in this movie that will basically function as creepy non-sexual vindication porn.
Best Stanislaw: THE CONGRESS (Dir. Ari Folman)
I like heady sci-fi, and I’ll take an interesting flawed film over a pristine yet simpleminded movie any day of my life. The Congress is intoxicating, with its constantly evolving scenery, characters, and animation styles, woven into a bizarre and somewhat clunky narrative that packs more ideas into two hours than I imagine most people have in two years. Robin Wright is fascinating, the character a visage of the actress herself, outwardly so strong, but with layered sadness and love. If you can forgive its flaws, The Congress is extremely moving.
Scariest Monster: THE BABADOOK (Dir. Jennifer Kent)
The Babadook terrified me. I had a sleepless night following my viewing of it, paralyzed in my bed, too scared to get up but too scared to fall asleep. I eventually found myself on the couch with all lights in the house on at 5am, and managed to nap a few hours. Anyhow, The Babadook is an elegantly constructed horror film, with a distinctly female viewpoint and a rewarding metaphorical depth to the visuals and concepts of its story. You might be assuming I am bestowing the honor of Scariest Monster on Mr. Babadook himself, but you’re wrong. That title goes to Samuel, because there is nothing more terrifying than a shrieking, out of control 7 year-old child.
Unexpected Darling: POKER NIGHT (Dir. Greg Francis)
Poker Night was this year’s best surprise for me — I walked into it knowing absolutely nothing about the film, and therefore with no expectations. I had been told it was a low budget horror film, and I’ve seen my fair share of forgettable trash horror, but Poker Night could not be further from those movies. The weaving non-linear narrative hooked me immediately, and it was astoundingly well shot and produced. I must admit that the cast didn’t hurt either, with Ron Pearlman and Giancarlo Esposito in addition to one of my favorite actors, an incredibly creepy and charismatic Michael Eklund. I should also mention Beau Mirchoff (who plays Matty on Awkward, one of my favorite shows since I’m secretly a teen girl). Michoff is a great leading man, and I am hoping we’ll see a lot more of him on the big screen. Anyhow, Poker Night reminded me just how good low budget horror can be, which I had forgotten after being inundated with shitty found footage horror all year long. It’s a breath of fresh air, and I highly recommend it.
Best Film Set In Cambridge: THE RIOT CLUB (Dir. Lone Scherfig)
I saw two films set in Cambridge this year, and this one was definitely the better than The Theory of Everything. I have a penchant for films based on plays that maintain that dramatic wordiness that comes with live theater (like Killer Joe, Edmund, and some of Neil LaBute’s better films), and The Riot Club does this well. The energy of the dialogue is elevated by a handful of attractive young brits who translate their characters into a truly contemptible bunch. It’s pretty suspenseful, spending an hour in a room of corrupt, rich, young, drunk white men on a quest for debauchery. The tension of knowing something horrible has to happen, because there’s no possible positive outcome, is what made this movie awesome. I saw this in theaters in London, and unless you caught it at a film fest, I have to apologize as it hasn’t gotten distribution in the states yet.
Most Excellent Soundtrack: ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (Dir. Lucky McKee)
I kind of got the impression that no one else saw what I did in this film. I think it may have tapped into that teenage girl thing. I find stories about cheerleading teens terribly entertaining, and this one also had death and witchcraft and was strange and charming. It’s a weird little low budget horror, and it’s got a banging soundtrack, much like McKee’s other films. This movie introduced me to A Giant Dog, who quickly became one of my favorite bands. Fingers crossed they play some shows on the East coast soon.
Heartache of the Year: FRANK (Dir. Leonard Abrahamson)
Many I’ve talked to did not react to Frank as intensely as I did, and I definitely attribute this to personal experience. I’m a strange musician, and much of my music is about the performance and me throwing myself into it with no safety net. I found myself relating so strongly to the idea of dedicating yourself to your art, yet fearing a lack of understanding from others. I rented this movie during its VOD release and wept over my laptop throughout the final scene of this film and my keyboard got all salty and damp. Also, Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t in this movie, but his sister (female Jake Gyllenhaal) is.
John Wick Of The Year Award: JOHN WICK (Dir. David Leitch, Chad Stahelski)
Where do I begin? John Wick was the action hero of the year. He was the coolest, most intimidating gun-fight martial artist hitman. He is who I want to be. He is the reason I have started taking judo classes and am training to become super strong. John Wick constructs its own underground odyssey of criminals in New York City, with an entire culture developed for this world. Then, it hits you in the face with phenomenal fight scene after fight scene. I could watch Keanu Reeves rolling around corners and killing large groups of men with guns for hours, which is basically just watching John Wick a few times. What I’m saying is, when this movie comes out on blu-ray next month, I’m going to watch it a lot, while shrieking with excitement and waving my hands in the air like a flustered old timey lady.
Meanest Title: WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (Dir. Sion Sono)
When I used to live in Los Angeles, a theater I frequented flew in Sion Sono and had a retrospective of his films, including the US premiere of, what was at the time his latest film, Cold Fish. Anyhow, it was awesome, and the theater was packed and I had to sit on the ground because every single seat was taken. After the film, I went outside to meet him and he would not look me in the eye, and barely said a word. In a panic that one of my favorite directors was going to ignore me, I blurted out a long string of compliments, and didn’t stop until he finally spoke up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You make me very nervous. You are very beautiful.” And at that moment, my heart melted and I died. Anyhow, this movie is bonkers. It’s hilarious, and if you spent any of your life dreaming of becoming a filmmaker, it will speak directly to you. Bonus award: This is my favorite poster of the year, and I want it framed on my wall.
Funniest Death: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Dir. Doug Liman)
I cannot get enough of watching Tom Cruise die. When he rolls under that truck and is run over and Bill Paxton is angry and confused, I laughed so hard I cried. Also, this is a great sci-fi action movie. It is so well made and so fun. If only studios cared enough to make blockbusters this good all the time, but they don’t, and they keep churning out the same franchise dreck and botching the releases of really good movies like this one by confusing everyone about what the movie is actually called. Because, you know, all you need is kill. It’s all you need.
AND LASTLY, THE MOVIE I HATED THE MOST OF 2014:
Hardest Rage: TUSK (Dir. Kevin Smith)
Watching Tusk was the most intense rage I felt this year. What horrible douchebaggery. What a garbage movie, made by a total tool. The most infuriating aspect of Tusk is that part of it is actually really good. There is a solid 20 minutes in this movie that may be the best work Kevin Smith has ever done. Michael Parks gives a performance so good, it actually draws you into this insane world where he is abducting a man and trying to rebuild his body as a walrus. Yet, I believe it was a mistake. Because Smith takes every action possible to undo any good and turn the movie into a stinking pile of excrement. Any ounce of interest I had dissipated into nothingness, and while being subjected to a ten minute long seemingly improvised scene of Johnny Depp with a poor prosthetic nose speaking in a poor French Canadian accent to Michael Parks trying to pass himself off as a retarded backwoods hick, my rage hit its boiling point.
And to top it all off, during the credits the audio from the podcast where Smith is coming up with the plot of this movie as a joke is played, and from what you hear, it’s very clear he didn’t put any effort into expanding the idea past the initial discussion. Let me reiterate this: over the credits, Kevin Smith plays audio that proves Tusk was a joke. I have never felt so cheated by a filmmaker before, like he was pointing his finger directly at me and laughing, because he had gotten away with tricking me into watching this moronic joke he made while he was stoned. What an asshole.