ANN – The best movies of 2014: ‘Boyhood,’ ‘Force Majeure,’ ‘Selma’ and more

The best movies of 2014: ‘Boyhood,’ ‘Force Majeure,’ ‘Selma’ and more1. andldquoBoyhoodandrdquo: With this touching coming-of-age drama, writer-director Richard Linklater accomplished so many groundbreaking things at once: Filming nonprofessional actor Ellar Coltrane over 12 years, then folding his actual youth and adolescence into a fictional story starring Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, Linklater created a new cinematic language, allowing past and present to mesh as seamlessly as they do in real life.

He allowed his actors to age naturally and gracefully on screen, defying Hollywoodandrsquos usual age-phobic strictures. And he created a portrait of a family evolving, yet staying the same, that moved and resonated with anyone who had ever been a parent, or a child, or both.

2 andldquoBirdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)andrdquo: Alejandro Gonzandaacutelez Iandntildeandaacuterrituandrsquos portrait of a former action star (Michael Keaton) making one last bid for authenticity was an exercise in technical brio (it seemed to be filmed all in one take) and in the art of acting. Not only did Keaton deliver a thoroughly convincing portrayal of a man straddling the realities of aging and his own most cherished myths, but he was joined by an astonishingly game group of co-stars, including Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and a breathtaking Edward Norton.

3 andldquoCitizenfourandrdquo: Laura Poitrasandrsquos taut, claustrophobically effective documentary, in which she puts viewers in the Hong Kong hotel room when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden first shared his revelations about government surveillance, unspools like a real-time thriller that both humanized its subject, clarified his purpose and reminded viewers whatandrsquos at stake in his disclosures.4 andldquoForce Majeureandrdquo: Visually stunning, narratively meticulous and often grimly funny, Swedish director Ruben Ostlundandrsquos drama about a picture-perfect couple coming unraveled during a ski vacation in the French Alps got at gender politics, sexual dynamics and the delicate balance of self-perception far more incisively than the more-hyped andldquoone Girl.

andrdquo Whatandrsquos more, it looked better, with crystalline snowscapes and hushed hotel corridors worthy of Kubrick at his most elegant and atmospheric.5 andldquoFoxcatcherandrdquo: A creepy movie as unsettling and unresolved as the true crime at its center Steve Carell submerges his comic persona to play John E du Pont, who in 1996 murdered wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).

Channing Tatum rounds out the extraordinary three-man ensemble as Schultzandrsquos brother Mark, who emerges as a tragic figure of dogged striving and thwarted ambition. For all the filmandrsquos allegorical commentary on capitalism and morning-in-America self-deception, director Bennett Miller ultimately allowed the story to stay as it was: bizarre, bewildering and surpassingly sad.

6 andldquoUnder the Skinandrdquo: Scarlett Johansson was in two big hits this year — andldquoCaptain America: The Winter Soldierandrdquo and the action flick andldquoLucyandrdquo — but her best work was in Jonathan Glazerandrsquos creepy, cryptic andldquoUnder the Skin,andrdquo in which she played a self-possessed alien whose predatory nature subtly transforms from terrifying to affectingly vulnerable. Moody, superbly controlled and supremely weird, this film lived up to its title, quietly getting under the viewerandrsquos skin and staying there.

7 andldquoSelmaandrdquo: Ava DuVernayandrsquos dramatization of a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement is a stirring historical pageant, but at its best shows Martin Luther King Jr (David Oyelowo) as a cannily perceptive political operator, especially when dealing with Tom Wilkinsonandrsquos equally shrewd Lyndon Johnson. Finally, the most important chapter of 20th-century American history has taken pride of place within the cultureandrsquos dominant narrative medium — not as context, backdrop or plot device, but the subject itself.

8 andldquoEdge of Tomorrowandrdquo: Why on Earth didnandrsquot you see this movie? It had all the mind-bending time-travel of andldquoInterstellar,andrdquo some wise-cracking, save-the-day derring-do a la andldquouardians of the Galaxy,andrdquo plus Tom Cruise flirting with a wonderfully smart, strong heroine played by Emily Blunt. Stylishly directed by Doug Liman, this refreshingly un-self-serious aenture deserved a bigger audience — and, granted, a better title.

Now itandrsquos being marketed under the banner andldquoLive. Die.

Repeat.andrdquo So will you finally give it a chance? Please?9.

andldquoBeyond the Lightsandrdquo: Gina Prince-Bythewoodandrsquos deliriously entertaining backstage romance took all of the tropes from andldquoypsyandrdquo to andldquoThe Bodyguard,andrdquo gave them a fresh, feminist spin and put them in the hands of a superlative cast, including Minnie Driver as a steely-eyed stage mom, Nate Parker as a handsome, reliable cop and the stunning Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a pop singer whose future they tussle over Delicious to watch and listen to, the film was elevated by Mbatha-Rawandrsquos honest, physically startling performance.10.

andldquoLockeandrdquo: If andldquoBirdmanandrdquo and andldquoFoxcatcherandrdquo were ensemble pieces at their best, Steven Knightandrsquos andldquoLockeandrdquo was the quintessential one-man show: British actor Tom Hardy commands the screen as the title character, a construction manager who lives out an entire midlife turnaround in the course of a 90-minute drive from Birmingham to London. Hardy is transfixing as a man desperate to keep the various spheres of his life from spinning out of control the movie itself is a daring, utterly absorbing exercise in real-time storytelling.

Other noteworthy films of the yearThere were far more than 10 notable movies in 2014, and a lot of them shared cinematic DNA, either by way of genre or country of origin. They also suggested a few encouraging or enduring verities, including:First time can be a charm: Several first-time directors made impressive debuts this year, including Dan Gilroy, whose LA thriller andldquoNightcrawlerandrdquo was a slithery, atmospheric evocation of the news media at its most opportunistic.

Gillian Robespierre made a nervy splash with andldquoObvious Child,andrdquo a tart, audaciously unapologetic comedy about a young woman seeking an abortion. Claudia Myers evoked the life of a working military mom with the sensitive domestic drama andldquoFort Bliss.

andrdquo Perhaps the yearandrsquos most assuredly triumphant arrival was Justin Simien with andldquoDear White People,andrdquo a funny, wise and nuanced satire on racial identity set on a liberal college campus.The urban thriller is having a comeback: Like andldquoCollateralandrdquo and andldquoL.

A Confidentialandrdquo before it, andldquoNightcrawlerandrdquo preferred LAandrsquos dark underbelly to its sun-kissed daytime persona New York received a similar make-under in two outstanding crime dramas set in the outer boroughs: Michael Roksamandrsquos andldquoThe Drop,andrdquo starring Tom Hardy, was a superbly written, beautifully acted downbeat gem In andldquoA Most Violent Year,andrdquo JC Chandor channeled the muted palette and subdued mood of the great crime dramas of the 1970s. Cool.

British people are smarter than we are. And they have better taste.

And theyandrsquore better actors. On paper, the historical dramas andldquoMr Turnerandrdquo and andldquoThe Imitation Gameandrdquo — along with the Stephen Hawking biopic andldquoThe Theory of Everythingandrdquo — were run-of-the-mill great-man myths.

But in the hands of directors Mike Leigh, Morten Tyldum and James Marsh (with assists from actors Timothy Spall, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne), they transcended their genre to become graceful works of art — and sure-fire awards bait for those keeping score at home.Documentaries are movie-movies.

Forget false distinctions between nonfiction films and narrative andldquomovie movies.andrdquo This yearandrsquos best documentaries exemplified cinematic storytelling at its best, full stop.

If you havenandrsquot yet, see andldquoLast Days of Vietnam,andrdquo andldquoLife Itself,andrdquo andldquoFinding Vivian Maier,andrdquo andldquoParticle Fever,andrdquo andldquoJodorowskyandrsquos Dune,andrdquo andldquoMistaken for Strangers,andrdquo andldquoNational Gallery,andrdquo andldquoThe Overnightersandrdquo and andldquoHappy Valleyandrdquo and tell me Iandrsquom wrong. andcopy The Washington Post 201.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman