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Mike’s Top Ten Films of 2014

Every year is different. For instance, 2011 was a top-loaded year, with some great films near the top, but not many below that. 2012 was an incredibly dense year, with great movies all around. Last year ended up pretty solid, though overall it felt like a disappointment. 2014 is shaping up to be a below-the-line kind of year.

2014 has a lot of great movies in those middle tiers, that are really solid and really great, but with few movies that shout “Top Ten.” Though maybe that’s just the end of a long year talking. I probably say that every year.

It’s time, once again, for my Top Ten list. I’ve seen everything I could see before the year ended, and now I’m going to list my favorites. And, as always, I will list a bunch more movies outside the top ten that I also really liked. Those will be an 11-20, also ranked and commented upon, and a second and third tier of twenty movies each. (And, now, for the first time ever, a fourth tier, owing to the amount of movies I watched this year.)

My one caveat, as always, is: I’m trying to make a list that will stand the test of time. The idea being that I’m not picking the movies that seem like obvious top ten choices now (the trendy ones that appear on all the lists), but the ones that are my actual favorite movies. The more films on this list that will be on this list in a year, five years, or ten years, then the better it is. Don’t sacrifice fitting in now if you know it’s not how you’ll feel later.

Here are my top ten films of 2014:

Boyhood

10. Boyhood

Remember back in August when the review of this movie went up and I said how it wasn’t going to be a Top Ten movie? Well, that review wasn’t taking into account the fact that there would be a complete lack of movies I loved. Really couldn’t have figured that one.

I’ll also admit that I don’t love this movie the way I’d normally love a Top Ten movie. But, like I said, there was nothing I out and out loved this year that could take its place. And when it came down to it, there were only two choices for this spot. And while the other one I felt slightly better about now, I ultimately felt that, in the long run, this would probably end up on the list purely because of the central conceit of the film. So, since I like to make long run choices, I’m putting this here now.

It’s a great film. It’s a genius concept and because of the fact that he shot it over twelve years with the same cast, essentially growing up with them, it’s going to remain a beautiful and timeless movie about life. I still think people are overrating it, but honestly, to not put it here would be doing it a bigger disservice to it than just telling the people overrating it to calm down and let time work its magic.

I watched the film again just to make sure I wanted to put it here, and I have to say, it’s an astounding movie. It’s quite effective in a lot of ways. Specifically how it lets the characters develop in simple situations. And when you put it all together, you feel like you get a complete idea of who these people are. And then you get to essentially age with them in a single sitting. It’s beautiful. I have some problems with parts of it, but overall, this will remain one of the most unique viewing experiences ever put to film. And you can’t put a value to that.

Unbroken

9. Unbroken

I wish I weren’t so gullible. But I am. This is one of those movies that I’m telling people is like War Horse. If you think you’re gonna like it, then you’re gonna like it. If you think you’re gonna find it cloying and trying too hard, you’re gonna think that. My reaction was a bit of both. I’m aware of this movies flaws, but I also knew it was going to be right up my alley the whole time. And it was. I like what I like.

You have to admit that as much as this movie would have benefitted from a stronger voice (or maybe a stronger style. Though in this day, what’s the difference?) behind the camera, it’s still pretty good. I can’t speak for what I’m gonna think about this in one year, or even five years, but right now, I’ll admit to being quite enamored with this movie, even though I’m aware I probably shouldn’t be.

For now, I’m fine with it hitting every notch on the prestige Oscar picture checklist and it getting by purely on strength of story. All the specific elements of the story are ones I like. I don’t have a problem if the whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts. The story stands on its own, and I’d rather watch a movie like this than movies I ranked below this. It comes down to what you like, and I know what I like.

Gone Girl

8. Gone Girl

When I saw this in theaters, I thought, “Possible top ten, but definite 11-20.” But then, the next day, I knew immediately what I was dealing with. Because while this is clearly a “lesser” Fincher film, and while there’s not a whole lot more to it than, say, a Zodiac — this movie will stay with you. You’ll be thinking about it long after you’ve seen it. And that, to me, is the sign of a Top Ten movie.

This was the trendy book to read this year (much like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was three years ago), but I never read it. So I went in totally cold as to what would happen. I spent the first hour of the movie wondering if he did it, if he didn’t do it, and if he didn’t do it, what were the circumstances, and who did do it, and how Fincher was gonna pull off a reveal that didn’t make it seem like a cheap paperback novel. And then the narrative shift happens, and the whole table just got cleared, and a whole new set of questions popped up. And then, from that point on, as each new piece of information comes out, you get more and more fascinated by the whole thing and wonder how it’s going to resolve itself. The last half of this movie is a chess game of sorts, and it’s pulled off brilliantly by Fincher.

This movie is a masterclass of narrative storytelling. It’s really interesting to watch how Fincher handles information and the supplying of information to both the characters and the audience. It really elevates what could have been a forgettable thriller that came out in the middle of the year, got so-so reviews and went away immediately. This could have easily been that. And yet, it’s a movie that’s still staying with me, four months after having seen it.

Fury

7. Fury

I’ve been starved for a good war movie. This was almost a foregone conclusion, that I was going to love this unabashedly. This isn’t just right up my alley, this is my alley. I needed this very, very badly.

There’s nothing particularly complex about this movie. It’s a tank unit in World War II. They’ve been together since Italy. Now they’re in Germany. The war is almost over. They’ve been through hell. And they have to go through more hell before it’s over. And that’s the movie. Stock characters, stock situations, you’ve seen this all before. But I don’t care about any of that, because there hasn’t really been a real war movie that’s been made in almost a decade. When’s the last time you saw a good American war movie. They’ve all been foreign. We know when the last great one was. But when was the last real, down and dirty war picture? There really hasn’t been one. (Which is great. Because all my favorite film genres are actually essentially dead. Westerns, musicals, noirs and war movies. Good luck trying to have one of those made nowadays.)

The beautiful thing about this movie is that it knows what it is and it doesn’t try to be anything else. It doesn’t try to make grand statements about the war. It doesn’t hide who its characters are or where it’s going. It just is. And I completely accept it for what it is. And I needed to be exactly what it is. I was all in on this movie a year ago when I heard about it. I said it back then that it was one of my five most anticipated movies of 2014, and I knew it would more than likely be competing for a top ten spot (since I knew they were planning on releasing it in the latter part of the year). Which continues to drive home the point I like to make when I do lists like this — know what you like. Don’t try to kid yourself. Know what you like, and just embrace it and enjoy it.

I couldn’t think of a single moment in this movie when I wanted it to be something different. (There was one moment where I thought, “Wow… you made that real convenient, didn’t you?” But then five minutes later I realized why they did it. So they could get back to what the movie was about. Doesn’t change the fact that they could have done it differently and still had the desired effect, but the point is, the movie doesn’t stray away from what it is and should be.) It is very deliberate in staying true to itself, which is not the case with so many movies nowadays. A lot of movies will compromise in order to appeal to more quadrants, or have more stakes, or more action, or more romance, or more whatever. But this movie is a war movie at heart, and remains a war movie through and through.

And man, did I need a good one of those in the worst way.

Interstellar

6. Interstellar

If we’re gonna talk about movies that stayed with you long after seeing them, this is the top one for me for the year. It’s not that it’s a perfect movie, and it’s not that I didn’t openly see flaws with it when I saw it, it’s just that I’m someone who will never fault a movie for trying too hard. There’s clearly a lot of ambition here, and the film aimed really high. And I can’t fault it for that. It aimed really, really high, and almost got there. Good for them.

The funny thing about this year (and most years, really), is how, over the course of the year, I’ll see movies, really enjoy them, but go, “Oh, that’s probably an 11-20. Doubt that makes the top ten.” And then half my top ten list is those films. This was one of them. I saw this and went, “That was great, but there’s no way.” And here we are.

What makes this movie work (and almost not work) is the relationship at the center of the movie. If it didn’t have the father/daughter relationship to keep everything grounded, it wouldn’t have been as good a movie, overall. And there are so many thought-provoking moments in the film, it’s hard for me to hold its flaws against it, especially for this list.

There are a lot of great moments in this. I think what holds all Christopher Nolan movies back is what will eventually hold this one back in the discussion of greatest sci-fi/space films ever made, which is his tendency to veer into trying to appeal to the mainstream and reach a balance between the commercial and the artistic, but I do think there’s a good 50-60% of this movie that’s absolutely brilliant. And let’s not downplay the importance of Matthew McConaughey’s performance (and that score. Zimmer really knocked that one out of the park). Without him there to hold it together, the movie would be even more disjointed.

This was one of the best theater experiences I had this year, and nothing pleases me more than films with lofty ambitions that try really hard to explore difficult concepts on large canvases. I’ll be enjoying this film for a lot of years.

Inherent Vice

5. Inherent Vice

You can always count on Paul Thomas Anderson. He’s trying very hard to become the modern day Kubrick. But I think he’s turning into a mix of a modern day Kubrick mixed with a modern day Altman. There’s a real nice mixture of the two in there. The Master feels a lot like a Kubrick film, while Inherent Vice is definitely an Altman movie. It feels like one of those 70s Altman movies. This is his Long Goodbye.

There’s something so utterly watchable about this movie. This is gonna be one of those movies you can just put on and leave on. It’s a two and a half hour drug-fueled haze, mixed with a detective novel. The two fit perfectly. Because the detective novel, at heart, is one that starts with a simple problem, and then veers completely off the reservation, meandering from weird situation with weird, memorable characters after another and ends up resolving itself and tying all together in the end. It’s a ride. And that’s what this movie is. We start and end in roughly the same place, but the ride is what’s great about it. And man, is this a ride.

We just parade weird, memorable characters through this movie — Josh Brolin, Martin Short, Hong Chau (who is great in this), Jena Malone, on down to the family at the end — and have Joaquin Phoenix stumbling his way through it all, and it’s great, and funny, and interesting, and then the whole thing resolves itself. It’s such a fun viewing experience. I imagine it’s gonna reward viewers a lot more on the small screen. This will definitely be an easy watch going forward.

The Grand Budapest Hotel - 59

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

If you can count on Paul Thomas Anderson, you can definitely count on Wes Anderson. Typically his movies come out early in the year, and are basically forgotten about come this time. Sometimes they’ll be remembered (Moonrise Kingdom came pretty close), but ultimately the later, more recent films from the end of the year steal all the spotlight. I guess because there’s a “been there, done that” attitude. But Anderson’s films are almost always the best of the year. Fortunately most people seem to agree with me this year. (Though we’ll see if that amounts to anything in two weeks.)

This movie was just a joy to watch. Anderson continues to refine his style, getting more precise in his timing, while also bringing more and more actors into his stable. Pretty soon, every part is gonna be played by someone you recognize from one of his other films.

The thing I love most about Anderson’s films (aside from the fact that he’s one of the only directors who really seems to care about color and image composition) is the fact that, while they are generally funny, he’ll always manage to punctuate a scene with something that comes out of nowhere and is just so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh. Like the moment in this when they’re stealing Boy with Apple and they just randomly put up the painting of the two lesbians on the wall. Gets me every time.

I love this movie, and I’m so glad I’m not in the minority of listing this among the best films of the year. I must have watched this at least half a dozen times since I saw it in theaters. It’s so good. Definitely belongs here, and I like it when something I saw in the first half of the year manages to make it all the way through to my top ten list.

A Most Violent Year

3. A Most Violent Year

This is a movie. So far, J.C. Chandor is three for three. I respected Margin Call, even though I wasn’t totally interested in the material. But it was good. And then All Is Lost was in my top ten last year. And now this. I almost like that everyone is ignoring this moive at large, because it feels safer for me to like something that isn’t all the way out there, getting overrated by everyone else. Now I get to shout about how good this is, like Prisoners last year, or Killing Them Softly the year before that.

The great thing about this movie is that it’s a crime movie and a gangster movie that’s not really about crime or gangsters. All of those elements are present, and yet… not quite. You keep waiting for a shoe to drop, and it never does. And it’s a wonderful game of chicken that’s played throughout. Where you’re totally fascinated by this story and these characters, and you think it’s going to turn into a certain type of movie, but then it never does.

Even up to the end, when everything has happened, and it was great, and you’re completely satisfied with how it turned out, even though you couldn’t have figured it would have turned out that way at all, and something happens in the last five minutes where you go, “Don’t you fucking dare do that and ruin everything you’ve built up to now.” The movie spends the entire time subverting expectations, only to make you think it’s going to play into them right at the end. And then it still manages to find a unique way to resolve itself.

I loved every minute of this. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain were great. J.C. Chandor is one of the most unheralded filmmakers working. And if this movie ends up getting no recognition whatsoever by the awards bodies (which, in the immediate present, are essentially the ones who decide if a movie is going to get press over the next five years. After that, things start to even out), I can live with that. Because this movie’s gonna come out on top in the long run.

You guys know I like 70s style movies. This is a 70s movie, through and through. I loved it, and I wish they made more movies like it.

Whiplash

2. Whiplash

Fun story about this one. I knew of its existence in January. I read about it going into Sundance. I had a chance to put it on my 2014 Release Calendar. But I saw it and went, “No one’s gonna see that movie. That’ll never get released in any real way.” And then it won Sundance. And I went, “Well that might have been a bad decision. But whatever. Just because something won Sundance doesn’t mean it’ll really get that much notice. Or that I’ll even want to see it.”

Do you guys know the movies that won the Grand Jury prize over the past few years? Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Like Crazy, Winter’s Bone, Precious, and Frozen River. So yeah, moral of the story is, I won’t be making that mistake again.

Even over the course of the year, I kept hearing great things about this movie, but still refused to believe that it could be good or that I could really like it. And then, somehow, by the time it was due to come out, I was really excited to see it and thought it could be really solid. But even then, I could never have expected it to turn out the way it did.

There’s no way I would ever have imagined this would be my #2 movie of the year. Not a chance. Maybe, after I saw it, I could have said, “A #8, #9, #10, something like that.” That felt more like it. Bottom of the list. For that one indie I see and really love. That’s always a possibility. But then, as we got closer, there just wasn’t anything I liked more than this. And I’m not one to change things just to make it fit what makes the most sense.

This movie was incredible. From the acting, to the editing, to the directing, to the music — I was riveted from start to finish. J.K. Simmons should win an Oscar for his performance. Hands down, no discussion necessary. Miles Teller has really shown himself to be a great all-around actor who can handle both comedy and drama. And I can’t wait to see what Damien Chazelle has next up his sleeve. (I hear it’s a musical. Which will immediately skyrocket him to my list of favorite directors to watch for what they’re doing next.)

This is the trendy indie movie of the year, but with good reason. It’s actually the best indie movie of the year, and one of the best overall films of the year. Period. People are not exaggerating when they say that. It’s really that good.

Birdman

1. Birdman

This one just sort of happened. I didn’t expect this to end up at number one once all the data was in. But here we are. The best way to make a list like this is to put the movies against one another. “When it comes down to it, which of these two do I like more? Which would I put on first to watch?” And you keep playing that game of War until eventually you know where you stand on everything. And I kept putting other movies against this, and none of them were able to overtake it.

There’s just something about this movie that felt so fresh and electric that I couldn’t say about almost every other movie this year. (#2 notwithstanding. This and Whiplash are really the two that made me really feel like I was seeing something exciting. Keep in mind, I watched 300 movies this year. So I have a fair sample size.)

This one has the intangibles working for it that make me want to put it #1. The central conceit of the film that takes place over a limited time period, plus one that was shot to look like it happens in a single, continuous sequence, plus the cast — it’s those things that tip the scale in this one’s favor.

I just loved this whole movie. It felt like I was watching something with energy. Something that was trying things without trying to be too pretentious about it. It hints at some major pretension, but I feel like it keeps itself from going too far down those roads, on the whole. And I feel like the thing that really keeps this whole movie together, and the thing that really makes it work, is the casting of Michael Keaton. That adds an entire layer of backstory that wouldn’t be there if they had casted almost anyone else.

There’s a reason this and Boyhood have been the two most celebrated movies of the year. They’re unique viewing experiences that everyone can enjoy. They keep average viewers, savvy viewers, and the pretentious viewers engaged just the same. I actually love that those are the two films that bookend my top ten. That feels right. And I wasn’t even planning on having that happen. I guess we can call that the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Not to mention, in a year, when the list reverts to alphabetical order (which is the best thing that can happen to a year like this), those are gonna be the first two on it, which is nice, since those seem to be the two films that appear most on everyone’s list of favorite movies.

Even though this might not have been #1 in most other years, that’s the beauty of a year. It’s dependent on what’s in it. And, when we got down to it, there really wasn’t another movie I enjoyed more than I enjoyed this movie.

– – – – – – – – – –

11. Nightcrawler — I flirted for a long time with this one as #10. But I felt like Boyhood was gonna end up there over time, so I didn’t bother. Plus, this film never felt like a top ten film for me, no matter how much I enjoyed it. It always felt better situated here. What I love about this movie is how it’s a 2014 version of Taxi Driver. The difference being that, in 1976, the character would end up committing an act of violence. But now, the character is the one who films the violence, and makes a name for himself off of doing that. We live in an era where it’s all social media and pulling out our phones. It’s a perfect double feature with Taxi Driver in that regard. Gyllenhaal is great, and this is just a deeply entertaining and disturbing movie that fits perfectly right here in the 11-20.

12. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Them) — I still need to see this as separate films, and at that point in time, I might put them both on this list. But for now, having only seen the one, I can honestly say that I loved it. It’s a great conceit, and this movie had me written all over it from when I first heard about it. It’s a movie that originally started as two movies detailing a relationship. One about him and one about her. And we see their relationship from both perspectives. This is almost like Blue Valentine meets (500) Days of Summer. It’s gonna be one of the most completely unheralded films of 2014 due to the different cuts and lack of a concrete release, but this is really one of the better films of the year. I can’t wait to see it as the two films. I hope they both end up here next year.

13. Chef — I said it when I wrote it up. I knew this one was gonna hold up for me. Maybe I’m ranking it a little high now, at 13, but honestly, 11-20 isn’t about the rankings. It’s about what’s there. And few movies were more fun for me to watch than this was. I loved this. Any movie about a chef and about food, where we see the preparation going into it, is something I’m going to be interested in. The other thing I liked about this movie is how I’m able to watch it as just a movie, on face value, where what happens happens, and also as a metaphor for making movies. It’s very obvious that this is a movie about Favreau’s experiences doing the Iron Man movies. Where he wants to take chances and the studio is demanding he play to the crowd and play it safe. While I wouldn’t paint him entirely as the saint that metaphor does, I will say the metaphor stands as a really solid and accurate one that does allow the movie a certain level of depth it wouldn’t otherwise have. Plus it’s just a fun movie. Starting a food truck, going on the road, bonding with his son, it’s a great watch. People forget Favreau is a good filmmaker. It’s not high art, but he made a keeper here.

14. St. Vincent — Bill Murray. Without Bill Murray, this movie doesn’t work as well. This is the kind of movie where, twenty years ago, Jack Nicholson would have probably won for something like this. (In a way, he kinda did.) There’s nothing particularly revelatory about this movie. It’s not wholly surprising. But it’s an easy watch, it’s enjoyable, and the acting is great. I’ve been able to watch this three times now and enjoy it every time. The watchability and likability factor is what makes these 11-20 movies. And this one is a pure 11-20.

15. Locke — As I started making my list for this article, this one kept landing right in tier two. I kept lumping it right there and not thinking about it. And then I actually went through and considered the individual merits of each movie to give it a fair shake. And I couldn’t think of a reason for this not to be in the 11-20. I loved this. It’s the perfect epitome of a movie that belongs here. I was completely invested from minute one, it’s a movie that takes place entirely in a car for the duration of the film, with a single actor, and it’s a movie that I really liked that I get to recommend to people who are looking for something they maybe haven’t seen from the year. That’s exactly what this section is all about.

16. Top Five — This is a technical late entry, even though I’m the only one who knows it. This was the only major movie I hadn’t gotten a chance to watch. So I went to see it last night. And I loved it. I’m wondering if the initial reaction is making me put this too high, and if this drops down into tier two come next year. But I can live with tht if that’s the case. If anything, I get to talk this up now. It’s a terrific movie. It takes place over a single day (though there are some flashbacks. Some great flashbacks at that. Cedric the Entertainer is so hilarious), and it just has life to it. It also features some great cameos (one of which is the best cameo to come around in a few years, and might be the reason for my reaction to the film), and great performances by the cast. This movie probably shouldn’t have been thrown in for Oscar consideration, because it killed a lot of the commercial promise the film had, since people were reacting to it under the awards guise, but this is actually one of the better films of the year and without a doubt one of the funniest films of the year. This is not one to be missed.

17. Godzilla — Still one of the best theater experiences I had in 2014. I enjoyed the shit out of this. I don’t care about all the problems everyone had with the movie. I loved it. I didn’t even have a problem with them making it so Aaron Johnson happened to be in the right (or wrong, I guess) place at the right time all throughout the film. I actually enjoyed how they did it. Sure, there’s not much Godzilla, but I didn’t really care about that either. I had fun throughout the movie, and I think this elevated what could have been a lesser disaster movie and turned it into an overall fun experience that didn’t sacrifice the usual things films like this sacrifice (cinematography and shot composition and keeping things from looking like cartoons). I feel like this one has a good chance to stay in the 11-20 because of how fun it was.

18. Big Eyes — Saw this on Christmas Eve, on my plane ride home. I was worried the environment would prevent me from fully experiencing it and rating it lower than I might have if I saw it in the comfort of a home or movie theater. But it didn’t. I quickly found myself wholly invested in the movie and really enjoying it. I also ended up watching it again Christmas morning to show it to my mother, so I got the best of both worlds. And I can say, after two watches, that I still really enjoyed this. I’m not ready to proclaim anything about Tim Burton and the state of his career (since this didn’t wholly feel like a Tim Burton movie), but I can say this could be his best movie in 20 years. I like Sweeney Todd, but outside of that, this is the best movie he’s directed since Ed Wood. The real ace up this film’s sleeve is Christoph Waltz. You’d think it would be Amy Adams’ movie, but it’s not. It’s Waltz’s movie, and he really plays enough outside of his usual range for me to really respond to him. I was surprised this ended up going so high, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed the movie enough to put it here.

19. The Gambler — This feels like a movie that would piss a lot of people off. I still haven’t seen the original film, so I wasn’t tainted by that. I knew this would be a different experience than that either way, so I wasn’t gonna let that spoil me even if I had saw it. This was one of the better trailers I saw this year, and between the cast and the general story, it was something I was excited about. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s definitely not what you expect it to be. It’s not a movie about gambling. There are more scenes of long monologues and philosophical discussions than there are scenes of gambling. The movie is more about Mark Wahlberg having a death wish than it is about gambling. But it was still very engaging and I think the overall viewing experience was very rewarding. This might fall back into tier two next year, but for now, I felt it was worth putting here since it’s not gonna have the time to get talked up like the movies that came out earlier, with more time before the end of the year.

20. Life Itself — A documentary made my 11-20 list. The last time this happened was… maybe 2008? Man on Wire? Not sure if that holds up all these years later, but it’s rare for me to truly love a documentary. And there were three that I loved this year. But this one was something else. Roger Ebert was a national treasure, and this is a movie that celebrates his life. And he got to participate in it, which makes it all the better. This movie should be seen by all, and it’s one of the best movies of the year, bar none. Sure, there are some tier two movies that I “enjoyed” more than this one, but this really distinguished itself to me as one of the best of the year, and I feel no hesitation about putting it here.

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Tier two:

The Battered Bastards of Baseball, Before I Disappear, Blood Ties, The Congress, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Double, Enemy, Foxcatcher, Frank, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Guest, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I Know That Voice, The Imitation Game, John Wick, Snowpiercer, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, The Theory of Everything, Tracks, X-Men: Days of Future Past

– – – – – – – – – –

Tier three:

American Sniper, Blue Ruin, Comet, Draft Day, Edge of Tomorrow, The Homesman, Into the Woods, Laggies, A Most Wanted Man, Mood Indigo, The Mule, Noah, The One I Love, Pride, Selma, Sunshine on Leith, They Came Together, Two Night Stand, Under the Skin, The Zero Theorem

– – – – – – – – – –

And… for the first time ever (since I saw so many movies this year)…

Tier four:

After the Dark, Begin Again, Belle, Big Hero 6, Cas and Dylan, Get on Up, Horns, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Ida, Maps to the Stars, The Monuments Men, Nymphomaniac, Obvious Child, Only Lovers Left Alive, ’71, Starred Up, Still Alice, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Trust Me, Wild Tales

– – – – – – – – – –

I try to end my list with some kind of message. Whether it’s to watch movies more than once and not create everlasting opinions based on one viewing, or to give every movie a chance, because you just never know which ones you’re going to love.

This year, my message is simple: try to watch as much as you can. You really can only learn by experiencing. Good and bad alike. It’s similar to last year’s message, but that one was more centered around not automatically skipping something you think is going to be terrible. This one is more a general life lesson. If you like movies, watch movies. I watched a bunch of movies this year I didn’t care about and will likely never watch again. But the more you watch, the more you learn. You want to become a better writer, a better director, a better movie watcher? Watch movies. Don’t read books about doing it (please don’t read books. On how to write, how to act, or how to do anything that’s not figured down to a science, so you don’t fuck up that meatloaf. And even then, you don’t have to listen to the book, and can take risks with the meatloaf), or listen to people telling you how to do it (because people are just the worst). Just do it.

And it’s not all about the good ones. Reading or watching something great will only make you think about how great it is, or how impossible it is to achieve that level of greatness, or it’ll make you want to copy that formula. It won’t help you develop your own voice. But something that’s not quite there, or something that’s flat out bad, that’ll make you go, “I can do that better.” Or, “How did they get that wrong?” And it’ll help you learn how to get it right. Sometimes the best ideas come from something terrible. A picture is worth a thousand words. A bad picture is worth two thousand.

So watch whatever you can. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t stick to the same types of movies. Don’t only watch something because you think it’ll make you smarter, or more well-rounded. Don’t not watch something because it’s too “low” or because it wasn’t listed in Cahiers du Cinema. Watch anything, and watch everything. You can avoid abundances of what you don’t like, but don’t cut them out entirely. That doesn’t do anybody any good.

The best way to know movies is to watch movies. So start watching.

http://bplusmovieblog.com

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