Friday, February 20, 2015

Oscar Forecast 2015: “Birdman” with a Good Chance of “Boyhood”

Update: It was a great show! A Birdman win for Best Picture is one of the Academy's more outlandish choices in recent memory. It's a great choice; I'm intrigued to see how this win looks years from now. Birdman picked up 4 awards as did Grand Budapest. Whiplash did rather well with 3 wins. The Academy really shared the love: every Best Picture nominee won at least one award. I didn't do as great with my predictions with only 16 out of 24 correct. Better luck next year I guess. 

“This is the closest Best Picture race in all the years I've been watching the Academy Awards.” This is exactly what I said last year about the race between “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave.” As it turns out, it's a year later, and things are just as up in the air. It’s another real race. It’s enough to give someone like me heart palpitations. This time it appears to be a race between two of the most unlikely Best Picture frontrunners of all time: the 12 years in the making little indie “Boyhood” and the irreverent show business dramedy “Birdman.” Many of the other races are very close but perhaps, like last year, there won’t be all that many surprises so we’ll just have to wait and see. I can’t imagine there will be a “Gravity” like sweep. I can’t see a film winning more than about 4 awards. If things turn out the way I think, "Birdman," my prediction for Best Picture will only walk away with three wins which in the past seemed impossible, but nowadays it seems to be the trend. Here are my fearless predictions…

Best Picture
Who Will Win: “Birdman.” After having “Boyhood” as my pick for months I’ve officially switched over to “Birdman.” When it comes down to it “Boyhood” could easily win here, but I have to go with the fact that “Birdman” has nearly swept the previous guild awards. No film since “Apollo 13” has lost Best Picture after winning the SAG, DGA, and PGA awards (and we all know “Apollo 13” lost because Rod Howard wasn’t even nominated). The fact that “Birdman” doesn’t have an editing nomination gives me traumatic flashbacks to incorrectly predicting “Brokeback Mountain,” – as no film has won best picture without at least being nominated for Editing since 1980’s “Ordinary People” – but stats were meant to be broken. Boyhood did also win BAFTA, but honestly, flip a coin at this point. And if it were to win, it’d be the closest the Academy has ever gotten, and probably ever will, to rewarding a superhero film for Best Picture.
Who Should Win: “Boyhood.” Frankly, I’d be happy if either film won for two main reasons: first, they’re awesomely entertaining and well-made films, and two, they each represent a great leap forward for the Academy. These two films would have never even been in the conversation 10 or even 5 years ago. A part of me wishes even “Whiplash” would win; all three films are some of my favorites of the year.
Should Have Been Nominated: “Nightcrawler”

Best Director
Will Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu, “Birdman.” He surprisingly won the DGA so he’s the odds on favorite to win here as well. Linklater really COULD win, as arguably both would be extremely deserving, but I’m going with history here.
Should Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu, “Birdman.” Flip a coin in deed, even if Boyhood is my favorite film of the year, I can’t deny the stupefyingly awesome directorial achievement that is “Birdman.”
Should Have Been Nominated: Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash.”

Best Actor
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.” There hasn’t been this close of a Best Actor race since 2003 when Adrien Brody shocked the world and won for “The Pianist.” Could Bradley Cooper be a surprise winner even though it feels strictly between Redmayne and Keaton? Sure. Redmaybe has won most of the previous awards and he has the benefit of playing a real life person in a respected Best Picture nominee. I always had a sneaking suspicion, however, that if Keaton were to win here than Birdman was definitely going to win Best Picture in a sweep but I still feel like at this point it’s Redmayne’s to lose.
Should Win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman.” Oh don’t make me choose. Redmayne and Keaton are both excellent though as many have said what Keaton has done is just dazzling to watch.
Should Have Been Nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler.”

Best Actress
Will Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice.” No contest. (Although the last time the frontrunner was someone who played a character with Alzheimer’s Marion Collitard won, just saying. It won’t happen).
Should Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice.” She’s been nominated four previous times and has yet to win. Even if her movie is a little scene indie, she’s great in it and actually deserves it.
Should Have Been Nominated: Scarlett Johansson, “Under the Skin”

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.” One of the sure things of the night.
Should Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.” And he deserves it.
Should Have Been Nominated: Miyavi, “Unbroken.”

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood.” Whether “Boyhood” wins Best Picture or not, this is at least one guarantee win for the film. If Arquette can’t even win this, there’s no way it’s winning Best Picture.
Should Win: “Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood.” The movie could have easily been titled “Motherhood.” Arquette gives a great, realistic and rather natural performance and remains the heart of the entire film.
Should Have Been Nominated: Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler.”

Best Adapted Screenplay 
Will Win: “Whiplash.” The frontrunner really is “The Imitation Game” is really the most obvious likely winner, though I’m uncertain how much love the Academy is going to give it. It’s won some screenplay awards so far, but has yet to go up against “Whiplash” which the Academy has placed here instead of in Original Screenplay. Sometimes indies find love here, like “Precious” a few years back. Is “The Imitation Game” going to be this year’s “American Hustle” and go home empty handed? It’s possible, though if it wins anything it does here.

Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The Academy might as well call Best Quirky Screenplay as so many strange and unusual, but brilliant, films have deservedly won this category. “Birdman” COULD win here, but films with multiple writers (there are four here) are a rarity in these categories for some reason. If “Birdman” really is going to win best picture, I feel like it could end up taking this too, but Budapest seems most likely. 

Best Animated Feature Film
Will Win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” Much has been already been said about “The LEGO Movie’s” shocking snub so I won’t go into that, but I believe it’s basically a race between Disney and DreamWorks. I give the edge to “Dragon” because if “Wreck-It Ralph” can’t win then “Big Hero 6” can’t.

Best Cinematography
Will Win: “Birdman.” No contest. In a perfect world, Roger Deakins would finally get his due and take home a deserved Oscar for “Unbroken.” However, the nominees’ names aren’t on the actual ballot, therefore the year’s most obviously amazing cinematic achievement will take it, giving Mr. Lubezki’s second win in a row.
Best Costume Design
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I can see arguments being made for other films like “Into the Woods” or even “Maleficent” but those movies aren’t nearly as respected as “Budapest.” There’s also a strong link between this category and Production Design where it’s also almost guaranteed a win.

Best Documentary - Feature
Will Win: “Citizenfour.” The Documentary branch made a big mistake in snubbing “Life Itself” which would have been the presumed frontrunner. “Citizenfour” is arguably the most well-known of the nominees and feels “important.” Though arguments for the other films could be made.

Best Documentary - Short Subject
Will Win: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.” Your guess is as good as mine.

Best Film Editing
Will Win: “Boyhood.” I’m so conflicted about this one. Honestly, it baffles me that “Birdman” isn’t here, but it doesn’t have obvious editing since the film is presented as if it’s shot in one take (which it isn’t). “Boyhood” isn’t the flashiest of edited films but it has twelve years of footage edited down into a coherent feature. And there’s “Whiplash” the more obviously edited film that many people seem to like. It could go either way. Last year I went on a limb predicting “Captain Philips” and it didn’t turn out that way, so I’m going with “Boyhood.” This is going to be a key category to watch on Sunday. If “Boyhood” does win, it very well could win Best Picture. If it loses here, there’s no way it’s winning the big prize… which makes me wonder why I’m picking it here in the first place.

Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: “Ida.” There actually isn’t that one obvious choice this year. “Ida” did get some other love in the Cinematography category but there’s no real popular frontrunner. I’ve also heard good things about “Wild Tales” which some people seem to be selecting.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” If you’re going on sheer amount of impressive makeup then “Guardians” would take this, and it could since it’s a populist movie that everyone seems to like (and the similar Star Trek won this award before) and the work on “Foxcatcher” is subtle and extremely impressive, but at the end of the day I think they’ll reward the more respected film which features lots of facial hair, birth marks, and old age makeup which otherwise makes this a shoo-in. Though, and you heard it hear first, anything can happen here.

Best Original Score
Will Win: “The Theory of Everything.” I’m not 100% confident here but my rationale is that Alexandre Desplat will split his votes between “Imitation Game” and “Budapest;” Hans Zimmer’s “Intersetellar” score is amazing and was talked about a lot when the film came out but overall buzz for the film is down. And the guy who got a surprise nomination for “Mr. Turner” is happy to be nominated. The Academy has a strong record of rewarding new nominees in this category and that would be Johann Johannsson.
Best Original Song
Will Win: “Glory” from Selma. Many think this is a race between general snubs “Selma” and “The LEGO Movie.” I’ve heard rumbles of Glen Campbell getting the sympathy vote, but I think “Selma” will take it.

Best Production Design
Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I’d genuinely be surprised if anything else won.

Best Short Film – Animated
Will Win:
“The Dam Keeper.” Many are predicting another win for Disney with “Feast” which was shown in front of “Big Hero 6.” But besides the win for “Paperman” a couple years ago, Disney rarely wins here which is why I’m going with a different but similarly animated film.

Best Short Film – Live Action
Will Win:
“Boogaloo & Graham.” Your guess is as good as mine, it’s got cute kids and baby chickens. Though many are predicting “The Phone Call” mostly because it features well-known actress Sally Hawkins.

Best Sound Editing
Will Win: “American Sniper.” This seems the best logical place to reward this film. Loud films do will here, as so war and action films. This makes sense to me.

Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: “American Sniper.” Sometimes one film will take both sound awards, when it doesn’t it’s usually because one of the Sound Mixing nominees is a music-centric film which tend to do well here. While “Whiplash” does feature music, I feel this like little low budget movie is not quite the type of bombastic music driven film that usually takes this category, which is why I’m going with “American Sniper” to take both, though if “Whiplash” were to win it wouldn’t be terribly surprising. One more thing about “Whiplash” I’d like to mention… I’m wondering if “Whiplash” could be this year’s “Traffic” or “Jaws” and win all of the awards it’s nominated for except Best Picture. It’s possible. Heck, I wouldn’t even be shocked to see Birdman win this in a sweep ala “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: “Interstellar.” Usually a best Picture nominee ALWAYS wins here, though there is no Best Picture nominee in this category (a first since 2007 when “The Golden Compass” triumphed over “Transformers”). “Interstellar,” however, feels like the only Best Picture nominee of the bunch, since it does have a total of five nominations. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the only other one I can really see winning, since the other films will split the comic book vote.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Julianne Moore is Unforgettable in “Still Alice”

You pretty much know what you’re getting into when you see “Still Alice.” It’s about a a middle aged woman who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s as painful to watch as you’d think it would be. And yet it manages to be something more than just a standard disease-of-the-week melodrama. It’s rooted in interesting characters. Alice isn’t just anyone. She’s a highly intelligent woman who is a college professor. Does that make her descent into a debilitating disease more traumatic? Maybe a little but it’s a brilliant way to show the horrors of a disease that exists that unfortunately doesn’t have a cure. It’s also a terrific showcase for brilliant actress Julianne Moore who is finally eyeing her first Academy Award.

As a vessel for a potential Oscar winning performance, “Still Alice” is definitely above average. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about it. This isn’t “The Diving Bell & the Butterfly.” It’s not even “Terms of Endearment.” It is, however, a showcase for Moore who completely masters the screen and makes it look effortless in the process. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have made an honest and sincere film without ever making it feel manipulative. They have also gathered a pretty impressive cast. Kristen Stewart actually gives one of her best performances as Moore’s youngest daughter. She’s out in California trying to become an actress (not much of a stretch I admit, but she’s pretty excellent anyways). Meanwhile, her supportive husband is played by Alec Baldwin and her other kids are played by Kate Bosworth and Weeds’ Hunter Parrish.

This is the story of one of those wealthier families who have to deal with a traumatic situation. Sometimes it almost reminded me of a Woody Allen film. They’re an upper-class family but still relatable in that they seem like normal enough people. When Alice gets her diagnosis she’s stunned as is her family who are shocked to think Alice, who has only just turned 50, could be suffering from such a disease. But the real clinker is the fact that her disease is actually genetic and has learned she could pass it on to her children. It’s a heart wrenching situation that’s hard to witness but I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

Moore really owns the film. She begins as simply forgetting everyday things and memories but as her disease progresses you realize just how much of her memory is being ripped from her. To see this woman go from making words like “hadj” in Words with Friends to barely being able to spell “tone” is simply devastating.  Her descent is one of the toughest things to watch but Moore really sells it. Alice is a fascinating character and Moore is transfixing in the role.

“Still Alice” works as a terrific vehicle for Moore to finally get the Oscar she’s been so overdue to receive. Sure it may not be for Boogie Nights or even The Kids Are All Right but she could do a lot worse (at least it’s not a Holocaust drama). She even gets extra points for not having to portray a real life person; she creates a memorable character in an emotionally stirring film that is hard to forget.  GRADE: A- 

Trailer for Still Alice on TrailerAddict.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Spy Hard: “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a Kick-Ass Good Time

For anyone who dreaming of a cross between “Kick-Ass” and James Bond get their wish come true with “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It’s also a little “Kill Bill” and a little “Wanted.” In other words, it’s not the most original film to come along by any means but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer and utter fun and ultra-violence.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is based on the graphic novel of the same name and if the delightfully irreverent and violent film reminds you a bit of Wanted and Kick-Ass you wouldn’t be crazy: it’s from Mark Millar the same guy who wrote “Kick-Ass” (the film adaptation took me a while to actually enjoy). In this story he gives us an evil lisping villain played by Samuel L Jackson with plans for world domination. Meanwhile, a British spy organization is recruiting for a new member after one its agents is killed during a recent mission. Colin Firth is the man in the bulletproof suit and high-tech thick-rimmed glasses on the lookout for a new spy to fill the ranks. One of those recruits is the son of a former member Eggsy (played by relative newcomer Taron Egerton). Eggsy and his fellow teenage recruits are put in terrifying situation after another in order to weed out those who aren’t meant to be a secret agent. Things like being forced to almost drown or being thrown out of airplanes without a parachute. And how about raising a dog from a puppy and being forced to shoot it?

Director Matthew Vaughn (who also co-wrote the script and the graphic novel) just so happened to cut his teeth on similar material having directed Kick-Ass as well. He gives us all the trademark scenes of fast moving “cool” action and fighting and it is rather exhilarating. He manages to take moments and scenes we’ve seen countless times and make them feel fresh and original. Oh, and it’s also utterly ridiculously as you quickly realize this material is beyond taking seriously. The terrific James Bond tone that is also achieved also works wonders. The James Bond series has never been known for its overt violence so to see so many decapitations and other limbs being chopped off is rather effective. He’s also helped create such a memorable henchman villain known as Gazelle who, while legless is certainly the most deadly and crazy villains I’ve seen in some time.

The real standout here is Egerton in a role that is sure to bring the talent young man instantaneous fame. He works really well with Colin Firth who seems to be having a blast in the role as is Michael Caine and Mark Strong as fellow Kingsman agents. There is a delightful old school feel to the film, perhaps it’s the sheik look of the suits, and the over-the-top villainy, but there’s a certain suave and cool quality that the film possesses which just makes it so damned fun from beginning to end.  GRADE: B+ 

Trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service on TrailerAddict.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Drummers, Olympians, and Nightcrawlers, Oh My! The Best Films of 2014

Better late than never. 2014 was a terrific year for film; and a rather diverse year at that. If anything, I sort of with there were more standout horror films. Nothing could beat last year’s triple punch of The Purge, The Conjuring, and You’re Next. And where were all the really great comedies? There were a few keepers like Neighbors, The Interview, and 22 Jump Street, but there was no truly remarkable classic; there was no “Bridesmaids.” Otherwise I have hardly anything to complain about with 2014. In fact it was so hard coming up with just a Top 10 that I had enough movies to make a full Top 20. It must also be said that I had trouble actually deciding which movie should be first. Any movie in my top 5 could have been my favorite, I actually see them all pretty much equally. So, enjoy. (Click the movie's title to be taken to my original review)

1) Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)

I had no problem coming up with a list of my favorite films from the year, but I had a difficult time coming up with my absolute favorite. “Boyhood” is a remarkable achievement, besides the fact that it was a twelve year project for its cast and crew, it says something great about life and can mean something different for everyone. I was hesitant to see a nearly three hour film which, from what I had heard, doesn’t have much of a plot. It doesn’t; it’s very much full of strung together vignettes of ordinary life. But it’s oh so fascinating anyways. As the parents Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are at the top of their game and even if the kids aren’t quite as seasoned, they’re rather impressive in a naturalistic way. Richard Linklater has never been a favorite director of mine (this might be the only film of his I actually really like, crazy I know) though seeing at how great Boyhood makes me want to check out some of his other films. It’s definitely a must-see, once in a lifetime type of movie.

2) Gone Girl (dir. David Fincher)

Never underestimate David Fincher paired with a popular pulpy best-selling novel. I didn’t know much about Gone Girl going in and boy was I surprised. I can’t imagine would it would be like having read the book before seeing the movie because it would have been horribly spoiled (That was my anti-reading PSA for the day). “Gone Girl” is yet another masterpiece. It’s stylish, exciting, and so twisted and fun I wish the film were even longer. Fincher and his cast and crew never give us a wasted minute in a gripping story about society’s general fascination with the media. Rosamund Pike is simply outstanding as woman who goes missing. For a movie full of secrets and shocking twists, the marketing department actually did an outstanding job selling this movie. How this movie only got one Oscar nomination I’ve never know.

3) Whiplash (dir. Damien Chazelle)

I had keep hearing about how the drama “Whiplash,” about a first year drumming student in a prestigious music conservatory, worked almost like a thriller. I thought, “Well maybe he kills someone with his sticks or something and has to cover up the crime?” No, there are do dead bodies or car chases or murders to be had in “Whiplash” but it’s every bit as thrilling. Heck, I’d even call it Hitchcockian. The way the film is shot and edited makes it absolutely suspenseful. The film is basically a game of cat and mouse between a first year drumming student (Miles Teller) and his ruthless instructor (Oscar nominee J.K. Simmons). Simmons has a rather extreme teaching style and Teller wants to be a great jazz musician. It’s an exciting, stupendously enthralling film that shouldn’t be missed whether you’re into music or not.

4) Nightcrawler (dir. Dan Gilroy)

“Nightcrawler” is sort of the darker, modern cousin to “Network.” Both are about the prices people are willing to pay for TV ratings. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a performance for the ages as Lou, a creepy guy who makes a living by any means necessary. He eventually falls into “nightcrawling” a term used to describe the camera guys who go around filming accident and crime scenes for local news stations. He meets news producer Nina (Rene Russo), who is willing to put anything on the air. Moral and ethical lines are crossed as the viewer is constantly pulled into this dark, strange world. The film is a tenacious work, helmed by a first time filmmaker who is in top form. The film is thrilling from start to finish.

5) Unbroken (dir. Angelina Jolie)

I still think it’s sort of odd that Angelina Jolie directed a World War II epic. I also think it’s odd that I find it to be one of the most moving films of the year. It’s certainly the only film that has brought a tear to my eye. For some reason, while watching “Unbroken” I became strangely captivated by the true story of Louie Zamperini, an Italian-American Olympic athlete and Army veteran who during WW2 had to survive over a month on the ocean after his plane went down, only to end up as a prisoner of war in a Japanese detention camp. It’s a story so ridiculous and unbelievable that it could only happen in real life. Jack O’Connell is simply amazing in the role of Louie and it’s gorgeously photographed by the one and only Roger Deakins. On paper this is a film that feels like it was made to win awards (ironically, and disappointingly it was only nominated in 3 technical categories at the Oscars) but I found it to be an engrossing, beautiful, and altogether uplifting story of survival. It’s not the easiest film to watch but I was transfixed by every minute of it.

6) Birdman (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

The fantastic “Birdman” is really something to behold. First off, it’s a film that only genius cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki could have shot because it’s presented as if it were shot in one take. It’s sort of like the black comedy version of Alfred Hitchcock’s experimental “Rope.” Of course, the film wasn’t shot in a single take and it’s the genius of the film’s editor which holds that distinction. The movie tells the story of a washed up actor known for a trio of hit superhero films (a wonderful Michael Keaton in a role tailor-made for him) who decides to reinvent himself by writing, directing, producing, and staring in a Broadway play. On the brink of opening night he’s also in the midst of having a complete mental breakdown. The film features a solid ensemble with great turns by Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts among others. A truly amusing cinematic experience that demands to be seen more than once.

7) Guardians of the Galaxy (dir. James Gunn)

Who can complain about superhero movie fatigue when we’re giving such great films as “Guardians of the Galaxy?” The film is superb on every level. The film is less concerned with fitting in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more about entertaining the heck out of its audience. It has all the fun of Indiana Jones and Star Wars all in one. The film wisely makes the main character instantly relatable  as Star Lord is a human being (played terrifically by Chris Pratt) who’s love of the songs of the 60s and 70s makes him one of the more memorable comic book characters of recent memory. He joins up with a ragtag group of intergalactic beings to help save the galaxy. It’s sheer fun from beginning to end with an intelligent and witty script, solid action scenes, outstanding effects, and one of the most memorable soundtracks in quite some time. This movie is fun with a capital F.

8) Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan)

One of the most divisive films of the year is also one of the most memorable and all-out cinematic. The lengths Christopher Nolan takes to show us stuff we’ve never seen before is truly amazing. The story isn’t something we haven’t seen before but he really takes things to the next level. In the not too distant future, the Earth is dying and the only way to save humanity is to explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy for a new home. The film is truly remarkable and it’s on a scale that defies classification. Hans Zimmer’s organ-infused score is mind-boggling amazing and it’s matched with dazzling visuals that only someone like Christopher Nolan can give us. And he doesn’t take the easy way out either: the film’s oft contended ending is something you either go with or you don’t; it’s certainly nothing you’re expecting. It’s a truly remarkable cinematic journey that literally meant to be seen on large IMAX screens.

9) Snowpiercer (dir. Joon-ho Bong)

If you had asked me earlier this year if a movie from a Korean director would be one of my favorites of the year I’d say you were crazy. Of course, it’s a (mostly) English-spoken film with a strong foreign film weirdness to it that somehow works. It’s the story that’s truly fascinating: in the future, the survivors of Earth’s global warming crisis are forced to live aboard a non-stop train that circles a snow-covered Earth. A class system has developed aboard the train with the poor tail people eventually leading a revolution. This stylish sci-fi thriller features cool effects and outstanding production design. Also, a standout is the ever weird Tilda Swinton playing one of her strangest characters; she could be Effie Trinket’s crazy cat lady aunt. Familiar faces show up including Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, and Ed Harris in one the year’s most flat out entertaining and bizarre films.

10) Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Speaking of bizarre films, is there anything more downright weird made this year (or any year) than “Under the Skin?” I didn’t know what to even make of the film on first viewing. The film stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien who is sent to Earth to seduce and kill men. I think. That’s the easiest way to describe it. The film is of note in that there is nary an instance of exposition. You have to glean from the film what it gives you. You have to piece together the characters and story. Sure, it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. The film’s ultrarealistic approach (even utilizing the hidden filming of unaware passerbys) is juxtaposed with some of the strangest images ever put to film. Johannson is revelatory in this truly original fish-out-of-water tale. It’s like some strange mashup of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and David Cronenberg. It was a movie I couldn’t stop thinking about… and then days went by, and I still couldn’t stop. Oh, and that score. Geez that score.

And because ten just aren’t enough, here are ten more amazing films from this year:

11) Chef

Don’t watch Chef when you’re hungry. This simply delightful concoction from writer/director Jon Favreau is sort of like a live-action Ratatouille. Favreau is a restaurant chef who, after a bizarre confrontation with a food critic, goes out and starts up his own food truck company. Perfectly shot sequences of food being prepared and eaten follow in one of the most charming and fun movies of the year.

At this point Bennett Miller is a forced to be reckoned with. He’s only directed three films and they have all either been nominated for best picture (Capote, Moneyball) or he’s been nominated for Best Director (Capote, Foxcatcher). He also apparently likes one word titles. Foxcatcher is a fascinating docudrama about eccentric billionaire John Du Pont and his bizarre relationship with wrestler Mark Schultz and his brother David which eventually leads to tragedy. Steve Carrell gives an explicably disturbing performance, but the real standout is Channing Tatum as the introverted wrestling star. A slow-building, cold psychological thriller.

There was no bigger surprise this year than Edge of Tomorrow. When the trailers hit, this seemed to look like any other Tom Cruise sci-fi action thriller. It looked like Aliens meets Groundhog Day. But then everyone saw the movie and was blown away by it. Emily Blunt and Cruise make an amazing team, the design of the aliens is fantastic, and the film is the epitome of fun. See it.

14) Life Itself

This moving documentary about late critic Roger Ebert failed to gain an Oscar nomination but that doesn’t take away from its delightful brilliance. Documentarian Steven James (Hoop Dreams, which was one of Ebert’s favorite films) followed Ebert around for the past few years during the days of his deteriorating health following emergency surgery from throat cancer. We see Ebert, who lost his ability to speak after most of his jaw was removed, as he prepares for recovery. This is juxtaposed with his entire career as a film critic, film lover, and even screenwriter – we get to see the ups and down (and even fights with his late co-star and frenemy Gene Siskel). It’s a terrific documentation of a beautiful, admirable person’s life and a must-see for anyone who’s obsessed with movies like Ebert was.

The first of many comic book films that were released this year and it surprised many, myself included. What made the first Captain America so great was its World War II setting and style. To me, the film resembled The Avengers without the Avengers. Boy was I wrong. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a stylish and taut action thriller. It’s arguably one of the best Marvel films and certainly one of the best comic book films of recent memory. Can’t wait for the next one.

Notice how you can’t describe The LEGO Movie without mentioning that it’s awesome? Because it is. This funny, clever animated hit, which quickly permeated everyone’s pop culture subconscious with its witty humor and disturbingly catchy tune “Everything is Awesome” is the Toy Story for today’s audience. There’s no description that can do this sometimes bizarre, sometimes frenetic, always fun, piece of pop art justice.

17) Enemy

If “Under the Skin” is the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen, then “Enemy” is the second weirdest. This strange thriller, from the director last year’s “Prisoners,” is an Alfred Hitchcock/David Lynch hybrid of strange but fascinating proportions. Jake Gyllenhaal is a regular joe with a boring life, but he likes movies. After renting a movie he’s never seen before he notices an actor in it who is his spitting image. He decides to track the guy down and confront what seems to be his long lost twin. This is a weird, trippy movie that is surely not for everyone (and it makes for a great double feature with equally bizarro “Under the Skin”) and it features probably the most shocking, random, and downright scary ending to a movie I’ve ever seen.

18) The Babadook

I wouldn’t say 2014 was a banner year for the horror genre but there were a few shining moments here and there. One of which was the little seen Australian thriller “The Babadook.” The story concerns a single mother dealing with the recent death of her husband and trying to raise her trouble young son alone. The Babadook is a creepy character from  what appears to be the most disturbing children’s book ever written and how he begins to sort of become part of this woman and her son’s lives. It sort of reminded me of “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” in a way and it definitely worth checking out for horror fans everywhere.

An underrated superhero film unjustly ripped to shreds for some reason, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is even better than the first one (but “Spider-Man 2” remains the ultimate Spidey flick) as it features terrific performances (with such good chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield that it’s literally electric), outstanding special effects, and a pulse-poundingly awesome Hans Zimmer score. Many thought the film was overstuffed with villains, but I thought everything was perfectly balanced; this is definitely no Spider-Man 3.

20) Wild

Reese Witherspoon hasn’t been this charming since winning an Oscar for 2005’s “Walk the Line;” so it therefore makes sense why she’s nominated again. “Wild” is another terrific true life story from the director of last year’s “Dallas Buyers Club.” The film is full of great performances, though Reese is alone throughout most of it, and the movie’s fragmented narrative is a delightful journey of redemption.

And just for the heck of it, these movies were great as well:

Big Hero 6


The Interview

Into the Woods

And here's a fun tribute to the year that was 2014: