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Top 10 films of the year

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DECEMBER 15, 2014

2014 saw a wide array of films hit the theaters from the thrilling “Gone Girl” to the tasteful, poignant and guffaw-inducing “Dear White People.” Here are the top picks as selected by the arts & entertainment department at The Daily Californian.


10)  “Gone Girl” 

Anyone who walks into “Gone Girl” with only advertisements and the trailer for reference may expect a very different movie from the one they see. What starts out as a straightforward whodunit morphs into a sinister meditation on femininity and evil — an embodiment of the darkest male anxieties about female aggression.

In director David Fincher’s hyperrealist Missouri, the myth of the perfect suburban family is ripped apart on a national stage. The American society of the film is an amplified and distorted version of our own, one in which murder and infidelity mingle with the mundane realities of life during the Great Recession. The result is a sensationalist, indulgent look at the societal pressure to be a “Cool Girl.” Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), the “gone girl” after whom the film is named, describes this “Cool Girl” as a carefree, “hot, brilliant, funny” woman “who jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2.” Where Dunne chafes under the pressures of her deteriorating marriage, the audience witnesses a different kind of cool girl — the emotionless, meticulous, sociopathic “cool” of a woman on the edge. — Grace Culhane


9) “The Way He Looks”thewayhelooks

Directed by Daniel Ribeiro, this classic coming-of-age tale is about two male teens exploring their infatuation with each other. “The Way He Looks” is wistfully nostalgic in its revision of prototypical rom-com tropes. Ultimately, it is winsomely reflective and elegantly executed, and the chemistry between stars Ghilerme Lobo and Fabio Audi is thrilling to witness.

Preened to be Brazil’s entry in this year’s Academy Awards, the film’s ordinary representation of gay romance is remarkable in and of itself, especially when mainstream Oscar culture frequently legitimizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films through A-list star power and morbidly tragic plot lines (see “Dallas Buyers Club” or “Monster”). “The Way He Looks” is the antithesis to this Oscar-baiting norm of queer tragedy. Plus, for the average gay teen merely searching for a heartwarming romance without any nonsensical, Nicholas Sparks-esque fluff, it’s an endearingly realistic joy to watch.   — Joshua Bote

Read the full review here


guardians8) “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Suffice it to say that “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a film comprised of weirdos. Taking the lead in the film is the goofy, lovable Chris Pratt, who also stars as Andy Dwyer on “Parks and Recreation.” The only other films under director James Gunn’s belt are the niche horror/dark-comedy films “Super” and “Slither,” which were nowhere near as successful as “Guardians.” Plus, Bradley Cooper plays a talking raccoon generated by computer imagery who is comically obsessed with guns.

Many suspected “Guardians” would bomb in the box office for being too weird. Instead, it became one of the highest grossing movie of 2014 — and for good reason. The lead characters are incredibly rendered, and Dave Bautista might just win for “best surprise performance of 2014” as Drax the Destroyer. Gunn’s script balances humor and action better than any other Marvel film released before, and the computer graphics work in “Guardians” is the best to date. For these reasons, as well as for a killer classic-rock soundtrack and perhaps the most obscure post-credits cameo, it’s easy to celebrate “Guardians.” — Art Siriwatt

Read the full review here.


7) “Birdman”birdman

There are numerous draws in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Birdman,” but one of the main joys is simply watching in awe as the camera moves and interacts with the characters and setting. Shot in a way that makes the film look as though it has been captured in a single take, “Birdman” provides a deeply artistic break from the action-packed superhero films that plague Hollywood. As the camera weaves throughout the halls and rooms of a Broadway show’s backstage, viewers are allowed access to weave in and out of the main character’s psyche. On the surface, “Birdman” is about a washed-up actor trying to regain the spotlight, but in truth, it manages to be something totally different. Instead, it delves into ego, pride and inner peace.  — Taran Moriates

Read the full review here.


interstellar6) “Interstellar”

Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon and Anne Hathaway bring stellar performances to this dystopian flick directed by Christopher Nolan. When a blight devastates crops and livestock around the world, the only solution is to vacate Earth and relocate to a distant planet capable of sustaining human life. Though the film certainly hit a few speed bumps during production — there was reportedly a huge script rewrite when Nolan nabbed the director’s chair from Steven Spielberg — “Interstellar” manages to give audiences a smooth ride into the fictional “fifth dimension.” With expertly and expensively rendered special effects, who cares if the film’s plot holes are bigger than Gargantua? — Gillian Edevane


5) The Lego Movie” legomovie

“The Lego Movie” is that rare PG masterpiece in which everything is awesome. It’s a riotous amount of confectionary fun for the kids, and it’s a subversive deconstruction of Hollywood for the adult snobs. The world of “The Lego Movie” is breathtaking and expansive, an unwieldy melting pot of blockbuster magic. It’s an archetypal “chosen one” story — drawing from “The Matrix,” “Star Wars” and every superhero film ever — and its stop-motion animation whirls with color like a carousel on acid. Like its silly, every-man — or every-toy — protagonist, this film taught us that even the dumbest, doubtworthy ideas can win our praise and love. Whether “The Lego Movie” is 2014’s best film is debatable, but it’s certainly the most heroic. — Jason Chen 

Read the full review here.


nightcrawler-poster4) “Nightcrawler”

Perhaps the best part of “Nightcrawler” is Jake Gyllenhaal’s crazy transformation. When you see his wiry, gaunt appearance as Louis Bloom in Dan Gilroy’s dark visage, you’ll immediately forget he was ever categorized as a Hollywood dreamboat. The film, which is part satire, part thriller, tells the story of a morally bankrupt cameraman who sells crime footage to desperate television news stations. “Nightcrawler” contains carefully embedded commentary about the sensationalization of modern media, but it never feels trite or preachy. Gilroy manages to present a coherent, darkly realistic film sprinkled with gallows humor throughout. — Gillian Edevane

Read the full review here.


3) “Dear White People”Dear-White-People-poster

“Dear White People” is probably the most apt narrative to hit theaters in 2014. The story of four black students navigating the prejudiced and stormy waters at a fictional Ivy League university certainly hit home for many viewers. Director Justin Simien managed to add some gallows humor to a dark commentary about race relations, while audiences came away with a desire to reflect on their own contributions to societal stratification. Kudos to Simien and Co. for making a tasteful, poignant and guffaw-inducing laugh fest. — Gillian Edevane


The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-Poster2) The Grand Budapest Hotel

 A list of words that come to mind when you hear the name Wes Anderson will almost certainly include “quirky.” His latest movie, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” could be described as quirky, but, at the risk of sounding like a pretentious nerd, it should also be described as a masterpiece. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is perfectly put together. Its dialogue is sharp and funny and not as prone to sentimentality as his other movies, and the plot is so neatly tied together that it’s impossible to find a single superfluous moment in the film. Though the film is a sort of soft mystery thriller, the characters are as vibrant and well-developed as those in his slice-of-life films, such as “Moonrise Kingdom,” and Anderson’s characteristic eye for color and costume adds a finishing touch. All in all, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is everything you could hope for from Wes Anderson and a little more. — Lindsay Choi

Read the full review here.


1) BoyhoodBoyhood-poster

“Boyhood,” to put it simply, is a film about a 7-year-old boy from Texas named Mason (portrayed by Ellar Coltrane with silent bravado) who comes of age as the camera rolls. Rumored to be a top contender for an Academy Award for Best Picture, the film gets its appeal not only from its unique production — it took 12 years to film — but also from Richard Linklater’s impeccable direction. Sure, “Boyhood” is not your typical Oscar contender (there are no kings suffering from stutters or people dealing with social oppression), but its themes of personal identity, adolescence and seizing the day have the power to deeply resonate with audiences. With exemplary acting, nostalgic atmosphere and Linklater at its helm, “Boyhood” has all the elements of a classic. — Majick Tadepa

Read the full review here and the Daily Cal’s interview with Ellar Coltrane here.

Contact Daily Cal Staff at 


DECEMBER 15, 2014