Category: My Blog


My 2016 Oscar Predictions

Oscars 2016 Collage

I love Oscar season. Even though these awards really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a lot of fun following the race and trying to predict who will win. Most years have a clear front-runner for best picture, but this year’s Oscar race actually have three films leading the pack. The Revenant won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA and the DGA award, Spotlight won the Critic’s Choice and SAG awards and The Big Short won the Producer’s Guild award. This is all leading up to an exciting ceremony that could actually surprise for once. But if there aren’t a lot of surprises, I have to say that I’m pretty confident in my predictions. Don’t forget to watches the Oscars this Sunday and check out my predictions after the jump!

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The Film Hound’s 2015 Year End Awards

Best of 2015 Collage

The Oscars are this Sunday, which means another night of me yelling at my television when the Academy inevitably awards the wrong movies. But this blog gives me the perfect opportunity to honor those that I believe are truly worthy of a gold statue. While this may not be quite as prestigious as the Academy Awards, it’s a great way for me to honor the best in film from 2015. This year even features the new category of Best New Character! So without further ado, I present to you the 3rd annual Film Hound Year End Awards! Check them out after the jump and let me know what you think!

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My Top Ten Films of 2015

My Top Ten Films of 2015 Collage

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Carol, The End of the Tour, Ex-Machina, The Gift, Love & Mercy, Macbeth, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Peanuts Movie, Queen of Earth, The Revenant, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Spring, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Tangerine

 

  1. It Follows – Not only is David Robert Mitchell’s sophomore feature the best horror film of the year, it’s also the best horror film of the decade so far. John Carpenter influences abound, from the sneakily sinister score to the frightening portrayal of Midwest suburbia, but this is still very much its own thing. This unique premise of a supernatural virus that can only be passed through intercourse is not only a cautionary warning for young teenagers, but it’s also a clever examination of the loss of youth. Mitchell has crafted something truly refreshing that stands out from typical horror fare that we’re usually subjected to throughout the year.

 

  1. Creed – Sylvester Stallone is the heart and soul of the Rocky franchise, but having another film with him in the ring would have been pretty ridiculous. But by having Rocky act as the trainer to Apollo Creed’s son, they’ve effectively passed the franchise off to an entirely new generation of film fans. For some younger viewers, this could very well be their first Rockyfilm, so it’s a good thing that Creedis a fantastic addition to the franchise. The basic story here is pretty formulaic stuff, but it’s the strong direction from Ryan Coogler and fantastic performances from Stallone and Michael B. Jordan that elevates this above typical boxing fare. Even casual fans of the Rocky franchise will find themselves tearing up at this truly inspiring film.

 

  1. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is a thorough and realistic portrayal of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic priest child molestation scandal. A great screenplay and understated direction keep you truly engaged in the investigation, but it’s the incredible performances that really elevate the material. And the final seconds of the film are absolutely phenomenal, ending on such a dark note that will have audiences shaking as they leave the theater. People may tell you that this is an important film and while that sounds cliché, it’s absolutely true. When we read about stories like this one in the paper, we rarely hear about the extensive amount of reporting and research that brought out the truth. You may think you know the story, but Spotlight places this scandal in a whole new light.

 

  1. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – If there’s one film on this list that you’ve never heard of before, it has to be this one. This Swedish film from director Roy Anderson is a darkly funny look at the bizarre mundanity of life. Told through a series of loosely connected vignettes, Anderson gives us a look at how painfully ordinary life can be. A pair salesman unsuccessfully try to sell a string of lame products, a man dies trying to open a bottle of wine, a Captain arrives to a meeting at the wrong time etc. etc. When the film dips into the absurd and the profound, it feels completely earned and will resonate long after the final credits have rolled. With a camera that remains almost completely static throughout the entire film, unique blocking and intentionally dull set design, this probably the most unique film to come out in 2015. If you watch in the right mood, it’ll work wonders on you.

 

  1. The Martian – Space films have lately seen a resurgence and The Martian stands as one of the best examples in recent years. This story of stranded astronaut Mark Watney is a hugely entertaining and uplifting crowd-pleaser that shows how the fate of a single man can bring so many people together. Matt Damon is great in the lead role and he gives Watney a playful and cocky personality that perfectly fits with the film’s light tone. But what I loved most about the film was its overwhelming optimism. Entire countries put aside their differences in order to work together and bring one man home. There’s not an ounce of cynicism or hatred anywhere to be found, just the entire world uniting around the universal will to survive. Director Ridley Scott has made some sci-fi films that exist solely for genre fans, but The Martianis a sci-fi film for everyone.

 

  1. Mistress America – In the last five years alone, Noah Baumbach has made three films with Greta Gerwig and they just seem to get better and better. Mistress America might just be their best film to date. It’s a zany, screwball comedy with an eclectic cast of characters and a warm heart at its center. Consistent laughs abound and the third act of its fantastic screenplay culminates in one of the best comedic set pieces in ages. And while it may come in at a disappointingly short 84 minutes, it’s better to leave audiences wanting more than to have a film overstay its welcome. Easily the funniest film of the year.

 

  1. Sicario – From its opening sequence all the way to its stunning conclusion, Sicariois packed to the brim with tension. Director Denis Villeneuve stacks fantastic sequence upon fantastic sequence and somehow the film continually manages to top itself. Whether it’s the opening house raid, the terrifying trek across the Mexican border or the climactic moments in a drug-smuggling tunnel, it’s clear that the war on drugs has danger lurking around every corner. Here the Mexican border is presented as sheer chaos, with bad people on both sides of the line who are fighting for their own selfish needs. With an intriguing script from first-time writer Taylor Sheridan and absolutely stunning cinematography from industry veteran Roger Deakins, this is another homerun for Villeneuve.

 

  1. The Hateful Eight – I know that this is a bit of a cliché, but I really think that Quentin Tarantino is one of our greatest living filmmakers.  I love his characters, his trademark dialogue and his over-the-top violence. If I had to pick one director today whose sensibilities seemingly fall right in line with mine, Mr. Tarantino would be very close to the top of that list. And while The Hateful Eight is certainly not his best film, it still works as an excellent showcase for all of Tarantino’s classic trademarks. With the majority of the film’s runtime taking place inside a small lodge, this feels more like a single location stage play than most of Tarantino’s past works. But this works to the film’s benefit because we get to spend more time with the characters, learning about their personalities and further enhancing the mystery that permeates the film. Even if the film provides viewers with a  harsh outlook on humanity, its final moments optimistically suggest that even the most absolute of enemies can one day peacefully find some common ground.

 

  1. Steve Jobs – Since his death in 2011, a number of films have been released chronicling the life of Steve Jobs, but this year’s Steve Jobswill surely be viewed as the de facto Jobs biopic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has cooked up one of the best screenplays in years, managing to showcase the tech guru at his best and worst. The screenplay takes a risky, but wholly original structure, only giving us glimpses into three distinct moments in Jobs’s life. Adding to the exhilaration is director Danny Boyle, who brings his usual energy and flair to pump up the film. One of the most interesting directorial choices that Boyle made was the decision to shoot each time period on a different format (16mm for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998). This feels like the kind of perfectionist decision that Jobs would have approved of and it only further helps to emphasize the development of Jobs and Apple throughout the film. Playing the often maligned CEO, Michael Fassbender hits a homerun, as do his supporting cast which includes Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels. From the visuals, to the kinetic energy, to the unique structure, Steve Jobsscores in every department. This is truly one of the greatest biopics in recent memory.

 

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road – When I saw the fourth entry in the Mad Max franchise back in May, I would have never predicted that it would end up being my favorite film of 2015, but yet here we are. This is the action movie to end all action movies. At 70 years old, director George Miller puts to shame every action movie that’s attempted to recreate the aesthetic that he created back in 1979 with the original Mad Max. This is such a brutal, breathless and beautiful film that it’s hard to imagine it came from the same guy behind Babe and Happy Feet. During a time when action films constantly feel the need to overly complicate things with too much plot and too many characters, Fury Roadis refreshingly simple. The entire plot – beginning to end – could be summed up and written on the back of a napkin and I mean that in the best possible way. Here’s a film that trims the fat, leaving in the only thing that truly matters: the action. It’s not often that a nihilistic genre film can stand head and shoulders above all the prestige pictures that studios release throughout the year, but when I think of 2015 in film, only two words come to mind: Fury Road. The best film of the year.

In this week’s episode, we talk about what the 2015 Academy Awards got right and what they got very, very wrong. We also argue over the moral implications in the Steve Guttenberg classic, Short Circuit. Check out the episode above and be sure to subscribe to us on Youtube and follow us on Twitter!

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In this week’s episode we squawk over Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and also give our 2015 Oscar predictions. We also discuss Children of Men and discuss the Roger Ebert-Kevin James conspiracy. Check out the episode above and be sure to subscribe to us on Youtube and follow us on Twitter!

Subscribe on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHNcTMLQnA-X-tLBlH-n9DQ

Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/brainsoupcast

My 2015 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, Gone Girl

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Best Director

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

Will Win: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Should Win: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Snubbed: Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Will Win: Michael Keaton – Birdman

Should Win: Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Snubbed: Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Will Win: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Should Win: Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Snubbed: Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Will Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Should Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Snubbed: Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Will Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Should Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Snubbed: Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Will Win: Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Should Win: Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Snubbed: Locke – Steven Knight

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Will Win: The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Should Win: Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Snubbed: Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Best Animated Film

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 I guess, but I honestly don’t care

Snubbed: The Lego Movie, obviously

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida

Leviathan

Tangerines

Timbuktu

Wild Tales

Will Win: Ida

Should Win: Out of all the nominees, I’ve only seen Ida. So Ida, I guess.

Snubbed: The Raid 2

Best Documentary

Citizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

Will Win: Citizenfour

Should Win: Virunga

Snubbed: The Overnighters

Best Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Will Win: The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Should Win: Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Snubbed: Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Best Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Will Win: “Glory” from Selma

Should Win: “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

Snubbed: “I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar – Richard King

Unbroken – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Interstellar

Snubbed: Fury

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Fury

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic , Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner,  Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner – Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snubbed: Snowpiercer

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman

Ida – Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

Will Win: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Should Win: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Snubbed: Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Will Win: Foxcatcher

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Snubbed: Snowpiercer

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges

Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood

Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard

Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snubbed: Edge of Tomorrow, as long as the exo-suits count as costumes

Best Editing

American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Gone Girl

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

Snubbed: Godzilla

My Oscars 2015

The 87th Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday and it’s easily the biggest night of the year that Hollywood has to offer. Some great talent is sure to be honored, but I’m also sure that the Academy will fail to honor some of the more worthy individuals. Since I am not a member of the Academy and can’t actually choose who gets to take home the gold on Sunday, I decided to create my own awards. They may not be quite as prestigious as the Oscars, but maybe some of this year’s nominees will appreciate the praise that I’m giving them. Agree with my choices? What categories would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Denis Villeneuve – Enemy

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Tom Hardy – Locke

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Scarlett Johannson – Under the Skin

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Carrie Coon – Gone Girl

Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Naomi Watts – Birdman

Best Original Screenplay

Calvary – John Michael McDonagh

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Locke – Steven Knight

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Adapted Screenplay

Enemy – Javier Gullón

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Under the Skin – Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer

Wild – Nick Hornby

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Foxcatcher – Greig Fraser

Gone Girl – Jeff Cronenweth

Interstellar – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Best Original Score

Enemy – Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans

Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat

Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Best Original Song

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

 

Best Editing

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

Gone Girl – Kirk Baxter

Interstellar – Lee Smith

The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Best Production Design

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Arthur Max

Foxcatcher – Jess Gonchor

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley

Snowpiercer – Ondrej Nekvasil

Best Sound

The Babadook – Frank Lipson

Edge of Tomorrow – James Boyle and Dominic Gibbs

Fury – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Godzilla – Erik Aadahl, David Alvarez and Ethan Van der Ryn

Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten and Richard King

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

In this week’s episode we talk about the controversial Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, The Interview. We also briefly discuss Frank, Repo Man and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Check out the episode above and be sure to subscribe to us on Youtube and follow us on Twitter!

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I’m happy to announce a new project that I’ve been working on: The Brain Soup Podcast! It’s a brand new, film related podcast hosted by me and my friends Matt & Charlie. Our first episode is a discussion of our individual top ten films of 2014. While you may have already seen my top ten list in print form, the podcast offers different discussions and perspectives that I may not have written about. On top of that, you can also hear Matt and Charlie’s favorite films of the year and whether we agree of disagree with each other. Hopefully this will be the first of many episodes! Check out the episode above and be sure to subscribe to us on Youtube and follow us on Twitter!

Subscribe on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHNcTMLQnA-X-tLBlH-n9DQ

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My Top Ten Films of 2014

Best of 2014

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): 22 Jump Street, Calvary, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, John Wick, The Lego Movie, The One I Love, The Raid 2, Under the Skin, X-Men Days of Future Past

  1. The Guest – Any of my honorable mentions could have made their way into my number 10 slot, but I ended up choosing Adam Wingard’s hugely satisfying thriller, The Guest. It’s a story about a naïve family who open up their home to a total stranger, only to discover that this man is not as innocent as he seems. Like Wingard’s past efforts, it’s nothing more than a genre exercise, but it’s one that feels uniquely fresh and entertaining. With great performances, slick action and an awesome soundtrack, The Guest feels like a throwback to some of the more ridiculous action films of the 80s, while also managing to mix in its own modern sensibilities.
  1. LockeLocke is 85 minutes of Tom Hardy driving a car and talking on a phone. That’s it. Writer/director Steven Knight has somehow taken a gimmicky premise and used it to provide a wholly realized portrait of man who is simply trying to make the right decisions in his life. The character of Locke is forced to deal with the complications of a concrete pour, while also recovering from the confession of his infidelity to his wife. Attempting to supervise a concrete pour over the phone may not sound exciting and when the movie first begins, it isn’t. But as we begin to learn more about who Locke is and why he’s choosing to make these decisions, every aspect of his life becomes more and more fascinating. This is really a film that gets better and better as the film progresses and it’s all because of the slow development of Locke’s character and Tom Hardy’s incredible performance. Locke is a simple story, told in a unique and daring fashion.
  1. Fury – A profile of five men operating a tank in the European Theater of WWII, Fury is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. The action sequences are intense, well-directed and manage to separate themselves from the pack of other WWII movies with their focus on tank warfare. The film is bloody, brutal and none of the characters ever feel safe from the onslaught of enemy fire. A sequence that pits four American tanks against a superior German tank is shocking and exciting, as is the climactic standoff where our squad must battle an entire battalion of SS Nazi soldiers. But the action is worthless if you don’t care about the characters, so director David Ayer makes sure that each tank member has a distinctive personality. A highlight of the film is an extended sequence where Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman’s characters play house with two young German women. It’s a break in the action, but it goes to show how desperate these men are to receive some semblance of normalcy within the consistent chaos that they’re exposed to day after day. By making the war seem legitimately scary, Fury earns its place alongside all the great WWII movies.
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny that Wes Anderson has developed a style that’s uniquely his own. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s crafted his most beautiful looking film. Thanks to incredible set direction and production design, practically every frame of the film is a visual wonder. You could watch it with the sound off and still be entertained, but then you would be missing out on the engaging story and sharp dialogue that add another layer of beauty to the film. Aided by a great cast, Anderson has crafted a hugely entertaining tale that works as a remembrance for passed down stories and an affinity for days gone by. Viewers willing to check into this film are sure to enjoy their stay.
  1. Enemy – A surreal and provocative mindbender that’s as frightening as any horror film released this year, Enemy is an intricately plotted thriller that demands multiple viewings. From the opening shot to the final frame, it’s a film that will hold its viewers in a near constant state of suspense. Director Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to last year’s Prisoners proves that he’s a master at holding viewers on the edge. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great two-sided performance and the grim cinematography from Nicolas Bolduc effectively provides the feeling that something just isn’t quite right in this world. Speaking of things not being quite right, the ending is a real shocker that ranks up there with the best of this year. Viewers accustomed to having every plot detail spoon fed to them should look elsewhere; this is a film that will lead to questions, interpretations and conversations. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of cinema.
  1. Boyhood – Shot intermittently from May 2002 to October 2013, Boyhood chronicles the life of a young boy named Mason from ages 6 to 18. It’s an incredible production story, but the film transcends this potential gimmick with fully realized characters, heartfelt moments and interesting themes that most coming of age films don’t even attempt to tackle. Never before has a film so expertly captured what it’s like to live in the 21st century. Everything from the clothes, to the hairstyles, to the vernacular feels authentic with the time period because each scene was filmed in its respective year. Decades from now, people will look back on this film as an authentic snapshot of life in the early 21st century. The amount of things that could have gone wrong with director Richard Linklater’s ambitious project are endless, but somehow everything came together to create a true piece of art that is as beautiful and moving as any motion picture can be. Linklater’s naturalistic direction keeps things poetically simple and eleven years of footage leads to an ending that is breathtaking in how it says so much by saying so little. This is surely one of the most realistic films ever made, but it’s also one of the most magical. I’ve never seen anything quite like Boyhood.
  1. Gone Girl – Adapated from Gillian Flynn’s entertaining page-turner of the same name, Gone Girl is a harrowing mystery that’s engrossing from start to finish. Fans of the source material will be pleased at the faithfulness of this adaptation, while new viewers will be absolutely floored by some of the twists and turns that this movie takes. Not only is it a great thriller, but it’s also a great satire of modern relationships and marriages. The extreme, heightened scenario that these characters are placed in may be rare, but the actions that they take while in this strange scenario are simply exaggerations of what many people do while in a marriage. Couples lie to each other, pretend to be someone else and struggle for power. These characters are written as hyperbolic exaggerations for a reason. Director David Fincher once again proves that he’s a master behind the camera, crafting a film that never lets up throughout its extended runtime. Not only does it rank right up there with his best work, but it’s also one of the most wholly satisfying thrillers to come out in years.
  1. Nightcrawler – A brilliant satire of modern news and the cutthroat business world, Nightcrawler is a startlingly accomplished directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the best performance of 2013 and crafts a totally unique and interesting character in the process. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a total sociopath, willing to put anybody into danger as long as it will get him further ahead. He wants to achieve success and he absolutely does not care how he gets there. Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role and Bloom’s gaunt physique and long hair only add to his uncomfortable persona. The script by Gilroy also offers plenty of dark humor that may catch some viewers off guard. Gyllenhaal’s character is so loathsome that you almost have to laugh at all of the horrible acts he’s willing to commit. All of these acts culminate in a fantastically directed final action sequence, one that continues to shock even after you think it could go no further. It’s a film that’s full of surprises and feels like a breath of fresh air in the occasionally mundane cinematic landscape.
  1. Foxcatcher – If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. Here is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. In his best film to date, director Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. Miller is aided by a fascinating script and three transformative performances from Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s performance as the wealthy John du Pont is a true standout and the character that he embodies lingers long after the film has ended. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art that is nothing short of astounding.
  1. Whiplash – Sometimes the best thing about movies is their ability to surprise you. Before I saw Whiplash, I would have never imagined that it would end up being my favorite film of 2014. Now, over two months since I originally saw it, my love for the film has only continued to grow. This tale of a maniacal jazz conductor and the young student that he chooses to inflict his wrath upon is intense and undeniably powerful. This isn’t a heartfelt story of a teacher encouraging a student to do his best; it’s a story of a harmful relationship between an abuser and an abusee. Director Damien Chazelle’s directing is tight and spot-on, while his script smartly explores the idea of wanting to achieve something regardless of the cost. Miles Teller delivers an extremely physical performance as we watch him bang on the drum set until his hands are bloody, while J.K. Simmons creates one of the most vicious, ruthless, disturbing and downright evil characters to appear in a movie in quite some time. All of this builds to a final sequence that is equal parts shocking and exhilarating. Just as the film appears to veer towards a fairly obvious ending, the rug is pulled out from underneath us with a truly surprising reveal. Chazelle manages to find an ending that is neither completely uplifting nor completely upsetting and entirely avoids the schmaltz that is typically associated with similar films. It’s more frightening that any horror film I’ve seen in years and one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences that I’ve ever had. With taut direction, amazing performances and an infectiously toe-tapping jazz soundtrack, this is sure to blow away your expectations, just like it did mine. Whiplash is, without a doubt, the best film of the year.