Flavorwire Staffers’ Favorite Films of 2014


Our film editor Jason Bailey already posted his list of the best films of 2014, but, as year-end qualifiers are oh-so-subjective, and as everyone loves the opportunity to gush on occasion, we wanted to give each of our staffers the chance to laud and list their personal favorite 2014 film. With no restrictions on repetition, as the votes started to trickle in, we began to notice something of an Obvious pattern:

Obvious Child (dir. Gillian Robespierre)

I’m going to be heinously predictable and go with Obvious Child. It may not technically be the year’s best movie, but Gillian Robespierre’s feature is one of the few films I’ve watched where I was too busy feeling represented and understood, not to mention entertained, to have any space for a genuine critical reaction. An abortion story with a happy ending shouldn’t be as quietly radical as it is, but that’s the world we live in. — Alison Herman, Editorial Assistant

I didn’t just love Obvious Child because of its message about abortion… although: yay, abortion! I also loved its exploration of a messy, flawed, and funny (and selfish and well-meaning) female protagonist and her friendships. It felt like an extension of what is happening with Girls and Broad City. My runner up is Mockingjay, which really managed to reinforce and provide escape from my bleak outlook on world affairs at the same time — no mean feat. My actual winner is likely to emerge from all the award contenders I’m going to binge on over the holidays. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

I have only seen maybe six or seven movies this year, but I’m confident Obvious Child would still be my favorite even if I’d seen more. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michel Faber’s so-so sci-fi novel is not a movie so much as a (visually, spiritually) dark meditation. Nearly its entire running time is spent on Scarlett Johansson, who proves, again, that she’s more than just a pretty girl — in fact, she’s probably not that at all. Scored unsettlingly by Mikachu and the Shapes’ Mica Levi, Under the Skin shook me more than any other film this year. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch)

There were more important films this year, there were even a few that I’d call better art, but before I finished watching Only Lovers Left Alive for the first time this spring, I knew I’d come back to it more often than any other movie from 2014. (I saw it again, at a different theater, a week later.) All of the superficial elements of delight are there, of course: it’s a Jim Jarmusch movie about art-vampires starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, set in ancient Tangiers and decaying Detroit, with a gorgeous, drone-y soundtrack. But it goes deeper, too — it’s a meditation on how tragically short human lives are in the grand scheme of history, and how little time we have to make and enjoy art. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Whiplash (dir. Damien Chazelle)

I was certain my pick was going to be Under the Skin, Force Majeure, or Foxcatcher (and that’s my way of cheating and still mentioning my conflicting favorites). I so wanted it to be one of these clinical and calculating cinematic experiences, but then I saw Whiplash, whose warlike depiction of the quest for conservatory-trained perfection caught me completely off guard. The film doesn’t prize ambiguity so much as it prizes a constant, unnerving duality: we’re almost always both inspired and revolted (most films about learning an instrument would go for the former, while most films depicting abusive relationships would go for the latter). By using percussion as the symbol for a character’s goal of self-monumentalization, the film subtly draws on a human tendency toward violence. The way Miles Teller’s Andrew drums, we wonder if he’s actually perfecting his drumming, perfecting himself, or, in fact, perfecting war. Of course, J.K. Simmons’ masterful depiction of the drill-sergeant-like conductor gives further weight to this concept. The difference between this and most “good” films is that most “good” films refuse to provide an answer: Whiplash, however, seems to answer its own question, but not simply — and that answer both gratifies and disturbs. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Frank (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)

I loved Frank, the film about a rock band led by Michael Fassbender playing an outsider artist with a giant papier-mâché mask on his head. It’s easy for music films to go horribly wrong, but this one balanced a lot of tricky genres and made me laugh like a loon. Plus, there was theremin. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

The Dance of Reality (dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky)

The Dance of Reality is the skeleton key to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s work. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Goodbye to Language (dir. Jean-Luc Godard)

Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language added incisive mise-en-scene in 3D to cinematic language, precisely when it appeared that nothing new could happen (in language). — Jonathan Sturgeon, Literary Editor

The One I Love (dir. Charlie McDowell)

The plot of The One I Love dipped into surrealist sci-fi, but Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass were a couple I could believe. Like the married duo at the center of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, their problems felt real but manageable to me, someone who is not married and is somewhat intimidated by the idea. The most common criticism of The One I Love involves the film’s pacing and repetitiveness, but it was these backtracking scenes of mutual discovery that drew me to these characters. The twist at the end feels like one of the most evocative comments on the modern marriage in years (and may have kept me up the night I saw The One I Love). — Jillian Mapes‚ Music Editor