The Outliers of 2014

There is something interesting about the movies that don’t make everyone’s top ten lists at the end of a given year. Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood and more made well over fifty-percent of all critics’ lists. Films like Nightcrawler, Enemy and Under the Skin cracked their fair share too.

But what of those outliers? What of those movies that received extra love from only one person? I gathered up those films for the below list from a variety of local Seattle critics. In many ways it will be these pictures that live on further than the obvious ones that define 2014. A lot of the movies that garnered top ten nods came from noted auteurs; established voices making another classic. Their 2014 efforts will be just a spot along a deeper resume. Surprisingly, the movies gathered here almost all come from newer voices, either making that next step into greatness or making their debut. For many of them, 2014 will be the year where the breakthrough occurred, thus making it’s relevance all the grander.

Without further ado, here are 2014’s Outliers.

Cheap Thrills & Obvious Child (As picked by Sara Michelle Fetters of Moviefreak)

On Cheap Thrills : “Talk about ballsy, director E.L. Katz and writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga deliver a midnight adrenaline shocker that goes far beyond its exploitation roots becoming something visceral, smart and altogether unforgettable in the process. One of two masterful motion pictures that dissected the dark side of the American Dream (Foxcatcher being the other) with exacting circumspection, this night of escalating terror between friends (Pat Healy and Ethan Embry, both excellent) facing off against one another for cash is a numbing, cold-hearted descent into madness that’s beyond unforgettable.”

On Obvious Child : “Star Jenny Slate and writer/director Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child is an out of this world comedic spellbinder that is as funny as it is nervy, going places and asking questions so fearless, so far-reaching, I’m still astounded they both had the combined courage (and talent) to ask them. Beautifully scripted, expertly acted, this romantic wonder about unintended pregnancy and its consequences has more laughs and more tears than any other film released in all of 2014.”

How to Train Your Dragon 2, Life Itself, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night & Love Is Strange (As picked by Michael Ward of Should I See It)

On How To Train Your Dragon 2 : “As the story unfolds, How To Train Your Dragon 2 quickly becomes something engagingly special. Somehow within its 102-minute running time, DeBlois finds a way to make everything matter, each scene rooted in importance and you are never quite prepared for where the writer/director is going to take you this time around. His writing is so well reasoned, his characters so richly developed, his action sequences so wonderfully executed that How To Train Your Dragon 2 almost seems plausible; as if the animation becomes more and more invisible and these characters and this fantastical tale manifest into something we can connect with on an profound emotional level.”

On Life Itself : “Life Itself is a definitive encapsulation of that mind, that spirit, and that unfortunately faltering body. When we see Ebert having his trachea cleansed on screen, in a shocking reveal behind the curtain of what he was experiencing in his final years, he sent an e-mail to James praising him for capturing the footage. At the prospects of this footage making the documentary, Ebert was elated, signing his e-mail, as all of his e-mails were subscribed – “Cheers, R.” Cheers, R. Life Itself is everything you could have hoped it would be and more.”

On A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night : “With Ana Lily Amirpour, we have a new voice that is immediate and her talents are immense. Born in the shadows of Quentin Tarantino, an acknowledged influence not only in interviews but in moments found within the film, Amirpour is a remarkable discovery. Her film is intoxicating and you cannot take your eyes off of a film I fell instantly in love with. It becomes a slippery slope heaping such high praise on a new filmmaker a lot of times, as the side of the road is lined with incredible talents who either lost their way, were one or two-hit wonders, or never could recapture the lightning in a bottle that made them stars in the first place. Here, I am comfortable to say that for these first 105 minutes, Ana Lily Amirpour more than earns the highest praise possible and I cannot wait to see where this career goes from here.”

On Love Is Strange : “Director Ira Sachs has created a modern masterpiece, a film whose entire plot should not even exist, but sadly is still an all too true state of affairs for many couples in America. Never angry, Sachs smartly realizes his film doesn’t have to be to get its points across, Love Is Strange is an achingly beautiful and bittersweet story of true love, torn apart for senseless reasons. There is more love and beauty shared between Lithgow and Molina than you will find in almost any other romance this year, and Love Is Strange is a film that deserves to be in the conversation for this year’s Oscar race. That it has been ignored and relegated to the bottom of the screener pile is a sad indictment on a culture that says all the right things about equality for everyone, but then looks the other way when afforded the chance to celebrate art that champions that message. Love Is Strange, much like George and Ben, deserves better.”

The Drop (As picked by Tim Hall of The Peoples Critic Blog)

St Vincent (As picked by Adam Gehrke)

On St Vincent : “First and foremost, don’t allow the half hearted effort of the film’s poster dissuade you from this diamond in the rough. Written and Directed by Theodore Melfi, this well balanced comedy dips from light to dark, hot to cold, and absurd to real, all punctuated by the masterful comedic stylings of Bill Murray– he’s a force of nature. In fact, playing to Murray’s strengths, McCarthy’s straight (wo)man delivery operates as the perfect springboard to launch downright hilarity. Furthermore, dashes of reality and a failing medical system fit squarely into the crosshairs as a fine subtext. This is a must see in 2014 for laughs alone.”

Begin Again Coherence (As picked by Jason Roestel of Examiner)

On Begin Again : “Call it a character flaw, call it a defect in my appreciation of the art form, call it a chink in my masculinity, but John Carney movies charm the pants off of me. I was all geared-up to hate Begin Again with its cutesy, A-list cast – some of them reprobates from NBC’s The Voice – and its exchange-Dublin-for-New York retooling of Once, but then, damnit all to hell, this movie ended up winning me over with its infectious naivety and optimism. In Carney stories the ills of the world are quickly diagnosed – our hearts are broken too easily. As luck would have it, the cure to our fragility is a quick fix – we can pick up a guitar and make music. I remember back when Cameron Crowe made films like this one. All heart and invincible sentimentality. Fun, feel-bluesy films where the characters don’t always end up together, but they do end up drowning their melancholy in wine and song together.”

On Coherence : “If I were to tell you that the most mind-bending and worthwhile science fiction film this year wasn’t Interstellar, but happened to be a small, independent puzzler of a motion picture directed by the guy that wrote Rango – would you believe me? I wouldn’t either. Though some folks have compared Byrkit’s Coherence to the 2004 film Primer, I don’t believe it’s a comparison that gives enough credit to how great Coherence is on its own. Unlike Shane Carruth’s film, Coherence doesn’t ever lose sight of its identity as an entertainment property under the onslaught of science. It’s a much more fun, drafty film than either Primer or Upstream Color. It takes care of the viewer even as it puts their concentration and intellect through their paces.”

The Babadook Blue Ruin (As picked by Drew Powell)

On The Babadook : “Like the best horror films Australian director Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook gradually builds tension and a sense of madness without relying on gore or easy jump scares. As the movies rumbles on, the viewer can feel a claustrophobic dread slowly closing in on them. Essie Davis gives a fantastic performance as single mother Amelia who—along with her young son—is haunted by the unseen, top hatted creature. A performance that gets increasingly insane and sleep deprived. Kent also manages to avoid the usual horror movie clichés and wisely keeps most of the action contained to Amelia’s house, making the movie feel even more claustrophobic.”

On Blue Ruin : “There are some pretty gruesome scenes but Saulnier doesn’t overdue the violence, keeping the picture realistic in feel. Something that usually can’t be said for revenge flicks. And newcomer Macon Blair as the wannabe Charles Bronson is an acting revelation. Giving one of the most underrated performances of the year. All of this makes for one of the most innovative revenge movies I’ve seen in recent years.”

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