2014 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 26 Favorite Films of 2014


Well, here we are!  This is my favorite part of the TSL’s look back at the previous year!  Below, you’ll find my picks for the 26 best films of 2014!

(Why 26?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers.)

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-gang

Before looking at the list, there are two things that I would ask you to keep in mind.  First off, these are my picks and my picks alone.  There are 12 writers here at the TSL and we are all very opinionated individuals.  Needless to say, we don’t always agree.  Just because I love a film doesn’t mean that Arleigh, Leonard, Ryan, or anybody else here agree or disagrees.  (Even my own sister occasionally disagrees with me…)  When the other writers get around to posting their picks, I imagine that some of the films below will appear on those lists. And some of them most definitely will not.  Vive la difference!

Also, it should be understood that, unlike some film critics, I only list movies that I’ve actually seen.  Unfortunately, since I live in the middle of the country, that means that there are a few 2014 films that have yet to be released in my part of the world.  Over the upcoming two weeks, I plan to see Inherent Vice, Selma, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, and The Imitation Game.  Any one of these films could potentially end up in my top 26, in which case I will update this post to reflect that.

(1/10/15 Update — I have updated the list to include Inherent Vice.  And, since I don’t do odd numbers, I also added Blue Ruin so that the list is currently an even 28 films.)

Under the Skin

As for my list, as I look over it, I have to admit that I’m a little bit surprised by some of the films that made the biggest impression on me this year.  Whereas in previous years, my favorite films were far outside of the mainstream, my favorite film of 2014 was the epitome of blockbuster entertainment.  The list is an interesting combination of spectacle and existential dread, featuring everything from the latest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a few neglected masterpieces of ennui.

(If you’d like to see my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, click on the links!)

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And without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  2. Wild
  3. Boyhood
  4. Under the Skin
  5. The LEGO Movie
  6. Nightcrawler
  7. The Fault In Our Stars
  8. Foxcatcher
  9. Palo Alto
  10. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  12. Joe
  13. Birdman
  14. Venus in Fur
  15. A Field in England
  16. California Scheming
  17. Gone Girl
  18. Chef
  19. Snowpiercer
  20. Cold In July
  21. Jodorowsky’s Dune
  22. Whiplash
  23. Inherent Vice
  24. Begin Again
  25. The Purge: Anarchy
  26. Devil’s Due
  27. Only Lovers Left Alive
  28. Blue Ruin

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below!

CaliforniaScheming

Previous Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2014

  1. 2014 In Review: Things Dork Geekus Dug In 2014 Off The Top Of His Head
  2. 2014 In Review: The Best Of Lifetime and SyFy
  3. 2014 In Review: Lisa’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films Of 2014
  4. 2014 In Review: 14 Of Lisa’s Favorite Songs Of 2014
  5. 2014 In Review: Necromoonyeti’s Top 10 Metal Albums of 2014
  6. 2014 In Review: 20 Good Things Lisa Saw On TV In 2014
  7. 2014 In Review: Pantsukudasai56’s Pick For The Best Anime of 2014
  8. 2014 in Reivew: Lisa’s 20 Favorite Novels of 2014
  9. 2014 In Review: Lisa’s Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2014

Arleigh’s Top 9 Films of 2014 (Front End)


We’re now past the halfway point for the film season of 2014. The year has seen it’s share of hits, bombs and surprises. Many look at the box-office numbers some that these films generate as a sign of their success. Others look at how the critics-at-large have graded these films as a way to determine whether they’ve been successful.

I know some people would list nothing but independent arthouse films as their best. They look at genre and big-budget films as not being worthy of being the best of the year, so far. It’s that sort of thinking that limits one’s appreciation of film, in general.

Does having a 150 million dollar budget mean that a film cannot be one of the best of the year. Past history will suggest that’s not the case. Yet, there are cinephiles out there who will dismiss such films because they consider it as being too Hollywood. The same goes for people who look down upon genre films like horror, scifi, westerns and many others that do not fit their slice-of-life drama study. They’re not existential enough for some.

I’ve come to look at all the films I’ve been fortunate enough to see through the first six months of 2014 and picked 9 of the best (I picked a random odd number since Lisa Marie already does the even numbers thing) no matter their genre, type of film and budget. I’ve picked a couple of scifi films, a documentary, an action-packed blockbuster sequel, a wonderfully made 3-D animated film (itself a sequel), a neo-noir Western, a brutal crime-thriller, an indie horror-thriller and one of the best comedies of the last couple years.

In no special order….

noah-banner222Noah (dir. by Darren Aronofsky)

capawsmovarthc-cvr-a91f8Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dir. by Anthony and Joe Russo)

cold_in_july_ver2_xlgCold in July (dir. by Jim Mickle)

HTTYD2How To Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean DuBois)

JodorowskysDuneJodorowsky’s Dune (dir. by Frank Pavich)

the-raid-2-berandal01The Raid 2: Berandal (dir. by Gareth Evans)

Snowpiercer (dir. by Bong Joon-ho)

GrandPianoGrand Piano (dir. by Eugenio Mira)

22JumpStreet22 Jump Street (dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

My honorable mentions: All Cheerleaders Die, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Joe, Edge of Tomorrow, Lego: The Movie, Blue Ruin, Locke, Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Sacrament

Song of the Day: Cosmo Black (by Dynatron)


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Yesterday, Lisa Marie reviewed one of the film’s that I’ve been waiting to see in the theaters when I first saw the trailer for it a couple months ago. Lisa’s review of Cold In July has more than whetted my appetite to see this film. I mean it’s the latest from Jim Mickle who is starting to become one of my favorite genre filmmakers in the last ten years. It’s a film based on the novel of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale which is just a reason on top of the others reasons to go see this film.

While I haven’t seen the film yet I already have fallen in love with it’s soundtrack. One of the songs in the Cold In July soundtrack actually makes it into the trailer and it’s “Cosmo Black” by Dynatron. It’s a tune that evokes memories of 1980’s John Carpenter soundtracks with it’s heavy reliance on synthesizers and electronic keyboard. Any soundtrack that can make one reminisce about those classic 80’s Carpenter film scores must be doing something right.

So, until I get a chance to see the film for myself I might as well get a headstart and enjoy listening to the score to Cold In July.

Film Review: Cold In July (dir by Jim Mickle)


Cold in July

Cold in July, which is currently available OnDemand and also playing in select theaters, is a great film.

To a large extent, you’re simply going to have to take my word about that because to give too much away about this twisty and emotionally resonant thriller would be a crime.  Quite frankly, I’d rather write a vague review than rob you of the pleasure of discovering this film’s secrets for yourself.

Here’s what I can tell you.

Cold In July takes place in east Texas and, speaking as a Texan, it manages to perfectly capture the odd mix of southern gothic and western stoicism that distinguishes that section of Texas from the rest of the state.  Cold in July is one of the best Texas-set films that I’ve ever seen, one that is uniquely Texan and yet still accessible for those viewers who live elsewhere (except maybe for Vermont).  Director Jim Mickle and cinematographer Ryan Samul fill Cold In July with hauntingly beautiful images of the landscape, capturing that unique Texas stillness that can be both tranquil and threatening at the same time.

Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, an ordinary guy who, at the start of the film, confronts and kills a burglar who has broken into his house.  While nearly everyone else in town is impressed by Richard’s actions, Richard is haunted by them.  While everyone else tells Richard that he should be proud for standing up against crime, Richard is obsessed with the bloodstains that now decorate his living room wall.  Richard grows even more uneasy when the town’s police chief informs him that the burglar’s father has recently been paroled from Huntsville Prison.

When Richard goes to the burglar’s funeral, he meets the quietly menacing Ben Russell (Sam Shepard).  Ben reveals that Richard killed his son and then goes on to suggest that maybe, in order to even the score, Ben should now go after Richard’s son.  Even after the police agree to protect Richard and his family, it quickly turns out that Ben is a lot more clever than anyone realized…

And that’s all I can tell you about this film’s plot without spoiling the many twists and turns.  I can, however, assure you that anything you may be assuming about this film or the relationship between Richard and Ben is probably incorrect.  This is a film that starts out like an effective but standard thriller and then, about 30 minutes into the action, the story suddenly goes off in an entirely different direction.  The fact that the film manages to pull off such a sudden shift in tone and plot is due to both Mickle’s confident direction and the excellent performances of Hall and Shepard.

I can also tell you that this film features a great and award-worthy supporting performance from Don Johnson.  Johnson plays Jim Bob Luke, a flamboyant private detective who also owns a pig farm and drives a red Cadillac with vanity plates that read “RED BTCH.”  Johnson brings a jolt of life to the film right when it most needs it.  Jim Bob starts out as comic relief but, as the film progresses, Johnson brings a surprising amount of gravitas to the role until finally, Jim Bob is as much the moral center of the story as Tommy Lee Jones was in the thematically similar No Country For Old Men.

Finally, I can tell you that Cold In July is a violent film but it’s not the empty, consequence-free mayhem that you might expect to see in a thriller like this.  It’s hard to explain without giving away too much of the plot but I would have to describe it as almost being “violence with heart.”  Cold In July may be violent but it’s never mindless and that makes all the difference.

As I said, it’s difficult to review Cold In July because to go into too much detail would run the risk of ruining the film’s many surprises.  So, instead, I’ll just say that Cold In July is one of the best films of the year so far.

It’s a film that you, as a lover of cinema, owe it to yourself to see.