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Jared Mobarak’s Top 10 Films of 2014

Written by on December 31, 2014 

5. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

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Mesmerizing visuals, a singular central performance by Scarlett Johansson, and the provider of a bottom-less well of meaning, social commentary, and post-viewing intellectual discourse, Under the Skin is quite frankly a treasure in cinema’s new millennium. It’s definitely not for everyone, but those willing to give it a chance are going to at the very least partake in a theater-going experience like no other. Subtle sci-fi at its finest, you’ll either walk out halfway through or leave utterly shaken to your core.

4. Hellion (Kat Candler)

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The knocks on Candler‘s latest feature seem to stem from a place of stark drama overkill on behalf of the critics watching. Had they seen it before all those that already saturated the market, I wonder what the consensus would have been. For me it’s simply the type of film I love to watch. Emotionally powerful, I never felt manipulated once as each character progression occurs naturally until its inevitable climactic moment of nail-biting violence, stemming straight from the heart. Aaron Paul stands out as a broken father unable to let go of the love he thought would be forever and Josh Wiggins is a revelation as the wild yet sensitive son traveling a dangerous road to maturity.

3. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)

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I won’t lie: my love for this film is 80% due to its brilliant visual device. How can you not get drawn into the faux one-take from start to finish, with each entrance and exit of a character so meticulously timed and planned to seamlessly flow into the next room? Pile on the other 20% coming courtesy of some of 2014’s best acting from a rejuvenated Michael Keaton, a fantastically playful Ed Norton, and the scene-stealing bite of Emma Stone, and the story almost doesn’t matter. After all, the plot is super contrived and perfectly cyclical, but for this well-oiled machine of a film, it must be.

2. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)

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Precisely funny in the darkest way, considering a plot surrounding a priest awaiting his death by a parishioner searching for retribution against the Catholic church, this understated gem is all about its characters. Each is a little off-kilter; each a prospective suspect with the means and mindset to pull the trigger. Brendan Gleeson is at his best — conflicted, introspective, ever faithful — but so is John Michael McDonagh. I enjoyed The Guard enough, but the dialogue here is so sharp that I now see what everyone else did back then.

1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

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I didn’t give many films four stars this year (the top four entries here are it) and, until catching Whiplash, none hit me with the force that demanded I do so. The fact that it would be a breakout to finally give me that visceral punch to the gut makes it all the more astounding. Damien Chazelle‘s look into the dangerously volatile world of genius ran away with the 2014 crown before the last note of its mesmerizing, edge-of-your-seat climax cut to black. J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller‘s powerhouse performances highlight the whole, but this thing is so much more than its stellar parts.

See our year-end features and more of the best of 2014.

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