My top 5 of 2014 (so far)

From The Orlando Weekly, December 17, 2014

Birdman 2

Michael Keaton stars in Birdman. (image copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures)

As we approach the end of the year and struggle to pass early judgment on this annum’s cinematic achievements, it seems appropriate to quote the old clichés about hindsight being 20/20 and never being able to judge an event until it’s in the distant past. With that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll take an admittedly premature stab at listing the best films of 2014.

5. The Double, 4 stars

While other gems such as Nightcrawler, A Most Wanted Man and Boyhood could have slipped in at No. 5, I instead offer The Double. Based on a Dostoevsky story, this mind-bending mystery stars Jesse Eisenberg as a dystopian cubicle worker who is somehow the only one who notices that the new office employee is his identical twin seemingly intent on usurping not just his job but his entire existence.

4. Calvary, 4 ½ stars

This mysterious, morally complex movie stars Brendan Gleeson as an Irish priest trapped in a Straw Dogs town, coping with the fact that one, if not all, of the villagers has designs for his destruction.

3. The Imitation Game, 4 ½ stars

Coming in at No. 3 is the best straight drama I’ve seen this year. The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing (the man who broke the Nazi’s Enigma code in World War II) with flair, passion and a clever, almost meta-theatrical, framing device. It finally gives the life of this mathematical genius – filled with both triumphs and tragedy – the respect it deserves.

2. Interstellar, 4 ½ stars

Christopher Nolan’s space-time sci-fi divided critics. Some proclaimed it contrived, talky and too desperate to dazzle its audience with scientific conceits. I found those criticisms weak and was instead bowled over by the majesty and creative vision of what should be considered a lesser, but still worthy, offspring of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

1. Birdman, 4 ¾ stars

Perched at the top is director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), starring a startlingly good Michael Keaton. I’ve simply never seen anything like this blend of brilliant hidden jokes, Charlie Kaufman ambience, fantasy-based realism and dreamlike yet intensely personal camerawork, and I doubt you have either. To paraphrase that greatest of directorial failures, Ed Wood: “This is the one. This is the one 2014 will be remembered for.”

© 2014 Orlando Weekly /MeierMovies, LLC

Go here for a full review of The Imitation Game and here for a full review of Birdman. And to find out whether all these films stayed in my top five for 2014, visit my yearly list