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Best of 2014: 14 Movies We Enjoyed

Posted by December 21st, 2014 No Comments »

By Adam Lawrence, Cody Johnson, Gemma Alexander, Greg Lehman and Nick Anderson / Introduction by Matt Ashworth 

Though we haven’t consistently written about movies for nearly a decade, I still ask contributors to share their favorites each year. It’s like having a super smart, diverse group of people as a personal focus group when you’re loading up your Netflix and Amazon Prime queues for the next few years.

Of the 34 nominated, I’ve seen exactly two: The Lego Movie and The Winter Soldier. They were both pretty good.

Here’s the rest of the Nada crew on “the year in movies.”

14) Annabelle

This movie was so fucking bad – a piece of shit from top to bottom – but it was the best theater going experience I had all year. Why? Because there’s nothing quite like being in an audience that recognizes they’re witnessing a lemon, so all rules of theater decorum go right out the window. Everyone was laughing at this thing and that made it a helluva lot of fun. – Nick Anderson

13) Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice: not to be confused with Miami Vice. – MA

12) The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars is really really sad, but beautifully so. Strong, well written and well acted characters and a story line that can make anyone tear up about a cancer patient falling in first love with another cancer patient. This film has a huge heart and endears itself to all who watch. – Greg Lehman

11) Gone Girl

The only thing I know about this movie is that there’s allegedly a pretty sweet shot of Ben Affleck’s package, so I’m glad it made the list. – MA

10) The Drop 

I’m going to sit strongly beside The Drop as my favorite of the year. Sure, The Grand Budapest Hotel charmed me, but this surprisingly less violent mobster movie delivered insanely great performances from Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace. – Cody Johnson

9) How to Train Your Dragon 2 

Have you ever noticed how the mother always dies in kids’ movies? In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup is reunited with his mother – long thought dead. Yes, the first movie was a  coming of age story in which a boy becomes a man, and this sequel is about a young man  becoming  the man and stepping into a position of leadership. And yes, both movies center on  the protagonist’s relationship with his father. But for me, the joy is watching a movie that not  only allows a character to grow in the presence of a female role model, but even attributes his  best characteristics to mom’s side of the family. – Gemma Alexander

8) Edge of Tomorrow

On its face, Edge of Tomorrow looks like a BUNCH of other movies. “Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day meets Source Code meets…” The point is, this was not new territory. Add Tom Cruise and, given his track record of late, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical. Here’s the thing, though: it totally works. Emily Blunt is terrific as a tough-as -ails demigod of sorts and director Doug Liman doesn’t underestimate the sheer joy of watching Tom Cruise meet a gruesome end over and over. Cruise also has fun realizing what’s happening to him which translates directly to the audience experience. An entertaining take on a potentially tedious premise, Edge of Tomorrow is this year’s unexpected success. – Adam Lawrence

7) Snowpiercer

Technically, Snowpiercer premiered in South Korea in 2013, but this depiction of a post apocalyptic world decimated by climate change didn’t debut in the U.S. until June 2014, so we’re counting it. Tilda Swinton’s performance and the axe brawl are worth the price of admission alone. – NA

6) Boyhood 

More than any other movie this year, Boyhood wouldn’t leave me alone for weeks. For several reasons, as it could have failed – gimmick casting and filming, potential incomprehensibility because of the 12-year real time shooting schedule, growing personal bonds between actor and director – it succeeds not in spite of these obstacles, but because of them. Richard Linklater’s ambition to capture the high points of one boy’s childhood from age 6 to age 18 is a mix of fact and fiction, a loose storyline starring one very real boy. As the titular star, Ellar Coltrane is easy to like right away, just like a real boy(!), but over the course of the film becomes sometimes frustrating and pretentious, just like a real teen! Luckily, Linklater surrounded Coltrane with trustworthy “parents’ in Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, rendering the finished product an astonishing work of art cleverly disguised as a traditional movie. What’s more, Linklater avoids the usual tropes of the “coming of age” genre. Nowhere will you find the triumphant graduation scene, the awkward first kiss, or the seismic divorce announcement, just the sublime moments in the aftermath of those Big Moments. If you’ve ever been a child, a parent, a step-parent, an artist, a mentor, or in any way been confounded by growing up and how life works, there’s something in Boyhood for you. – AL

5) Birdman 

I saw this movie twice within the same week because I wanted to get another look at its camera work. Also, watching Zach Galifianakis hold his own with Michael Keaton and Edward Norton blew me away. – NA

4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier 

Captain America should have been the most boring superhero in the Marvel pantheon. A
working class American steeped in mid­century nationalist values whose transformation
makes him really buff – not green, not able to fly, not telekinetic. It’s a testament to the
importance of good storytelling that the squarest superhero is also one of the most engaging.
In The Winter Soldier, straighforward Steve Rogers deals with America’s true nemesis –
moral complexity. And you still get half an hour of explosion-­filled action at the climax! – GA

3) Guardians of the Galaxy 

Smart ass swashbuckler, badass hot green chick, machine gun toting psychopath raccoon, massive tree dude and an ultimate fighter? C’mon it had to be good. Its like Star Wars, Star Trek, TMNT, Lord of the Rings and well, ultimate fighting. The good news is Guardians of the Galaxy is that good and better. – GL

Yep. Nothing but one big smile. – NA

2) The Lego Movie 

Think of it this way – is there any way you could imagine anticipating a movie solely about a toy line with anything other than dread? What if it had been The Slinky Movie, or The Rubick’s Cube Movie, or (shudder) Battleship?  Barf, right? Somehow writer/directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord continued their Midas-like streak by not only treating LEGO with fondness and tenderness, but also by writing a damn funny script. Like other great movies this year, The LEGO Movie is, at it’s core, about how children and parents relate to each other. By showing how good art can emerge from commercialism, Miller and Lord have created what was once impossible –Pixar-level heart AND a corporate approved love letter to molded plastic. – AL

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Though I probably won’t see it until it’s available to stream free on Netflix, I’m not surprised that Nada contributors overwhelming selected Wes Anderson’s comedy set in 1930’s Germany, The Grand Budapest Hotel, as our top movie of 2015. We’ve only been raving about his films since we reviewed Bottle Rocket in 1997. – MA

Also receiving votes:

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Best Night Ever
  • Blue Ruin
  • Chef
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Dumb and Dumber To
  • Fury
  • God’s Pocket
  • Godzilla
  • The Imitation Game*
  • Low Down
  • Mood Indigo
  • Nightcrawler
  • Odd Thomas
  • Skeleton Twins
  • Vincent
  • Transcendence
  • The Wind Rises
  • X-Men Days of Future Past
  • Whiplash

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