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Matt’s Favorite Films of 2014

I love looking back at a year and formulating lists of my favorite video games and comic books and movies. It’s a lot of fun to look back on focus on the most joy I felt doing what I enjoy most: absorbing media. Art and entertainment is bound to affect all of us in different ways, which I think is fascinating. Whenever I do these lists, I like to make it clear that these are my personal favorites for this year; I’m not attempting to claim these are the best. Wholly subjective reasons form the backbone of this list. How could I, a lone dude, tell you what the best movies or comics or games were the best in a whole year, anyway? That’s a lot to cover!

There’s a certain warmness to talking about media in a more personal way. I hope you enjoy my list of my top ten favorite films of 2014.

10. The Interview

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At the bottom of my list of favorites is an alright movie, plagued by writing severely lacking in intelligence, especially needed due to the film’s sensitive subject matter. It still managed to make me laugh with its great comedy, though, and seeing this movie was an undeniably special experience. This film is a part of history! A couple of American film-makers ticked an off evil dictator so much that we almost didn’t get to see the movie. The president commented. Eventually, on Christmas Day, the masses could go out to select theaters or stream the movie. December 26th, my family gathered around our living room television and watched a pretty okay movie, and it was great.

Read my review here!

9. The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay – Part 1

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I have an endless appreciation for what these Hunger Games movies are doing for contemporary young adult fiction. These films come with lots of smart themes and ideas, all wrapped up with great aesthetics and solid acting. The most fascinating aspect of Hunger Games is what it says about the media, and the latest film, Mocking Jay Part 1, takes this commentary a step forward. Our heroes realize that they too must make use of propaganda to fight against the propaganda-fueled government they’re up against, but their wholesome approach fights off any ugliness. Also, I’ve always been a big detractor of the dumb trend of turning one book into multiple films, but this one makes it work, delivering a movie with an organic start, middle and end.

8. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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I saw all of the X-Men movies is in the original trilogy in theaters when they came out, and I’m not so sure I even enjoyed them when I was at that young age. After X3, I started to hit that point in my life when I was growing up; in fact, the last toy I remember playing with was a jet-pack-equipped Wolverine X3-branded. With the franchise splitting in all different directions, with two Wolverine movies as well as First Class, I felt overwhelmed and didn’t really bother with any of them. After hearing so much good about Days of Future Past, however, I decided to see the movie with friends at midnight, and loved it. It’s a great movie that’s easy enough to enjoy as its own thing, despite loads of connections to the other movies.

7. Lucy

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This movie didn’t do all that well critically, but I figured it was worth seeing, what with its high concepts and casting of Scarlett Johansson and Morgon Freeman. What I came out with was a pretty fascinating and fun thriller, despite issues. Johansson’s performance was remarkable, playing a cold badass. Bits of silly pretentiousness aside, Lucy succeeds in championing science amid common perception that it’s emotionless. The best scene is when the protagonist, given amazing powers that make her wildly intelligent, uses her brain to realize just how much she loves her mother. She cries.

6. 22 Jump Street

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I saw this movie simply as something to do with the person I was with that day, not expecting much out of it. However, what I got was a fantastic movie, easily the best straight-comedy of 2014 for my money. What I especially appreciated about this movie was its loyalty to sticking solely to comedy, refusing to force any drama or action that didn’t ultimately lead to a gag. It was just hit after hit after hit of solid bits in a solid comedy. I went back and watched the first movie after I saw this sequel, and was disappointed in it; it’s fine, but pales in comparison to its successor.

5. Boxtrolls

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With Pixar taking a break in 2014 before its promising Inside Out film in 2015, it will be interesting to see what wins “Best Animated Feature” at the Oscars. My vote absolutely goes to Boxtrolls, a stunningly gorgeous 3D stop motion film filled to the brim with themes and symbolism that I saw during a visit from my parents during my first semester of college. The story is simple and therefor easy for anyone to enjoy, but anyone willing to look deeper will find commentary on class, greed, xenophobia and probably more that I can’t remember or didn’t pick up on.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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The first superhero movie of the year embodies exactly why I think superhero fiction is so special. The Winter Soldier takes a stand against state surveillance in the wake of the NSA spying revelations, forming a thrilling, thoroughly political ride. Despite that, however, there’s also a talking nazi-computer in this movie, serving as the best example of the dumb ridiculousness that can be found. Superhero fiction has a uniquely compelling way of making a point through downright nutty stories, and the folks who made this movie get that.

3. Boyhood

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Out of everything I saw this year, I’d say Boyhood is the best film of the year. Filmed over the course of 12 years, Boyhood eschews standard plot structure in favor of simply showing a little boy grow up to be a young man. It’s an absolutely fascinating movie that takes viewers through over a decade of constantly evolving pop culture and current events, focusing on the development of a single boy along with his family. I even saw it when the end of the movie depicted what was just about to happen in my life: saying goodbye to my parents as I went off to school.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

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My expectations were high for this movie from the start, and they were hit, point for point. Guardians of the Galaxy is a hilarious, cool, and downright awesome movie. I saw it right when it came out with a bunch of buddies and howled embarrassingly loud; a certain bit at the start of the movie particularly affected me and one of my friends, so much so that we laughed about that one isolated joke for the duration of the whole night. I’m so entrenched in comic book fandom that I find myself more attached to this movie than something like Boyhood that I think is actually better. The truth is, Guardians excited me so much that I just can’t wait to collect toys based off of the characters and follow future comic book storylines that will inevitably be influenced by this movie.

1. Interstellar

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My friends and I were so disappointed when, during our Thanksgiving break from school, Big Hero 6 was sold out. Expecting a short and easy-to-enjoy animated film, we instead were left with Interstellar, a hugely long movie with mixed reviews from a director known to dwell on philosophical points at the expense of characters. Whenever I sat down in my seat and the film began, I was dreading the next couple hours. I hate long movies, and I’d heard enough that this one should’ve been a whole lot shorter. Once the movie really got going, I knew I was seeing something I really, really like.

Interstellar is an incredibly powerful movie, helped so much by an amazing, moody soundtrack. There are a lot of really heady ideas and themes in this movie, but it nails delivering them with characters that don’t fail to be authentic and captivating. As cheesy as it may sounds, Interstellar uses a doomsday plot and the grandeur of space to communicate to the viewer the power of love. It works.

One thing I absolutely love is Interstellar, my adoration only aided by my really low expectations.

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I also saw Big Hero 6 (good stuff!), The Lego Movie (better stuff! [review]) Dumb and Dumber To (mediocre stuff!), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (very good stuff! [review]), and A Million Ways to Die in the West (pretty good stuff!). I missed out on Neighbors, Annabelle, Gone Girl, Birdman, Nightcrawler, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, and probably more notable stuff.

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