The Best of the Year (2014)


Now, even serious-er.

5. DOUBT (John Patrick Shanley, 2008, reviewed April 24)*

A tour de force of acting and writing, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, adapted from his stage play of the same name, is a measured and engrossing look at historical racial tension, sex abuse within the Catholic Church, the danger of assumptions without accompanying evidence, and how acting solely on one’s instincts can sometimes lead to dire consequences. Powerfully brought to life by actors like Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Meryl Streep, Doubt isn’t the easiest film to watch, but is one that commands and receives respect and attention from each viewer embarking on its soil.

4. BOYHOOD (Richard Linklater, 2014, reviewed December 27)

Writer/director Richard Linklater’s idea to film over an extended period of time is no new idea to cinema. Heck, he’s even done it himself with the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight series of films, and British filmmaker Michael Apted has been famously doing this for real over the past 50+ years with his Up documentary series, but the concept of crafting a story about a boy and his family between the ages of six and eighteen, assembling the cast and crew to shoot little by little every year, and then, in the end, being able to present such a crowning and epic achievement that at once bleeds grandeur and feels like the simplest fictitious application of cinéma vérité is the result of a master filmmaker directing a dedicated group of people. Boyhood simply leaves you awestruck. For what it’s worth, this is just about the closest I’ve ever come to giving a movie four stars without such a thing actually happening.

3. AMOUR (Michael Haneke, 2012, reviewed July 8)

It’s unfortuante that a movie as incredible as Amour would just miss the deadline for consideration for my halftime top 5 list, but at least I can discuss it here. Lauded Austrian director Michael Haneke’s film is a harrowing, intense look at an elderly Parisian couple after one of them (a phenomenal Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a crippling stroke, and the strain it places on their tried-and-true relationship. It builds slowly, subtly, to an emotionally devastating finale that may be controversial for some, but inspires deep thought and contemplation long after the credits have rolled.

2. PSYCHO (Alfred Hitchcok, 1960, reviewed October 30)

When the shower curtain is yanked back and Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is stabbed to death, all whilst Bernard Hermann’s piercing string-heavy soundtrack accentuates every camera cut and lowering of the knife, it is definitive proof that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a legendary director working in peak form. A film that leaves behind a lasting legacy on suspense fiction, the horror genre (and one of its biggest subgenres, the slasher), and pop culture in general, Psycho’s violence may seem tame by modern standards, but it is still a shining example of the enduring classic that can be made under the proper conditions, nurtured by talented people.

1. SPIRITED AWAY (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001, reviewed August 28)

I started my original review of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away by simply saying “One word: Wow.” And to an extent, that’s all that really needs to be said about this masterpiece from the legendary Japanese animator. Featuring a layered story, excellent messages, and absolutely spellbinding drawings, Spirited Away deserves to be recognized as not only among the finest animated films ever made, but also as a great classic in general, moving flawlessly with grace and intent. It is a ravishing experience, and one that I suspect holds its own in repeat viewings. Aimed, perhaps, at kids aged around 8 – 10, but still extraordinarily effective for anyone who has passed that stage of childhood and moved beyond, this is a jawdroppingly incredible creation, one that deserves to be cherished, respected, and preserved.

And now, before we close the book on 2014 completely, some statistics I collected from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet:

  • I reviewed 79 movies in 2014. This is just down from last year, where there were 85 reviews. I haven’t logged my entire year on Letterboxd, but I’d estimate I watched around 130 for the whole year (That works out to about 2.5 films a week. Life? What life?).
  • Out of those 79 reviews…
    • 43 (54%) were positive, by which I mean three stars and up.
    • 30 (38%) were mixed, which means they received either two or two-and-a-half stars.
    • 6 (8%) were negative, which is defined as one-and-a-half stars or less.
  • The first review of the year was Nine, published on January 3. The last one was Boyhood, on December 27. (This is the same date that 2013’s final review was posted on (Saving Mr. Banks). It was also a three-and-a-half star film, apparently, although I’m thinking that if I revisited it, I may find that I overrated the movie.)
  • There were three four-star reviews (same as 2013).
  • There weren’t any zero-star reviews (same as 2013).
  • I reviewed 31 movies that were released in 2014. This is way up from 2013’s number of films that were released in the same year I reviewed them. There were only 14 last year.
  • These bullet point lists are getting boring.
  • I’m going to stop now.
  • There are way better things that I could be doing right now then presenting these statistics.
  • This article is already over 2,000 words long in total. I should end this post as soon as possible.
  • Goodbye.