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The Best Films of 2014!

What a fucking awesome year 2014 was in cinema! There were so many thought-provoking, female-driven, visionary filmmaking showcased this year that I simply could not limit myself and why should I?! This list took me a considerable amount of time to really dissect and narrow down considering that I decided to combine U.S. and foreign films together, making the process literally impossible! But here it is! The best films I've seen this year were first and foremost, possessed impeccable and spellbinding form and naturally, commanding stories that demands the audience to confront their own notions on identity, success, and humanity.

Top 10

Under the Skin (Dir. Jonathan Glazer)

It's no surprise why Under the Skin is on everyone's top film lists and the Badass Femme of 2014. Loosely adapted from Michel Faber's 2000 novel of the same name, Glazer tells a story about an alien seductress who preys on men in Scotland with surprising depth and heart that examines what it means to be a human, specifically a female on this earth. With it's eerily gripping soundtrack and gorgeous cinematography of the vast landscape of Scotland, Under the Skin doesn't shy away from showing the absolute ugliness of humanity with powerful sincerity and heartbreaking realism. Under the Skin particularly touched my little heart and even inspired me to make a short film (coming soon) and name her the Badass Femme of 2014. If you're not convinced that I'm in love with this film, I don't know what else will. Full review // Badass Femmes: The Female

Birdman (Dir. Aléjandro Gonzalez Inárritu)

From the moment, I laid my eyes onto the glorious Birdman trailer that embodied everything I love about cinema (to name a few): long-takes, maniacal characters on the brink of madness, and surreal tones, I was instantly hooked and (im)patiently waited for the film. And boy, I was not disappointed! With the A-List cast and meta story, Inarritu brought powerhouse performances by every characters, delving within each character who are battling their worst demons that brought harsh truths about broken careers, the new generation, and our own projected egos. Full Review

Force Majeure (Dir. Ruben Östlund)

There are rare moments in your life when you watch a film and you are stuffed with sheer bliss from discovering the utter brilliance of a particular film that it's hard to believe it's utter existence! I got that feeling when I watched Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth and now, Ruben Östlund's Force Majeure. It took the premise of trust within a relationship seen in The Loneliest Planet and delves neck deep in Force Majeure to explore perception and gender expectations in a family setting with piercing wit and humor. Photographed in a calculated and pristine manner, Östlund's fourth feature is will most likely be nominated for an Academy for the Best Foreign Language Film which I hope takes the gold! If there is only one film you watch in 2014, let it be this one. 

Nightcrawler (Dir. Dan Gilroy)

Jake Gyllenhaal has recently been taking a dramatic career shift, distancing himself from his Blockbuster woes to pursue more risky projects like Denis Villenueve's Prisoners and Enemy where he played a tortured cop and mysterious dopplegangers, respectively. He elevates his status as a serious actor even further with Dan Gilroy's debut film, Nightcrawler. Filmed on the gritty streets of Los Angeles, Nightcrawler can be seen as today's modern day success story that touts a razor-sharp screenplay and a transformative performance by Gyllenhaal that'll get under your skin and stay with you. It'll be a dream if Hollywood recognized Gyllenhaal for his creepy and haunting turn as Lou Bloom with a tiny golden man. But one thing is for sure, after working in Hollywood for so long, Gilroy is bound to change the way "Hollywood" films are being made. Full review

We Are the Best! ( Dir. Lukas Moodysson)

Lukas Moodysson is one of the rare filmmakers that has the blessed gift of being able to translate the intimate aspects of life directly to screen without tainting the subject in the slightest. We Are the Best! is easily this year's best film that screams and celebrates the joys of being a young female, which is a film we all so desperately need. Adapted from the graphic novel Never Goodnight written by his wife Coco Moodysson, the film highlights the lives of three 13-year old girls who unabashedly share their love of punk music! It's ultra naturalistic performances by these young actresses brings uncanny chemistry that is belly-achingly hilarious, heart-warming, and exuberant. PUNK ROCK 4EVA!

Selma (Dir. Ava DuVernay)

This has got to be the only "Hollywood" film in the bunch and that's primarily due to Ava Duvernay's exceptionally poignant vision chronicling the three month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights. Selma could've been your typical biopic but in narrowing down and presenting the historical and most victorious period for the civil rights movement, gave more room for the story to show the little details behind King and the moments leading up to the monumental time that is as relevant today as it was then. David Oyelowo's uncanny portrayal as King from his round cheeks to the cadence of his voice is powerful and brilliant. Selma is a best history lesson that doesn't preach but shows the urgency of our racial injustice times with sensitivity as well as potency. 

The Overnighters (Dir. Jesse Moss)

The Overnighters tells one of the most relevant and important story about our post-recession American times that is shows sobering reality of our country's dire situation with assured compassion and sensitivity. In the wake of one of the worst recessions in America,  a pastor sparks controversy in his North Dakota town by opening the doors of his church to homeless workers seeking jobs at nearby oil fields. The story itself is sufficiently compelling but the third act shocker transforms the social commentary documentary into a completely different beast, giving rise to one of the best and important documentaries out there this year.

20,000 Days on Earth (Dir. Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard)

I am ashamed that I did not know who Nick Cave was prior to watching this magical film. Blending fiction and reality, 20,000 Days on Earth focuses on Nick Cave's 20,000th day on earth, showing the day in a life of the musician and international cultural icon. It's hyper-stylized form heightens the surreal experience as we witness Cave's most intimate creative process and reflection on his life that results in a breathtakingly emotional journey for Cave and the audience alike. Bursting with passion and vitality,  Cave's energy is palpable and digs deep down to the microscopic particles of your soul which in turn, forces you to reflect on your own life.

The Babadook (Dir. Jennifer Kent)

Inspired by her short film Monster, Jennifer Kent's The Babadook is truly one of the best horror films of the decade! It utilizes conventional horror tropes of bad kids and supernatural beings to tell a deeply unsettling film that confronts not the demons lurking in the house but the one that lives within yourself. I was not able to sleep for a week after watching this film and personally, my fear of motherhood was only amplified by the monstrous performance by Noah Wiseman who embodies every parent's worst nightmare. The Babadook is a fierce debut film by the Australian writer-director whose cinematic voice is bold and refreshing. I can't wait to see what she does next! Even if that means, I'll lose some sleep. XP Full review

The Raid 2 (Dir. Gareth Evans)

The very coveted #10 spot goes to Gareth Evans' The Raid 2: Berendal, the sequel to what is already been claimed as the Godfather of martial art films. It's explosive, wall-to-wall, ballet of ultra-violence may run more than two hours but it's dramatic opera of undercover cops, family affairs, and new badass characters gives the film sufficient time to flesh out their action-filled storyline with nail-biting intensity and excessive violence, choreographed to perfection! Some may think it's too violent but it satisfies your ultimate action cravings especially in a industry where there are more lackluster and "fake" fight scenes than not. But be careful for what you ask for because this is one slice is pure action that just might detonate your head into flames! Full Review

Honorable Mentions

Festival Favorites:

The Tribe
Stations of the Cross
Starred Up
The Tribe
Tokyo Tribe
Why Don't You Play in Hell
Two Days, One Night


Finding Vivian Maier
Happy Valley
Life Itself


Only Lovers Left Alive

22 Jump Street
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Edge of Tomorrow

Guardians of the Galaxy
John Wick
Listen Up Philip
Obvious Child
Only Lovers Left Alive
Palo Alto
The Double
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The One I Love

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