1. Rosewater - The reviews for this movie were mostly good, yet I didn't see, nor did I hear, anyone talking about it. Now I can see why. It's a good movie, but there really isn't much else to say about it. It's an interesting story, well-acted, and it's surprisingly humorous considering the material. It just doesn't feel severe enough. It's sort of fascinating that a story like this can be told in a way that evokes absolutely no emotional response, but because of this, there is also no emotional resonance. Gael Garcia Bernal is one of my favorite actors - I would say top 10. He is awesome in this, as Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was captured in Iran and accused of being a spy, largely because of a segment featuring him on The Daily Show. Sounds absolutely ridiculous...right? However, it's a true, and pretty well-known, story. I think the best part is the humor, because it highlights the absolute absurdity of the situation. Plus, it highlights Jon Stewart's strength as a storyteller. I loved all of the references to NJ, too. The "Porn?" "The Sopranos." "Porn?" scene is hilarious, as was "Yes, of course, everybody knows what happens in New Jersey" line. I just felt like I should, you know, feel something after watching it and I felt nothing.
2. A Most Violent Year - Oh man, one of the biggest film disappointments I've had in a while. I really thought this movie was going to shoot up my Top 10 list to my favorite movie of 2014. It has all the potential in the world. Solid writer/director, JC Chandor (Margin Call), really talented cast, and the trailer just blew me away. So what went wrong? I think my biggest problem with the movie is the story, itself. It's just really not that interesting. I really like quiet, subtle movies, but when the story is also boring, it just doesn't work. It's really beautiful to look at; stunning, in fact. However, I found my thoughts drifting more than once. I'm a huge fan of Jessica Chastain (isn't everyone?), and she is fantastic. However, I haven't jumped on the Oscar Isaac bandwagon (yet). He's a decent actor, but I constantly read really boastful critiques of him (mostly, for Inside Llewyn Davis, which I didn't really like). He just hasn't impressed me, but I'm waiting patiently for it to happen.
3. Maps to the Stars - Another film that I thought would shake up my Top 10 list, but unfortunately missed the mark. I liked it, though. It just wasn't strong enough to make an impact. I love David Cronenberg movies (like, soooo sooo much), but this didn't feel like a Cronenberg movie. It felt more like a David Lynch movie (not necessarily a bad thing). It's a black comedy/satire about fame and the Hollywood "machine", and it's oddly structured and paced. There are some really strong, chilling moments - mostly with Julianne Moore. I'm surprised she wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this performance. She would have been competing with herself, but still, this is definitely a worthy performance, and something completely different for her. I also love Mia Wasikowska. She is just an incredible young actress. My biggest problem is the young boy; his name is Evan Bird, and he can't act at all. He absolutely ruins an all-star cast of superb acting. I don't understand how no-one noticed that this kid didn't fit in. I thought for a moment that maybe it was part of the bigger picture, but in the end, I just can't justify having a horrible kid actor ruin a movie.
4. Big Eyes - What an absolutely fascinating story! Seriously, how did I not know about this? You would think in all the classes I took about Art History or Women's Studies, that this would be a part of an important lesson about sexual politics. Also, is this how commercialized artistic prints started?? That's crazy! I LOVE when a film teaches me something; causing me to frantically research everything about the subject matter (I haven't had the time yet to do so, but it's on my list - yes, I have a list of things I want to learn about. I'm a weirdo.). While the film has obvious commentary on sexism, it also has some commentary on the "mass appeal" of art. The idea that once something gains attention from the masses, it is no longer good. The cast is brilliant, especially Christoph Waltz. He just oozes this natural charisma, that he uses in this completely smarmy way. The scene when she confronts him about the Cenic painting could be used as an example for an acting masterclass. It's that good. This is probably the first Burton film that I've truly enjoyed since Big Fish.
5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Movies I expected to change my Top 10 Films of 2014: Maps to the Stars & A Most Violent Year. Movie that I didn't expect to change it: A Hunger Games movie. Boy was I wrong! I don't know why I am still surprised when I like a Hunger Games movie, considering that I really liked the first two. I think the reason why I liked this movie so much, though, is that it didn't have the actual "games", which I found was the worst part of the first two movies. I love all of the political & social commentary within this story and that is all this installment covered. I see from reviews, that the fans and critics don't like this movie as much as the first two, but I am in the complete opposite camp. I loved this one. I love that they use her as propaganda for the rebellion, I love that Elizabeth Banks gets to really showcase herself, and I love the ending. Also, I didn't even realize that the hauntingly beautiful song, "The Hanging Tree", is Jennifer Lawrence, or that it was from this movie (is that weird? I'm sure that was a highly publicized thing that I missed), but I adore that song and her voice is really pretty. Right now, this movie sits at #10 on my Top 10 list (but that could change, when I reevaluate in July). There are a few things I didn't care for - Natalie Dormer, for one. I just really can't stand her. She is such a terrible actress. I just don't get it, and I sincerely hope she isn't featured even more in the next one. Also, a minor thing, but the hair dye (or wig) that Jennifer Lawrence uses is really distracting. It's so unnatural.