I love it when people argue about whether a certain year was “good” or “bad” for film. It is one of the sillier movie debates a person can have, ranking only behind “Best Adam Sandler Movie” and “Worst Moment in the Star Wars Prequels.” Every year is a good year for film, if you know which ones to seek and avoid. Lemme help with that.
The Worst Five Movies of 2014
5 – The Giver
To call the work that Jeff Bridges has been doing lately “suspect” is to call Charles Manson “a little off.” This one takes the cake though, as this boring and lifeless slog through a beloved tale was as dead on arrival as an animal shipped via UPS in an airtight package.
4 – Need for Speed
I almost want to give them points for irony, in that nothing in this movie moves along in a timely fashion. This Fast and Furious clone was supposed to launch Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad” boy to megastar. Whoops.
3 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Sony made a Spider-Man movie that was so bad, the company gave creative control of the character back to Marvel Studios. Superhero movies are a license to print money, and Sony saw what they did here and said “We’re sorry. You can have it back.”
2 – A Million Ways to Die in the Old West
Racist, sexist and stupid, this isn’t satire, it’s poop in a hat…which is a thing that actually happens in this movie. We knew Mel Brooks. Mel Brooks was a friend of ours. Seth McFarlane, you’re no Mel Brooks.
1 – Interstellar
Primarily because it broke my heart with disappointment, but also because too many people actually liked this movie, Interstellar was just the worst. Unfathomably stupid and hilariously sad, I want to pretend this never happened.
The Top 10 Movies of 2014
Honorable Mentions – Under the Skin, Ida, Snowpiercer, Ping-Pong Summer, 22 Jump Street, Frank, Boyhood, The Signal, Gone Girl
10 –The Grand Budapest Hotel
When I marginally panned Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, the hipsters came for me on Twitter with pitchforks and torches. My friends, I was branded a “hater.” I believed we had seen the limited scope of what Anderson was capable of creating. I love being wrong. Funny, charming, unique and a complete departure for Anderson, I genuinely love this movie.
9 – Obvious Child
This comedy led by the thunderously talented Jenny Slate is a true watershed moment, not just for cinema but for pop culture as a whole. Here is a beautifully nuanced movie centered on a woman’s right to choose…in which no one challenges that right. Beyond that, ermahgerd is it funny.
8 – Selma
Just shut up, Academy. Failing to nominate Selma, a movie that is not only powerful but timely, outpaces even the time you awarded Best Picture to Crash and not Brokeback Mountain. Two scenes in this movie—a church bombing and an old man’s weeping—will haunt me forever.
7 – Noah
Like, what did people think was gonna happen if they gave Darren Aronofsky a buttload of money to make a movie about Noah’s ark? You’re lucky it wasn’t even weirder. Twisting the tale so that the second half is a slasher movie with Noah as Jason Voorhies was almost as brilliant as the profound theological questions it prompted.
6 – We Are the Best
What? You don’t automatically watch all Swedish movies about adolescent female punk bands? If Boyhood was an exemplary version of the oft-told male coming-of-age story, We Are the Best is one of the definitive creative works about girls on the fringe of womanhood. Also, it f**king rocks.
5 – Nightcrawler
Bubble Boy done made it, y’all. Somehow Jake Gyllenhaal has transformed into one of the best actors of our era. His performance here is diabolically perfect. Writer/director Dan Gilroy spits in the face of screenwriting 101, as his main character never evolves or changes. Oh, and if there was an award for “best scene of the year,” the final shootout in this one would be a shoo-in.
4 – Dear White People
How long we have waited for the next challenging, complex black filmmaker to produce a work that spits fire and truth about race relations in America? Dear White People is funny as hell, whip smart and features a breakout performance by Tessa Thompson and one of the most original characters I’ve seen in film in Lionel (Tyler James Williams). Writer/director Justin Simien’s film isn’t perfect, but considering the film’s origins on Kickstarter and the high-degree of difficulty, it deserves more respect. (Xanax)
3 – Edge of Tomorrow
This isn’t hyperbole: I’ve never seen worse marketing for a movie. Goofy title changes and a complete lack of awareness by the studio about the film’s quality explain why we’re not discussing this as one of the top-grossing films of the year. Easily the movie I’ve rewatched the most, this Groundhog’s Day meets X-Box’s “Halo” has a sense of humor, amazing action and my favorite character of the year: The Full-Metal Bitch.
2 – Guardians of the Galaxy
Warner Bros and DC can’t make a hit Superman film. Marvel just took a talking tree and murderous raccoon to the runner-up spot at the box office last year. This isn’t a superhero movie: it is a glorious cartoon space opera. For too long, we’ve suffered “serious blockbusters” that joylessly pout. Guardians is gleeful fun, a reminder that the joy of cinema spectacle is second to none.
1 – The Babadook
If you would have told me an Australian horror movie from a first-time director would top my list, I’d have laughed at you. It would have been rude and awkward, so I’m glad it didn’t happen. Jennifer Kent’s film is a scary parable, a creepy lament about the need to embrace grief that scared the living shit out of me. I hate horror movies by and large. Given that, consider what having The Babadook as my top film of 2014 says about how magnificent this film must be.