Foxcatcher (2014) - Directed by Bennett Miller. Sidney Lumet says you need to be able to boil your film down to one clear idea, and all else manifests itself from that. Foxcatcher is about loneliness, and how petty our disputes actually are. It has three of the best performances of the year. Carell and Tatum will leave you mesmerized and chilled, but it's Ruffalo who will break your heart.
Birdman (2014) - Directed by Alejandro Iñárritu. Claustrophobic and glorious is how I'd best sum up Birdman. Iñárritu tackles weighty questions we ask ourselves as artists everyday: Who is the audience of our art? What motivates us? Does art matter at all? He doesn't disappoint. I left the theater with more questions than answers, but the answers I did have were rich and satisfying, and the questions perhaps don't need answers. In fact, that might be the unexpected virtue of ignorance.
Whiplash (2014) - Directed by Damien Chazelle. This film is menacing and motivating for anyone out there who has ever wanted to be The Greatest at something, and not merely great. The twisted relationship we all have between wanting to achieve excellence and wanting to live a life filled with small pleasures is on display. The directing is precise, the acting is flawless and what happens in the film's final ten minutes left my theater in awe. That is, before it broke into primal applause.
Gone Girl (2014) - Directed by David Fincher. Fincher continues to cement himself as one of the great technical directors of our generation. Yet, even with his directing prowess, an exceptional performance from Pike and thrilling source material, there was something emotional missing from this film. Incredibly watchable, but ultimately left me lukewarm.