Top 10 Films of 2014

The Crimson Arts board presents its cinematic favorites of the year, from "The Grand Budapest Hotel" to "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Tony Revolori, and Paul Schlase take an elevator in "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Courtesy of Indian Paintbrush

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the movie to watch if you want your yearly allowance of twee in one whimsical go. Set against the backdrop of a 20th-century resort overtaken by a Naziesque occupying army, the film sees Wes Anderson reprise many of his old standbys: meticulously symmetrical shots, sans serif fonts, deadpan humor, and the shimmering creature known to us mere earthlings as Tilda Swinton. While not Anderson’s best work—his candy-colored treatment of fascism ultimately strikes this critic as inappropriate—the film is, in keeping with the rest of his œuvre, a dazzlingly beautiful, meticulously rendered work of art. —Erica X Eisen

2. Boyhood

If you were born in the ’90s, the opening minutes of “Boyhood,” appropriately tracked to Coldplay's Y2K anthem “Yellow,” might feel oddly reminiscent of the childhood home videos your parents insist that you watch with them when you're back for the holidays. Director Richard Linklater's novel approach to long-term filmmaking garnered him rave reviews from every corner of the field of film criticism, but the universal acclaim of “Boyhood” is rooted in something more than pure technical appreciation. For the critics who grew into the soul-searching, free-spirited artiste-hood of protagonist Mason, played by the philosophical and prematurely bearded Ellar Coltrane, “Boyhood” isn't just a film. It's a reflection—and a revelation. —Victoria Lin

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

If you thought Marvel was on the decline after the not terrible but stale "Thor" and "Captain America" sequels, let “Guardians of the Galaxy” serve as a beacon of hope that the studio is still taking chances. After all, what other summer blockbuster has cast Vin Diesel as a talking tree who can only say one hilarious sentence? What other film has invested in Chris Pratt as a bona fide live-action leading man? “Guardians of the Galaxy” succeeds thanks to a planet-sized pile of faux-”Star Wars” space operatics and plain old slapstick comedy, but beware: this writer has had Blue Suede’s 1974 version of “Hooked on a Feeling” stuck in his head since August (not necessarily a bad thing). —Tree A. Palmedo

4. Gone Girl

Advertisement

David Fincher glories in crafting detestable characters: on removing that key source of audience engagement in his films and drawing the viewer in anyhow. The various twists and turns of “Gone Girl” do nothing to engender sympathetic characters, even when they absolve someone of potential guilt. But despite how little the viewer may care for the protagonists’ happiness, “Gone Girl” is still the quintessential edge-of-your-seat, armrests-gripped thriller, the sort of film whose two and a half hours pass in a blur of needing to know just what will happen next. —Grace E. Huckins

5. The Lego Movie

As Hollywood capitalizes on classic childhood toys, rarely does it produce a meaningful work (remember “Battleship”?). At most, the attempts are enjoyable for their hilariously terrible production or sentimental value. But the evocation of nostalgia is not the only reason why “The Lego Movie” is a gem. The animation is colorful and vivid, and the voice actors masterfully encapsulate their roles: Chris Pratt gives hero Emmett suitable enthusiasm, and Will Arnett captures Batman down to the growl. And though the story is predictable, its themes add a heartfelt dimension to an already technically impressive work. The result is a smart, sassy product that will encourage other films to transcend cliché animated tropes. —Ha D.H. Le

6. Dear White People

After making its award-winning debut at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, “Dear White People” has been extremely well received by audiences and critics alike, scoring an impressive 91 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. This film chronicles the struggles faced both personally and collectively by the black student body at a fictional Ivy League college, addressing issues from the structural racism that affects the college admissions process to the challenges of interracial dating. Writer and director Justin Simien uses his medium to expertly mock and debunk black stereotypes, creating a dynamic and compelling cast of characters. —Abby L. Noyes

6. The Fault in Our Stars

On June 6, John Green’s teen cancer love story made the transition from the page to the screen. While some criticized the film for sentimentalizing Green’s unflinching portrait of dying high schoolers, praise for the screenplay and for Shailene Woodley’s performance was effusive. In addition to flurries of tissues on movie theater floors, the film precipitated $304 million in ticket sales, a New Yorker article dissecting the cult of John Green, a formidable TFIOS hashtag, and hours upon hours of radio play for Charli XCX’s “Boom Clap.” —Emma R. Adler

Advertisement

8. Interstellar

“Interstellar” is, quite literally, the year’s biggest movie. You can see it in IMAX theaters as well as normal-sized ones. The director is Christopher Nolan of “Inception,” “Memento,” and “The Dark Knight” fame, Hollywood’s own Hamlet with his bad dreams, ruminating male loners, and, in the case of “Interstellar,” truly infinite space. In the future, ex-NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) leaves a dying Earth to find new planets capable of sustaining human life. The script and directing are not always subtle, but superb acting (by a cast including Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway) meet with formidable special effects to more than compensate. —Victoria Zhuang

9. Snowpiercer

Listen, if you’re looking for a graphic novel-turned-South Korean popcorn flick with linear one-versus-a-thousand fight scenes and a hilariously inevitable twist ending, you should watch “Oldboy” (not Spike Lee’s steamer, the 2003 original). “Snowpiercer” is okay for second place, though. Chris Evans shows off all the versatility that landed him the role of Johnny Storm, Tilda Swinton is weirdly convincing as a live-action “Wallace and Gromit” villain, and the Marxism isn’t too stifling. Lingering question: why a movie, and not “BioShock 4”? —Will Holub-Moorman

9. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Boasting an incredible ensemble cast that combines characters from “X-Men: First Class” and the original “X-Men” trilogy, “Days of Future Past” is undeniably the best superhero film of the past several years. Wolverine’s mind is sent back to the 1970s to prevent an apocalyptic mutant genocide, and he must collaborate with the hotheaded younger versions of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) while their older selves (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) protect his body in the present. Notably, “Days of Future Past” acts as an unexpected retcon to the critically panned “X-Men 3” and sets the stage for a highly anticipated sequel featuring the supervillain Apocalypse. —Alan R. Xie

 

Advertisement

 

 

Tags

Film Year in Review Arts