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Scott Lucas Lists His Favorite Films Of 2014

By Scott Lucas in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 5, 2015 10:20PM


I saw 209 movies in various Chicago (and non-Chicago) movie theaters in 2014. I thought the number would fill me with pride. It does not. I sometimes feel like that comic-book collecting Simpsons character who, just before being atomized by a nuclear bomb, cries out, "Oh, I've wasted my life!"

At any rate, it's a personal record for me. And that's even with December being so busy that I could only find time for 11 movies (yeah—I KNOW what I sound like!). And it could be worse—it could've been 209 movies watched at home on Netflix in my Mom's house (sorry, Mom).

So, how did I do it? I'm not a professional critic, I'm not unemployed, and I'm not single (at least I wasn't until I started seeing all these movies). Well, Chicago's a great movie town and there's usually at least one great movie playing a day—so, choice isn't a problem. The real trick is how to see as many as you can without losing your job, your friends and your home. Just follow the four Ps:

#1. Priorities - Dinner engagements come and go, but how many times do you get the chance to see King Of Comedy on a big screen in 35mm? Your friends will understand. If not? Screw 'em. They probably wanted to go to one of those bullshit communal-table restaurants where you can't hear anybody, anyway.

#2. Planning - When you wake up, take a look on whatever movie schedule app you like—I like Flixster—see what's playing and make a schedule in your head (if you have to write it down, you don't have what it takes). Then find out what you have to do work-wise to keep a roof over your head and support your cinematic habit. If you can get your work done and still make that showing of The Drop at 4:45, then hop to it. If not, then work's gonna have to wait until tomorrow. If you have a 9-to-5 job-type jobby-job—then you're gonna have to quit. If you have kids? The answer is a bit darker.

#3. Philm Festivals - This is a great a way to kill a whole lot of fucking birds with one ass-numbing stone. Especially those 24 hour ones. Just use the principles espoused in #1—and pump that sumbitch full of steroids.

#4. Pay Full Price - As in “NEVER”. You're a frequent flyer, so you're entitled to use some of the tricks that only retirees know about. Ask the Music Box for a discount card good for 5 shows. Buy a yearly membership to the Gene Siskel Film Center and get half off tickets. Go to a shitty multiplex and never leave. You could also start using MoviePass, which is like Netflix for people who don't have a TV or a computer. I don't have a dog, but if I did have a dog and he ate my MoviePass—I wouldn't have a dog anymore.

Remember those simple Ps and you’ll be well on your way to being part of the Chicago cinema-going elite. Soon you won’t be concerned with those holes in your corduroys, your fading dye-job, or whether or not those comfortable shoes make you look like a mental patient. And if you don’t already have glasses —you’re gonna need ‘em soon.

And the best part? You get to make "Top Ten" lists! Just like real critics who actually get paid to act and look like you do. Besides, if Richard Roeper can have a 10 Best list —then anybody fucking can!

So here’s my list of favorites.

'Birdman' © 2014 FOX
10. Birdman - The latest salvo in the war on montage and the most flat-out enjoyable meta-movie since Adaptation. Or maybe Chef.

9. Bad Hair - It’s been quite a year for tough single mothers. Patricia Arquette struggled to keep it together in Boyhood. The murderous mom in The Babadook decided to go all Jack Torrance on her little hell-spawn. But neither of them were as tough as the single mother in Bad Hair who, fearing that her young son might be gay, resorts to having sex in front of him with her boss. And that does seem extreme, but this keeps from falling into standard issue miserable-ism thanks to writer-director Mariana Rondon’s empathy for her characters and a couple of charming child performances by Samuel Lange and Maria Emilia Sulbaran.

8. Stranger By The Lake - This is Hitchcockian homoeroticism taken to its logical endpoint. It also contains enough male Gallic genitalia to last me a lifetime. Maybe it’s just payback for Blue Is The Warmest Color. At any rate, it’s called paying your dues, kids.

7. Interstellar - Christopher Nolan finally convinces me. For all his ambitions —and he’s nothing if not ambitious —Nolan’s greatest achievement may be rescuing the big budget blockbuster from the artistic black hole of superheroes, tentpoles and merchandising. Who’s fault was that, again?

6. The Immigrant - As classical as movies get. This one feels like it’s been around since 1972. Joaquin Phoenix continues to be one of the most interesting and unpredictable actors on the planet (bad part about living in Chicago? We’re still waiting on Inherent Vice).

'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel - It's tempting to write late Anderson off as empty spectacle—a sort of Michael Bay for eggheads—but that would be wrong. His mastery of his craft approaches the Kubrickian, and though he shows less and less interest in the real world, he clearly has no shortage of affection for his characters. It's a joy to see him working in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio and Ralph Fiennes is funny as hell. Now this is the kind of movie they should be showing in IMAX.

4. Starred Up - Prison movies aren't supposed to be this moving. Maybe they should be. This coiled-up masterpiece is never less than riveting. Ben Mendelssohn is great as usual and Jack O’Connell is an instant star (you can see him now in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. You can. I’m not going to, but you’re welcome to).

3. Norte, The End Of History - If a four-hour Filipino Crime And Punishment sounds like an insurmountable slog, just hold on. This movie sneaks up on you and knocks you on your ass. Electrifying and disturbing as hell.

2. Nymphomaniac - You can treat it like two movies if you want. That's your problem. It's one great big movie and —along with the films at #3 and #1 —the best argument for long movies that I've seen in a while. I saw the first half, took a break (they used to call it "intermission") and then checked out the stellar second half. Come on! You can watch a whole season of House Of Cards on Netflix in one day but still can't tolerate a 4 hour movie? Deary me. Anyway, this is the best thing Lars Von Trier has done in a long time. The big canvas frees him up to break out every trick in his book: provocations, playfulness, lyricism, masochism, comedy, pornography, endless digressions and even a welcome dose of self parody (Antichrist fans should get quite a chuckle). And speaking of Netflix — the five and half hour director's cut is available on the streaming service right now. I guess Von Trier’s got your number, you lazy bastards.

1. Boyhood - This is the second year in a row that I’ve put a Richard Linklater movie at the top of my list (last year it was Before Midnight). This is starting to get ridiculous. I could be like some people—You know the ones. Like the free-paper nerd critics?—and pretend that Linklater’s not cool anymore because the jock critics are suddenly waxing poetic about him. But what’s the point? Am I going to have to stop listening to The National, too? Anyway, I’ll do some waxing of my own: In this day and age of comic book bluster, Boyhood is a beautiful act of quiet revolution. It's an epic collection of human moments that the empty suits of this world usually force directors to leave on the cutting room floor. What can I say? I don’t care how un-cool it is—I love this movie and it's getting harder and harder to picture this life without Richard Linklater. Up with muthafuckin' people!!!

And here’s 10 more:
Night Moves
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Life Itself
The Rover
The President
20,000 Days On Earth
Dumb And Dumber, To

Plus—here’s the list of the full 209 films in the order I saw them.

Follow Scott on Twitter as he tracks all the movies he watches in 2015.