Wednesday, December 31, 2014

TrustMovies' year-end don't-miss list of independents, documentaries and foreign films

Updated as of January 17: It's not a "Best" List because I haven't seen nearly all the films released in 2014. Nor has any critic. So "grain-of-salt" it, people, please. Below are the movies -- mostly the small ones, along with a few bigger ones that, in my view, actually deserve their status -- that you really ought to catch in some form or other, from streaming to DVD to a possible theatrical encounter. I begin with probably the smallest film of all, which is also among the very best of this year. (Click on each title link, and it should open up into my post on the film.)

Now, there are 68 movies in all. That's hardly a ten-best list, but it does represent the films I think are worth mentioning again and definitely worth your checking out. Some appear here because they are the kind of small independent movies -- docs or narratives -- that many will not have even heard of, and yet they are so good that they must be pointed out. A few of these are genre films -- the terrific little thriller Not Safe for Work and the loony-tunes funny Stretch -- that never even received a theatrical release (that I could discover) but went straight to streaming and are such good examples of their genres that they ought to be seen and enjoyed. Others -- Boyhood (below), NightcrawlerWinter Sleep (above), Force Majeure and Snowpiercer -- have already been cited by many critics, and now I must cite them, too.

You may notice that certain popular or much acclaimed films (Foxcatcher, Whiplash, Leviathan, The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything) are not listed. These are perfectly good movies but are nowhere near the best or most interesting of my movie-going year. I have now seen both Selma (a little too close to history-as-feel-good-schlock for my taste) and Into the Woods (much better than its original Broadway version: one of Sondheim's lesser scores, but as used smartly here, it provides a chance for actors to sing well and give meaning to the story much better than did the stage version). Mr Turner and American Sniper still remain unseen; I'll probably wait for their Blu-ray incarnation. And there's one film, The Bag Man (a still is shown below) that is simply so much better than its crap reviews would indicate that I just had to include it. (Reach Me is another good example of our current negative-critical-mass-thinking about a very enjoyable film that I came close to including, too.)

With the exception of the first film listed below (which was, for me, the most special of the year, a still from which is shown at top), the rest are listed in the order in which I viewed them beginning last January. (*The asterisk indicates that the film was not officially released last year; however, 2014 was the year in which I managed to see it.)

The ** double asterisk at the bottom of this list indicates a film, above, I left out because it was one I did not cover at the time of its release due to a certain PR person's neglecting to invite me to the press screening. I saw it later on my own dollar -- or ten -- but then forgot to mention it, though it is a best-of-year movie under just about any criteria you can offer.


Magical Universe

Key of Life

*Pictures of Superheroes

*The History of Future Folk

Lucky Bastard

Child's Pose

*Dean Spanley

The Bag Man

Particle Fever

Rob the Mob



Southern Baptist Sissies

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

The Selfish Giant

Trust Me

God's Pocket

A Short History of Decay


The Players

AGNES VARDA: From Here to There

Master of the Universe

Dormant Beauty

A Coffee in Berlin

Romeo and Juliet

Third Person

Code Black


The Internet's Own Boy

After the Dark

The Last Days

*20 Cigarettes

Magic in the Moonlight



A Five-Star Life

A Master Builder

The Dog

Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering

The Den

Rocks in My Pockets


Pay 2 Play

Bird People

Art and Craft





Force Majeure

Begin Again

Viva la Libertà


The Circle

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Not Safe for Work

The Babadook

LFO: The Movie

Miss Julie

The Foxy Merkins


The Joe Show

Winter Sleep


Two Days, One Night

*The Jewel

A Most Violent Year

**The Grand Budapest Hotel

Note: an important film just opened this week that is almost certain to make my best-of-year for 2015. As it is a small independent movie and will probably disappear without much of a trace, I suggest that you try to see it ASAP, if possible. If not, watch for the eventual DVD/streaming release.

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