First out of the gate with her Top 10 list is Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post. (The descriptions here have been abbreviated so please check out the full article.)
1. “Boyhood” – With this touching coming-of-age drama, writer-director Richard Linklater accomplished so many groundbreaking things at once: Filming nonprofessional actor Ellar Coltrane over 12 years, then folding his actual youth and adolescence into a fictional story starring Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, Linklater created a new cinematic language, allowing past and present to mesh as seamlessly as they do in real life.
2. “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” – Alejandro González Iñárritu’s portrait of a former action star (Michael Keaton) making one last bid for authenticity was an exercise in technical brio (it seemed to be filmed all in one take) and in the art of acting.
3. “Citizenfour” – Laura Poitras’s taut, claustrophobically effective documentary, in which she puts viewers in the Hong Kong hotel room when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden first shared his revelations about government surveillance.
4. “Force Majeure” – Visually stunning, narratively meticulous and often grimly funny, Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s drama about a picture-perfect couple coming unraveled during a ski vacation in the French Alps got at gender politics, sexual dynamics and the delicate balance of self-perception.
5. “Foxcatcher” is a creepy movie, as unsettling and unresolved as the true crime at its center. Steve Carell submerges his comic persona to play John E. du Pont, who in 1996 murdered wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). Channing Tatum rounds out the extraordinary three-man ensemble.
6. “Under the Skin” Scarlett Johansson was in two big hits this year — “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the action flick “Lucy” — but her best work was in Jonathan Glazer’s creepy, cryptic “Under the Skin.”
7. “Selma” – Ava DuVernay’s dramatization of a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement is a stirring historical pageant, but at its best shows Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) as a cannily perceptive political operator, especially when dealing with Tom Wilkinson’s equally shrewd Lyndon Johnson. Finally, the most important chapter of 20th-century American history has taken pride of place within the culture’s dominant narrative medium — not as context, backdrop or plot device, but the subject itself.
8. “Edge of Tomorrow” – Why on Earth didn’t you see this movie? It had all the mind-bending time-travel of “Interstellar,” some wise-cracking, save-the-day derring-do a la “Guardians of the Galaxy,” plus Tom Cruise flirting with a wonderfully smart, strong heroine played by Emily Blunt. Stylishly directed by Doug Liman.
9. “Beyond the Lights” – Gina Prince-Bythewood’s deliriously entertaining backstage romance took all of the tropes from “Gypsy” to “The Bodyguard,” gave them a fresh, feminist spin and put them in the hands of a superlative cast… Delicious to watch and listen to, the film was elevated by Mbatha-Raw’s honest, physically startling performance.
10. “Locke” – If “Birdman” and “Foxcatcher” were ensemble pieces at their best, Steven Knight’s “Locke” was the quintessential one-man show: British actor Tom Hardy… is transfixing as a man desperate to keep the various spheres of his life from spinning out of control; the movie itself is a daring, utterly absorbing exercise in real-time storytelling.
(read the full story at the Washington Post)-
Hornaday cites a few more films outside her top 10 for honorable mention:
Nightcrawler – “a slithery, atmospheric evocation of the news media at its most
Obvious Child – “a tart, audaciously unapologetic comedy”
Fort Bliss – “evokes the life of a working military mom with sensitive domestic drama”
Dear White People – “a funny, wise and nuanced satire on racial identity”
The Drop – “superbly written, beautifully acted downbeat gem.
A Most Violent Year – “channeled the muted palette and subdued mood of the great crime dramas of the 1970s.”
British people are smarter than we are. And they have better taste. And they’re better actors. On paper, the historical dramas “Mr. Turner” and “The Imitation Game” — along with the Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything” — were run-of-the-mill great-man myths. But in the hands of directors Mike Leigh, Morten Tyldum and James Marsh (with assists from actors Timothy Spall, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne), they transcended their genre to become graceful works of art — and sure-fire awards bait for those keeping score at home.