Best Of 2014: Todd's Top Films

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Yes, it's that time of year again, time to look back over the previous twelve months and lay out what we liked best of what we saw. The results of ScreenAnarchy's big contributor poll ran yesterday and today I present both my own top ten list and - later today - a selection of ten new directors I believe we should be keeping an eye out for in the future. As always for me, there is no scientific method to this, no particular separation of 'serious' film from pulp, this is simply a snapshot of what I liked best of the 250 or so feature films I saw in 2014 arranged in alphabetical order to spare myself the anxiety brought on by ranking them.

The Omissions

Before getting into the actual goods it's important to first point out that there are several titles out of the running right out of the gate for one of two reasons.

First are the films I simply haven't seen. There are always a few titles every year that I manage to miss despite really, really wanting to see them and, sadly, that number seems to be going up in recent years as other obligations mean I end up spending more time in meetings at major festivals than I do actually watching films. So if you're wondering why the likes of Alleluia, It Follows, Force Majeure, Birdman, Nightcrawler, Starry Eyes, or Whiplash aren't on here it's not a sign that I didn't like them, it's purely that there aren't enough hours in the day and - in those cases and probably a few I'm not thinking of - it's that I haven't seen them (yet) and so can't consider them. I have a hunch at least a few of that list would make the cut if I had.

And then, second, there are the films removed from consideration based on my own direct involvement with them either in a producer or sales agent role. The sales agent ones sting a bit as the entire reason I get involved with finished films in a sales role is because I love them, but hey ... conflict of interest and all that. So, The Raid 2, Housebound, Killers, The Dead Lands, Spring, Felt, etc ... that's all of you off this list, too. Sorry. Though, yeah, I'm using the Raid 2 image here because it was rather a big deal for me personally. But now, onwards!

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71Best Of 2014boyhoodcalvarycillian murphycold in julydanger 5dario russodavid ashbyfree fallgyorgy palfijim micklejohn michael mcdonaghover your dead bodypeaky blinderrichard linklatersong of the seatakashi miikethe grand budapest hoteltomm mooretwitch best of 2014wes andersonyann demange

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Around the Internet

Niels MatthijsDecember 23, 2014 11:18 AM

I'm noticing a serious backlash against Boyhood these past few weeks. The hype probably hasn't done it much good.

Todd HarringtonDecember 23, 2014 1:20 PM

Don't think you're wrong, Niels, but it is disappointing, having more to do (imo) with people wanting to look as though they are "different from the herd".

Much like the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy -- which some seem to forget was shot, basically, as one gigantic continuous production -- BOYHOOD is a dazzling and important work of filmmaking, a commitment to story telling unlike nearly anything seen before and something we will never see again.

Even if one doesn't care much for the "story" at times, those dismissing it so as to appear cooler-than-thou are missing a genuine joy in (I hate to say it) the sunset of the cinematic artform.

Niels MatthijsDecember 23, 2014 6:31 PM

Hmmm, I think the backlash comes from a hype built around a concept that isn't really all that visible in the movie itself. It's cool to spend 12 years working on a single film, but there's little in the film that actually reflects that process. Take that away, and it's just a 3-hour drama which I thought underdelivered.

The dramatic elements were too mediocre to really stand out, which isn't all that bad if you can identify with the characters. Sadly they felt very alien to me, facing problems and issues I never needed or cared to face. I think it's a slice of life that works if you identify with the family, but it has very limited appeal outside of that.

Also, someone out there is making a 30-day long film, so what are we really talking about ;)

Todd HarringtonDecember 23, 2014 7:51 PM

Well, while I can't wait (in theory?) to check out AMBIANCE, it clearly isn't a project made with a wide audience in mind.

And though I do agree with you that the dramatic elements of BOYHOOD were soft (and I admit I may over forgive that because of the process) and the characters, perhaps, not universal beyond a certain experience, I did find the process greatly reflected in the emerging transformation of the principles, scene after scene and year after year.

When it was over, the cumulative effect of the process made me feel -- on reflection -- more invested in the story (for all its faults) as I actually "felt" like I had spent years with those people. (As opposed to many other films this year where I just felt like I had been in the theater for years!)

Niels MatthijsDecember 24, 2014 1:49 AM

I'm not arguing the whole 12-year deal was completely useless, it did help to see the same characters (rather than some cheesy make-up) over a span of 12 years, it just wasn't enough for me.

Was it better than a regular film spanning 12 years in the life of a family? Sure. I'd say that would merit it an extra point (on a scale to 10). But the film underneath didn't really do much for me (and quite a few others it seems).

And typically, those are the people that didn't run out to the theaters but waited for VOD/DVD releases rather than pay 10EUR to watch a film they might not be too sure about. That's at least a part of why the film is taking a hit now, especially after all the praise.

I think we understand each other, just mind the "different from the heard" remarks, just as worse as the "they are all parrot" remarks ;)

Todd HarringtonDecember 24, 2014 10:50 AM

Understood and agreed - certainly did NOT mean to imply that the film is somehow sacrosanct to me and all of those who don't like it don't "get it" or something. completely see how - in text - I could have come across that way. Not my intent nor view.

Thanks for letting me clear that up!

Niels MatthijsDecember 24, 2014 10:55 AM

Polite discussion, it still exists on the web! Happy holidays :)

Todd HarringtonDecember 24, 2014 11:23 AM

A holiday miracle, clearly! Happy holidays to you as well, my friend.