This was the year I realized that my annual goal of seeing pretty much every movie released in a given year was more impossible than ever. The reason for this is the exponential growth in the number of films now being released in the digital age. When I started doing these lists back in 2001, there were about 300 official releases per year; now it’s closer to 700. With that in mind, I’d like to start with a partial list of movies I meant to see in 2014, but just didn’t get to in time. Then, to acknowledge the relatively arbitrary nature of these lists in general, I’m listing my Top 10 in categories by which each film corresponds to another one from my Top 20 (only the Top 10 is ranked in order of preference). It’ll make more sense as you read it, I promise.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN (40 movies I didn’t see in time for this list, in alphabetical order): Bird People; The Boxtrolls; Calvary; Chef; Citizenfour; Coherence; The Congress; Enemy; Fading Gigolo; Filth; Force Majeure; Foxcatcher; Frank; Fury; Gloria; Happy Christmas; Ida; Joe; A Letter to Momo; Leviathan; Life After Beth; Like Father, Like Son; Lucy; Men, Women & Children; A Million Ways to Die in the West; Mr. Turner; Moebius; A Most Violent Year; Night Moves; Palo Alto; The Rocket; The Sacrament; St. Vincent; Song of the Sea; Starred Up; Stonehearst Asylum; Top Five; 22 Jump Street; Virunga; Wrinkles.
This film has Terry Gilliam’s fingerprints all over it, especially those of the Gilliam who made Twelve Monkeys (1995). But, here, the closest we get to Brad Pitt’s rambling genius is Michelle Monaghan in an adorable outfit. Better, though, is the lead performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, who has grown to have an incredibly commanding screen presence. From back in the days of Donnie Darko (2001) up until now, he’s steadily been growing on me as an actor. Then, when Brokeback Mountain (2005) came around, it all just clicked and I became one of those “insta-fans,” never looking back. Donnie Darko still sucks, but at least the guy is watchable now.
Source Code is an interesting film, directed by Duncan Jones (recall Moon from 2009). A man wakes up on a train, not knowing who he is or why he’s there. Everyone aboard seems to know him, and he seems to have a thing going with the gorgeous girl sitting across from him. Eight minutes after all of this is established, they all die. The train explodes, and our man wakes up again in a capsule of sorts (or maybe a grave, existentially) with a voice coming to him from a television set telling him this – he’s a soldier, Captain Colter Stevens, and part of an intense new system referred to as “source coding,” in which he is to travel back into a tragic accident in order to discover both what went wrong and who to blame. Read More
The most comforting thing about director Edward Zwick’s new foray into the rom-com world is that we can be pretty sure he won’t be doing it again. Love and Other Drugs was far from a success, and it’s understandable why. Think back to Sweet November (2001), Autumn in New York (2000), Stepmom (1998), or even Love Story (1970). You remember how banal those films were? This really isn’t any better. That isn’t to say that the film is without merit, or not at all enjoyable. It has merit, and it’s a ridiculously easy watch. It’s medicine that goes down smooth, but never gets to the symptoms.
Of course, it’s based on a memoir, Jamie Reidy’s Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, so when I go back and think about the film, I have to constantly remind, or maybe convince, myself that these are real people. This happened, for what it’s worth, probably not in the way the film presents it, but so rarely is that ever the case. In any event, these things are true – there was a Viagra salesman who met a woman with Parkinson’s Disease and they fell in love. Also, and the film never lets us forget it, Jerry Maguire (1996) was released around this time; Jake Gyllenhaal’s constant costume of blazers, plain tee, and Raybans suggest that’s all Jamie had in his closet.Read More