Inspired by my friend Gabe Valdez’s recent chronicles of top films for 2014 so far, I thought I would offer a brief summary of my own opinion.
JANUARY – JUNE 2014 – saw 21 films that were released in 2014, plus several holdovers from 2013 and a few revivals/special screenings of older films.
TOP FIVE FILMS
“Everything is told in such a warm – hearted and also exuberant style, including an emphasis on colors in the frame, tantalizing shots of food onscreen, and the family relationships of the characters pushed to the front of the story, that this became one of the most appealing and satisfying films I have seen in some time.”
2. Blue Ruin
“The film offers a tense yet understated look at the “revenge thriller”, which one article about the film pointed out used to be much more common in Hollywood films (think late 90′s/early 00′s films often starring Ashley Judd) but is now less common. In this case, the minimalism is apparent right from the start when the first 20 minutes or so have nearly no dialogue, but are carried along by a crackerjack music score, character activity, and intriguing, immediate curiosity over the motivations and history of the main character.”
3. Under the Skin
“Scarlett Johansson adds to an impressive recent repertoire of roles with this performance, The actress strips away (quite literally at times) her aura of Sex Symbolness and Appeal, taking us back to an earlier era somewhere around ten years ago when she was more known just for her performances and less for her off-screen activities.” I’m looking forward to re-visiting this film when it comes to home media, as it is deserving of a second viewing and might be helped by knowing the plot, where the initial viewing in the theater was an unsettling, though memorable, experience.
4. In Secret
“…An impressive lead performance from Elizabeth Olsen and nuanced support from Oscar Isaac (doing a quick turnaround from Llewyn Davis and seemingly enjoying a chance to show some dramatic range), Tom Felton (leaving Draco Malfoy behind with a sense of earnest joy) and Jessica Lange (chewing the scenery in style). The performances were really the showcase of the film… I also want to mention British character actress Shirley Henderson, who popped up as a neighbor knowing more than she lets on.”
“Gyllenhaal masters a dual role, giving one of his finest screen performances in the last several years… Villeneuve masters elements of mood and style here, letting an omnipotent Bernard Hermann-esque music score racket up the tension in key moments, alongside cinematography of metro Toronto seen in hazes and sepia tones.”