Jason Gorber's Top Films of 2014

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@filmfest_ca)
I know, I know... Yet another list, adding yet another fatuous bracketing of art as it it was some sort of sport or competition, We look to an arbitrary marker (the end of a calendar year) and then tally up our likes and dislikes to fuel our own (narcissistic?) compulsions.

Add in the complications of films that played as a fest or two but haven't seen wide release, or films released this year that I saw years back a different festival, and it all becomes a bit of a mush.

So, if the cynicism is easy, what's perhaps the most appropriate reason to do one of these list thingys has more to do with what I still think is what we as critics help accomplish: to highlight those works that stand out beyond all others for an audience that probably hasn't sifted through quite as many grains of cinematic sand as you have in order to find the jewels.

In 2014 I saw a near preposterous number of films, having finally fulfilled a decades-old promise to return to Cannes, as well as hitting up Sundance for the first time. Combined with TIFF and my jury with TIFF's Canada's Top 10, I saw over 300 features over the last 12 months, which, frankly, makes my head hurt to think about.

This led to one of the more amusing aspect that showcases my addled brain - after TIFF in September there was a press screening for the Kristen Wiig/Bill Hader film The Skeleton Twins. As the film started, I realized a fuzzy recollection that things were looking familiar. Thinking maybe I'd just seen the trailer, I gave it a few more minutes, before remembering that this was one of about 40 films I'd seen at Sundance.

I never leave screenings, it's one of my movie going promises I make to myself, but this was a unique situation - I'd seen it already! I told myself if I could remember how it ended I'd get up and go.

I had no recollection.

Critics bandy about terms like "forgettable" all the time, but here was empirical proof of that fact. The film is, well, "fine", but it's certainly forgettable. When the relatively dull and pat ending did come up, I thought, well, this is why my brain made space for other things.

So, in this sea of films, sometimes the most "unforgettable" are those that you see most recently, the "buzz" movies that all clamber toward the end of the year. Some you hold onto, others you feel downright evangelical about. Some of these films are among the first I saw in 2014, some I've seen in the last couple weeks. All provided pleasures in their own ways, and I hope will show, in time, that they remain truly unforgettable.

Because I'm making this up as I go along, there are a bunch of flicks that I'm keeping for future lists as they'll be seeing pushes in 2015 or beyond. Tops is Joshua Oppenheimer's followup to the sublime Act of Killing titled The Look of Silence, a doc that's almost preposterously amazing in both its grace and its tenacity.

Then there's a film that I saw twice at one festival, a very rare treat indeed. The Last Five Years may not be to everyone's taste, but it got under my skin in a big way, and already it's in my pantheon of top musicals. Others to come: Imperial Dreams and The Salvation which hopefully will see pushes come 2015.

Here, then are my top features and top docs from 2014. Long may they be remembered.

I called it in my ScreenAnarchy review "a modern masterpiece", and that got splashed up on the marketing for the film. It feels hyperbolic, perhaps, but I stand by the statement. No film got it so right for me, providing that delicate balance between artistic endeavour and visceral thrills.

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