Biopics tend to get a bad rap and for good reason as it can be close to impossible to fit an individual’s entire life into two hours of film. However, when something like Bob Fosse’s “auto-biopic” comes along, it throws conventional criticism of the genre out the window. All That Jazz, a thinly veiled autobiographical telling of Fosse’s life, is like no film you have ever seen before; a ‘musical that isn’t a musical’ that’s both visually and thematically stunning with towering production values and performances from all involved.
One of the most magical movie experiences in my thirty years on this planet, Woody Allen’s masterpiece, The Purple Rose of Cairo is a heartwarming film from it’s whimsical start to its devastating finale. The story of a Depression era waitress named Cecilia (Mia Farrow) and her literal love affair with the cinema, Purple Rose of Cairo features a fun premise that’s backed up by some of the cast’s best performances. A masterful look at our shared love of film both as a medium of art and a form of escape.
Visually breathtaking and featuring a knock-out performance by Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is one of the most difficult science-fiction films in years. As an alien who hunts for human flesh in rural Scotland, Johansson commands your attention at every turn, using her charms to ensnare not only unsuspecting Scottish men but the audience as well. With free-flowing cinematography by Daniel Landin and the best musical score of 2014 by Mica Levi, Under the Skin will leave you confused and breathless. Something the best science-fiction is supposed to do.
Almost violently depressing, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is one of the darkest films I saw in 2014 and perhaps that’s why I love it so much. Featuring break-out performances by Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, it tells the story of the Schultz Brothers, Olympic Gold Medal wrestlers, and their precarious relationship with billionaire John E. du Pont. Carell has been getting most of the praise but it’s Tatum who truly transforms for his role. This guy has some real acting chops and I couldn’t be more delighted to watch him grow as an actor.
4. The Babadook
A masterclass by first time director Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is the scariest film in about a decade. Essie Davis is by turns terrifying and terrified by her young son and the intrusion of Mister Babadook into their lives. As great a metaphor for grief and loss as it is a horror film, The Babadook reaches to places deep in your mind and latches on, unwilling to let go, much like loss itself. A phenomenal first feature by Kent, this is a director I’ll be following from this point forward.
For the second year in a row a J.C. Chandor film has made my Top Five. After the harrowing All is Lost, we’ve been treated to A Most Violent Year, a brutal story of a man trying to stay clean in a corrupt 1981 New York City. Featuring perfect performances from the entire cast, especially Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, great direction by Chandor and yes, a good amount of violence both verbal and physical, A Most Violent Year is one of the most constantly engaging films of 2014. Oh and Albert Brooks forever and always, please.