Best of 2014: Movie Edition, Part 1

My year in movie viewing was a mixture of new releases and Classic Hollywood, and you’ll find both in my top 10 list. Bust out the popcorn bowl for numbers 10 through 6!

10. American Hustle

American Hustle

I discovered two new favorite filmmakers in 2014, and the first was David O. Russell. I saw The Fighter (2010) during my early days of Netflix, and although I really loved it, most of my focus was on the acting. It was his two subsequent films that really cemented my love for the director. American Hustle (2013) draws cast members from both The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, but remixes them with a serious 1970s aesthetic. Between the costumes and the con man plot, American Hustle is more of a confection than his previous films, but the cast still delivers dynamite performances. And I’m not just talking about Bradley Cooper’s perm and Amy Adams’s cleavage.

9. The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars Poster

As a huge fan of the novel, I was seriously nervous about this adaptation. How could Hollywood possibly be trusted to communicate the subtleties of John Green’s story? For some reason I was much more suspicious about Shailene Woodley as Hazel than Angel Elgort as Augustus. Well, I couldn’t have been more off-base. Woodley nails Hazel’s quiet strength, not to mention the physical toll of her illness. It was pure joy to see the Amsterdam trip translated to the screen, complete with canals and the Anne Frank House. And yes, I cried on at least three separate occasions. The sensitivity of this adaptation was the year’s most pleasant surprise.

8. His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday

Early in 2014 I went on a bit of a Classic Hollywood binge. His Girl Friday (1940) was one of my favorites to come out of that period. The film is famous for its mile-a-minute dialogue, and watching Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell’s verbal acrobatics is endlessly enjoyable. The costumes and newsroom nicknames only add its charm. Based on Russell’s matching hat and blazer ensemble, how could this woman not be an ace reporter? She tells Grant, “You’re wonderful in a loathsome sort of way,” but after ninety minutes of schemes and screwball comedy, you’ll be inclined to think he’s just plain wonderful.

7. Gone Girl

Gone Girl - 2014

My other favorite filmmaker of 2014 was David Fincher. While I admire David O. Russell for his focus on characters, Fincher is a master of ambiance. That makes him an ideal director to adapt Gillian Flynn’s work, which similarly hinges on the mood of a place. Few adaptations can fully satisfy the avid reader, but Gone Girl comes close. Its deviations are easy to forgive because it’s just a quality film. My greatest wish was for the movie to feel unsettling, and Rosamund Pike under Fincher’s direction makes that a reality. On a lighter note, best use of a cat for subtle character development! (Read my full review here.)

6. Rear Window

Rear Window

Oh, Jimmy Stewart, you excellent creeper. Rear Window (1954) was the obvious progression from multiple viewings of Vertigo (1958) in college. If you forget that Rear Window is an established classic, it’s miraculous to think that a movie about a man confined to his apartment with a broken leg can be so filled with tension. The film stealthily progresses from summer doldrums to murder mystery, culminating in a genuinely frightening climactic sequence. (Particularly if you’re alone in your apartment in midwinter.) Then again, I’m the sort who’s happy to watch Jimmy Stewart look out a window for two hours.

Tomorrow this list comes to a cinematic conclusion with my top 5 movies of the year!

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