1. The Counselor - Some people question my "watch everything" philosophy, but this is exactly the reason why I believe in it. This movie was completely trashed by critics and audiences - some calling it one of the worst movies they've ever seen. Guess what? I liked it. It's odd and dark, but beautiful and poetic at the same time. It has a solid, interesting story that moves quickly and features some jaw-dropping scenes, performed by a strong, talented cast. What's not to like? People were so focused on the scene in which Cameron Diaz fucks a car, which I admit, is a bit ridiculous, but when you combine it with the dialogue from Javier Bardem describing this scene ("like a catfish") - it is truly fantastic and hilarious. I'm not trying to oversell the movie, it's not amazing - however, I'm glad I ignored the masses telling me to avoid it. I stand by decision to watch everything and decide for myself, and I encourage everyone to do the same!
2. Mr. Nobody - After being released internationally and in limited theaters since 2009, this movie finally became available to me! I really, really liked it. It's being compared to Cloud Atlas, because of its expansive themes and narrative structure, but I found it much better than Cloud Atlas. It wasn't as expansive and had a clear cut general theme of time, morality and destiny versus free will. There are a few different timelines, each with their own "sliding doors" effect (side note: I love that movie!). Instead of showing which timeline is the "correct" one, the story concludes with the theory that all paths are the "right path". That being said, one will choose their own path - it's not chosen for you. I think this is probably the closest representation of how I feel when I evaluate my own life decisions. When Mr. Nobody questions the love of his life, why she waited for him, she responds that she renounced "all possible lives for one only...with you". Now that is a love story - realizing that any other path will be the right path, but choosing to wait instead. It hits close to home, because I don't really believe in destiny or soul-mates, but I do believe in love and I find that most people don't understand my version of love. This movie is my version. There's also a fantastic theory about time as "the thing that happens so that everything doesn't happen at once" and that there is, in fact, an "end point" in time, which happens at the end of the movie - it's an absolutely brilliant ending so I won't spoil it. There are a ton of flaws, none worth mentioning (ok...maybe the old person makeup - the makeup is great. I just don't like this used as a device; I would rather an older actor play the part. The makeup hinders facial expressions which are necessary for acting, in my opinion), but this is definitely a movie that I will remember forever and that is a wonderful thing.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis - I thought I was going to love this movie, but I only liked it. Maybe the hype killed it for me, but it's definitely not a movie I would put on my best of last year list. I found the story a little bland and predictable, plus Carey Mulligan's character irked the hell out of me - I know she is supposed to be a bitch, but that's sort of the problem. The character is so one-sided and it just screams the same old misogynistic crap that women are "get a real job" dream crushers. Guys, seriously, if you are with a woman who doesn't want you to be passionate about your life and your work, then dump her! Then again, I've never been the type of person who wants someone else to take care of me, so that kind of thinking is beyond my comprehension. Anyway, the movie is cute and smart with some beautiful music, but it wouldn't have worked at all without the cat! Greatest cat acting ever! He didn't even flinch with all of the subway noise, and he even looked at the camera when he was supposed to! Now I want to teach my cats to act.
4. Paranoia - I think the only reason I wanted to see this is because of Amber Heard. She's just so absolutely gorgeous; I wish she was the star of the movie instead of relegated to the "girlfriend" role, but I think she's on her way to some big starring roles soon. I also thought that maybe Gary Oldman would bring some quality acting to the table; but like the rest of the movie, he is pretty dull. I actually like Liam Hemsworth; more than I like his brother (rare, I know), but he still falls into the "pretty but bland" category for me. He did a decent job with this role. The script is definitely what failed this movie and also some pacing issues. It's a pretty forgettable and generic thriller, only an acceptable movie for a lazy day when you want to watch something that you don't have to think about.
5. Kill Your Darlings - This movie was a nice surprise for me. I wasn't expecting too much; I thought it would be similar to the other recent "beat generation" movie On the Road, which I absolutely hated, with better actors. It's so much better, though. First, the cast is incredible - Dane Dehaan, as Lucien Carr, proves he is worthy of his current "it boy" status. Daniel Radcliff even surprised me as Allen Ginsberg - he can actually act (so why is he soooo bad in the Harry Potter movies??). The supporting cast includes Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, David Cross, Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Jason Leigh - all of whom make a strong mark on the film. I wasn't really familiar with the story behind Lucien Carr; I knew that he was imprisoned for murder, but I thought it was self-defense. I had no idea he used the "Honor Slaying" defense and that his fellow writing colleagues backed him up. I also didn't know the circumstances behind the actual murder - it all seems pretty suspicious to me (of course, I did a ton of research after I watched the movie - it's fascinating!). Aside from the whole murder (and morality) aspect, the story focuses on the budding nature of these famous writers - insecure, passionate, and challenging the "normal", they sought out their own identity and created a movement that is still relevant today. I loved every minute of it; it may even make my top films list of last year when I reevaluate.