40.) White Bird in a Blizzard – Directed by Gregg Araki, White Bird in a Blizzard is another addition to the director’s offbeat, peculiar filmmaking. Part coming of age, part mystery, the film is on a constant trajectory of discovery. By the time it ends, you’ll be so swept up by the perverse narration and distinct visuals that the last shot will hit you like a haymaker.
39.) Big Eyes – I didn’t expect much from Big Eyes, perhaps because Tim Burton’s recent films have left a lot to be desired. Here he’s back to his idiosyncratic best, mixed with a depth of drama that most of his work lacks. It’s highly stylized and brushed with the strokes of a Van Gogh painting, capturing the starving artist’s struggles combined with the search for love and self-meaning.
38.) Bird People – A well-crafted combination of American and French cinema, Bird People takes us on two separate, yet modestly conjoined journeys towards discovery and living out the life you really want to live. It’s so loose in its approach that it’s all the more watchable. Bird People is flawed, but unlike many of the prior films on this list, it kept me up at night thinking. It’s a stimulative, almost empowering experience.
37.) Joe – Typical of director David Gordon Green’s films, Joe is a backwoods and imbibed fairy tale of alcoholism and one person’s wide-ranging effect on a small-scale town. Nicholas Cage finally comes back to form as the titular Joe, and it’s up with some of the best work he’s ever done. Joe is a fragile film, but it packs a punch, playing host to one of the most savagely hedonistic scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
36.) The Skeleton Twins – This dramedy starring comedy giants Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig is a welcome opportunity for the multi-talented entertainers to show off their acting chops. As distanced twins coming together for the first time in a decade, the two play the drama with skill and the jokes with an innate natural ease. It also has this scene, an example of the absurdity they often excelled at on SNL, and is better than most anything the show has done recently.
35.) The Raid 2 – Here is a movie that feels like The Dark Knight franchise, except the caped crusader we meet is a master martial artist taking down a corrupt criminal network. With mind-blowing action choreography and more dramatic stakes than the first installment, The Raid 2 will get your heart racing and your pulse pumping. It’s an action junkie’s dream.
34.) The Rover – 10 years after a global economic collapse, The Rover is the journey of one man through what’s left of the Australian Outback. Dead set on getting back his car, his lone possession that was stolen by a young group of thugs, Guy Pearce’s character is willing to go to any lengths to restore what’s rightfully his. He gives an intense and stoic performance as a man who doesn’t want to cause any trouble, but if he has to, he’s willing to enter a vicious cycle that he may never leave.
33.) Paddington – This was the surprise family film of the year. Gorgeously animated and set in a London so colorful it could take place in Candy Land, Paddington works for audiences of all ages. With sight gags and clumsy humor kids love, it also dishes up a definition of what can be called home that’s as sweet as Paddington’s favorite treat; marmalade.
32.) Chef – Slow to start but quick to speed up, Chef is a feast for the eyes and the heart. A father-son road trip at its core, Jon Favreau directs and stars in this film about sharing love through the passion of food. Plain and simple; Chef is a feel good movie that works. You’ll be searching for the closest spot to grab an authentic Cuban sandwich once it’s over.
31.) The Drop – A throwback to the classic crime dramas of the 80’s, The Drop is a well-executed homage to the films that served as its inspiration. Tom Hardy gives 1 of his 2 masterful performances of the year as a simpleton barkeep with a hidden, checkered past. It can get a little convoluted given its brief runtime, but that doesn’t diminish the gritty effect of the film adapted from Dennis Lehane’s novel.
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