I always feel a little out of sync with the larger film-loving world. But 2014 was a doozy.

This was the year of BoyhoodBudapest HotelWhiplash and Snowpiercer, movies that I really appreciated, kinda liked, couldn’t make it through and just thought were ridiculous, respectively.

I mean it when I say that I believe that there are no good or bad films, just films that work for you and those that don’t. I’m always amazed (and a tad bit jealous) when I am not moved by films that seem to speak to just about everyone else but me. At the very least I feel like I missed out; at worst it makes me think there’s something wrong with me.

And then I look at the movies I did love and I am heartened. Because I am delighted by their eclectic storytelling and just blown away by their craft. And I can honestly say that I loved them. I know that a lot of people didn’t see them, but if they do, they will love them too.

Having said all that, my favorite films of 2014 are:

Stunningly shot in black and white and squeezed into an almost square format, you might think you’re in for a very slow ride – especially after the first spare, snowy scenes. And it’s true, Ida is a very understated film. But in reality it’s a buddy picture featuring two fabulously interesting, unpredictable and enigmatic women on a surprisingly lively road trip in search of their identities – and Poland’s bleak WWII legacy. Without a doubt the best movie of the year.

 is an incredible film about a man who’s trying to do the right thing, even though it may cost him everything. It’s a tour de force performance from Tom Hardy (shockingly missing from Oscar talk) and a riveting, master class in storytelling. Set completely behind the wheel of a car and on a mobile phone,  it’s doubly devastating for Angelenos who live on the freeways and on our iPhones. LISTEN to Kim Masters’ interview with writer and director Steven Knight.

Haunting, melancholy and disturbing, Foxcatcher tells the true story of the du Pont heir who foists his money, support and – sadly - his insanity on Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schulz. Steve Carrell is getting all the love for his nose-on (pun intended) portrayal of the fascinatingly disturbed gajllionaire, but to my mind it firmly establishes Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) as one of the most important directors working today. LISTEN to Elvis Mitchell’s interview with Bennett Miller.

LOVE-IS-STRANGELove is Strange
It’s a testament to the age in which we live that this wonderful movie is more noteworthy for being a love story about two older people than a love story about two men. Heart-breaking and tender,
 Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play a couple who are anything but perfect but never have to wonder: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” LISTEN to Elvis Mitchell’s interview with co-writer and director Ira Sachs.

images (1)Force Majeure
A seemingly perfect family is pulled apart by an incident at an Alpine ski chalet in which the man of the family does not live up to anyone’s ideal of…manliness. Alternately comic and tragic, realistic and absurd, you can’t help ask, if given similar circumstances, would I have done any better? It also makes you wonder: Can anyone really know us, if it’s impossible to really know ourselves?

le_week-end_2698189bLe Week-End
An aging couple go to Paris for a weekend to rekindle their relationship, but end up in a war of words instead. Verbal sparring and low blows of a very high order between Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Broadbent make for a thrilling ride, but there is something so warm and inviting at the heart of the maelstrom that you can’t wait for those moments when they take the gloves off and just have a ball.

Happy Movie New Year!