A documentary, an animated film, and some psychological thrillers. I’m glad to see that my year in movies was an eclectic one. Here are my top 5 movies of 2014!
I’m not usually much for documentaries, but Blackfish (2013) came highly recommended. Does being a documentary novice make my recommendation mean less or more? Regardless, the story of killer whales in captivity is presented cohesively, with a wealth of Sea World footage and interviews with former trainers and scientists. Blackfish follows the life of a particular whale involved in at least three human deaths, from his questionable treatment at a Canadian park to his current situation with Sea World. His portrayal feels as nuanced as any human biography, which only strengthens the documentary’s message.
4. Double Indemnity
If you’re looking for femme fatale perfection, look no further than Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1944). Even a film noir novice like myself enjoyed watching her wrap Fred MacMurray around her little finger. To MacMurray’s credit, he’s positively charming as insurance man Walter Neff. Although the action is narrated by Walter after the jig is up, it’s fascinating to watch the yarn unravel. The story may not suit our modern ideals of realism, but between MacMurray’s smooth talk and Stanwyck’s smirk, Double Indemnity is a visual pleasure. (Read my full review here.)
Watching Zodiac (2007) made me realize that David Fincher was the perfect director for Gone Girl. This movie scared the bejesus out of me in unexpected ways. Yes, the scenes of the Zodiac’s murders are frightening, but Fincher can do just as much with three men interviewing a suspect in an industrial break room. Jake Gyllenhaal is impressively awkward as the newspaper cartoonist who became obsessed with the Zodiac case. If the film’s ending feels inconclusive, it’s only holding up a mirror to real-life events. No one could make a hippy-dippy Donovan song as creepy as Fincher. Man, I love that guy.
Frozen was a source of pure joy. I get that people are probably sick of hearing about it by now, but that doesn’t change my opinion. I still remember those first minutes in the theater, unable to keep a goofy smile off my face. I’ve been a fan of Kristen Bell (the voice of Anna) since her Veronica Mars days, and the entire vocal cast is stacked with talent. Why do you think “Let It Go” was so ubiquitous this year? Because it’s a sentiment to which people of any age can relate. And when a story of self-acceptance and sisterly love comes wrapped in an icily gorgeous package, all the better. (Read my full review here.)
1. Silver Linings Playbook
How do I say what I love about this film besides everything? I saw it near the beginning of 2014, and even then I suspected it would come out on top. It’s portrayal of mental illness may be imperfect, but David O. Russell succeeds in making it just one facet of complex individuals. Bradley Cooper is bipolar perfection running around in his sweatsuit and garbage bag. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a speech about liking the crazy parts of herself that I still think about sometimes. It’s a movie about trying to love the people in our lives, even when we can’t understand them. I hope that’s a message any human being can appreciate.
Come back tomorrow for bookish good times!