Top 15 Films of 2014 – Allen’s Picks
Another year, another end of year movie list.
2014 was marked by a nice variety of cinematic offerings. From action blockbusters to independents, from foreign work to documentaries, there seemed to be great stuff coming from everywhere this year. While making lists will always be superfluous (how can we honestly rank one above the other?) they do provide an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and be reminded of films that deserve revisiting, or maybe be discovered for the first time. How do I know it’s been a strong year? Every list I’ve seen looks completely different from one another.
The following entries have affected me in each of their own ways, whether it’s technical sophistication or emotional resonance, they’ve all had a lasting impression long after I’ve seen them. A few months from now, this list could be completely rearranged. These are my favorite movies that I’ve seen in the calendar year; so a few that may be missing (like Selma or Inherent Vice) is due to me not being able to see them in time. But with all that said, these films warrant your time and attention, as well as the ones that will be named in the Honorable Mention portion at the end.
Alright, let’s get this party started:
15) The Raid 2: Berandal
Gareth Evans followed up the fantastic The Raid: Redemption (2011) with Berandal. A bigger, grander, more ambitious thriller, Evans (along with his star Iko Uwais as Rama) set a new precedent in action choreography. The fight scenes and shootouts are bolder, bloodier, and exude a creativity many other filmmakers simply shy away from. This is a better-looking film than the first, as Evans’ directorial skill has developed significantly. Although the plot may be muddled with the different gangster alliances and betrayals, there is no denying that few have captured – or even attempted – to push the envelope in such a way. And even more impressive: this is only the second part of a planned trilogy.
14) Keep on Keepin’ On
Here is a documentary about two people who come from different backgrounds but are connected by their love of music. Alan Hicks’ Keep on Keepin’ On tells the story of Clark Terry, a legendary jazz musician, and his mentorship of Justin Kauflin, a young blind piano player with dreams of greatness. But this is more than just a student/teacher relationship. This is an examination of time, how it passes, and how an older generation can provide guidance to help build the future. Terry grew up and found success during a troubling time in America, and uses that experience to help others overcome their own boundaries. He takes Kauflin under his wing, and despite Terry’s failing health, presses on to see Kauflin make it. It’s a deeply moving story of friendship, and the special bonds that are made through sound and melody.
13) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The best blockbuster of the summer season was Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Expanding the story introduced in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), this sequel provides thrills and excitement while also serving more thoughtful and meaningful themes. Exploring ideas such as racism and the political complexities of war, Reeves and his team successfully avoided the “us versus them” traps that could have come. There are no true bad guys here, but groups trying to survive despite conflicting (and potentially violent) philosophies. Andy Serkis continues his stellar work as Caesar, the ape caught between two clashing forces, with a nuanced performance felt through the motion capture effects. What makes the film work is the empathy we have for both sides, and how delicate that balance is. The suspense is seeing how long that balance will remain. Plus, there’s an ape riding a horse wielding dual machine guns, how crazy is that?