What I Watched In 2014

I started this last year feeling like I was losing touch with my love of movies, so I started an experiment. If I spent time to watch a movie, whether or not I had seen it before, I wrote it down.

For your consideration, here’s the occasionally annotated list. This isn’t a critical analysis. This isn’t breaking down my viewing patterns for data. But it’s my way of measuring how I chose to love movies this past year.

Note: Titles in italics are movies I have watched before.

1 – Star Wars

The plan was to watch this on New Year’s Eve and sync the destruction of the Death Star with midnight. We even got Star Wars party plates. However, the night wound up involving a lot of other activities and Star Wars was bumped to the morning.

No complaints. A good way to start the new year.

2 – The Empire Strikes Back

Of course we put in Empire after Star Wars finished. It was New Year’s Day (the day of zero expectations or obligations).

3 – Europa Report

4 – L’Argent

This was a movie I’d meant to watch for years. Back in school we watched a short clip of the movie that emotionally devastated me. If you watch this, wait for the scene with the woman carrying coffee, and you’ll understand.

5 – Mean Streets

6 – Grosse Pointe Blank

This movie will always have a special place in my heart, both as a Michigan ex-pat and a lover of 80s music. In high school I could quote this movie chapter and verse, and found that I could still remember a surprising amount of it.

7 – Frances Ha

This was the first real discovery of the year. When the movie finished, I was full of a sense of total, ecstatic joy.

8 – Her

Just when I thought I’d seen every idea they could explore based on the premise, they found a new wrinkle to exploit. It had been a long time since I had felt such a genuine sense of surprise while watching something.

9 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Yes, I had never seen this entire movie. It was always shown as clips in classes and somehow I never got around to it. Well, I fixed that. And I am so glad I did.

10 – The Aristocats

11 – Waitress

I have no excuses for why it took me so long to see this. It’s a well-crafted story that prominently features pie. That should have made it an immediate must-see.

12 – Tangled

13 – The Avengers

14 – Up!

If the first act of this film doesn’t make you cry, you’re a replicant.

15 – Mitt

I wanted more. A big part of the desire to watch this film was to think about a person not just in terms of their politics. And I felt like it came up short, both in running time and in my sense of feeling like I could see past the election.

16 – Frozen

There’s a lot of praise for this movie, and a lot of bile spilled about what it’s metastasized into.

But when something becomes popular, it’s always for a genuine reason. If you could force a majority of people to like a film or a song, the game would be over. The formula would be there and we’d buy whatever was being sold to us. But that’s not the case.

Anything popular got there because it resonated with the audience. Something that resonates as strongly as this film deserves appreciation and study.

17 – The Great Mouse Detective

18 – The Mark of Zorro (1920)

19 – Moonrise Kingdom

20 – Newsies

Once again, how had I waited this long to see this? Worth the wait since it allowed me to imagine it as an alternate Batman Begins.

21 – Ghostbusters

I love this movie. This isn’t the nostalgia of a kid who owned the firehouse playset for his giant tub full of Ghostbusters action figures. This movie holds up under the most intense, post-film school scrutiny.

22 – Pacific Rim

If you weren’t already aware of some of the reasons I love this movie, check out this previous post on it.

23 – Man of Tai Chi

I’m a sucker for Keanu Reeves movies and a sucker for martial arts films. This was satisfactory.

24 – The World’s End

25 – Computer Chess

I felt like it had been too long since I’d watched something strange. This film did not disappoint.

26 – Dogtooth

I was still feeling the need for something bizarre, and this film completely satisfied that desire.

27 – Veronica Mars

28 – Frozen

Haters to the left. I really dug this one.

29 – Good Will Hunting

30 – Shut Up And Play The Hits

31 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This movie is the litmus test for whether or not you think Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is working. It united plot threads from other stories the way The Avengers united Marvel’s characters.

32 – All Is Lost

I stayed up past my bedtime to watch this. I was that into it. I’m a sucker for films that let you absorb process and detail. A master class in escalating tension.

33 – Annie (1982)

34 – The Empire Strikes Back

35 – Romancing the Stone

36 – The Muppets Take Manhattan

37 – Matilda

Some friends stopped by with a copy of this and ice cream sundaes the night I was planning to watch the next movie on the list. I decided to go along with their plan instead, and I was not disappointed.

38 – Man of Steel

Everything I had been told from friends and the internet suggested that I would not find anything to like about this movie.

Turns out that was wrong. The scenes between Pa Kent and the young Clark were moving, and Amy Adams makes a great Lois Lane. It didn’t completely win me over, but it did remind me not to judge a movie by its spoilers.

39 – Le Samourai

See previous comments about loving movies that show process and detail. If you want a great noir about a hitman, look no further.

40 – Godzilla (2014)

I already covered this film (and the original Godzilla) in detail in a previous post.

41 – X-Men: Days of Future Past

If you don’t think that anybody knows how to offer a sincere apology anymore, watch this film. It’s a feature length mea culpa for X-Men 3.

42 – Hook

43 – X-Men

44 – X2 – X-Men United

45 – Assault on Precinct 13

46 – Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

47 – Home Alone

48 – An Autumn Afternoon

49 – Pillow to Post

50 – Boy Meets Girl

Let us never forget that James Cagney was a terrific comedic actor.

51 – Contact

There’s too much going on with this movie and my reactions to it to slip into here. It would make an intense double feature with Interstellar.

52 – The Great Muppet Caper

53 – Pacific Rim

No, seriously. I love this movie.

54 – Popeye

This was one of the stranger movies I watched this year, and that’s saying something. Delightfully strange, though.

55 – Johnny Mnemonic

See previous comments about Keanu Reeves, plus loving 90s representations of cyberspace and computer hacking.

56 – Mean Girls

57 – Guardians of the Galaxy

58 – The Lego Movie

My wife said it best: “This movie has no right to be as good as it is.”

59 – Intolerable Cruelty

60 – The Third Man

A movie very close to my heart that I’ve already written about here.

61 – Duel At Diablo

62 – The Grand Budapest Hotel

63 – The Lego Movie

Seriously. This movie had no right to be this good.

64 – Boyhood

A total gut punch. Maybe it was because I was soon to be a parent when I saw it, filled with hopes and fears. Maybe it was the way the actors grew into their relationships with one another. Or maybe it was Patricia Arquette’s final scene in the film, and the way it just cuts away, leaving you unresolved to her sense of emptiness and exhaustion.

65 – The Wild Bunch

66 – What About Bob?

Yet another one for the running theme of “How have I not already watched this?”

67 – Oldboy (2013)

68 – A History of Violence

69 – Sneakers

70 – Kill Bill Vol. 1

71 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

72 – Return of the Jedi

73 – Singin’ in the Rain

Stop reading right now and watch this movie. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen it already. It is always worth watching. I’ll wait for you to finish.

74 – Zero de Conduite

75 – The Baron of Arizona

76 – Southland Tales

I took a religious studies class with Professor Ralph Williams my freshman year of college. In one lecture, Prof. Williams said, “If you truly want to understand a religion, look for the thing which it pains them to affirm, but they affirm it nonetheless.”

I love this movie, but I should not.

It is a mess. It has digression on top of digression. It requires extra-textual reading to understand large chunks of it. It’s meta to a fault. And yet…

It’s sprawling and ambitious. It’s full of individual moments that stick in your brain. Lines of dialogue that bear repeating (“I’m a pimp, and pimps don’t commit suicide.”). It is too full of ideas and imagination. Too full of potential. It’s like the scene from Alien: Resurrection with the failed Ripley clones, but the scientists were trying to splice Saturday Night Live and Philip K. Dick.

I should not love this movie, but I do.

77 – Jackie Brown

78 – Star Trek Into Darkness

79 – Sleeping Beauty

There are few animated films as beautiful as this. The commentary track is insightful and entertaining in its own right.

80 – The Muppets

81 – Clue

82 – Batman (1989)

I forgot how many people Batman kills in this movie. It’s a lot.

Batman may have a no kill rule, but you don’t for one moment believe Michael Keaton would. Keaton’s Batman is unhinged and desperate in a way that other screen versions wouldn’t touch. He plays up the sense of how damaged a person would have to be to think that the best way to avenge their parents’ would be to use their vast fortune to go out and punch criminals one at a time. Keaton makes you believe that his Bruce Wayne would have no issues with that logic.

83 – Interstellar

This is a movie that demands to be seen on a movie screen (though not necessarily an IMAX). It’s a beautiful machine. You can marvel at its quality and precision.

But for all its solid qualities, it’s not that ambitious. It plays out like almost all of Christopher Nolan’s movies: A star-studded long con. It’s successful and assured, but conventional. It teases connections to 2001 without attempting to be its equal.

And yet, that may be enough. These are creative people working at the top of their game. Few working now do it better or more consistently.

84 – Muppet Christmas Carol

85 – Wreck-It Ralph

I expected this to be a decent movie that would play on my video game nostalgia, but what I got was well-crafted and clever.

86 – Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

I don’t watch a lot of things that I know will be bad at this point. It used to be normal to look for things that were so bad they were almost good.

In college, a group of friends had a standing competition where we’d go to a video store, split into two teams, and each pick an awful horror movie. The team that found the better bad film (there were objective criteria, including number of on-screen fatalities) were the winners.

It seemed like we had so much time to burn.

Maybe watching a movie we knew would be bad, and that was constructed to be bad so that it could poke fun at itself, was a way of reclaiming that sense of time to kill. To willingly give up time for something silly and ridiculous.

But that’s a silly reason to watch something this bad.

87 – Galaxy Quest

88 – Miracle on 34th Street

It’s so easy to write this one off as just another Santa Claus film, but there’s something incredible in its construction: A cynical world conspires despite itself to prove the existence of Santa.

Every single person, other than Santa himself, has some kind of angle in play. From the judge who doesn’t want to dismantle his political aspirations to the mail room clerk who wants to get a bunch of old letters to Santa out of storage, everybody has their reasons.

So even though the message of the movie is about how faith involves believing in something that reason tells you not to, the majority of the characters are telling a different story. One where they’re willing to accept a lie or an impossibility just to make their lives easier.

But we get to feel, in the end, that the joke’s on them. Spoilers: He really was Santa Claus. Imagine the philosophical payload of this film if that wasn’t the case.

89 – Moonrise Kingdom

90 – White Christmas

Yes, it’s a Christmas movie. But it’s not specifically about Christmas. It just happens at Christmas. It’s really a comedy about soldiers returning to life at home.

It’s no The Best Years of Our Lives. It’s not playing for raw emotion and pathos. It’s light and full of musical numbers. But the story could substitute a different holiday and still (essentially) work. It’s not a movie trying to make some big point about Christmas, but giving us some wonderful, well-written and excellently cast characters to spend time with on Christmas.

91 – Christmas in Connecticut

Sometimes I think that every classic Christmas movie involves World War II.

92 – It’s A Wonderful Life

Every. Classic. Christmas. Movie.

93 – A Christmas Story

OK. Maybe not this one.

94 – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

I forgot about the part where Rudolph shoots down the German bombers.


95 – Guardians of the Galaxy

96 – Love Actually

97 – Suddenly

98 – Jiro Dreams of Sushi

An amazing documentary. I love films that show process, but this film also showed dedication and drive.

But it was a different sort of persistence and determination than you would see in a western version of a similar story. This was a movie about the banality of passionate dedication. About how people get up, go to work, and hone their craft day in and day out to become amazing without being emotionally unstable or self-destructive. Focus without monomania.

Inspirational. Beautiful. Subtle. Heartfelt. If it had been #100, I would have ended the year here. This movie will also be on my list for 2015.

99 – Ghost World

This was a movie I first watched as a college freshman. I loved it before I had the vocabulary to explain why, and I’m glad to see that I still love it.

100 – Band of Outsiders

101 – The Rocketeer

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