Cinematic gifts from 2014

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With folks all over unwrapping presents today and the year just about over, I wanted to commemorate the time by looking at the gifts that the world of cinema bestowed on us in 2014. What do I mean when I say that? Well, in my eyes, it can mean a film, a filmmaker, or a performer who we became thankful for/even more thankful for during the past 12 months. I tried to be as eclectic as possible and think broadly, but of course this is essentially who and what I loved during the year too. It’s not my top ten list, but it might give you some idea of what mine will look like. Also, I did try and tie it into the Oscar race, of course. How could I not? Anyway, enjoy!

Here now are ten gifts that cinema gave us in 2014:

1. Boyhood – Almost without exception, everyone can agree that Richard Linklater’s film is a gift to cinema. That just makes the fact that it’s the current Best Picture/Best Director/Best Original Screenplay frontrunner all the sweeter. It’s a unique experience that may never be duplicated and 2014 contained the release of it after a decade plus of preparation/shooting.

2. J.K. Simmons – Who doesn’t love Simmons? He’s one of the great character actors of our time, but he’s never had a role like the one in Whiplash to really sink his teeth into. As such, we should give thanks that this gift of a performance is now not only guaranteed to score him his first Oscar nomination, it’s almost assuredly going to win him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well.

3. Life Itself – Legendary film critic Roger Ebert sadly passed away last year, but director Steve James released his amazing look at Ebert’s life this year, and what a gift it is. A touching documentary about a life well lived, it’s going to compete for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, though it’s already won a place in many of our hearts. It’s just that special.

4. The Fault in Our Stars – There were so many ways that this YA adaptation could have gone wrong that it’s a real gift that we got the brilliant movie that we did. The combination of director Josh Boone, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, as well as cast members like Laura Dern, Ansel Elgort, and of course Shailene Woodley worked together to bring both smiles and tears to scores of audience members. Bravo one last time for this treasure.

5. Michael Keaton – He’ll always be Batman, but the years since he retired the cape and the cowl have seen Keaton fade from relevance a bit. Well, no more, as he’s back in the game in a big way with Birdman. The gift is his return, though of course he never really left in the first place. Keaton has a Best Actor nomination and potentially even a win coming his way next.

6. Felicity Jones – She’d already blown me away a few years ago with Like Crazy, but Jones really became someone the masses recognized in 2014, which is a gift in my book. She had a part in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and impressed me greatly with Breathe In, but it’s her sure to be nominated performance in The Theory of Everything that we should be most thankful for.

7. Jack O’Connell – 2014 was the year that O’Connell announced his presence with authority. He impressed mightily with ’71 (which officially comes out next year), Starred Up, and of course this week with Unbroken. He’s not going to likely be nominated for Best Actor this year, but the man is well on his way to dominating Hollywood, which we should consider a gift.

8. Begin Again – The soundtrack alone for John Carney’s film is an absolute present to cinema, but the film itself is also just so charming that it’s one of the best parts of 2014 in my eyes. The tune Lost Stars is probably winning Best Original Song as well, so consider that a bonus.

9. Ava DuVernay – We don’t have enough minority filmmakers in general, or female filmmakers for that matter, so DuVernay and her talents really do stand out. She’s about to become the first ever African American women nominated in Best Director for 2014’s Selma, so that’s worth celebrating for sure.

10. Ellar Coltrane – We started with Boyhood, so why don’t we end with Boyhood? Linklater’s film introduced us to Coltrane, who’s not just an actor worth remembering, but also a person we had the privilege to watch grow up before our eyes. That was a unique gift that really can’t be matched.

Happy Holidays!

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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