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Top Ten Movies of 2014

A few must-sees still on my list (most notably The Imitation Game, Selma, Inherent Vice, The Homesman, Winter Sleep, The Skeleton Twins, Unbroken, Wild, Big Eyes, Mr. Turner, The Drop, The One I Love, The Double) but from what I’ve seen thus far, I wouldn’t consider 2014 a particularly strong year.

(Look for updates to this list as I fit in more viewings)

Honorable Mentions: WhiplashCaptain America: The Winter SoldierGuardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, FuryGodzilla, ChefMitt, The Interview

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10. Foxcatcher

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“Foxcatcher is not your conventional narrative film. The plot is thin. The action is sparse. But the character subtext is off the charts.” Read More…

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10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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“Yes, this movie is mostly about computer generated apes who speak like cavemen. But it’s also about core human emotions: fear, love, respect. It’s about how fear of the unknown has the ability to bring out the worst in us.” Read More…

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10. Nightcrawler

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“The stakes never cease to get higher. Which is why I think this script is solid. It’s a feature-length movie script. There’s no inkling that Nightcrawler crammed too much plot in and would have worked better as a mini-series. Maybe a truncated version could have worked as a short script. Maybe a 50 minute one-off. But the addition of Rick and Nina were the perfect counters to Louis’ personality, and made for great drama that escalated just enough to have a satisfying ending.” Read More…

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9. Noah

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“Many will walk away thinking this film was weird. It is. The story of Noah is unusual. Aronofsky takes a primal, natural story and gives it depth and complexity that most people can find meaning and wonder in.” Read More…

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8. Gone Girl

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“…under the guidance of a master director (David Fincher) and a capable cast, Gone Girl becomes a methodical epic with effective commentary on marriage, image, power, and tabloid media.” Read More…

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7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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“It moves fast. Lighting fast. Right from the beginning we get four different time periods, three flashbacks, three different aspect ratios, and two different narrators. Once we land on the meat of the story, the story of M. Gustave, the cunning concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and Zero, his new lobby boy, the words fly off the screen with grace and force.”  Read More…

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6. Ida

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Ida has a crazy gravitational pull. Every image is so poetic, so breathtaking, that I continually got lost while trying to soak it in with my eyes. If a coffee table book containing each shot from this film existed, I would buy it in a heartbeat.”  Read More…

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5. American Sniper

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“American Sniper is a simple film. There’s a hero. There are bad guys. You could say AS is a modern day Western. But Eastwood continues his streak of films that build complex heroes.”  Read More…

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4. The Lego Movie

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“On its surface, the story is about a normal guy, Emmet, who is destined for greatness. We’ve seen that message of “everyone is special” a million times. But The LEGO Movie takes a surprisingly unexpected and mature route. Instead of the story being about the normal guy finding something extraordinary about himself, it’s about how “normal” IS extraordinary.” Read More…

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3. Boyhood

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“I believe most people (male and female, young and old) can identify with Boyhood because of its unifying core and underlying message: We grow up too fast.” Read More…

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2. Interstellar

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“There’s a ticking clock on the world and no time to sit and marvel at the universe. The marvel is back home, sealed in the most powerful dimension at display in Interstellar, love.” Read More…

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1. Birdman

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Birdman is no gimmick movie. It’s an experience unlike any other brought to us by craftsmen at their very best. It may very well be the best movie of the year.” Read More…

Top Ten Movies of 2013

Boy has this been a good year for movies. I didn’t get to see them all, but I feel like I got to see some of the best.  Of course, I will update this list periodically.

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10. Frances Ha

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For any 20-something this movie is so true, it hurts. It could be considered a thematic counterpart to HBO’s Girls, but the character of Frances allows this movie to jump, dance, skip, and fall on its own.

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9. Prisoners

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This chilling crime thriller steers far deeper than the everyday-tv-cop-show level of drama. It’s writing might not be the most original, but its direction and acting (Hugh Jackman gives us some of his best work) loft this film among 2013’s best.

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8. Star Trek Into Darkness

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J.J. Abrams continues to deliver these quality big movies. I don’t pretend to be a Trek connoisseur, but it’s not hard to appreciate how the new Star Trek universe is flipping characters and story lines on their heads and making it work.

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7. Captain Phillips

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 Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks deliver some of the best work of their careers.

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6. Blue Jasmine

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Woody Allen continues to surprise at the ripe old age of 78.  Jasmine is perhaps his most timely movie and it may be Blanchett’s best.

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5. Short Term 12

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What makes this film special is its subtlety and lack of heavy-handedness when it came to what could have been sappy horror stories about at-risk children. Instead, it rounds each character out with grace and depth. The visual style – Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. knocking their roles out of the park – and the witty writing create a cinematic experience that you can’t forget.

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4. Nebraska

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Yes, there’s a lot to be said about this movie, but let’s not forget how darn funny it is. Nebraska is cinema gold and will linger in my mind for years to come.

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3. Before Midnight

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It’s hard to describe how a trilogy of movies about two talkative people falling in love is so good to people who haven’t seen them. But once you see the Before movies, you’ll know. You’ll know why the acting, writing and relationship tugs your heart all over the place. This movie is a must-see for watching one of the greatest cinematic relationships ever cap off one of the best trilogies ever.

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2. 12 Years a Slave

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An absolute stunner of a movie that will leave you shaken to your core. Steve McQueen has done nothing but make great movies, but his third effort will surely live on as a classic. If there’s any movie this year that I plead for people to go see, it’s this one.

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1. Gravity

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Although I feel like 12 Years a Slave was 2013’s most important film, Gravity still finds its way to #1 in my heart. It’s simply cinema in it’s purest form. It’s the perfect combination of visual awe, character intimacy, and tonal direction. People like to complain about the script in this movie. Umm, there was a script? I was too busy in Sandra Bullock’s helmet gasping for my own air while in my theatre seat. This is a director’s and actor’s film, not a writer’s movie. And that’s a rare thing, especially for a big budget film. The fact that there was little to no knowledge about these characters or circumstances made the experience even more personal. Any plot point or logical explanation would have taken me away from Bullock’s immediate emotional swings. This movie was never about logic or backstory. It’s about the audience’s desire to breathe. Gravity is flawless in my eyes and will stand as the greatest theatre experience I have ever had.

Honorable Mentions: The World’s End, PhilomenaThe Place Beyond the PinesUpstream ColorDallas Buyer’s Club, HerSaving Mr. BanksAmerican HustleTo The Wonder, Enough SaidMud, The Wolf of Wall StreetAin’t Them Bodies SaintsMonsters University, Oblivion

Movies that make me think of Fall

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Seasonal changes demand a lot from us. Wardrobe adjustments. New decorations to put around the house. Holidays. The beginning of a new season always makes me aware of growth and change, yet triggers memories of seasons past. With Autumn just starting, my wife asked me last night to put in a fall movie. I sat there for a few minutes trying to figure out what that means. Sure it’s easy to think of Christmas movies, but “Fall” movies? It’s rather interesting how there are intangible clues that seasons are changing. What makes us “feel” like it’s Fall?  Does it go all the way down to a biological level where our bodies have natural cycles that relate to seasons? Or is it all just one big marketing mastermind that tells us what we should think of and do given the corresponding month on our calendars?

After some thinking, naturally, my brain went straight to football. I suggested Rudy. No go. There’s already enough football on during the week. Unfortunately, after about 5 minutes of thinking we eventually got onto a different topic and never settled.

So after some thought, here are my top ten movies that make me think of Fall. Not all are warm and fuzzy, but all contain some essence of what the season feels like. Read More…

Ten must-see cult films of the past decade

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The “cult film” status is an ambiguous claim. There’s several ways to look at it. Cult films could simply be movies that didn’t anticipate having a huge fan base.  They could be movies that failed at the box office but went on to have an unbelievable DVD shelf life. Cult films could be panned by critics but loved by fans. They could do all of the above. One thing that all  films need to reach that “cult film” status is time. Since we live in the digital age of instant gratification, I think cult status can be reached sooner. Maybe 20 years from now people will still be talking about these movies. Maybe not. This list isn’t made up of the most underground cult films of the past decade, but cult films are dependent on next generation taking them on. You can see that in recent (but not recent enough to make this list) cult films such as The Boondock Saints, The Big Lebowski, and Donnie Darko. Read More…

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