Overstreet’s Favorite Films of 2014 — So Far

What are your top five favorite films of the year so far?

Most reviewers post their “Best of 2014 So Far” lists at the end of June, because that’s the year’s halfway point. But since a lot of films that qualify as 2014 films for American moviegoers because they opened in New York and L.A. in December won’t be accessible elsewhere until January, February, or even March in other major cities, so, well… I figured I’d wait until the end of July to mark a more accurate cinema-year halfway point.

You can keep up with my moviegoing diary, first-impression notes, and list updates at Letterboxd.

Here’s how the list is shaping up so far — but I won’t be surprised if, by the end of the year, only the top 3 or 4 are still in the top 10. So many promising titles are still on the way.

And by the way, if you see titles on here that I haven’t yet reviewed (my review archive is here), check back occasionally. I plan to catch up with all of them eventually. A review of As It Is in Heaven, for example, is coming up. And Something, Anything (yes, that’s a real movie title) isn’t available yet.

faves of 2014 so far

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Noah Adrien Lyons

    Consider Obvious Child (starring Jenny Slate). My tops so far for 2014 are Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, Ida, and Boyhood. Yet somehow, this “rom-com” (a genre heading that needs to go away fast) is surprisingly affective, honest, and topical, without a trace of pandering or irony. (And – not a spoiler – the supposed “Christian” perpetrator is a clever assumption of his character, the lingering evidence inconclusive, c’est la vie.)

  • Golovolomka

    “And Something, Anything (yes, that’s a real movie title) isn’t available yet.”

    Based on the Todd Rundgren album?

  • Christopher Williams

    Good list — so much I still have to keep up on.

    Mine, as of now — which so much backlogged — looks like this:

    1.) Grand Budapest Hotel — I’ll be very happily surprised to see something better this year. It’s not just a great story with great performances — it’s so meticulously put together, such a joy just to look at.

    2.) The Lego Movie — Recently watched it a second time and, yep, everything is still awesome. It’s just an explosion of creativity, and I love how it tweaks the tired “chosen one” formula. Also, Batman wants to party on the Millennium Falcon because it’s full of bon vivants — that scene exists.

    3.) Snowpiercer — It’s unsubtle and flawed, but it’s a masterful vision and so bursting with ideas that I’ll overlook its rough edges.

    4.) Life Itself — I loved Roger — his writing influenced not just my thoughts on film, but on faith, science, politics and humanity. I love that this film celebrates his very full, very diverse life and that, in capturing his last days, it feels like something more than hagiography. Also, Steve James honors not just the TV show, but Roger’s actual writing by putting it on-screen.

    5.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — This is how you use special effects. James Cameron may know how to dazzle us with CGI, but Matt Reeves makes it dance.The apes effects aren’t just there to make us go “wow,” but to create fully-realized, emotional and flawed characters. It’s a summer film where you don’t want any action to erupt and, when it does, it’s horrifying, painful and sad. Charlton Heston would roll over in his grave if he saw how one of his most-notable films was now portraying guns. And while I thought “Rise” had a weird anti-human slant, “Dawn” empathizes with both sides, and holds both accountable for the tragedies that erupt. It’s fantastic. There’s a shot with a tank that is possibly my favorite of the year.

    Also, best dancing: Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy.

  • jehar

    I find the inclusion of Snowpiercer interesting, since I recall that you were struggling with it a bit. Has it moved into something more than impressive-yet-troubling in your eyes?

    Personally, I like the film better when I notch down on pondering the implied meaning and simply look at the canvas of emotions on display. This was visceral in a rare way, and sometimes that’s enough for me.

    In many ways this was a survival film, but one that highlighted that once survival is achieved, the base instincts that got you to that point beget new problems. Curtis started with an ideal, had to debase himself to meet the goals of that ideal, and then had to face the fact that his actions undermined the original ideal. I saw some parallels with the Reign of Terror in regards to an easily corrupted revolution.

    In my reading, this film was less about the final conflict of philosophy between
    Curtis and Wilford, and more about the pain required to get to that point.

    Back to the list, your comments over the years have softened my heart to Ebert, so I may need to take a look at Life Itself.

    • jeffreyoverstreet

      Yeah, I think that the film’s merit has increased for me as I’ve reflected on it and continued to read varying interpretations of it. I still think the film would have been stronger with a better actor in the lead role. I’m hoping to find time to see it again just to get a sense of how durable the movie is. Great action films hold up time and time again.


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