I've got my top ten list locked now, which is always a liberating moment for me. Now I can start celebrating all the movies that didn't make the list, because as usual, there are about 50 movies that I genuinely enjoyed, that I think are worth seeing, and that I would tell anyone should be part of their 2014 film experience.
There's no arguing that “St. Vincent” is anything but one big indie cliche. I feel like I've seen “St. Vincent” over and over and over, and it's true of Bill Murray, too, who's been remaking this movie since “Meatballs.” Take Bill, add an awkward kid who needs guidance, shake, set your pathos level of choice, and you've got your movie. Having said that, I watched “St. Vincent” twice in three days just to watch Bill fully embrace his inner W.C. Fields. It's not a great film, but it's a great stroll with the most watchable human being alive.
I published a full review of “The Theory Of Everything,” the Stephen Hawking film, but I have yet to write about the other Oscar-bait-genius-biopic “The Imitation Game,” where Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing. I think the film's got a really strong sense of style, and I was a big fan of “Headhunters,” the first film from director Morten Tyldum, but what makes it special is the work by Cumberbatch and co-star Keira Knightley. I have had the same sort of reversal-of-heart on Knightley in the last two or three years that I have with Channing Tatum, and at this point, I look forward to seeing her play this sort of role, brainy and charming. Cumberbatch does remarkably detailed work trying to evoke Turing as a man so smart it feels like his brain's trying to escape from his head. I think the film plays too fast and loose with facts in order to make its dramatic points, and I'm confused why they had to do that considering how brutal Turing's real story is, but it's full of truly great work.
“Shrew's Nest” is one of the Fantastic Fest films I saw, and it's a brutal emotional thriller from Spain directed by Juanfer Andres and Esteban Roel. It's about the strange toxic co-dependence of two sisters living together in the days following WWII. Montse (Macarena Gomez) is the older sister, the one who had to figure out a way to provide and make a life, and her younger sister (Nadia de Santiago) is just reaching adulthood, and starting to crave a life outside the suffocating apartment that is her whole world. Montse has crippling agoraphobia, but she's a successful seamstress who can get her clients to come to her, and it means the two of them depend on each other in some very unhealthy ways. I won't say anything else about the plot except to say men. That one word and everything that comes from that one word is enough to send the sisters spiraling into one of the creepiest things I saw all year.
Just as creepy was “Goodnight Mommy,” another Fantastic Fest film, which is about twins and a mother who has just had surgery and madness and oh my god it's so creepy. I had one big problem with the film, which is that I realized from the first scene what's happening in the movie, and it's a film that is built around a series of reveals. If you're way ahead of those reveals, the structure ends up being an issue. I'd rather they revealed it all up front and then made the movie about that to begin with. But it's incredibly skilled, and like “Shrew's Nest,” it was co-directed, this time by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz.
I'll bring you more batches of great films that did not make my top twenty as I prepare for Tuesday's publication of the final list.