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Jack Giroux’s Top 10 Films of 2014

Written by on December 30, 2014 

FOXCATCHER

Let me tell you: being a critic isn’t easy. By the end of the year one has to rank their favorite films from the past 12 months. Plenty of films a critic may love don’t even come close to cracking their list or honorable mentions, and some of those movies go on to stick with a critic more than what did make their top 10, always making them look back, asking, “What was I thinking?”

Tough life, right?

Okay, not tough at all, but the point stands. Writing a top 10 is also a reminder of how lucky we are as film fans — unless the year in question blows. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with 2014. All kinds of great films came out this year, including a few that made my own top 10.

Honorable Mentions

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10. John Wick (David Leitch and Chad Stahelski)

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John Wick is a refreshingly streamlined action movie. There’s not an ounce of fat in David Leitch and Chad Stahelski‘s film, and Derek Kolstad‘s script gets right everything so many revenge pictures get wrong. The familial scenes in the Taken movies, for example, are an afterthought — crap you have to trudge through to get to the shootouts. Actual time and care was put into the set-up of John Wick. When Wick’s dog dies, it’s an earned moment for the character and the film. It’s a strangely heartfelt movie, and far more sincere than most pieces of Oscar bait. What follows that effective set-up is a wildly entertaining action movie, filled with a variety of set pieces, fun kills, style, and a world that begs for a sequel.

9. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)

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If there’s one movie I didn’t imagine would make my top 10 this year, it’s Birdman. For one, director Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s gorgeous misery porn generally isn’t for me. Second his ambitious dramedy was an all around enjoyable movie, but little more, on a first viewing. However, the film gets better and better over time. It’s about as subtle as the superhero movies it takes aim at, but also so funny, sad and imaginative. What makes Birdman a memorable experience isn’t the long take, but the relationship between Riggan (Michael Keaton) and his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone) — that’s what makes Birdman, both the character and movie, fly.

8. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)

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Here’s a movie that actually shows us what it’s about. Bennett Miller‘s drama is summed up best by its visual motif: a fog. There’s no easy answer to this tragic true-life story. One has to lean in to make sense of Miller’s film. There’s many ways to interpret the events in Foxcatcher, but, at its core, it’s a powerful (and outrageously funny) drama about two characters living in shadows, never living up to what they wanted to be. No matter how much money John Du Pont (Steve Carell) has, he’ll never be half the man David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) is, and how this eats away at Du Pont is chilling.

7. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)

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Jim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left Alive is a hypnotic romantic comedy that just so happens to follow vampires, played by the immensely lovable Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. The pair of vamps in Jarmusch’s film are more like hippie dopers than savage beasts — the hilariously mopey Adam hates the state of music and pop culture more than he does humans. Only Lovers Left Alive is an unabashedly romantic story. This is a movie with no shortage of style, cool tunes, or ideas, but it’s Adam and Eve that make it so delightful.

6. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

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Dan Gilroy‘s antihero, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), is the ultimate doer. He’s a driven loner with a childlike smile and a mind raised off the Internet. Bloom wants to be successful, but why? Every dime he makes is put back into his work. His cheap apartment and wardrobe goes unchanged through the entirety of Nightcrawler. Bloom wants to climb the ladder, but not for financial gain. This is an unforgettable character study, Gilroy’s directorial debut brimming with confidence and nailing every chance it takes. The same goes for Gyllenhaal, who completely disappears behind Louis Bloom’s dead eyes.

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