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Putting together our first ever “Best of the Year” list has been a labor of love nearly 365 days in the making.  The Cut Print Film staff have logged just under 200 reviews of films released in 2014 which means we had an enormous talent pool to draw from when it came time to finalize this list.  Seven staff members contributed their picks for the best 15 films of the year (which you will be able to read next week). From there the votes were tallied and an initial list was created. The senior staff members then conducted a vote on the top 5 films in descending order, giving us the final version of the list.  It should be noted that some films that are receiving praise (namely Selma and American Sniper) have been left off this list specifically because no press screenings have been made available in our area as of the date this list has been published. Now, with all that out of the way, behold: Cut Print Film’s official list of The Best Films of 2014.

Obvious Child

20.

Obvious Child

The two talking points surrounding Obvious Child were 1) it’s good for a rom-com and 2) it’s a movie about abortion, but the film defies these simple definitions by putting characters first. Director Gillian Robespierre zeroes in on the complex and nuanced ways we rely on others without ever using them as a crutch. She brings a poetry to small moments, such as a brief smile between two strangers after the procedure, that enhances Child’s humanistic outlook. The film never plays politics, instead rooting itself in a tremendous performance from Jenny Slate who finds a way to adapt her comic persona into a fully realized person. There are numerous sublime moments here, from a quietly emotional conversation between mother and daughter to a hilarious and true scene where Slate’s character allows her fate to be guided by sips of coffee. Whatever the headlines may have been upon its release, Obvious Child doesn’t need any qualifiers attached when considered one of the year’s best.  – Josh Oakley

 

Ida

19.

Ida

Polish director Powel Pawlikowski has made one of the most beautiful films of the year in Ida. His somber road movie is shot in black and white with a nearly square 1.37:1 aspect ratio and he uses his frame to stunning effect. Cathedral ceilings loom high over humbled heads while cuts between two halves of a shot visualize emotional distances between characters. Is there another working director with such impeccable command of composition? His camera drinks in the faces of his actresses, drawing favorable comparisons to Fellini. The simple story of a soon-to-be nun discovering her past and deciding her future is a relatable one built on profound choices. Ida’s aunt shows her the lure of a more liberated world as well as a soul that has been beaten down by it. The narrative isn’t exactly groundbreaking; but with such gorgeous formalism on display, does it even matter?  – Daniel Stidham

 

Enemy

18.

Enemy

In what becomes a twisting, turning, sometimes  psychotic ride,  the follow-up to Prisoners by director Denis Villeneuve is still tense and dark, but on a completely different realm. Jake Gyllenhaal gives one (or two) of his best performances of his career as split personalities of what one character thinks could be the same person. With a plot steeped in philosophical doctrine, and a subplot dealing with the dominance of man, the film is something of a spectacle in how to build an elaborate world that is also difficult to understand.  – Zach Dennis

 

Locke

17.

Locke

Steven Spielberg contacted Tom Hardy immediately after seeing Locke to congratulate him, but also to ask “How did you do that?” The “that” he’s referring to, is acting alone in a 90 minute film in which he never leaves the driver seat of his car. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man with the most stressful job on the planet, which he has just decided to leave behind. He’s also left behind his wife and sons, and is driving to the delivery room of a child he doesn’t want and a woman he doesn’t love.  Locke is an insanely tense thrill ride, as Hardy balances an already crumbling house of cards via his cellphone, giving a performance that is up there with the best of the year. – David Costill

 

Foxcatcher

16.

Foxcatcher

Nearly universal praise has been given to the three leading performances that do all the heavy lifting in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, the true life story of Olympic wrestling champions Dave and Mark Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum) and their dealings with the heir apparent to the du Pont family fortune and self-styled wrestling coach, John du Pont (an nearly unrecognizable Steve Carell).  With that praise also comes the usual caveat that, aside from the warmth of Mark Ruffalo’s portayal of big brother Dave Schultz, the film is cold, empty, and heartless.  To that I say, “isn’t that the point?”  Carrel’s John du Pont and Tatum’s Mark Schultz are two ends of the same singularity, coveting what the other has promised to deliver, destroying everything in their quest to get what they each want.  In the end, the result is a tragedy that made headlines and shocked the American public.  Foxcatcher is brooding and purposely hollow just like the men circling at its core.  – Jeff Rollins

 

coherence movie

15.

Coherence

You’ve never heard of a single person involved with Coherence, and that makes its inclusion on this list all the more amazing. Director James Ward Byrkit debuted with this insanely creepy, Twilight Zone like sci-fi thriller. Coherence is most commendable for how its actors build sheer terror out of the most subtle things: a slip of the tongue, a suspicious glance, a ping pong paddle… Coherence is so terrifying it will have you looking at the people in your life a little differently at your next dinner party, or maybe you’ll be looking at a different them. – David Costill

 

Snowpiercer

14.

Snowpiercer

Sometimes also called the “indie blockbuster,” director Joon-ho Bong created a rich film that doubles as a cultural mirror and action-packed thrill ride. With a performance by Tilda Swinton that should be garnering more award-talk and stylistic action sequences that outdo most of what mainstream Hollywood has to offer, the film always seemed fresh and ahead of the curve and thanks to the work done on it, turned out to be worth the ride.  – Zach Dennis

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

13.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Cult director James Gunn breaks the Marvel mold with this giddy, punk-rock infused, pop-art masterpiece. Launching goofball Chris Pratt into super-stardom, Gunn’s film subverts (most of) the standard Marvel movie cliches to tell a tale of a gang of misfits and freaks who are thrust into the roles of heroes. Almost every single character in the film is instantly memorable, be it walking-talking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) or Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), an angry, gun-toting, yet highly intelligent talking raccoon. What raises Guardians over the top of being just a fun action movie is the amount of heart Gunn puts into the film. These characters aren’t around just to deliver action set-pieces–they have a real heart and soul. How many “silly” summer blockbusters can boast that?  – Chris Evangelista

 

 

12.

The Guest

John Carpenter had a hell of a year in 2014, and he didn’t direct a single film. But other filmmakers expertly emulated Carpenter’s particular film making style (along with his title card font). Cold in July and Stage Fright were among the emulators, but the best of the bunch was The Guest. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have crafted a film that is referential but still wholly its own beast. Dan Stevens gives a star-making performance as a soldier who injects himself into a broken family, with deadly results. The joy of Wingard’s film is both its ability to channel those garish horror films you used to spy on shelves in VHS rental stores and its sense of fun. This is genre film making at its very best.  – Chris Evangelista

 

Whiplash

11.

Whiplash

If you don’t think a movie about jazz can have your heart beating like a kick drum and your stomach knotted up like a treble clef, you clearly missed out on the wicked musical thriller Whiplash. J. K. Simmons is terrifying as the exacting conductor Fletcher whose hardline tactics aim to mold top talent into immortal greatness at any cost. Simmons’ memorable performance is a career highlight for the character actor, and Miles Teller is just as good in his less showy turn as a drummer who will sweat and bleed to be the best. The film is like a dark, twisted iteration of the underdog sports movie with some surprisingly nimble camera work. It all boils down to a clash between two wills in what might be the year’s most intense finale.  – Daniel Stidham

 

Edge of Tomorrow

10.

Edge of Tomorrow

In what probably wasn’t looked at as one of the most anticipated films of the summer, director Doug Liman used the construct of “Groundhog Day” with war and Tom Cruise to create a visually entertaining and wholesome good time at the movies. A blockbuster that was smartly crafted and featured a superb performance by Emily Blunt, this film has remarkable rewatchability and is the most video game movie ever made (for something that actually isn’t a video game).  – Zach Dennis

 

Under the Skin

9.

Under The Skin

A dark, remarkable, disturbing masterpiece, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin features Scarlett Johansson in a career defining performance. Johansson is an alien prowling highways and country roads for unsuspecting men. She takes them back to the creepiest looking house on the planet, where bad, bad things happen. Every scene of Under the Skin burns itself into your brain; the haunting, unsettling images searing themselves into your consciousness. You’ve never quite seen a movie like this, and that’s saying something.  – Chris Evangelista

 

Inherent Vice

8.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson hasn’t been this fun since Boogie Nights. Channeling Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye and the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski, Anderson adapts Thomas Pynchon’s novel about a stoner private detective trying to solve a deliberately confounding series of mysteries in 1970 California. As the detective, Joaquin Phoenix brings an effortless charm to the film, a far cry from his tortured soul in Anderson’s The Master. But the real scene stealer is Josh Brolin, as Detective Bigfoot Bjornsen, a self-proclaimed Renaissance cop who both helps and hinders Phoenix’s investigation. Anderson’s film is both charmingly hilarious and heartbreakingly sad, and one of the best of his career.  – Chris Evangelista

 

Blue Ruin

7.

Blue Ruin

Jeremy Saulnier came seemingly out of nowhere and, with a shoe-string budget, crafted one of the best films of the year. Channeling the early work of the Coen Brothers (like Blood Simple), Saulnier’s film is a quiet, focused story of revenge. Saulnier’s script is so well crafted and intelligent that it is constantly subverting expectations at every turn. At the center of it all is a beautiful and tragic performance by Macon Blair, playing a man who has spent so long on the outside now forced to plug himself into society, in order to commit violence. Simply put, Blue Ruin is an incredible achievement.  – Chris Evangelista

 

Birdman

6.

Birdman

Birdman’s title begs for avian comparisons, but maybe the animal it most resembles is the rhinoceros. The film pulses and pounds along with its percussive score, as likely to explode as to take flight. It’s a blistering, angry treatise lashing out at safe comic book movies, greedy executives, close-minded critics, complacent audiences, and a host of film and stage targets with equal verve. Shot to look like a single unbroken take, this backstage drama/comedy/fantasy is endlessly captivating in part because of its tremendous performances. Michael Keaton as a former screen superhero fighting for relevance is as inspired casting as you could hope for and his work here is riveting – so too Edward Norton in a scene-stealing supporting role. Relentless fly-on-the-wall direction takes us from claustrophobic hallway monologues to the Broadway stage, finally spilling out into the streets where Inarritu audaciously spends his climatic location shoot on a man power-walking through Time’s Square in his underpants.  – Daniel Stidham

 

Boyhood

5.

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, Boyhood, opens innocuously: Coldplay’s “Yellow” scores a blue sky, and the young boy staring up, lost in his thoughts. As the film progresses, the boy ages into a young man, played by Ellar Coltrane throughout, in a twelve-year gambit that wound up paying profound and moving dividends. Boyhood rarely captures spectacle, instead drifting from moment to moment, slowly building and raising the boy, Mason Jr., and the rest of his immediate family. We see his mother (Patricia Arquette, in one of the year’s best performances) go through husbands and establish her identity outside of them; his father (Ethan Hawke) slowly learning what that title means beyond a biological sense; his sister (Lorelei Linklater), on the fringes, become an adult almost in the background. The power of Boyhood is rooted in its main character, but his family provides the scope, showing how the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments of our life wind up changing and defining who we are. The climax of the film belongs not to Mason, but to his mother in a painful and achingly authentic speech given to her child. Minutes later, a young woman says to Mason: “the moment seizes us”. Boyhood is a masterpiece not for any individual scene or character, but for the snowballing, quietly momentous build to that moment, proving that life is not made up of events, but of the spaces in-between.  – Josh Oakley

 

Interstellar

4.

Interstellar

Interstellar is the movie I’ve been waiting for since I was 7 years old, wearing out my double The Right Stuff VHS set by watching it over and over again. Christopher Nolan has gone and made the ultimate science fiction film, in my eyes transcending Kubrick’s vision in terms of narrative and scope. A lot of people have issues with Intersetllar‘s plot and dialogue, but what can I say? It just all works for me. I normally pick movie inconsistencies apart, but something about Interstellar prevented me from it, which I can only describe as a marveling numbness that struck me as I took in the utter majesty of it all.  – David Costill

 

Nightcrawler

3.

Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal continues his acting streak, turning in the best performance of his career as Louis Bloom, a sociopath climbing up the ladder through late-night tabloid news. First-time director Dan Gilroy crafts a film that’s like a mad mix ofNetwork and Taxi Driver, with Gyllenhaal’s frantic, creepy performance a sight to behold. Gilroy’s script is tight and unrelenting, and we’re hooked from the get-go, following Lou Bloom every step of the way of his psychotic journey.  – Chris Evangelista

 

Gone Girl

2.

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn’s 2012 pulpy murder-mystery novel Gone Girl took the literary world by storm.  That it was adapted to film a mere 2 years later speaks volumes about the public’s (and Hollywood’s) interest in bringing this story to life and it’s clear that no corners were cut despite the brief turnaround time form page to screen.  Movie star Ben Affleck impatiently  broods our protagonist(?) Nick Dunne to life and relative unknown Rosamund Pike delivers a chilly eyed, star-making performance as the “gone girl” in question, Amy Elliott Dunne.  David Fincher’s confident, surgeon sterile direction also set the tone and atmosphere of Gone Girl from the opening credits to the final frame, making Gone Girl a serene and suffocating film.  – Jeff Rollins

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

1.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Not only is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel our pick for the best film of 2014, I’d argue that it’s the best film the polarizing filmmaker has ever made.  Grand Budapest is sort of a greatest hits for Anderson, whose distinct visual style somehow always remains familiar yet never ceases to instill a sense of wonder. Back are the usual “Wes Anderson Players” from which he’s pulled some iconic performances in the past: Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, et al, albeit in lesser roles as Anderson builds the breathtaking world of Grand Budapest around some newcomers.  The heart and soul of the film lies with Ralph Fiennes portrayal of M. Gustave, the cheeky, charming and meticulous concierge of the titular hotel.  Fiennes gives one of the best performances of his already storied career and it’s possible this performance alone could have landed Grand Budapest a spot on this list.  Such conjecture is unnecessary, however, as this is simply a masterful film from start to finish, across every level.  Anderson’s trademark attention to detail is apparent in every single frame, making this one of the most beautiful looking films of the year, and these characters are just so lovely to be with – even the dastardly Jopling (a stone-faced, absurdly solemn Willem Defoe) – that you’ll be hard pressed to not fall in love with The Grand Budapest Hotel.  – Jeff Rollins

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The Cut Print Film Staff is all of us. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.