10 Best Movies of 2014

Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson perfectly captures the psychedelic craziness and drug-fueled paranoia of early 70s California in this hilarious adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s comic novel. The film centers on a counter-culture private investigator who gets more than he bargained for when he tries to help a beautiful ex-girlfriend. Joaquin Phoenix is great as the detective but Martin Short steals the movie as the hedonistic leader of the Golden Fang, which is either an international drug cartel or a tax shelter for dentists.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s last few movies have gone from grim (21 Grams) to grimmer (Babel) to slit-your-wrists grimmest (Biutiful) but the desire to have fun must have been building because Birdman is an explosion of wit, style and pure cinematic energy. Michael Keaton’s brilliant performance as an aging actor famous for having played a superhero is but one of this amazing movie’s pleasures.

Luc Besson’s giddy tale of an ordinary woman (ordinary other than being Scarlett Johansson) who develops superpowers is pulp filmmaking at its best. When an experimental drug allows Johansson to use untapped portions of her brain, the rules of logic and science fl y out the window. In Besson’s hands the audience is whipped from nightmare to kickass action and ultimately to transcendence.

Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson continues her artistic hot streak in Jonathan Glazer’s visionary science fiction film about a beautiful alien hunting lonely men on Scotland’s desolate highways. Like an alchemist, Glazer transmutes this seemingly trashy plot into a hypnotic meditation on loneliness and alienation.

Excellent performances by Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and a very creepy Steve Carrell highlight Bennett Miller’s powerful new movie. Miller’s retelling of John du Pont’s ill-fated attempt to buy the US Olympic wrestling team is an unforgettable true story of money and masculinity run amok.

Gone Girl
David Fincher’s savage dissection of the deception at the heart of a supposedly perfect marriage starts as a gripping mystery about the search for a missing woman, then morphs into a thriller before finally revealing itself to be a stunningly dark satire of the lies people tell to those they claim to love.

Carla Juri’s vivacious performance as a young woman with eccentric ideas on hygiene and sex who will do absolutely anything to reunite her divorced parents energizes this delightful German comedy. This film miraculously managed to be both the year’s grossest movie and also its sweetest.

In 2002, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and then six-year-old Ellar Coltrane committed to collaborating with Richard Linklater for 12 years to tell the story of a young boy’s journey to manhood. The result is an intimate epic unlike anything viewers have seen.

Documentarian Laura Poitras reveals the worst excesses of the US government’s national security agencies in this mesmerizing portrait of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Ida When a young novitiate is told she must visit her sole surviving relative before taking her vows, discovering she is Jewish is just one of the unsettling secrets awaiting her in Pawel Pawlikowski’s haunting drama of corruption and guilt in post-war Poland.

Dylan Skolnick finds himself another year older… but not much wiser. Still, he prefers being here to the alternative. He can be found most days and some nights at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, where he is co-director. cinemaartscentre.org

dylan skolnick

Dylan Skolnick lives in the East, but loves a good western. He can be found most days and many evenings at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, where he is co-director (www.cinemaartscentre.org).