The Best of the First Quarter of 2014

under the skin scarlett johansson 600x350Believe it or not, we’re now three full months into the 2014 movie calendar, which means we’re a quarter of the way through. That got me thinking about what the best of the bunch so far this year has been. Since now is the time when the film slate begins to transition into summer flicks and counter programming independent fare, I thought it was the perfect time to praise the best of 2014 so far. Basically, anything that hit screens between January 1st and March 31st will be up for grabs here for my personal honors. There are some April and May releases that are wonderful too and would have otherwise cracked my top ten to date, but I’m excluding them here since they’re not first quarter releases.

Below you’ll find my top ten of the year so far, along with my awards for the the first quarter of 2014. Here you go:

10. Bad Words – Jason Bateman’s directorial debut is one of the funnier movies of the year so far. Hardly a masterpiece, but thoroughly enjoyable, it shows that he has a future as a comedic filmmaker. Crude and intentionally lowbrow at times, this is still a very fun flick.

9. Like Father, Like Son – A fascinating look at Japanese fatherhood, this was at one time considered a potential Best Foreign Language Feature contender at the Oscars last year. That never came to pass, but this is still one of the better things to hit theaters this year.

8. Noah – I’ve yet to dislike a Darren Aronofsky flick, and this alternate take on the biblical story continues that perfect record for him. Incredibly ambitious and visionary, the good far outweighs the bad here. Though far from perfect, it’s the first must see epic of 2014 in my mind and a great conversation starter as well.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel – I’m not usually a big Wes Anderson fan, but something about this latest film of his really clicked for me and I fully embrace it. Ralph Fiennes is really terrific here, while the scope of the work really managed to catch my eye and appreciation. His quirkiness finally found a proper outlet, at least according to my tastes.

6. Breathe In – Drake Doremus is one of the more interesting young filmmakers in the business, and he continues to show why with this domestic drama. With a strong visual palate and great performances from the likes of Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, and Amy Ryan, there’s tons to like here.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – One of the better non Batman comic book movie to date, this Marvel sequel is almost more of a Cold War style spy thriller than anything else. It’s as if Steve Rogers was starring in a remake of Three Days of the Condor. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I know, but it serves to explain just how good this one is.

4. Tim’s Vermeer – The best documentary of the year so far, this is a supremely entertaining flick from Penn and Teller. Watching how a Vermeer is made is way more compelling than you’d ever expect. Not nearly enough people have seen this movie to date, and that needs to change.

3. Love & Air Sex – Both the funniest film of 2014 and also one of the more touching ones too, I was really surprised by how good this movie is. Ashley Bell steals her scenes and the third act of this raunchy romantic comedy manages to hit some emotional depths that you’d never have expected otherwise. It’s a special little flick.

2. The Pretty One – I adore Jake Johnson and Zoe Kazan in this offbeat dramedy so much. Kazan especially blew me away playing dual roles. In a perfect world, she’d be under consideration for Best Actress at the end of the year. It’s likely not happening, but one can dream, right?

1. Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson gives the performance of the year so far in what also is the best movie of 2014 so far as well. It’s a heady and often obtuse science fiction drama, but it’s also an incredibly unique character study too. Nothing else so far this first quarter has been anything like it. It’s a must see in my book.

Obviously my number one pick would be my choice for Best Picture so far, but here are the other awards I would give out…

Best Director: Jonathan Glazer for Under the Skin (runner up: Drake Doremus for Breathe In)

Best Actor: Guy Pearce for Breathe In (runner up: Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson for Under the Skin (runner up: Zoe Kazan for The Pretty One)

Best Supporting Actor: Jake Johnson for The Pretty One (runner up: Logan Lerman for Noah)

Best Supporting Actress: Ashley Bell for Love & Air Sex (runner up: Amy Ryan for Breathe In)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Under the Skin (runner up Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Best Original Screenplay: The Pretty One (runner up: Love & Air Sex)

There you go folks…now to await the next quarter of releases!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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