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A.O. Scott Names ‘Boyhood’ the Best of 2014, Also Loves ‘Ida,’ ‘Selma’

A.O. Scott Names 'Boyhood' the Best of 2014, Also Loves 'Ida,' 'Selma'

The New York Times’ A.O. Scott has published his list of the year’s best films, and big surprise, “Boyhood” is the top pick. Here’s the full top ten:

1. “Boyhood” (Richard Linklater)
2. “Ida” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
3. “Citizenfour” (Laura Poitras)
4. “Leviathan” (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
5. “Selma” (Ava DuVernay)
6. “Love Is Strange” (Ira Sachs)
7. “We Are the Best!” (Lukas Moodysson)
8. “Birdman” (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)/”Listen Up Philip” (Alex Ross Perry)/”Mr. Turner” (Mike Leigh)
9. “Dear White People” (Justin Simien)
10. “The Babadook” (Jennifer Kent)

Scott’s 11 honorable mentions are “Beyond the Lights,” “Bird People,” “The Dance of Reality” and “Jodorowsky’s Dune” (he groups them together), “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Particle Fever,” “Snowpiercer,” “Top Five,” “Two Days, One Night,” “Wild.” Here’s what he had to say about his number one pick:

In my 15 years of professional movie reviewing, I can’t think of any film that has affected me the way “Boyhood” did…Some of this is a matter of coincidence. Arriving in the summer that my only son and oldest child graduated from high school and prepared to fly the parental nest, this chronicle of a boy’s life from 6 to 18 would have wrecked me even if it had been more conventional. As it happened, it took a second and a third viewing for me to appreciate the ingenuity of Richard Linklater’s idea and the artistry of his methods…“Boyhood,” while rigorously faithful to Mason’s perspective, is as much about his world and the people in it as it is about him. The film is a sympathetic critique of manhood and a critical tribute to motherhood (and also a chance to watch Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette grapple with the passage of time as no actors before them have). It opens on American life and offers a progress report on our spiritual condition. There are missing pieces, of course, but that’s part of the point. A movie, like an individual’s life, is a singular thing. It can’t be comprehensive; it can only be, as comprehensively as possible, itself.

“Boyhood” might be the most frequently cited film on top ten lists, but a Criticwire Survey named “Ida” the one film that more people needed to see before making their top ten lists. Clearly Scott agrees:

Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” is another kind of coming-of-age story, a retrospective consideration of girlhood in Poland in 1962. With breathtaking concision and clarity — 80 minutes of austere, carefully framed black and white — Mr. Pawlikowski penetrates the darkest, thorniest thickets of Polish history, reckoning with the crimes of Stalinism and the Holocaust. But the heart of the movie lies in the performances of Agata Trzebuchowska, as a young novice learning the truth about her family’s past and Agata Kulesza as her cynical aunt, part of the country’s Communist elite.

Foreign-language films make a pretty good showing on Scott’s list, from the always austere (though slightly less so this time) Andrey Zvyagintsev with “Leviathan” to the appearance of “Two Days, One Night,” “The Dance of Reality” and “Bird People” in Scott’s honorable mentions list. Still, the happiest inclusion (literally, the most joyful movie on the list) is Lukas Moodysson’s comeback film “We Are the Best!”

When I was a teenager, back in the 1980s, musical taste was a line in the sand. If you didn’t like certain records — punk rock and affiliated genres, mostly — I wasn’t sure I could like you. Tastes mellow with age, but I kind of feel that way about “We Are the Best!,”Lukas Moodysson’s ebullient celebration of the adolescent punk-rock spirit, circa 1982. The story couldn’t be simpler: Three middle-school girls in Sweden start a band. Only one of them can play an instrument, but when has that ever mattered? Their anthem “Hate the Sport” is the song of the year, whatever year it happens to be.

Scott cheats a bit on his “top ten” list at number eight with a three-way tie (though not as much as he did last year with a six-way tie), but he justifies it by pointing out the thematic similarity between the three.

This has been quite a year for difficult male artists and their troubles — with women, with ambition, with a world that doesn’t quite understand them. Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman” and Alex Ross Perry’s “Listen Up, Philip” each take a crack at the creative ego and its discontents, but they are pale, tentative efforts next to Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” an earthy, messy, altogether sublime portrait of the great 19th-century British painter, played by Timothy Spall.

Finally, Scott’s too scared that talking about “The Babadook” will conjure up the film’s titular boogeyman. Needless to say, he liked it.

I’m still too freaked out to say much more about “The Babadook.” I don’t want to provoke the monster. And I’ll be looking forward to Jennifer Kent’s next movie. I’m already clearing out a hiding place under my bed.

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