Click below to continue reading my official Top 10 Films of 2014.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Joe and Anthony Russo)
If you don’t know me, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m a 23 years old, I have have been a Christian the majority of my life, I’ve been married for almost two years, I’m currently a supervisor at a call center and I LOVE MARVEL. While I didn’t grow up reading comic-books, between the cartoons as a kid and the films since I’ve been older I have fallen in love with all things Marvel. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is amazing and there is always something to experience in it. Whether it be the films, the weekly TV shows, the soon-to-be-released Netflix series, spin-off comic books or just the overall fandom online, it is a great time to be a Marvel fan. While others have succeeded (i.e. Days of Future Past), no one handles Marvel properties as good as Marvel Studios.
While The Avengers is one of my all time favorites, the solo Marvel movies have always had something lacking. With Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, some of the films just felt like filler material leading up to another Avengers film. They would showcase our heroes fighting a bad guy of the week all while making references and dropping Marvel easter eggs throughout the experience. All that was changed with the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With The Winter Soldier, Marvel made a statement, “All of our films matter.” The Winter Soldier succeeds on so many levels, mainly because it is a perfect Captain America film while at the same time being a film that moved the entire Marvel Universe forward. It would have been a really great film if it featured the SHEILD/Hydra plot and had some fun action, but it is so much more than that. The Winter Soldier features so many great character moments that make you care about Cap, Falcon and Black Widow (screenwriters Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely understand the characters and are able to adapt them brilliantly). The film is also brutal when it comes to it’s action, not only does the movie feel like a spy thriller, it’s whole world feels “real” thanks to the great fight choreography. I can’t say enough about this film, all I can say is “In Marvel I Trust.”
Selma (Ava Duverney)
Selma is one of the best films I have ever seen, ever. It is not a biopic on the great Martin Luther King Jr. Though that could be an amazing film as well, Selma does much more than just show the bullet-points of an amazing leader. It looks to one point in his career, tells a story, shows the politics behind social change and packs an emotional punch to show why one bridge in Alabama is so important to American history. Some have reviewed Selma in light of the events in Ferguson, MO. Though that is not wrong, Selma can’t be limited to being a reactionary film that is commentary on a single current event. Selma is so much bigger than that. It is about how a great leader can still have family drama behind the scenes. It is about how big social change needs to have political deals and agreements made in order to be long-lasting. It is about how a man clings to his faith even if it is just via a conversation on the phone with a fellow believer. It is a film that just shows a small glimpse at the horrors of institutional racism in our country’s past (and sadly, our present).
I said that 2014’s films delivered so many emotions. While others on this list brought something to the table, Selma is the film I was thinking of when I wrote that. Selma is the first (and maybe only) movie to cause me to truly cry while watching it. Some of these were tears of sadness, but others were tears of true joy and inspiration watching this group of people move forward in the midst of tragedy. There are two scenes of violence in the film. We knew they were coming. It is a movie that features protests and responses from police after all. I went into these scenes as a critic, I was ready for the scene of the protest followed by the government causing some violence to show them who is boss. This would add drama to the story as they move forward and “win” in the end. This is such a clinical way of viewing the movie. That is limiting Selma to a screenplay, to something you could learn in a filmmaking classroom, and it is so much more than that.
These scenes destroyed me. While it was happening I was forced to reckon with the prejudice our country has shown and maybe even the prejudice in my own life. I was ready for “movie violence,” but sometimes a film can portray something so much more powerful than just a rehearsed scene of violence. That’s not to say that Selma is a historical documentary that features re enactments, it is definitely still a dramatic film that tells a story in two hours. It is just that the story it tells is both compelling dramatically and inspiring as a piece of historical reporting. I have said so much about how the violence in the film hit me emotionally, but Selma follows up that violence with a beautiful portrayal of King’s leadership in action. David Oyelowo masterfully performs as King, and the writing of this man is beautifully portrayed in the film. It is stunning to think that all the speeches in the film were written for the film (due to right’s issues, the filmmakers were unable to use King’s real speeches). This gives Selma it’s own voice, not simply showing us history, but adding to the conversation on what King means to this country and how prejudice still needs to be addressed today.
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