Counting Down Two Top Tens for 2014
Tying a ribbon on a Top 10 list and calling it a day is hard. (I know, I know: almost as hard as four tours in Iraq or walking into a phalanx of billy-clubbing police!) Here are some movies I saw a year and a half ago at festivals in other countries, which have taken permanent root in my mind; there is one I literally saw this afternoon, down the block from where I live, and instantly adored. Watch as I judge films that dextrously show new possibilities in the form against those that reflect or uncover deep social needs (though many of the best do both). And while we're at it, let's induce false rivalries or frames of comparison among movies that seem incorrigibly esoteric against those that are merrily commercial! It's all silly, and impossible, and obsessively absorbing, and great fun. You already know all that. So enough of the hemming and hawing that delayed my 2012 and 2013 lists for months, during which I did none of the re-watching that I considered necessary, in order to make sure my lists were "right." What would that even mean?
The rankings were made more difficult this year by the fact that I had way more A– grades than usual but no actual A's among U.S. releases. In other words, I'm not that much more beholden to my favorite movie of the year than I am to my 17th favorite, and I had no runaway cause célèbre. It seems nuts not to see Mr. Turner or Heli or Exhibition or A Most Violent Year on here, or even films I rated slightly lower on balance but think about constantly, like the intoxicating Under the Skin, the exquisite and subtly suggestive Love Is Strange, the heartwarming but unsentimental Ilo Ilo, the soft-spoken but tough-minded melodrama Beyond the Lights, or the shimmering, sobering Timbuktu. I've included a couple movies that I'm suspicious might reveal more "cracks" on second viewing and also excluded some, like The Immigrant (featuring the year's best performance, by Marion Cotillard), that I relished on first pass and only admired more on two successive viewings. There's no higher compliment I could pay to my chosen titles than to observe how movies as staggering, lifelines as invigorating, experiments as successful as the ones in this paragraph were kept from the roster.
Enough. What will follow over the coming days are two overlapping Top 10s, one here and one here, in keeping with my website's delineation between U.S. releases and world premieres in each calendar year. Can't be up too late rhapsodizing, but here are the first thoughts that come to mind in relation to the movies I'm seating in first class as we board our flight into, hopefully, another spectacular year in the cinema ...