February 6, 2015 by Paul Curtin
From dark and dramatic thrillers to hilarious and heartwarming animated flicks and from some of the most kick-ass comic book adaptations ever to sci-fi blockbusters that expanded the horizon of technical achievement, 2014 was another excellent year for movies and one that truly did have something amazing for everyone.
Selecting this year’s top 12 nominees for MediaStinger’s Movie of the Year was no easy task, and we ended up with the same amount of honorable mentions as films that made our final cut. But before we move forward with our best of the best, remember that the following films still deserve your time: 22 Jump Street, The Babadook, The Boxtrolls, Boyhood, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Foxcatcher, Fury, Godzilla, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Imitation Game, The Raid 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Marvel’s superhero lineup gained more traction than ever last year as they closed out Phase 2 of their plans with Captain America’s superb sequel and followed up even more strongly by introducing us to the more lighthearted and lovable Guardians of the Galaxy, an odds-defying adventure that ultimately taught us never to doubt Stan Lee again. Ant-Man? A Fantastic Four reboot? All right, we’re in.
Before stealing the summer in Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014’s breakout star Chris Pratt (aka Star-Lord, man) voiced the lovable lead Emmet Brickowski in the instant animated classic The Lego Movie, where everything about the movie could be summed up in one word and excessive punctuation: awesome!!!
After voicing the CGI Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, Bradley Cooper showed off his range perhaps greater than any other actor this year with his portrayal of the most lethal sharpshooter in U.S. history in American Sniper. With his third consecutive Oscar nomination for Best Actor and his first in a non-comedic role, Cooper’s proven again that he’s way beyond Sexiest Man Alive just half a decade after breaking out in The Hangover.
In a year unusually rife with strong sequels, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes furthered the spectacular evolution of the reboot’s powerful gravitas, all the more impressive considering that the storytelling isn’t hampered by phenomenal CGI but rather carried by flawless mo-cap technology. And maybe the best tank shot in years (sorry, Fury).
Not taking time out to talk about Edge of Tomorrow would be as big of a sin as not seeing it. Tom Cruise’s wild live, die, repeat war story came close to being the summer’s best action movie; unfortunately, like 2012’s highly underrated Dredd, for whatever reason the film didn’t resonate with moviegoers and it bombed at the box office when it deserved much better for being such an amazing original film.
The man who revolutionized the superhero genre, Christopher Nolan, made his much anticipated return to directing by ripping through space, time, and eardrums in the water-cooler sci-fi epic Interstellar. Nolan allowed Matthew McConaughey’s meteoric rise to reach new heights with another acclaimed performance in one of 2014’s biggest films after the star had just recently blown everyone away in HBO’s True Detective and in his Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club.
Not to be confused with X-Men (who also had a great year), Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as Nightcrawler was arguably his best ever. And that’s saying something because he was fresh off some underrated performances in Enemy, Prisoners, and End of Watch. A dark, funny, and surprisingly scary story that almost perfectly emulated the experience of a ride along with a true sociopath, Nightcrawler had some of the best racing sequences we’ve seen in years.
Director Wes Anderson made his return with The Grand Budapest Hotel that added other visually-pleasing, comical, and just plain weird classic to his collection. Leave it to Anderson to take us on a wild and witty ride with a odd hotel concierge and his lobby boy.
While 2015 might be the year of Batman’s official comeback, the caped crusader of yesteryear Michael Keaton made the comeback performance of a lifetime in Birdman. Keaton’s stranger-than-fiction take on his own life mixed with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s choice to edit the film together as one single shot was simply stunning to watch.
Another aging star who has been a part of the superhero scene before and shined brighter than ever this year was J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. Simmons’ relentless berating of rising star Miles Teller in the intense jazz drama has given hope to Teller’s upcoming leading role in the Fantastic Four reboot and hopefully is also enough for Simmons to return as Spider-Man’s a-hole boss, J. Jonah Jameson.
Eddie Redmayne’s take on the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, has put him in the spotlight as one of Hollywood’s most promising new talents. We’ve seen Hawking’s tale told before, but never before has it been done as well as James Marsh’s heartbreaking and uplifting version in The Theory of Everything.
In such a diverse year featuring so many amazing films, there was one film that stood out as something with just the right amount of everything that was not only just a great theater-going experience but a masterpiece in filmaking, directing, casting, and acting. Writer Gillian Flynn’s screenplay of her own bestselling novel was able to construct a jaw-dropping thriller that worked on screen just as well as it does on paper. Working together with legendary director, David Fincher, she formed a combo that was a match made in heaven and proceeded to ruthlessly dissect holy matrimony and the media.
Both Flynn and Fincher refused to pull any punches and weren’t afraid to sucker punch us when we least expected it with shocking twists and horrific imagery set to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ disturbing score. While Batman fans may still be thirsting for blood with the selection of Ben Affleck as the next Bruce Wayne, the casting of the elder Affleck here could not have been a better choice. And the only superior performance could be that of leading lady Rosamund Pike opposite him, who absolutely killed her role. Hell, Fincher was even able to make Tyler Perry as a lawyer seem lovable… and that alone should be worth an award. Gone Girl was Fincher at his best yet again and MediaStinger’s Movie of the Year 2014.