End of the year listmaking usually forces critics to narrow their list of favorites down to ten, making especially strong years a difficult game of deciding which of the year’s best are expendable. Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf, on the other hand, chose not to do that, instead publishing a list of the year’s twenty best. Here’s the full lineup:
1. “Boyhood” (Richard Linklater)
2. “Nightcrawler” (Dan Gilroy)
3. “The Babadook” (Jennifer Kent)
4. “Gone Girl” (David Fincher)
5. “Under the Skin” (Jonathan Glazer)
6. “Love Is Strange” (Ira Sachs)
7. “We Are the Best!” (Lukas Moodysson)
8. “Snowpiercer” (Bong Joon-ho)
9. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Wes Anderson)
10. “Inherent Vice” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
11. “Jodorowsky’s Dune” (Frank Pavich)
12. “Two Days, One Night” (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)
13. “Particle Fever” (Mark Levinson)
14. “Selma” (Ava DuVernay)
15. “A Most Violent Year” (J.C. Chandor)
16. “The Missing Picture” (Rithy Panh)
17. “American Sniper” (Clint Eastwood)
18. “Life Itself” (Steve James)
19. “Leviathan” (Andrey Zygintsev)
20. “Get On Up” (Tate Taylor)
Not too surprising that Rothkopf went for “Boyhood,” considering the film’s strong showing at NYFCC this year, but it’s no less deserved. Here’s what he had to say about it:
Even with all the gush spilled over Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making family saga, it still might be underpraised: In watching these actors age, learn and grow (without recourse to melodrama or suspense), viewers grasped onto a beautiful continuum that few filmmakers achieve. The wait was worth it.
“Boyhood” isn’t the only parent-child centric film on Rothkopf’s list, though the other is a bit darker. “The Babadook” earns high praise from the critic:
Aussie Jennifer Kent’s supremely confident feature debut already feels like a horror classic, restoring the genre to its psychological prestige while turning the monstrous-mommy gimmick on its head. Inventive, recognizably real and scary as fuck, the film staked out a shadowy domestic terrain last dominated by Roman Polanski.
I wasn’t quite as high on “The Babadook” as some – its boogeyman is too strenuously symbolic and explicable to completely terrify me, which removes the element of the unknown that makes Polanski’s films so scary. But on a pure craft level, Rothkopf is dead on, especially with regards to how Kent uses sound (or lack of sound) to creep us out. “The Babadook” also explores the potential dark side to motherhood that “Rosemary’s Baby” did, though Essie Davis’s unhinged performance (the scariest part of the film for me) is more in line with “The Shining.”
For another, warmer (downright huggable) film about children that could act as a companion to “Boyhood’s” search for identity, look no further than “We Are the Best!”
No modern director has been as sensitive to adolescent rage as Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson (“Show Me Love,” “Lilya 4-Ever”) and his return to form—via this exuberant girl-punk comedy—felt like a huge comeback. Self-discovery arrives with power chords; every tween should see this before they fall into the Taylor Swift wormhole.
Hey now, Taylor Swift’s recent album was pretty good (so was “Red,” actually). Finally, Rothkopf also wrote about the year’s five worst films: “Men, Women & Children,” “Transcendence,” “Winter’s Tale” (possibly the worst I saw, though it has a goofy charm to it), “Let’s Be Cops,” and his number one pick, Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Pompeii.”
Parmageddon was nigh in this cheesy action melodrama that felt both overheated with plot developments (and its simmering main character, Mount Vesuvius), yet strangely curdled from a lack of histrionics that might have redeemed it as fun trash. Since February, it’s been eclipsed by bigger bombs, but this was the stinkiest.
Guess Paul W.S. Anderson will have to wait on lists by Armond White or the vulgar auteurists to get the kind of praise Wes and Paul Thomas Anderson got.