Cary, NC — 2014 was a great year for movies. It sounds cliché, I know, as if all film critics say that at the end of every year. But this really was a great year. Honestly, it’s been so good that I’m still catching up on films I haven’t seen–Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Selma and The Theory of Everything, just to name a few.
My goal is to be completely caught up before The Academy Awards are presented on February 22, 2015. Speaking of the Oscars, the nominations are going to be announced on January 15, 2015, and I’ll be sure to have a piece on those nominations right here on CaryCitizen.
Five Movies You Might Have Missed in 2014
For now, though, I’d like to recommend a few great films you might have missed in 2014. So here we go.
First up is Begin Again. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Shutter Island) stars as a music producer who is just about to hit rock-bottom. One night, he stumbles into a bar and discovers an also-down-on-her-luck singer/songwriter played by Keira Knightly (Pride & Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean).
The two come up with an idea to record an album outside in various locations around New York City, and the rest of the film follows them as they rediscover their passion for music and life itself.
Yes, it sounds incredibly cheesy, but the two leads are so charming and funny together, the music so infectious and catchy, that I just couldn’t help but love this film. A pure delight from start to finish.
Birdman comes from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams) and stars Michael Keaton (Batman, Beetlejuice) as an actor most famous for a series of superhero films 20 years ago. Sound familiar? Desperate to reclaim his respect as an actor, Keaton puts together a Broadway play directed by, written by and starring himself.
The film co-stars Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis. Already an awards contender nominated for seven Golden Globes, Birdman is a fascinating and surreal look inside the actor’s process and into the descent into madness it can sometimes lead to.
Darkly funny and technically brilliant, Birdman is easily one of the best films of 2014.
Chef stars Jon Favreau, who also writes and directs the movie. Favreau has had a surprisingly diverse career both in front of and behind the camera. He directed Iron Man 1 & 2 as well as the new holiday classic Elf starring Will Ferrell. He has also acted in films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Rudy, and John Carter.
Having been around for so long, Favreau has experienced a number of ups and downs in his career, and Chef is a semi-autobiographical take on that. He stars as a celebrity chef in Los Angeles who gets into a Twitter war with a food critic that just gave him a bad review and, subsequently, loses his job.
Favreau then decides to buy a food truck, drive across America with his son and best friend, and rediscover his passion for food. The film features supporting players like Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, and even his Iron Man star Robert Downey, Jr.
Chef is smart and funny and features an unlimited supply of gorgeous looking food that will leave you starving by the film’s end.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel comes from director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom). I think it’s safe to say that Anderson’s films are an acquired taste and, if you’ve seen any of his previous movies, then you have an idea of what you’re getting into.
Still, even if you don’t like his movies, it’s hard not to recommend The Grand Budapest Hotel. The film has the same kind of whimsy and oddball characters that populate his previous works but, here, Anderson taps into a sense of melancholy that helps his characters feel real and immediate.
It doesn’t hurt that The Grand Budapest Hotel boasts perhaps his best group of actors yet. Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and Adrian Brody. Honestly, there are more to name but there’s only so much room!
However, it’s really Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List, Harry Potter) that makes this film so absolutely wonderful. Never has Fiennes been so funny, vulgar, and heroic–often in the very same scene! It’s a marvelous performance that makes an already great film even better.
Locke is a unique film in that only one actor appears on screen the entire time. The film takes place solely in his character’s car as he drives from one location to another in England for 90 minutes. It sounds gimmicky, and perhaps boring, but Locke in anything but.
The film stars Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as Locke, a successful construction manager on the eve of one of the biggest construction projects in England’s history, who receives a phone call that changes his entire life. After this particular phone call, Locke makes a choice that effectively ruins everything for him but, for him, it’s the only choice to make.
I can see how, after reading that description, this movie might sound like a thriller of some sort–but it’s really not. It’s about a man–a devoted father and husband–who made a mistake and is trying to own up to that mistake as best he can.
Hardy is sensational as the titled character. Right off the bat, he is able to show you what kind of person this man is almost solely through conversation. While driving, Locke is constantly on the phone trying to juggle everything–work and family.
And, even though he knows there is no good outcome for him in any of these situations, he still does what he thinks is right. Hardy has been an actor to watch for a while now but, with Locke, he is officially a force to be reckoned with.
It was hard to pick only five movies, especially since I haven’t even seen all the films I wanted to–at least, not yet. Do yourself a favor and seek these movies out. Also, what other movies did you see this year that really spoke to you? Let us know in the comments!