The Best of the Year (2014)

NUMBERS 10 – 6

Time to get serious.

10. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Paul Greengrass, 2013, reviewed February 3)*

The tension runs as thick as butter in Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, and the director of films such as United 93 continues in his tradition of intense dramas based on real events. Tom Hanks, as the titular Captain Richard Phillips, gives one of his strongest performances in years, an actor immersed in an immersive thriller, alongside power player Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse, the lead pirate of a team that overtook Phillips and his crew on their cargo ship in April 2009. Never at a loss for an intense sequence, Greengrass’ film may not prove rewarding for more sensitive or leisurely viewers, but for everyone else, it’s well worth seeking out.

9. MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (Louis Malle, 1981, reviewed August 3)

A masterfully successful experiment in dialogue, acting, and constrained filmmaking, My Dinner with Andre sees Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory locked in dialogue for nearly the entire film, over dinner at a New York City restaurant, the conversation always either eclectic, flowing, maddening, enlightening, or a combination of the aforementioned. Also keen to serve as a personality test of sorts (who do you identify with in the movie?), this is something to be viewed and cherished by admirers of bold cinema.

8. THE WIND RISES (Hayao Miyazaki, 2013/14, reviewed December 21)

If it turns out that Hayao Miyazaki’s most recent contemplation of retirement turns out to be true, and this is the great Japanese animator’s final film, then what a note to go out on. A large scale yet emotionally intimate semi-biopic, loosely based on the life of Japanese aerial engineer Jiro Horikoshi, The Wind Rises is sweeping, with its effective romantic core and a resonant call for peace.

7. Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969, reviewed September 23)

As long as there is political corruption, rising revolts, and societal unrest, Costa-Gavras’ Z will be startlingly and hauntingly relevant. Based on events that happened in the director’s home country of Greece a few years prior (ultimately leading to a 1967 coup), this French-language film is impeccably styled, scored, and shot, with urgent performances and a matching screenplay. Backed with assured direction, it is obvious that this is movie made out of fury, with its outrage dripping from every frame, leading to a real classic in the end.

6. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Roberto Benigni, 1997/98, reviewed January 14)*

I don’t know where this whole “Hey, this movie is trivializing the Holocaust!” nonsense came from regarding Life is Beautiful, but this is a concerningly widespread mindset that appears to have existed in some form for the film’s entire seventeen year history, and if I can submit my two cents, is practiced largely by people who a) haven’t seen the movie, or b) have, but entirely misread it, possibly on purpose, just to complain. The point of Roberto Benigni’s staggeringly effective film is to show the undying, unconditional love his character of Guido has for his family, in particular his son Joshua (Giorgio Cantarini), even if this means risking one’s life when the family is rounded into a camp in World War II-era Italy. It is fantastically moving with excellent music and captivating performances.

(Click on Page 3 to find out what made the top five!)