A look back at 2014.
10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Giddy, corny and nimble, J.J. Abrams' Star Wars sequel was a nostalgic trip with some familiar faces and fresh leads.
9. Son of Saul
Plunges into the life of a member of the Sonderkommando in close-ups and his ambiguous quest to save a boy. The atrocities are blurred, out-of-focus or suggested aurally in the haunting sound mixing--which leaves an emotional bruising effect. Particularly astounding is that this is Hungarian director László Nemes's first film.
Shot on iPhones, we follow the lives of Sin-De-Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodrigue) and Alexandra (an excellent and affecting Mya Taylor) on a whirlwind of a Christmas Eve in L.A. The bold hilarity is rooted in pain.
While it's definitely a feel-good, old-fashioned, gold-tinted coming-of-age tale. John Crowley's elegantly directed gem, based upon Colm Toibin's novel, taps into a profound ache of separation.
A bitterly witty and devastating fable of a cattle herder and his family within a small city under occupation.
5. Wild Tales
Damián Szifron's spirited and sharp Argentinean anthology film delves into issues of class and violence in the modern world with a keen eye, personal extremities and dark comedy.
3. The Big Short
Not a big fan of Adam McKay's slapstick bro comedies, I was surprised and disarmed by his absurdist tale of absurd institutions in an absurd world. Risky, tacky, sardonic and biting with dashes into genre-breaking, The Big Short is an entertaining, on-the-nose and weirdly lithe indignation of American greed.
2. It Follows
The best horror film of the year and one of the year's most entrancing films overall, It Follows creates its own atmosphere in the Detroit suburbs with its lush photography (by Mike Gioulakis) and its terrorized, emphatic victims. Disasterpiece's score kills.
This one hit me immediately with Carter Burwell's haunting Glass-lite score, Edward Lachmann's photography and all of Todd Haynes' breathtaking details; visually, it's a masterwork. But within all the period sets and Sandy Powell's beguiling dress-ups, lie extraordinary, intimate performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara playing a seemingly mismatched pair falling for one another in 50s New York.
And the best of the rest:
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, Far from the Madding Crowd, Amy, Phoenix, The Gift, Spy, Room, Spotlight, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The End of the Tour, Saint Laurent, Beasts of No Nation, The Revenant, Sicario, The Duke of Burgundy, Love & Mercy, Clouds of Sils Maria, Grandma, Goodnight Mommy, The Hateful Eight, Ricki & the Flash, Something, Anything, Maps to the Stars, Inside Out, Finders Keepers, White God, Bridge of Spies,Trainwreck, I'll See You in My Dreams, Girlhood, All Things Must Pass, Bluebird, While We're Young, Mad Max: Fury Road, Ex-Machina, Unfriended, Testament of Youth, Iris, '71, We Are Still Here, Eastern Boys, The Wolfpack, Approaching the Elephant, Going Clear, The Final Girls, Dope