Earlier today I went to see the movie A Most Wanted Man in the theaters, and I decided that in between my reviews for the AFI Challenge, I could give you guys my opinions on recent releases that I have seen. So, on that note, expect a review for A Most Wanted Man within the next day.
To fill that time, I thought I’d give you guys a rundown of my favorite movies of the year so far, with just a brief description as to why I love them so much! For the purpose of building suspense for my review of A Most Wanted Man (I’m sure you must be counting the minutes), I’m going to exclude that movie from consideration on this list. Without further ado…
10. 22 Jump Street: An absolutely hilarious riot that really had no business being anywhere near as funny as it turned out to be. Despite having many surface similarities to the original, this sequel managed to take that concept and turn it into it’s own distinct story (if you even consider these movies to have a “story). The entire cast once again turns in great comedic performances, but Channing Tatum steals the show. This guy has a surprising amount of range, and he puts it on display here.
9. The Internet’s Own Boy: Uplifting. Ponderous. Shocking. Heartbreaking. These are all words that could be used to describe the story told in this documentary chronicling Aaron Swartz’s tragically short life. As a piece of filmmaking, it’s not particularly impressive, but the true story that it tells is one that everybody should see. One of the year’s most important movies.
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson has another winner on his hands. After Moonrise Kingdom, one of my all time favorite movies, I wasn’t sure if Anderson could craft a satisfying follow-up. However, with the help of a great lead performance by Ralph Fiennes, he does exactly that. A fun and quirky (who would’ve thought?) adventure, whose best scene, surprisingly, involves a cat being thrown out of a window. I think this is the only movie in history where that statement is a compliment, rather than an insult.
7. Begin Again: There’s something beautiful about the power of music, and John Carney, director of Once, certainly knows how to take advantage of it. Bolstered off of strong performances by Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, this movie proceeded to completely win me over with its lovely soundtrack and fun story.
6. Neighbors: I don’t care if he plays himself in every single movie, Seth Rogen is a funny dude with reasonably strong acting chops. This movie proved to be a perfect showcase for his talents, which he uses to spar with the equally excellent Rose Byrne and, shocker, Zac Efron. I’m serious… Zac Efron is really good in this movie. Could this be to him what 21 Jump Street was to Channing Tatum? I think so. What puts this particular movie so high up on this list, though, is its heart. I genuinely cared about the characters and their relationships by the end of this movie; it all came off as authentic and meaningful. These days, that’s a rare thing to find in a comedy.
5. Mistaken for Strangers: I am very biased in my love for this film, because The National is one of my current favorite bands (if you don’t know who they are, go look them up now. “Lemonworld,” “Sea of Love,” and “Fake Empire” are my favorite songs of theirs. Now go!). That being said, this is a very strong piece of documentary movie-making all on its own. Not content to simply be the band’s “concert movie,” director Tom Berninger, brother of The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger, crafts a deeply touching story about their relationship as brothers. If you have siblings that you are close to, I guarantee you will be quite moved by this film, and its especially terrific final scene.
4. Obvious Child: Don’t let its moniker as the “abortion comedy” steer you away from this really poignant tale. While I don’t expect ardent pro-life supporters to enjoy this movie, I found it to be lovely and I’m not even sure of my own views on the issue of abortion. Jenny Slate delivers a layered, yet hilarious lead performance. What I loved most about this movie was that it completely avoided this topic’s common tropes. The characters don’t treat abortion in an overly-dramatic, Oscar-bait type way, but instead in a manner that I expect most (pro-choice) twenty-somethings with an unwanted pregnancy would actually react. There’s something to be said for a movie that’s able to exercise such restraint.
3. Ida: Ida presents a pretty compelling case as to why color in movies is an unnecessary gimmick. Beautifully shot in beautiful black-and-white, with a beautiful story and beautiful performances, I found this film to be rather beautiful (I’m now at the point where I’m not sure if beautiful is a real word lollll). There’s a certain methodical nature to many European films that American audiences often find “boring.” It is true. The story of Anna, a nun who discovers that she is of Jewish ancestry and that her real name is Ida, isn’t exactly the most gripping of movies. But through its disciplined plotting, Ida builds to a conclusion that touched me in a way very few American films are even capable of.
2. Snowpiercer: Does Snowpiercer have some minor inconsistencies in the presentation of its world? Yes, definitely. And you know what? I don’t care. This is one of the most joyfully creative movies I’ve seen in a long time. My fascination with this world and story was reminiscent of how I felt watching Star Wars for the first time. I was just smiling throughout all of its unexpected twists and turns, soaking in the aesthetic pleasures that came with them. All of it builds to an ending that is as satisfying as it is insane. Some may not warm up to the style of Korean director Bong Joon-ho, but for me? The snow was definitely pierced. (I’m funny right?)
1. Boyhood: I’m probably one of thousands of people who considers Boyhood to be their favorite film of 2014 thus far. And you know why? Because it’s an absolutely amazing movie. Much has been made of director Richard Linklater’s decision to film the movie over the course of twelve years, but that’s far from the best thing about this movie. Instead, that method enables Linklater to convey his more touching messages regarding the very essence of not just growing up, but living life in general. Each individual scene is generally not related to the ones that came before it or those that will follow. But when put together, they create a beautifully realized portrait of a young man’s life. As an 18 year old boy who has lived in the exact same span of time that this movie was filmed, I of course related to the story. But my 50 year old mom found it to be just as wonderful as I did, as did my girlfriend. This movie will affect you no matter your age or gender. And I am not a crier, in any way, but after this movie ended, I wept like a little baby. I’m sure in a year, this movie will be in the upper half of my favorite movies of all time.
So, what do you guys think of my choices? Did I make any egregious errors, or exclude one of your favorite movies? Keep in my mind that I have not seen anywhere near all the movies released this year. Let me know what you think!