Best Movies 2014

For my final trick of the year, I’ll talk about the five best films of the year. These are films I saw in the theaters though I didn’t include silent films I’ve seen. I will point out that 4 of the 5 are about women or by women. I don’t think that’s an accident. 🙂

I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus until in first week of the new year. So have fun and be safe!

In no particular order:
1. Birdman
This film, staring Michael Keaton, is about a movie star directing and acting in his first Broadway show in New York. Michael Keaton’s character was once a star in a superhero franchise but has been trying to find himself in the larger field of art. The film is imaginative and strange at times; his superhero altar-ego talks to him. The movie itself is shot as if it were one long take (it fakes a lot of it sometimes). Brilliant. I hope he wins best actor in the Oscars.
2. The Girls in the Band
I’ve talked about Judy Chaikin’s documentary about women in jazz a few times this year. It’s just that good. It really brings to life a story that has been forgotten. Until I had seen the movie, I had never realized that I didn’t know a single female horn player. As a saxophonist and a woman interested in women in history, that’s really sad. This film remedied that and introduced me to so many amazing musicians like Melba Linton and Vi Redd.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
This Coen Brothers movie is such a wonderful character study of a failing musician. No doubt about it Llewyn Davis is jerk, but it’s hard to watch his life fall apart. He has talent but he doesn’t have what it takes to become a star or even a somebody. Life is hard for him (though he helps make it hard for himself). Chicagoans will feel one scene in particular.
4. Hopeful Hopeless
This is a film that I saw through the Chicago Latino Film Festival written and directed by Coraly Santaliz. It’s a wonderful film from Puerto Rico about a sweet but desperate man who tries to rob a bank to pay for his wife’s surgery.  It’s funny and clever film that is told from multiple perspectives.
5. Finding Vivian Maier
This is a tricky film. I had never heard of Vivian Maier until I saw this film. It explores her troubled life and her amazing prolific work. But I’m not sure the film really tackles the issue that there are a lot of people making a lot of money off of her work who are not her relatives. I understand that significant work and money went into her collection but the casual attitude on part of the filmmaker and narrator was troubling. But it’s well worth checking out despite these issues.
Yes, I’ve seen many other films this year but these five were the ones that stood out. Honorable mentions should go out to  The Book of Life, and a Mockingjay Part 1 (fun film about propaganda).
Until next year, that’s all!

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