Here are my favorites that we saw in 2014, regardless of when they were released. I’ve broken them into random categories, though it’s still hard/ silly to compare works of art to each other.
Okay, only three of the above are nominated for Best Picture, but I think “Into the Woods” and “Wild” should have been. They are in order of my preference from Left to Right.
Maybe it was due to extreme high expectations, but I found “Boyhood” a disappointment. I enjoyed some scenes and the music (a bit heavy-handed at times). “Grand Budapest Hotel” was great fun, but like “American Hustle” last year, not much more to it. The two best songs of “Into the Woods” were ignored by the movie (“Children Will Listen” got thrown to the credits and “No More” was made an instrumental), and still I loved it. “Birdman”---in my opinion---was brilliant. Entertaining and original---about the struggle to matter, to make something true, and the terrible temptation to listen to your ego.
I wish these five were the only action movies I saw, but there were more: “Rush”, “Fury”, “Elysium”. For record, Brian did see “Fault in Our Stars” with me.
I did not enjoy “Interstellar”, which seemed to last f o r e v e r, and lose its way during the last hour. “Edge of Tomorrow” felt like a violent video game, but had just enough “Groundhog Day” thought behind it to make it interesting. And Emily Blunt who can do no wrong.
And the truth is, I LOVED “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Great casting helps when a movie requires such a great suspension of disbelief. We then watched all the other ones in May and June (yes, I saw the last one first, but it still worked), so between the movies and Aidan reading all the graphic novels, it was the summer of X-Men around here.
We went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” during our house-hunting trip in July. We were all desperate to escape our own worries and fears at the time, so we loved it even though we felt a little horrified that Nolan saw it. Definitely aimed at teens not littles. It also became the soundtrack of our summer/year.
All year I was hoping for something as sweet, imperfect and original as my favorite in 2012. “Short Term 12” was excellent; we rented it last January, and it has stayed with me. But…it wasn’t call-all-your-friends-and-insist-they-watch-it-now-amazing.
“Begin Again” was delightful, though the music was forgettable (for me). “In A World” was hilarious, especially her relationship with her dad. “Enough Said” was quirky and crazy and so good, but I had one small hang up. The same small hang up with “Chef,” which seemed to have the potential to be great but was edited so oddly and ended so abruptly.
Here’s my issue: can you imagine Molly McCarthy as the chef with Hugh Jackman as her ex and Jake Gyllenhaal as her maître d'/lover, and not one review saying that was unrealistic casting? Obviously the double-standard exists outside of Hollywood too, but come on? (To his credit, I heard Jon Favreau interviewed about his casting and he justified it with the line, “That tells you just how good his cooking must be.”)
All that said, I’d love a movie with Julia Lewis-Dreyfus and Jon Favreau as the leads because I so enjoy them. They seem like Hollywood anomalies---both married to their respective spouses since forever, and both seem to really enjoy their work. I like that in a person.
Movies You Saw Last Year that I Saw This Year
There were others. Despite the crazy length of this post, I’m not including everything. I loved “Nebraska,” enjoyed “Inside Llewyn Davis,” thought “Her” was the most depressing, beautifully shot movie, and, because I had extremely low expectations and watched it all by myself, adored “August: Osage County.”
My sweet boys took me to see “Frozen” and I loved it. My sister Mimi gave me the soundtrack and it was another theme for the whole year. The boys insisted that Brian and I had to see Big Hero 6 after their grandmother took them to it. I loved it because they loved it, but come on, do all animated movies have to be so sad? “How I Trained my Dragon 2” was excellent, but also crazy sad and intense.
I don’t care what wins the Oscar because “The Lego Movie” was one of the best movies, animated or life-action, of 2014. Our expectations were high and it didn’t disappoint. The piece of resistance? The Kragle? Brilliant. And Batman. And our beloved Chris Pratt. Maybe because we have our own “man upstairs” who is tempted to keep the Star Wars ships up on a shelf (though he has never threatened to use Krazy Glue), we laughed and loved this movie as a family.
We watched “Jaws” with Aidan this summer, and it is just perfect. The script, the casting, even the silly shark. Aidan campaigned hard for “Terminator”---for two years. I can’t even remember now what were the final terms of our bargain, but we gave in, with lots of fast-forwarding and skipping much of the violent opening. I remember the first time I saw it and being terrified, but there were key scenes I had never seen. My brother filled me in that the video we watched in high school had been heavily edited. A-ha!
Aidan loved the 2nd one even more and went as T-800 for Halloween.
Brian and I saw “To Have and Have Not” on the big screen shortly after Lauren Bacall died. It’s not my favorite Bogie, but it was still fascinated to watch the man I adored as a kid. A quirky kid for sure.
Bri also watched “Ordinary People” with me late one night, and afterward he turned to me and asked, “This is the movie you were obsessed with in high school?” Yes. It too is perfect in so many ways. Granted, there are a dozen movies I obsessed over during those years, but “Ordinary People” was on a LOT in our house. It deserves a blog post of it own, but suffice to say, watching it all these years later, I now understood just why I loved it so much way back then---and can see how much all those viewings influenced me.
Movies the Critics Hated (and maybe you did too?) but I LOVED:
We finally saw it this year right after our trip to Mexico. Funniest thing ever. Bizarre and crazy and either you will love it or hate it. I so love it. Also---the most quotable movie ever.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is my favorite movie of 2014.
Again, not everyone’s cup of tea. There is a non sequitur riff on “Benjamin Button” that is ridiculous, unessential, and completely hilarious. Plus, I live with Walter-like day-dreaming boys, and we were on the floor watching it. We rented it again on my birthday, and it is now a revered classic in our home.
Would I have loved it if I had paid full price and saw it in a theater? If I had watched it without my sons? Don’t know. But I do know that the timing, the company, all of that is a huge part of why I love what I love.
Also---the best soundtrack of the year.
If you’ve read this whole crazy-long post, you deserve an Oscar or some kind of trophy. If you saw a great movie that didn’t make my list, please mention it in the comments. Especially if you have that elusive imperfect-but-sweet-&-original indie to recommend!