In light of the impending, possibly-soon-completely-irrelevant Academy Awards, here is my personal list of the best films of 2014. You’ll find some choice comments on this year’s nominations sprinkled throughout.
The Honorable Mentions
Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s second excellent feature in as many years, “Wild” is an impressive return to form for star Reese Witherspoon, who’s never been better in the role of Cheryl Strayed, the woman who trekked the Pacific Crest trail to recover from a recent life of tragedy and drug-induced hardship. Laura Dern is quietly splendid as her never fretful mother, and while the script and Marc-Vallee’s direction are occasionally too busy for their own good, the performances ensure this is the best film you’ll find about finding yourself in the wild. Sorry, “Into the Wild.”
12. X-Men: Days of Future Past
The best comic-book movie in a year overflowing with them, the sixth film in the X-men franchise doesn’t disappoint and it might even surpass previous franchise pinnacle “X2.” Laying claim to one of the more memorable scenes of 2014, featuring new awesome character Quicksilver, this science-fiction opus plays with time travel and our emotions like no other superhero flick has before (at least not in a long while). It’s something of a bummer that Wolverine is yet again the center of attention, but the meat of the story is a compelling battle for Mystique’s soul and the fate of the future. Bonus points to returning director Bryan Singer for finally letting those mutant-hunting Sentinels grace the screen.
11. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Part 1 of the franchise’s final installment received some undeserved criticism for the studio’s financial decisions. While the action is limited compared to its predecessors, “Mockingjay” knows its way around the mechanics and politics of a revolution, and that’s fascinating to a political junkie like yours truly. Jennifer Lawrence, once again luminous as Katniss, anchors a film that goes in depth regarding how and why propaganda is used in the midst of war, and what it does to those participating and those witnessing. The lesser Hemsworth brother takes up one too many scenes, but thanks to a spark of revolution running through its veins, this latest Hunger Games is as good as the original.
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