Devon’s Picks 2014- Best Movies, Worst Movies, Best Albums
- Birdman- The best ensemble cast performance all year, this dark comedy about a cracking actor manages to be suspenseful, hilarious, and gripping. Edward Norton’s performance as prima donna method actor Michael Shiner stands out in particular- the best cinematic villain of the year, a misanthropic egomaniac who’s actually oblivious to his gift for saying the absolutely worst thing to any person at any moment. The long continuous tracking of Alejandro Inarritu’s cinematography helps give the film a hurried yet drunken feeling- the perfect framing for this film with the most unreliable of narrators.
- Kaze Tachinu – Miyazaki’s last film may not be a sweeping fairy tale like Spirited Away, but it’s in many senses a stronger, more personal film, for showing what it’s like to be a prodigy, an obsessive, and the difficulties that come with trying to bridge the concepts of your dreams into the real world- and the consequences that can result from realizing your dreams as well. It’s a beautiful, unique biopic, ethereal and cerebral. A perfect swan song to one of the greatest animators of history.
- Guardians of the Galaxy- We finally got the stand alone Han Solo movie prequel. Screw Phantom Menace- Guardians of the Galaxy is more like what every fanboy was hoping to see back in 1999. Certainly, this film relies heavily on the formula from The Avengers– Drax is Cap, Star Lord is Stark, Gamora is Black Widow, etc.-
- Whiplash- Between this an Birdman, it is clear that Aronofsky’s Black Swan has set off a trend of movies about the theme of self-destruction through the pursuit of artistic perfection. J. K. Simmons is a tortured toxic mess- Fletcher is one of the most abrasive cinematic characters since Don Logan in Sexy Beast.
The original meaning of rock and roll: firing all guns while going at full speed.
- Fury - Little pretension here, just a solid, no-bones, straightforward war movie.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel- Mea Culpa. My initial review dismissed this film for not having the emotional development of other Wes Anderson films. My first viewing entirely overlooked the deeper cinematic sophistication at play in this wonderfully light historical comedy.
- Muppets Most Wanted- It takes horrible effort to make me not want to see muppets. And this movie certainly made me not want to see muppets. An incoherent, joyless cash grab of a film that embodies much of what was wrong with this year cinematically- a paucity of imagination, an excess of grimness, and a general incoherence about why we like characters in a franchise.
- The Hobbit 3: Battle of the Five Armies
- Beck, Morning Phase- A lot of people have been accurately comparing this album to his 2004 opus Sea Change. But where that album was a thirsty
- The Horrors, Luminous – The best Britpop album of the year, this albums represents the ultimate evolution into a psychedlic rock sophisticate. With long beautiful crescendoes and long builds, Luminous is a hypnotizing and lush sonic expedition to the stars.
- Andy Stott, Faith in Strangers– This album is some deep, eerie trip-hop, reminiscent of The Burial. Dark, bass influenced ambience combines with whispery vocals to create a spooky album that’s an aural walk through a haunted ghetto. The kind of music that I want to make as a musician.
- D’Angelo, Black Messiah – A swaying, funky triumph, Black Messiah is like the sample tracks of OutKast- some incredible grooves, albeit without the lines of Andre 3000 and BigBoi. Nonetheless, D’Angelo’s return is a masterful accomplishment of soul/funk music. I expect to be hearing the grooves of this album backing up hip hop songs for the next two decades. An instant classic.
- War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream- Beautiful dreampop, reminiscent of Wild Nothing, with the laidback aura of some perfect imagined summer from 1988.
- St. Vincent, St. Vincent – St. Vincent’s album is a glorious slam of human choruses and industrial rhythms. It’s like if Bjork decided to become more aggressive and mechanical, or the album
- Ghostface Killah, 36 Seasons- Wu Tang’s latest may be underwhelming, but Ghostface Killah’s latest is a wonderful retro that reminds you of the classics. It’s a retro themed concept album of the Killah battling against a cabal of corrupt cops. It feels like the soundtrack to the riots that we narrowly dodged during 2014, a blistering urban march. 36 Seasons may not be an innovator, but it’s as strong a hip-hop album as to come out.
- FKA Twigs, LP1– the combination of the Twigs’ breathy singing and the layered electronic produce the most erotic album of the year. Damn. This album makes me feel like a sex offender for listening to it. It’s like what would happen if Grimes decided to make a make-out mix, or if Peaches had decided to lay down a relaxed groove and let the subtlety do the work.
- Protomartyr, Under Color of Official Right
- Swans, To Be Kind– Michael Gira is a maninstay of gothic and experimental music, and he’s one of the rare ones that keeps getting better. To Be Kind is a relentless train of driving anxiety.