Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2014
Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2014. Here is Chad’s list, presented in reverse order of greatness; you can also see Carrie’s list here.
- 10.) Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho’s masterful post-apocalyptic thriller, was forced to fly beneath the radar since it was released on the same day as the horrific yet unfortunately box office dominating Transformers: Age of Extinction. Set in a human-created ice age in which the last survivors on the planet ride around on a crazy-long bullet train, Snowpiercer uses its science-fiction fantasy premise to punctuate some terrifying reflections on the socio-political tensions of modern day society. Chris Evans turns in another solid action hero performance (duh, Captain America) and Tilda Swinton is wicked good as the cruel and quirky “voice”/messenger of the upper class.
9.) The Trip to Italy
This sequel to The Trip, the 2010 semi-autobiographical road trip comedy starring real-life friends Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, ups the anti in every facet. The jokes come louder and faster, the scenery is more exotic, and the Michael Caine impersonations are more absurd and plentiful. Combine the perfect comedic chemistry between the two leads with shots of delicious dishes from real-life eateries across Italy and the result is delectable, at the very least.
8.) John Wick
Keanu Reeves’ filmography for the past 10 years has been disappointing, at best. Then came this year’s John Wick, a simple revenge tale with some of the most exhilarating (and spatially aware) action choreography in recent memory. Directed by acclaimed stuntman Chad Stahelski (300, The Matrix), it should be no surprise that the action is swift yet easy-to-follow, and his familiarity with Reeves proves to be a winning factor. It also utilizes a club-worthy score from Tyler Bates and slick cinematography, and a classic steely-eyed performance from Reeves, to top it off. I hope its respectable global box office draw warrants a sequel. As for Mr. Reeves, “I’m thinking he’s back!”
7.) The Skeleton Twins
This charming dramedy featuring award-worthy performances by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig is possibly 2014’s most under appreciated film. The Skeleton Twins, a story about emotionally troubled siblings becoming more involved in each others’ lives, expertly balances heavy, dark material with genuine laughs. The remarkable chemistry between Wiig and Hader, first established when they joined Saturday Night Live together, is infectious and refreshingly honest. In a time where independent dramedies flood the marketplace and start to blend together, The Skeleton Twins positions itself at a higher bar with its taboo subject matter, balanced tone, and brilliant performances. Check out my interview with Hader and Wiig, and the film’s director Craig Johnson, right here.
It’s hard to discuss Coherence without giving too much away. This piece of experimental low budget filmmaking winds up packing a more powerful punch than most big budget science fiction spectacles. Like a mind-bending episode of The Twilight Zone, Coherence revolves around cosmic occurances during a dinner party. Mostly unscripted (check out my interview with director James Ward Byrkit), tightly edited, and featuring mostly unfamiliar faces, Coherence is a cult classic in the making, and one that must be experienced sooner rather than later. Late at night. Lights off. With friends.
5.) What We Do in the Shadows
Simply put, What We Do in the Shadows is the funniest film of 2014. Since it’s technically scheduled for an official theatrical release in February 2015, it’ll likely be the funniest film of 2015 as well. Conceived by the hilarious folks of Flight of the Conchords fame, this mockumentary about a flat of vampires in New Zealand miraculously avoids being a one-joke movie. I laughed all the way through, and you will too.
4.) Listen Up Philip
You know how some say, “that movie wasn’t as good as the book”. Well, Listen Up Philip is basically a novel in movie form. It’s the story of a self-absorbed writer continuing to jerk his way through life without a care, or the ability to learn from his mistakes. It’s hilarious due to it’s witty script and despicable (yet unabashedly realistic) characters, including strong supporting performances from the gifted Jonathan Price and Elisabeth Moss (who also stars in the honorable mention The One I Love). The tone of the film is also aided by the grainy 16mm film stock on which it was shot, adding to the self-referential “artistic nature” of the whole package.
3.) The LEGO Movie
Never has product placement been more obvious, or so gosh darn entertaining! The LEGO Movie, written and directed by the current comedy gold duo of Chris Miller and Phil Lord (21 Jump Street, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), pulls out all the stops to allow for a flood of humor types, from self referential humor, to slapstick humor, to parodies, to visual gags. Plus, the plot-involved song “Everything is Awesome” is the most catchy (and addicting) song of the year and should earn an Oscar nod (and can you imagine how great that live performance would be at the Oscars ceremony?!)
Boyhood is like a cinematic time capsule. Shot over a twelve year span, the film primarily follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 5 to 18. No film has ever before been able to resemble, and to a certain extent – incorporate, real life like this, and in doing so it manages to connect with every one that watches it. We can all remember the joys and hardships of our adolescent years, how we learned to live in this world and how we’ve navigated the experiences and relationships with family and friends and strangers along the way. Even if our own stories don’t quite follow that of Mason’s life path, it doesn’t matter, because Boyhood is a reflection of each of us in one way or another.
The incredible honor of the best film of 2014 (according to me) goes to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, a sort of bizarre Broadway fable about a former iconic superhero movie star, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who is trying reclaim fame and artistic legitimacy through a stage play. Birdman is technically marvelous due to its “one shot” presentation, and emotionally powerful and hysterical through its laundry list of stellar performances. It’s the type of film that entertains on the surface level but welcomes deeper discussions about its ambiguities, symbolism, and production tactics. See it to believe it. See it to enjoy it. And see it because it’s likely to be front and center throughout award season.
Honorable mentions: The One I Love, Foxcatcher, and Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter