The Best Films of 2014: The Ballots

The original format of Interiors ended in 2014, as we made the transition into a full publication. The best thing about this new format is that we can now collaborate with writers and offer multiple viewpoints on films. Their top ten lists all shed a light on their individual tastes and preferences. This is our first year in which we are publishing top ten lists and we are extremely excited that we are doing so with our entire team. The collective list of the entire team will be published soon.

Mehruss Jon Ahi, Co-Founder and Creative Director

1. Boyhood
2. Nightcrawler
3. Enemy
4. Gone Girl
5. Under the Skin
6. Birdman
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
8. Foxcatcher
9. Edge of Tomorrow
10. American Sniper

I set out a goal for myself for 2014, which was that I would watch enough films that I could make a respectable top ten list. I'm often mostly interested in films that make use of space and production design in inventive ways. In this regard, there were several cinematic gems, such as The Grand Budapest HotelBirdman,Foxcatcher and Enemy. It's interesting, however, that my two favorite films of the year -- Boyhood and Nightcrawler -- had little in the way of architectural space. This further speaks to the quality of films released within the year. The films that I haven't seen but am still interested in seeing include WhiplashTwo Days, One Night and Inherent Vice.

Armen Karaoghlanian, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief

1. Boyhood
2. The Immigrant
3. Under the Skin
4. Enemy
5. National Gallery
6. Mommy
7. Winter Sleep
8. Birdman
9. Gone Girl
10. Inherent Vice

BoyhoodThe Immigrant and Under the Skin are all my number one films of the year. This order is my actual preference, but let's also just assume that I placed them in this order for alphabetical reasons. 

I knew nothing of Under the Skin when I saw the film in theatres. I think I had seen the trailer months before, but I wasn't too interested in the subject matter. I figured I'd appreciate it, but wouldn't connect with the film in any real way. In the course of watching the film, I was confused about why so many critics and friends had liked the film so much. I was irritated, disappointed and, at times, bored; then the scene in which Scarlet Johansson picks up the disfigured man came on the screen and something happened within me. It's not that the preceding fifty minutes didn't make sense. This was a rare instance where I felt the film was so ahead of its time that I couldn't appreciate or understand its greatness. This is a film that we will come back and rediscover in the future. I don't think we were (or are) ready for Under the Skin in 2014.

I loved every single one of James Gray's four feature films before The Immigrant. I believe he is the only filmmaker who has outdone himself with each film. The Immigrant is no exception. Christopher Spelman's beautiful score with the opening shot of the back of the Statue of Liberty grabbed hold of me and didn't let go until after the equally exceptional closing shot of the film. The film has a lot of supporters now, but the fact that the film was abandoned and dumped into theaters feels so unfair. The Immigrant feels like a perfectly kept secret and it's one that I adore.

I first heard about Boyhood when Richard Linklater set out to film the project in 2002. I would see the film listed under Richard Linklater's filmography on the Internet Movie Database, and knew nothing other than the fact that the film would be comprised of short films, each filmed once a year. I was interested, curious and confused about this ongoing project. The reason the film has connected with so many people is without a doubt the fact that its themes are so universal. In one of the final scenes of the film, we realize that we never thought about things from his mother's perspective. "I just thought there would be more," his mother says. That's how I feel about life. I am in a similar position now in my personal life as Mason is at the end of the film. I saw Boyhoodtwice in theatres. I was with my mother the second time. We both cried. It's a cinematic experience that I will probably never have again.

Mary Nazaryan, Production Manager

1. Boyhood
2. The Immigrant
3. Mommy
4. Enemy
5. Under the Skin
6. Birdman
7. Gone Girl
8. Inherent Vice
9. Two Days, One Night
10. The Grand Budapest Hotel

2014 was a noteworthy year for film, mostly because we were offered such an eclectic offering. Mommy andBirdman, in particular, stood out for their distinct styles. Xavier Dolan’s films are always so rich and bold, and in Mommy, he takes his style a step further and shoots in a 1:1 aspect ratio, which results in a square frame. The cinematography of Birdman, and its sense of immediacy, provided an immersive, breathtaking experience that brings its audience into its world. Boyhood and Two Days, One Night are both very similar experiences. In both films, we spend the majority of our time with the protagonists, experience their daily lives. Boyhood takes its audience on a journey, over the course of twelve years, bringing us closer to this little boy and connecting us with his family and having us grow with them. This was also a good year for Marion Cotillard, who displayed a great deal of emotion with her powerful dramas The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night. The year also brought with it films that twisted our minds. Enemy and Under the Skin both seem strange and carry with them an “alien” character, which can be both the protagonist and antagonist of the films. In terms of adaptations, the sharp storytelling of Gone Girl made for an exhilarating film, whereas the casualness of Inherent Vice was coupled with Paul Thomas Anderson’s artistry. It’s also impossible to think of The Grand Budapest Hotel and not think of the color pink. Wes Anderson brought to life a fictionalized hotel with his use of color, composition and impeccable imagination. The film is essentially a moving art gallery with its overall style.

Anthony Versaci, Contributing Writer

1. Under the Skin
2. Boyhood
3. The Look of Silence
4. Winter Sleep
5. The Immigrant
6. Force Majeure
7. Listen Up Philip
8. Two Days, One Night
9. Hard to Be a God
10. Inherent Vice

I can't say there has been a year that I felt was even remotely subpar, since I became a "serious" film fan in college and started watching films regularly -- despite the death knell for cinema that rings every so often on internet think pieces. 2014 was certainly no exception in this regard, as I found numerous works that will stick with me for a long, long time, and I still haven't seen many films that haven't been released in the United States.

There were films this year that moved me with their striking level of clear-eyed empathy (and starred Marion Cotillard) like The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night. There were films that lingered in my head for their complex and nuanced portrayals of relationships and the weaknesses that often keep us apart (Force Majeure,Winter Sleep and Listen Up Philip). The films that earned my highest rating, however, did not share much of a thematic through line. The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer's more direct but equally brilliant follow-up toThe Act of Killing that resurrects a hidden and tragic past was one; another was Boyhood, Richard Linklater's modest epic that sensitively and poignantly charts twelve years of moments in an ordinary boy's life. The film that I have ultimately rewatched the most and that took my top spot was the one whose world I felt myself most transported by was Jonathan Glazer's atmospheric and nightmarish Under the Skin, a piece of science fiction that compels its viewers to see the familiar through alien eyes. Jonathan Glazer's haunting work was certainly not for everyone, but like other films on my list, the film, in its bold and singular nature, represented for me cinema at its most exciting and provocative. The films that I haven't seen but am still interested in seeing include PhoenixJourney to the WestBlack Coal, Thin IceLi'l QuinquinEdenA Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceClouds of Sils Maria and Girlhood.

Kamran Ahmed, Contributing Writer

1. Journey to the West
2. Boyhood
3. Mommy
4. The Immigrant
5. Jauja
6. Phoenix
7. Black Coal, Thin Ice
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
9. Under the Skin
10. Blind Massage

It’d be impossible denying the power of cinema as a transformative presence during a time of film ubiquity, a presence that has never before encapsulated so much of life. In my own professional life, 2014 has been the most lucrative year for critical film appreciation. I saw more films in 2014 than any previous year. I completed my Master’s degree in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto and extended my scholarship to the festival circuit. I began this practice by providing overage for the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and have continued attending film screenings as accredited press ever since.

I consider 2014 as one of the best years in cinema. I feel compelled because my knowledge of contemporary world cinema is partial towards releases within the past two years. I had the pleasure of viewing exceptional works of world cinema, which, frankly, fly under the radar. Hollywood continued its “pop cinema” offerings, its commercial and blockbuster films, which is often rife with computer-generated images projected via assembly line production teams. Their efforts are not in vain, however, as the lack of artistry is knowingly absconded for escapist thrills. In that same sense, however, many supposed art films appear to not hit their mark when film festival life fails to yield distribution. The films that I haven't seen but am still interested in seeing include Eden,Field of DogsLa sapienzaThe Kindergarten TeacherStations of the CrossFish and CatCorner of Heaven and Wild Tales.

Razvan Gabor, Contributing Writer

1. Mommy
2. The Immigrant
3. Inherent Vice
4. Norte, the End of History
5. Boyhood
6. Timbuktu
7. Stray Dogs
8. Jauja

9. Atlas
10. Leviathan

2014 was packed with high quality work from some of the finest filmmakers, so putting together a top ten list was rather difficult, seeing how there are twenty or so films that I would consider placing on my top ten list in any given year. I felt uneasy leaving films like Under the SkinMaps to the StarsListen Up PhilipOnly Lovers Left AliveBlack Coal, Thin Ice and Winter Sleep off my top ten. I did, however, narrow this list down to the ten that I believe are each masterful in their own way.

In a year when a wonderfully accomplished film like Boyhood is finally getting its rightful praise as the best film of the year, I would also like to celebrate the lesser appreciated gems that haven't popped up as often in the conversation. James Gray's intimate period drama, The Immigrant, has left the strongest impression on me and my appreciation for the film has continuously grown. I often think about Marion Cotillard's tragic performance and the film's timeless opening and closing shots, which remain my favorites of the year. Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, a bizarre, drug-induced exploration of the early 1970s, is also at the top of my top ten. The film, in my opinion, is the most purely entertaining film of the year, while still maintaining a sense of personal intimacy at its core.

If I were picking an absolute favorite of the year, it'd be my most recently viewed film, Xavier Dolan's Mommy, which may admittedly be a premature choice as I'm still riding high off of the visceral experience, but it's very rare that I come across a film with such raw emotional power. The film may not be perfect, but I don't feel that the film ever intends on being perfect. That's what makes the film all the more effective and unpredictable.Mommy expresses an energy that truly feels present and alive and it's one of the few films that is representative of our generation, both in its forward-thinking aesthetic and hyperactive nature. Xavier Dolan places his desperate but hopeful characters in a claustrophobic 1:1 aspect ratio frame that puts us in the same space as them and conveys an intense emotion that recalls the work of the great John Cassavetes. I'm often caught up in the cool, technical aspects of films, but nothing compares to when a film can impact me emotionally, and Mommy is one that has emotion pouring out of every frame. I can safely that it has been a long time since a film has left me so emotionally drained and exhausted.

The look into human despair seemed a recurring theme in many films of the year, from the terrifyingly real documentary Atlas, which offers an unflinching look at the horrors of prostitution and drug addiction, to the citizens being crushed by domineering authoritative figures in both Timbuktu and Leviathan, as well as the three characters of Norte, the End of History, who are searching for their individual selves after a horrific incident changes their life's course. 

There is never a shortage of films that push cinema into new places and create wholly refreshing cinematic experiences for the audience. This was most notably accomplished in 2014 with Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogsand Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, the former's use of extra long shots sets a pace that calls for an entirely different sort of participation for the viewer, which makes for a thoroughly engaging and unexplainably fascinating watch, while the latter's decision to send its character into the real world with hidden cameras blurs the line between reality and fiction, and maintains a heightened visual and sonic aesthetic which in turn provides one of the most atmospherically haunting experiences that cinema offers. The films that I haven't seen but am still interested in seeing include PhoenixThe TribeHorse Money and The Duke of Burgundy.