2016 Movie Power Rankings

A power ranking of my ten favorite films of the year – and the complete list of all the films that didn’t make the cut.

It’s that time again, can you believe it? Two quick reminders:

  1. I’m using release dates from IMDb. So if The Lobster falls between the cracks, don’t blame me.
  2. This is a ranking of the movies I personally saw. So don’t get uppity with me just because you can’t find a specific movie somewhere. Having said that, I don’t update these rankings after they’re published so even if I see a 2016 movie after the fact, oh well, it didn’t make the totally arbitrary deadline.
  3. If you can click on a movie title, it means I wrote a review for it. Go ahead and click away! What have you got to lose!?

That was three things, not two. Just making sure you’re paying attention.

Check here for 2015 and here for 2014.

HONORABLE MENTION

10. N/A

I’m sorry but I can’t even pick a tenth movie. It was up in the air between Captain America: Civil War, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Sausage Party, and The Neon Demon. There are serious flaws with each one in my opinion and I don’t think any of them deserve to make my list.

This was an off year for me. The number of films I saw didn’t differ much from previous years, but the overall quality of them definitely fell. Usually, creating this list isn’t too difficult, but everything below the Pantheon has been a struggle (as you’ll see).

Let’s hope 2017 isn’t the same.

9. The Accountant

This film’s greatest strength might be how good it is compared to the expectations most people probably had before seeing it. While it’s not a perfect product by any means, Ben Affleck delivers a nuanced performance that is accompanied by a nice blend of seriousness, humor, and unexpectedly badass action sequences, and it looks like there’s a genuine possibility this could end up being some kind of franchise.

Even though The Accountant doesn’t have the same adrenaline-filled high compared to a movie like Hardcore Henry or even John Wick, the added substance here is what makes this a superior film. Plus, the highly-functioning autistic protagonist could be the hero we need in this day and age – maybe more so than Affleck’s other 2016 hero in Batman v Superman: I Left the Movie Theater with the Worst Headache of My Goddamn Life.

8. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Look, any movie that drops a disconcertingly catchy song about a girl asking to get fucked like Bin Laden deserves to be on this list. Also, we’re talking about The Lonely Island, who have a certain method of approaching comedy that doesn’t change very much in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

This mockumentary about a singer/rapper named Conner4Real often goes over-the-top in parodying not only the music industry, but perhaps all of popular entertainment in itself. It also does a pretty funny job of showing the rise and fall of a pop star and it’s easy to see how someone like Justin Bieber might have served as inspiration for this kind of thing.

Andy Samberg leads the way with a typically charming performance, but the real stars of this movie are the original songs. They’re super catchy, super funny, and it’s a damn shame the aforementioned Bin Laden song hasn’t gotten traction during awards season.

The plethora of celebrity cameos in this movie round out a solid movie that succeeds in what it sets out to do, but doesn’t have the same resonance as other movies with similar goals. But that’s okay, because I see Popstar on my list, and not those other movies. Ha!

7. Sully

A quietly competent film buoyed by another strong performance from Tom Hanks and a steady directorial hand from Clint Eastwood. Sully is the equivalent of a Buick: reliable, subtly confident, and doesn’t take anything off the table any more than it needs to.

While some aviation-based films like Flight relish the gut-wrenching sequences in the air and milk them for all they’re worth, Eastwood and pilot Chesley Sullenberger (he consulted… for obvious reasons) decide to focus on the power of humanity rather than gratuitous special effects and cheap thrills.

It’s a move that pays off, giving us one of the year’s most sneakily satisfying films.

6. Deadpool

The most refreshing superhero experience since Guardians of the Galaxy comes from Ryan Reynolds, who also graciously provided us with one of the worst superhero experiences in 2011’s Green Lantern. Nevertheless, Deadpool is the character Reynolds was born to play and his performance has led to critical acclaim.

The R-rated adventure goes against the grain in a myriad of ways, with one common one being Deadpool breaking the fourth wall (addressing the audience or acknowledging there is an audience to begin with) and saying something snarky.

Really, the only losers here are the furious parents who chose to take their very underage children to see this movie, only to realize there’s literally a sex montage with each act taking place on a different holiday. Also, did I mention this is R-rated?

Sorry parents, it’s your loss. I can only imagine there’ll be a sequel. We can only hope future installments are just as good as this one.

THE PANTHEON

5. Zootopia

No joke, the hardest I laughed in a movie theater this year was during the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles) scene in Zootopia with the sloths. Even when I think about it now, it’s maybe one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a movie. On a broader scale, Zootopia is an ambitious animated film that explores important – and timely – themes like stereotypes, discrimination, and determination.

Like most animated movies, it tries to serve both the kids and the adults in the audience, and in both cases it really delivers. The animation is excellent, the voice acting is engaging, and the characters are both fun and relatable. Most of the humor is easy to understand for kids, but there’s also a lot of more subtle opportunities to make jokes older audience members would appreciate.

It’s a genuinely fun movie to watch, no matter how old you are.

4. Hell or High Water

Chris Pine and Ben Foster deliver the best acting of their careers with a helping hand from a rumbling Jeff Bridges and a bemused Gil Birmingham in this modern Western heist drama. There’s a rough beauty to how the complex story is shown in such a well-crafted and efficient way, thanks to a phenomenal screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.

The storyline is tight and brisk and the cinematography is simply sublime. The pacing is balanced, allowing us to lean forward in tense anticipation during the heist scenes while also allowing us to fully appreciate the scenes where Bridges and Birmingham get to exchange some of the best banter of the year.

I suspect this movie slipped under a lot of people’s radars. That’s a shame, because despite its seemingly ho-hum marketing campaign (I remember thinking I wasn’t interested when I watched the trailers), it’s actually one of the best films of the year.

3. Sing Street

This feel-good, coming-of-age tale takes place in the delightful year of 1985 in Dublin, Ireland. We follow a boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who transitions from private to public school. It’s rough at first before he sees a girl off in the distance. Lo and behold, he’s completely smitten and now he must somehow win her over. But how…?

I know, start a band!

Inspired by the likes of Duran Duran, The Clash, and other great bands of that time, Conor and his friends end up creating a band with undeniable potential. With a lovable cast and a story you immediately want to see end happily, Sing Street is a charming little flick with a big heart.

2. Arrival

Director Denis Villeneuve continues his strong run as one of the premiere directors of our time in a comprehensive piece of cinema that uses an alien “invasion” to lead the audience to places nobody could have seen coming. This is a movie that addresses a lot of deep and profound questions, juxtaposing the concept of extraterrestrial life with humanity’s existential ponderings.

The complex storyline is almost singlehandedly carried by my future bae, Amy Adams, as well as a throbbing, tense atmosphere and one of the best original scores of the year from composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. All those factors elevate the film’s twist from simply provocative to a complete emotional and mental experience.

Arrival is a can’t-miss film. So don’t miss it, jeez.

1. La La Land

It’s the only movie I saw in theaters twice this year and the second time was such a struggle because of how emotional everything is. After you’ve seen the infamous gut-wrenching ending sequence the first time, you can’t stop your heart from breaking into a million shimmering pieces as you watch everything all over again.

La La Land is the very definition of a memorable movie, filled with vibrant colors, glowing dreams, and the harsh slap of reality that says success can come at a hefty, hefty price. As an added plus, it’s a legitimately catchy original musical and I’ve heard lots of people say they’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat and letting themselves get caught up in the ensuing emotional rollercoaster.

Hell, it inspired me to take up the piano again so I can come closer to becoming a Korean Ryan Gosling (and finding my Emma Stone, um, without the [spoiler]).

Here’s to the fools who dream. Congratulations La La Land, you’re my Movie of the Year.

THE LEFTOVERS

Bad Santa 2

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Bleed for This

Captain America: Civil War

Central Intelligence

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jason Bourne

Mechanic: Resurrection

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Ride Along 2

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Sausage Party

Suicide Squad

The Boss

The Brothers Grimsby

The Conjuring 2

The Do-Over

The Infiltrator

The Magnificent Seven

The Neon Demon

X-Men: Apocalypse

2015 Movie Power Rankings

A power ranking of my ten favorite films of the year and a list of all the other movies I saw for you to gawk at.

BS:JAG’s annual movie power rankings are still in their infancy years – this is only Year Two after all – but one day they will probably rival the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival in prestige. Of course last year I was too generous with my rankings, giving nearly fifty percent of the films I watched a place in either the Pantheon or the Honorable Mention category.

That’s a format that’s not selective enough to imply any type of actual competition. Therefore, only ten films will be given actual rankings, while the rest are simply listed at the end (as usual).

Remember: release dates are based on IMDb and any movie title that is also a link sends you to my review of that very same movie.

HONORABLE MENTION

10. Kung Fury

This short film was funded entirely on Kickstarter and parodies the often over-the-top action films of the eighties as well as anything I’ve ever seen. The references are appropriately crazy while maintaining focused precision on channeling the eighties’ cheesiest pop culture trends and the short viewing time almost guarantees an enjoyable experience without overstaying its welcome.

I would place it higher, but like I said, thirty minutes is a solid amount of time to entertain our increasingly twitchy generation so I couldn’t place it above feature films that regularly go for three times the length of Kung Fury.

Still, it’s the best film of the year… to show how heinous Hitler would be if he knew kung fu and had the ability to travel through time.

9. The Revenant

I was gonna publish this way earlier, like late December type of early, but held off because I was waiting to see this with my dad. Turns out it was pretty much what I expected: a beautiful, raw film that falls short of true greatness because of its own heavy pretentiousness.

Still, watching Leo was an inspiring experience, and Tom Hardy once again showed why he is one of Hollywood’s greatest and underrated actors right now.

The cinematography was breathtaking and the score was simultaneously haunting, throbbing, and grandiose. Plus, this Chicago winter is really starting to hit us hard here and The Revenant has been a nice reminder things could always be worse. Dang bears…

Unfortunately, I can’t place it any higher on the list because so much of the movie was just patting itself on the back with all the tracking shots of nature and Leo crawling on the ground.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

People have been saying this might be the best action film in decades. I wouldn’t go that far but it was certainly one hell of a fucking ride to experience. Even though I had to take a piss for the entire second half of the movie, I couldn’t bring myself to get up and leave because I was afraid I would miss something spectacular.

Tom Hardy was awesome, but Charlize Theron was something else. She’s always been pretty good at being a badass but this was really taking it to the next level. Somehow I love her even more now. Like, not even a crush, or lust, but an appreciation for what she’s doing in her profession.

Hell of a film, and the funny thing is people were saying in the beginning it’s a reboot nobody asked for. Well look where we are now. Nice.

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

At the end of the day, you have to admit one thing: we can talk about the artistic merits of filmmaking and what it means to work in that medium, but what all of us want at the core is a movie that is entertaining and fun.

And sure, there are a lot of worthy criticisms to bring up, like how much of it copies from earlier Star Wars films or how Kylo Ren was not as badass as we expected (still very complex as a character), but it has to be noted that the two biggest weaknesses of the prequel trilogy – acting and the script/dialogue – were vastly improved here.

While I’m not a big Star Wars fan by any means, even I started to tear up during the opening scroll and every time an old character came back into the picture, whether it was Han Solo or even C-3P0, my heart skipped a beat. I’m excited for the next movie.

6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I’m kind of a sucker for indie films and this one happened to combine a lot of elements I personally find very attractive in life in general. And sure, it’s kind of a film about teenage angst, but it was also about friendship, suffering, growing up, and love.

That’s not saying much, I guess, but it’s a glowing film filled with earnest performances and I’m pleased it’s on a list filled with a lot of bombastic characters ranging from Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina to even a lot of the more quirky guys in The Big Short.

The soundtrack is appropriately indie and conveys emotion well while “Me” and “Earl” have a continued theme of making parodies of classic films that had the movie connoisseur in me giggling with glee.

THE PANTHEON

5. Ex Machina

Few films have addressed the intriguing topic of sentient artificial intelligence with such style and grace as Ex Machina, which features delicious production design and a tight script on an equally tight budget.

One of my favorite actors, Oscar Isaac, continues to show why he is a bona fide star, while Domhnall Gleeson continues to show up in incredible films and TV shows (seriously, check out this guy’s IMDb page). Alicia Vikander does a great job as the A.I., and certainly kept me on my toes as I tried to figure out what exactly each character’s central motive truly was.

It’s a thriller that ends up being pretty frightening near the end and overall this is definitely the type of movie someone could actually say is seductive without being all cliché.

4. Beasts of No Nation

Netflix clearly means business as they continue to expand beyond just the simple streaming service they once were. First they introduced hit shows like House of Cards (an adaptation from the UK series, but still) and Peaky Binders and now they’re kicking butt with their movies.

Beasts of No Nation is headlined by director Cary Joji Fukunaga of True Detective fame while Idris Elba portrays a guerilla commander and both do a wonderful job. But the most important performance is from teen actor Abraham Attah, who is incredible to watch as he transitions from carefree young boy to ruthless child soldier who has done and seen unspeakable things.

Even with the sublime cinematography, it’s a hard film to watch because of the harsh subject matter. However, it is a necessary one. Most importantly, the plot focuses on the internal struggles of an unnamed African nation and removes any overt implications of Western influence, which is something even an exceptional film like Hotel Rwanda didn’t do.

3. Inside Out

Pixar really struck gold with this one and it certainly tackles the most complicated subject matter I can remember from an animated film (that I’ve seen).

The voice acting was sublime, the concept was wholly unique, and the interpretation of how the mind works was really refreshing to see from an adult’s perspective and hopefully from a kid’s as well.

Just a monumental effort by a studio that had been mired in sequels for a few years.

2. Sicario

From top to bottom, I think this was genuinely one of the best films of the year and I’m surprised it didn’t receive any nominations in the major categories for the Academy Awards. It should have been a lock for Best Picture, Best Director and either Emily Blunt or definitely Benicio del Toro should have been nominated too.

It’s a damn shame and I guess it really means 2015 was an unusually solid year for good films. On the other hand, why the fuck was Mad Max nominated for Best Picture?

My head is spinning.

1. The Big Short

The Pantheon’s leader is my choice for best film of the year, but it’s also perhaps the most important as well. We like to think history is cyclical, in that it often repeats itself. That is certainly true in the financial world, which is often dictated by the ebbing and flowing of society and its various moods.

The financial crisis of the late 2000s was exactly what it sounds like – a crisis. And while much of the world was impacted, most people still don’t know the substance behind the story. That’s where The Big Short comes in, explaining the housing bubble crisis through a variety of perspectives.

Humor is used extensively, whether it’s through the breaking of the fourth wall or more traditional means. It’s one of those rare moments where the humor doesn’t make light of what happened, but instead keeps the audience engaged and awake to actually follow the movie’s path.

Of course, following the path is relatively easy to begin with, as the complex subject material is deftly handled by director Adam McKay to ensure the most absorption by even younger generations. And it was clear the humor was appreciated in at least the crowd I was part of, as the primarily white and older audience members alternated between knowing groans and appreciative chuckles.

This is the type of movie open-minded high schools will show their students. They’ll just need to get those parental release forms signed first. Totally worth it.

THE OUTSIDERS

Ant-Man

Assassination

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Black Mass

Daddy’s Home

Dope

Entourage

Furious 7

In the Heart of the Sea

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

No Escape

Northern Limit Line

Point Break

Spectre

Straight Outta Compton

Tangerine

The Gallows

The Gunman

The Hateful Eight

The Last Witch Hunter

The Night Before

The Overnight

The Ridiculous 6

The Visit

Trainwreck

Wolf Warrior

2014 Movie Power Rankings

A comprehensive power ranking of all the movies I saw that came out in 2014.

When I was getting ready to rank all the films I watched this year, I checked my IMDb history to see exactly how many I was dealing with it. To my surprise, I counted 32 of them. 32! And the crazy thing is that I missed a ton of really great movies like Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, and even The Babadook.

Funny how that worked out.

Instead of ranking every movie, I’ll rank my top ten and I also have some honorable mention movies as well. Before we get started, I should mention that the dates are a little wonky for some of the movies I saw.

Locke, for example, was released in January 2014, but was playing in film festivals in 2013… so I guess it’s a 2013 film? Even though it’s still being nominated for awards? Whatever. Fuck it. For efficiency’s sake, I will trust IMDb’s judgment and only list movies that they say came out in 2014.

Let’s get started (a movie title that is also a link indicates I wrote a review for it and therefore linked it).

 

THE PANTHEON

The bottom five was tougher than the top five. Also, Top Five is not in the Pantheon.

 

10. Nightcrawler

If you’re looking for a prime example of something that is somehow both great and borderline despicable at the same time, Nightcrawler is the cool Los Angeles light glowing at the end of the tunnel.

The highs were worthy of the Pantheon: Jake Gyllenhaal once again embracing his inner crazy, the phenomenal cinematography that was reminiscent of Collateral and Drive, and an intriguing premise.

On the other hand, the lows almost disqualified Nightcrawler from induction: none of the characters were likeable (which isn’t a requirement for a good movie, but still), the soundtrack was overly intrusive, and I personally did not enjoy the ending.

Really, I think this is a movie that gets its weaknesses exposed through the utter power of its strengths. Also, the things I didn’t like don’t necessarily make it a bad movie. I just don’t know if I ever want to see it again because of how slimy it was.

 

9. Force Majeure

What would you do if your family was suddenly facing imminent danger? Would you protect your family at all costs? Or, would you run? In the end, nobody can know for sure until they experience that moment.

Force Majeure, a Swedish film, explores the aftermath of such a scenario for one family on vacation. A controlled avalanche briefly looks like it’s out of control, prompting a dad of two kids to panic and flee the scene – after finding time to grab his phone and gloves.

To make matters worse, the mom stays behind and shields their son and daughter, only to find that the danger was just an illusion.

It’s a beautiful film, with the family’s dynamics completely shattered after the traumatic experience. A more elementary approach might just focus on dad dropping the ball, but Force Majeure is adept at also taking a look at the mom and her troubling realization that her own survival is apparently now secondary to the survival of her kids.

The film is also subtle, with a lot of the communication done through nonverbal methods (you know, body language). Aesthetically, that subtlety comes through from the location of the movie (rustic yet modern ski lodge) as well as the numerous tracking shots of the slopes and skiers lethargically doing figure eights in the snow.

Surprisingly, there was a fair amount of humor, with some of the sadder scenes being balanced enough to refrain from becoming too melodramatic.

It’s a great flick; maybe it will win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

 

8. John Wick

Even though I don’t exactly have a bountiful basket of prestigious films to pick from, this is bound to strike some of you as an unexpected landing place for Keanu Reeves and his gunplay. But John Wick was an absolute thrill to experience.

The movie knew exactly what it was, never strayed from that, and hit the mark on so many levels. Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki were great in their supporting roles, with Palicki continuing to show she can, at the very least, pretend to be an absolute badass in movies.

I haven’t seen The Raid 2, but I assume that and John Wick are the best action films of the year (that don’t involve superheroes). And if both Raid movies are considered to be the definitive hand-to-hand combat flicks, then John Wick has to considered a definitive example of… gun-to-everything combat.

Hurry up and watch it before Keanu Reeves comes out of nowhere and punches you in the throat – with a bullet.

 

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

Speaking of superheroes, say hello to one of quirkiest groups in the galaxy. And they guard it too! During a time when gritty movies are threatening to overrun our lives, it was more than just refreshing to finally see a blockbuster movie go the other way and say, “Groot.”

Chris Pratt is a national treasure and that soundtrack was just phenomenal. Literally 100% of moviegoers were surprised by the opening credits for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Go ahead and dance, Chris Pratt. You earned it.

 

6. The LEGO Movie

One of the great accomplishments that The LEGO Movie achieved was successfully converting toys into a quality film. It’s something Transformers, G.I. Joe, and freaking Battleship can’t admit. The voice acting was fantastic, led by people like Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, and Liam Neeson.

The visual effects were also noteworthy, making the LEGO pieces look like they were stop-motion, when they were actually completely computer animated.

If there’s an underrated aspect of The LEGO Movie, it’s the emotional appeal. Although I didn’t cry at the end, it was definitely one of those endings that’s so awesome and happy (with one of those moments where the bad guy goes to the good side), you can’t help but get blurry vision for a second.

By the way, it’s not a coincidence that The Grand Budapest Hotel is next.

 

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson was at his peak in The Grand Budapest Hotel, with another quailty ensemble cast showing off their collective acting prowess. Ralph Fiennes, in particular, was amusing, active, and witty as Monsieur Gustave H., the hotel’s concierge.

Smaller players like the menacing Willem Dafoe and the legendary Jeff, uh, Goldbum were also highlights in my opinion.

Anderson’s films are always fun to watch because of their unique production design and general style. The Grand Budapest Hotel was no exception, although this was a much more mature project than his usual fare. Instead of bemoaning the transition from childhood to adulthood, or lamenting the inevitable aging process, Anderson addressed all that through murderous conspiracies and blitzkriegs.

Some people are worried where he’ll go next because the movie was so good. Has he peaked? Is there a higher level he can reach with his trademark moviemaking?

Me? I’m not worried.

 

4. Edge of Tomorrow

If you’ve seen Edge of Tomorrow, this should not surprise you. It’s one of the better action movies of the past decade thanks to its strong cast (Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt), humor, visuals, and adept handling of time travel.

An appropriate analogy would be Groundhog Day + any Tom Cruise action movie = Edge of Tomorrow.

I’m not sure what was more unexpected: how funny this movie was, or Tom Cruise fully embracing a role in which his character actually starts off as a total coward and ends up saving the world, of course, as an absolute whirl of an almost literal killing machine (battle suits for the win).

Even better, Cruise eventually gets to be the smartass he is, as he has to relive the same day over and over again after each time he dies. He reveals information he shouldn’t know (classic!) and generally confuses the hell out of everybody.

But just like Bill Murray, he gets tired of the shit. The only difference is that Cruise has to save the world. Bill just has to not be a prick.

Also, Emily Blunt was a badass in this flick. I hear she trained in Krav Maga for this role. Whoa! She also had one of the best lines of 2014, when she realizes Cruise can repeat the same day over and over (which she had the ability to do, until she lost it… just watch the fucking movie), when she says, “Find me when you wake up.”

 

3. Whiplash

Who would have thought one of the most thrilling movies of the year would be about a music kid and his teacher? Of course, that’s a massive understatement, with the “music kid” (Miles Teller) being completely and obsessively dedicated to perfecting his craft as a jazz drummer, while the “teacher” (J.K. Simmons) is a psychopath that genuinely believes his abusive behavior brings out the best in his slaves – I mean students.

Real blood was shed in this film from Miles Teller, and there’s a particularly powerful moment when he submerges his bloody hand in a pitcher full of ice water.

I like to think it’s a nod to how the audience is feeling throughout the whole movie: hot, maybe agitated, symbolically bloodied, and looking for something cool to calm us down. It’s that kind of flick. There’s barely any actual action, in the John Wick-esque sense, but you better believe Whiplash is the title for a reason.

If J.K. Simmons doesn’t win an Oscar, I’m gonna throw a chair at a muthafucka.

 

2. Interstellar

I’ve though about Interstellar more than any other film this year. It’s similar to what happened after I saw The Tree of Life and The Thin Red Line, both directed by Terrence Malick. All three films (Interstellar was directed by Christopher Nolan) are vast, exploring large themes within the context of specific scenarios.

But you’ve probably heard a lot about Interstellar already. Just know if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s time. Not just for the spectacular visual effects (Hoyte Van Hoytema), the amazing score (Hans Zimmer), or just the damn scope of the thing, but because it will make you feel.

The emotional appeal in this film was absolutely phenomenal, and I know for a fact that lots of people were bawling through the movie.

It’s not #1 on my list right now, thanks to some shitty dialogue (Anne Hathaway tried…), but I feel like people will look back in twenty years and remember Interstellar more than any other film from 2014.

 

1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I would argue Interstellar took more computer wizardry to create, but Birdman was more daunting because of its format as basically an entire movie that is one long take. While some parts were clearly manipulated to only appear as a continuation of the same shot, it was just as clear that the actors and actresses involved, as well as everybody else on the crew, had to go through some unusually arduous times to get this movie right.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu will probably win the Oscar for Best Director. His work for this film was remarkable, continuing his climb in the directorial power rankings. Ditto for Emmanuel Lubezki, whose cinematographic and photographic work in Birdman will also most likely be rewarded with copious amounts of trophies and trinkets.

I hope Michael Keaton wins an Oscar for Best Actor. His return to the spotlight was welcoming for me, who has forgotten those Batman movies and only caught glimpses of his brilliance in supporting roles in movies like The Other Guys.

Everything about Birdman was awesome, although the ending was a little polarizing (if taken on a superficial level). Emma Stone was also a little grating, but not as bad as Anne Hathaway’s monologue in Interstellar.

Right now, Birdman is #1 for its overall strength from top to bottom. Yet, I can’t help but feel that maybe Interstellar was better on some kind of transcendent level. Ugh.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Movies that fell right in the middle. I limited this category to five movies; some movies in the final category are definitely good candidates for placement here.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If home is where the heart is, then Captain America’s heart is 100% in the US of A. Too bad it gets broken when rogue SHIELD operatives and some other bastards screw him over in The Winter Soldier. It was a great superhero movie that focused on real world problems, like the shadowy nature of the government and general black ops shenanigans.

Welcome to the 21st century, Cap.

 

Frank

This was an excellent movie… for the first half or so. The premise itself is intriguing: an aspiring musician (Domhnall Gleeson) winds up joining an eccentric band led by a mysterious musical “genius” (Michael Fassbender) who constantly wears a gigantic mask over his head. Cool, right?

Well, the last third was such a downer (including the mask coming off), that Frank fell right out of my Pantheon. It’s worth checking out though, just because the first half is so amusing.

 

The Drop

Although the story was fine, the real highlight of The Drop was the excellent acting. Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini (last film appearance before his death) led the way, with solid performances by Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Hardy is secretly one of the best actors out there, with a resume that includes Bronson, Inception, Warrior, and Locke. He was also Bane, and I thought he was fine, but that voice was really something else.

It’s funny though, because Hardy actually has a really great voice in real life – one of those voices qualified for radio and TV work. Regardless of what accent he’s talking in (Brooklyn in this case), his films are worth watching just for the work his voice puts in.

 

The Skeleton Twins

It’s one of those indie films that explores some deep issues but somehow makes you feel all hopeful and bubbly at the same time (that soundtrack though!). I really enjoyed it, although the movie did seem a little circular at times with its conflict-solution-conflict-solution cycle.

The chemistry between Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who portray siblings facing serious angst after coincidentally attempting suicide at the same time, was amazing and got some hilarious moments/montages going. I guess that SNL experience counts for something. Luke Wilson was great too as Wiig’s likeable and loving husband.

Um, by the way, I love you Kristen Wiig.

 

Top Five

Real talk: I saw the trailer for Top Five and immediately thought it was destined to be yet another average comedy that mostly misses the mark.

How wrong I was.

I ended up seeing it thanks to my buddy Kevin’s insistence, and found myself watching an intelligent and thoughtful comedy. Chris Rock, as star, director, and writer of Top Five, was very funny when necessary, but mostly relegated the task of being funny to his great supporting cast.

Everybody showed up, from JB Smoove to Jerry freaking Seinfeld. The supporting cast, overall, probably had the best scenes. Even that annoying Tracy Morgan who ALWAYS SHOUTS EVERYTHING HE HAS TO SAY!!!!!!

 

NO LIST FOR YOU! WAIT A SECOND…

These movies might have been entertaining (or not), but ultimately didn’t make the cut.

 

22 Jump Street

300: Rise of an Empire

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Annabelle

As Above, So Below

Godzilla (this review was my little blog’s debut piece)

Lucy

Neighbors

Non-Stop

Robocop

Sabotage

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Admiral: Roaring Currents

The Equalizer

The Expendables 3

Transformers: Age of Extinction

X-Men: Days of Future Past