Though I’d love to weigh in earlier on such matters, the vagaries of being a devoted film fan in a little mountain town, far removed from the urban centers which screen absolutely everything, require a little more patience in getting to a tally of the best films of a calendar year. Even as I buckle down to this task, there are a small slew of films that remain in my blind spot, some by my own error and plenty that haven’t found their way to one of my community’s modest number of screens devoted to artier fare. My tradition holds, however. This particular countdown — one of many on this site — begins shortly after the Oscar nominations announcement and ends a couple days before the ceremony itself.
I’ve also grown accustomed to beginning the process with some sort of cursory summary of the film year just closed, albeit usually one with reflexive refutations of the validity of trying to condense the wildly varied artistry of countless filmmakers into some overarching statement that imposes fictional unity on current cinema. As I survey the ten films I’ve settled on for my list, I’m especially flummoxed in the hunt for a broader statement to find, either about moviemaking or my consumption of the year’s cinematic offerings. As opposed to immediately preceding years, I wasn’t writing for an outside website, meaning that I didn’t have quite as much breadth and quantity in my viewing (I’m especially glum about the comparative lack of foreign films and documentaries I’ve seen this year). And still, I’m content that I’ve got a strong list. These films are consistently interesting, challenging, crafty, and unexpected. In the case of my top film — which is predictable as can be — it is arguably unprecedented in its creative daring. I will surely see at least a couple of remaining 2014 releases that will retroactively bump a couple of the ten I will present, but I type content with these as films worth fervently celebrating.
With little to say that applies to this collections of films, I will instead concentrate on them individually. That seems more fitting anyhow. And that begins tomorrow with a film that is lauded, contending in at least one prominent Academy Awards category, and yet strikes me as undervalued. But that is for tomorrow.