Formally innovative art-house hit documentary about musician/writer Nick Cave.
Documentary about music therapy and dementia that was a big hit at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival.
Leading the pack with 9 nominations, if you only have time for one movie before the Oscars, it might as well be this one. A terrific cast, a witty script, remarkable cinematography and a pretty great score. You could do worse.
If you read anything about Richard Linklater's latest, Boyhood, it probably started with the words, "Filmed over the course of twelve years...." If you read further, it probably mentioned that this extraordinary production schedule allowed for an unparalleled level of verisimilitude; that numerous awards are surely in its future; that Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are tremendous; and that it was one of the best movies 2014.
Ruben Ostlund's drama-slash-pitch-black-comedy about a Swedish family staying at a resort in the French Alps drew several comparisons to art-house superstar Michael Haneke among its heaps of critical praise and industry awards, which itself is pretty high praise.
While hardly as unfilmable as Gravity's Rainbow, translating any Thomas Pynchon novel to the screen is an ambitious undertaking. Rumblings of incoherence from those who haven't read the book aside, Paul Thomas Anderson's take on the relatively lighthearted post-hippie pseudo-Noir Inherent Vice is about as successful as one could imagine. Having an all-star cast and the best director in Hollywood certainly doesn't hurt. Anderson's screenplay garnered an Oscar nomination, as did the costume design, which I mention in case you're super into costume design.
Want to make an Oscar-nominated movie? Find a year when Meryl Streep hasn't been in anything, cast her as an extra, BOOM! Best Supporting Actress. It's that simple. I'll let you figure out the logistics of step two...
Tomm Moore's directorial debut, 2009's Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells was a mini-masterpiece of old-fashioned hand animation and strong storytelling. Song of the Sea, his follow-up, secured him a second nomination at these most recent Oscars and is a second mini-masterpiece. That's a pretty strong batting average. Child or adult, if you like Pixar or Studio Ghibli, these will be right up your alley.
The influential French film journal Cahiers du Cinema called director Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake the best movie of 2013. A psychosexual thriller about two gay men suspected of murder, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers said, "Like his characters, Guiraudie is walking a tightrope, finding the point where sex and death exude a similar allure. You won't be able to look away."
Director James Gray's The Immgrant won numerous accolades at festivals around the world, including a nomination for the Palme D'Or at Cannes, and pulled down two Independent Spirit Award nominations, one for Marion Cotillard and one for its cinematography. The Star Tribune's Colin Covert had this to say, "The Immigrant is one of those rare, strikingly beautiful film experiences that transport you to another world." Also starring Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner.
Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons turn in career-defining performances as a jazz drum student and his manaical teacher in one of 2014's most acclaimed movies.