Mid-Year Report – Top Films of 2014.

Ok so that video is a bit old, but who isn't excited to see Paul Thomas Anderson tackle the mind of Pynchon.  And Pynchon at his most modern and most open.  In the end Inherent Vice is one of the most intriguing films of 2014.  Click through for a journey through the Top 10 films so far out in 2014 and the Top 10 films I'm most excited to see.  SeligFilmNews Mid-Year Report – Top Films of 2014.

Top 10 Films of 2014:

Honorable Mention:

Kids For Ca$h.

10. The Immigrant.

James Gray period piece is his first venture into having a strong female lead carry the film.  Marion Cotillard straddles to the darkest corners in the film and yet still shines brightest in every scene.  Renner and Phoenix dueling figures sadly don't have enough interaction and their twist and turns are the only issue with this beautiful shot film.  DP Darius Khondji is one of the few bold cinematographers that can mix in the darkness of Seven, claustophobic nature of Panic Room, and the whimsical magic of Midnight in Paris in his film reel.  Darius sets us in the right old-world mood, but the dark glimpse in the performances seem so modern and vibrant. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeXtjrHLbTc

9. The Fault In Our Stars.

This year's tear-jerker is one of the better book-to-film movies of the last few years.  Author John Green's ability to be apart of the film also really made this teen flick a real treat.  Young director Josh Boone is a name to keep an eye on!  The scene-stealing Nat Wolff even let slip what Mr. Boone's next project might be…here. I'll leave you with the treat of talking with John, Nat and the star of the film Shailene Woodley.

8. Jodorowsky's Dune.

One of the most unique filmmakers of the last 50 years Alejandro Jodorowsky once had the chance to reinvent science fiction.  Sadly this film shows why that chance never was realized.  A lock to be an award worthy documentary!  Jodorowsky's Dune showcases how Alejandro was on the verge of bringing to life DUNE like never thought imagined.  I had the chance to chat with the director about his wonderful documentary.

7. Locke.

Isolated. Tense. Gripping.  These are the words that pop into my mind when thinking about this acting tour-de-force.  Writer/Director Steven Knight continues to take his small world of Birmingham to all of us across the world.  Locke is his most insular and gimmicky if you will.  Tom Hardy owns the screen as we see him on one faith-flled drive from his landscaping job to somewhere unknown.  Hardy gets the chance to sparkle as does the subtle choices of Knight and his film crew.  A film that on second viewing has some really intriguing shot choices.  It was a treat to chat with Steven about his latest movie.

6. Supermensch.

Shep Gordon is one of those bold figures you may not know about.  Luckily Mike Myers (Yeah that Mike Myers) has given us the year's best documentary.  We venture into the history of a Supermensch and the doc pays off on all levels.  Unbelievable at times.  Unpredictiable at others.  Unforgettable in the end.  Take the chance and learn about the legend!

5.  The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Wes Anderson's universe is either beloved by the loyal fans or causes mass confusion.  His tone and pacing are totally unique.  Also a director that appeals to a certain type of talent.  But it's two newbies to the Wes Anderson world that make GBH his best film to date.   Ralph Fiennes, as Gustave H. the legendary concierge of GBH, shines in his first foray into WA land.  His incredible pace mixed in with his biting comments make him electric on-screen.  Relative new comer Tony Revolori is a scene-stealing treat as Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who's world is changed by Gustave H.  Grand Budapest Hotel showcases the large ensemble cast and allows for an intimate friendship to emerge from the whirlwind war-time adventure that is the plot.  The first real treat of 2014 hopefully won't fade in the eyes of those award-season voters.

4.  Chef.

A stellar cast easily could have failed in this simple plot, but Chef defied the odds.  Jon Faveau's writing voice touches into a new zone as we see a wonderfully tight structure mixed in with poignant layers.  Faveau's characters poke fun at tendacies we've all seen through the explosion of Food based television.  But it's the realtionship between Faveau's Carl Casper and his son Percy, played amazingly well by Emjay Anthony.  Percy's self-realiance is a perfect mix of comedy and slight dramatic leanings as we wonder if Carl is really a loving father. The journey across the country allows for some fun pokes at the whole social media craze and a nice look at the "tastes" of the different areas.  It is especially nice to see the importance Austin, Texas plays in the whole lexicon of the film.  Chef highlights all the great qualities of those bold folks who open up food trucks.  Passionate people making passion filled food is a world Faveau captures perfectly.  Though make sure you enjoy the over-the-top characters that Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, and Robert Downey Jr. get to play in the film.

3. The Railway Man.

This film, based on a true story, held such a slow deliberate pace that boredom was starting to creep in when the real plot took off.  The love story elements are sweet and nicely layered, but the moment we leave that world the better the film becomes.  The journey back to the horrors of the war makes this movie so compelling.  The tense history behind what had been inflicted on Colin Firth's character, the other character played admirably by Hiroyuki Sanada, is a constant looming figure in the film.  Will he do what was done to him?  It's a tough question that the film gets to address.  The real elements of these two men's final days is both shocking and utterly uplifting.  A film that dives deeply into the pains of war and pops back up with a new pround truth.  It's a film that will stick with you long after the credits.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS-n3VIVPos

2. Ida.

Co-Writer/Director Pawel Pawlikowski has created a real gem that tackles the horrors of the holocaust through a fresh point of view.  Agata Trzebuchowska (Ida/Anna) has a real calm aura throughout that makes her appear more like a ghost figure just floating through the scenes.  Thus her transformation near the end is all the more shocking and pleasing to the audience.  We see her finally come to life and live one day as her aunt would have wanted.  That Aunt has her own amazing ability to intrigue.  Agata Kulesza may not play the title role, but her performance as Wanda is one of the year's best.  She is intelligent and brutal in her work environment and completely shut off and numb to the world around her.  But unlike the catatonic nature of Ida, Wanda is vibrant, sexual, and defiant.  She is a modern strong willed woman who's one tragic secret is completely unearthed with the presence of Ida.  The real power in the film is that Wanda does take this young nun along a journey of her Jewish heritage and in that journey comes to grips with her worst nightmare.  It's a film that will tear your heart out when the truth is revealed.  It's not just another sad holocaust tale of Jews being killed, it's something deeper and more hidden.  It's a story of love in a world without the possibility of love. 

1. Boyhood.

Richard Linklater has a history of making films that capture the reality of youth.  He's captured the paranoid thoughts of young a hippy culture in Slacker, the hormone driven madness of crazy high schoolers and even the quirky talents of young music school kids.  In short, Richard Linklater knows people.  His Before Trilogy showcased that he has the ability to highlight sustained love over decades of time.  Boyhood is a film that accomplishes all of the above.  The film perfectly tracks a young boy's rise into manhood.  But the real treat of the film is the time that was put into the project.  Linklater has kept this story in his mind for 12 years.  He cast talent and had them hold onto these characters without suppling a script.  Instead Richard built long lasting friendships and partnerships with these talented actors.  Boyhood is a 2 hour and 45 minute look into a dozen years of changing society.  The film doesn't attempt to harp on the major milestones of life, but rather shows us glimpses with important information hidden in plain view.  A powerful scene in which the young boy, Mason, is told to clean off years of height marks is such an intriguing profound sequence.  We didn't see Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, put those marks but his slight hesitation in taking them off shows how savvy and intelligent a young man he will become.  Linklater's casting of his own daughter was a stroke of genius and his relying on long-time collaborator Ethan Hawke allowed for perfect casting as Mason's father.  Hawke gets to showcase his growing range over time as we see his handsome slacker days and his clean(er) cut mature moments.  His discussions with his two children are some really amazing moments.  This bold film has real honest truth in it and the growth of these characters is gripping.  Not a dull moment in this career-defining film.  Richard Linklater deserves the highest of praise for this masterpiece.

And now here are 10 films that I can't wait to see.  We'll count Inherent Vice as a 1.B to my top choice as both films are so compelling. But first here is…

Honorable Mention:

Time Out of Mind.  Director Oren Moverman

White Bird In A Blizzard.  Director Gregg Araki. Trailer.

Manglehorn.  Director David Gordon GreenAl Pacino.

10. Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Matthew Vaughn!

9.  Guardians of the Galaxy.

8.  The Equalizer.  Denzel.  Chloe.  Fuqua. 

7.  This Is Where I Leave You.

6. Foxcatcher

5.  The Imitation Game.

4. Birdman.

3.  The CobblerTom McCarthy!!

2. St. Vincent.  Bill Murray!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5BVn-eyAxA

1. Interstellar.  Nolan. McConaghey.  Space.

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