From brazen biopics to murky examinations of marriage, Short Ends and Leader's picks for 2014's best flicks are a compelling bunch.
What was the best film of (insert year here)?
Critics get asked this question a lot. Perhaps too much. Unlike aged steaks, or wine vintages, films often take a while to work their way into your psyche. You struggle with the themes, or you make rash, kneejerk judgments that, later, come back to add a layer of illegitimacy to your otherwise learned opinion.
Then, after 12 months of screenings, after 365 days of streaming links, Oscar PR, studio shilling, and countless combinations of the good, the bad, and the downright dopey, we are asked to wrap things up in a neat little list, a consensus compendium which does something no film reviewer is totally capable of: determining the very best of a varied artform. Can you argue that animation is better or worse than foreign filmmaking? Can horror be part of the discussion when so many of the genre's examples are rotten, at best?
Still, like Sisyphus and that damn rock, we press on. We wade through the dozens of last minute entries, try and remember narratives and performances from 11 months previous, and pray we don't miss an important title or allow our personal preferences to mar a more meaningful discussion. In the case of 2014, there were a lot of "almosts": The Imitation Game, Unbroken, and The Theory of Everything being good examples. Each of these are quality films, but are their fictionalized bios really worthy of end-of-the-year shout outs? The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6 were sensational, but do they belong here? Documentaries like Jodorowsky's Dune can redefine an entire property and filmmaker, but can it also be one of the season's most celebrated? After picking through such suspicions, Short Ends and Leader has come up with its 10 Best Films of 2014. For us, film is about a lasting impact, and these are the titles we'll be thinking about in years -- and decades -- to come.