Staff Favorites of 2014: Movies

Ralph Fiennes, left, and Tony Revolori in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.'
Ralph Fiennes, left, and Tony Revolori in “The Grand Budapest Hotel."

“Staff Favorites of 2014” lists The Day’s features staff’s favorite releases, programs, events and other moments in the arts and entertainment world. As we can’t possibly listen to/see/read/experience everything, we can only call these selections “favorites.” Here, The Day’s arts editor Kristina Dorsey presents her favorite 2014 films and performances.

A Christmas gift of a movie 

Move over, Ralphie. Christmas has a cute, nostalgic new comedy. “Wishin’ and Hopin’” — based on Wally Lamb’s bestseller and filmed in Norwich, Willimantic and Jewett City — beguiles with its throwback tale of a boy growing up in 1964 Connecticut.

Best performance of the year 

Put Brendan Gleeson’s controlled, contained but quietly eloquent performance as a marked-for-death priest in the dark drama “Calvary” alongside his roguish turn as a slyly smart Irish cop in the comedy “The Guard,” and I dare you not to acknowledge that he’s one of the best actors around. Period.

Things that make you go “Hmmm ...” 

“Birdman” and “Interstellar” are that increasing rarity — movies that make you think. Both of these works are intriguing, envelope-pushing and worth lots of post-screening conversation. 

Production design gone wild — in a good way 

Wes Anderson’s movies have tended to have very carefully constructed visuals, but “Grand Budapest Hotel” tops them all. The hotel looks like the world’s most intricate doll house, and scenes — including a slam-bang sled chase — crackle with oddball creativity. The good part is, “Budapest” also boasts a breezy script and pitch-perfect acting (I’m looking at you, rascally Ralph Fiennes). 

Pratt’s all that 

Chris Pratt made an impact as the goofy Andy on “Parks and Recreation” and as a badass Navy Seal in “Zero Dark Thirty,” but it’s his loose comic turn as the hero in the sleeper hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” that should make him a superstar. 

A chiller thriller 

Director David Fincher did the impossible: made a “Gone Girl” film that’s better than the original (compulsively readable) novel by Gillian Flynn. The movie is edgy, compelling and doesn’t dwell on some of the novel’s more cumbersome aspects. 

A strangely fascinating Carell 

More disquieting than anything in “Gone Girl” or in any other thriller this year? Steve Carell’s unsettling performance as John du Pont in “Foxcatcher.” This peculiar creep will haunt your dreams. 

Time-lapse triumph 

What a genius idea. Shoot a story about growing up in America by bringing together the cast for a short period of filming each year, as the main character — and the actor playing him — ages from child to man. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is one of the best releases of the year.

Brendan Gleeson as Father James in the film “Calvary.”
Brendan Gleeson as Father James in the film “Calvary.”
Steve Carell as John du Pont in “Foxcatcher.”
Steve Carell as John du Pont in “Foxcatcher.”

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