The 1970s are back and they're better than ever, at least if you're willing to accept what many of the best films of 2014 had to offer. It's not that a great number of the year's movies were set during that time period. In 2014, the 1970s became a guiding aesthetic — a way of looking at the world — for those behind many of the year's finest independent and Hollywood-made films. Some merely were set in an unspecified time in which cellphones and social media had not yet taken hold. But many others intentionally echoed the "New Hollywood" films of the '70s, when originality of vision and a film's overall "vibe" took precedence over traditional narratives and the perceived needs of the marketplace.
The result was a consistently interesting year for movies, at least for those who took the time and trouble to seek out non-mainstream fare. Half the films on the Top 10 list below screened locally for one week or less and at a single theater. Blink and you miss them — or watch them at home through increasingly popular video on demand services. This year was the first in which even highly anticipated indie films were widely available for home viewing at the same time they debuted in theaters. That trend's not going away any time soon, but neither is the singular experience of seeing a great movie on a huge screen in a theater full of like-minded film fans.
What follows is an alphabetical and entirely subjective Top 10 list of personal favorites from the films that debuted in New Orleans during 2014.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — Director Alejandro Inarritu's dazzling Birdman skillfully maintains the illusion of a two-hour film shot in a single take, but its skewering of modern-day notions of celebrity and success made it the year's sharpest film.
Boyhood — Richard Linklater's historic 12-year film project reveals how each of our lives would be understood as extraordinary if we could only grasp the complexity of human experience over time.
Foxcatcher — This biographical drama about paranoid-schizophrenic millionaire John DuPont debuted locally at the 2014 New Orleans Film Festival (a full theatrical run is scheduled for January) and features the year's most mind-blowing performance in comedian Steve Carell's take on DuPont.
Good Vibrations — This joyous film from Northern Ireland received only a single local screening as part of this year's New Orleans Irish Film Festival, but it may be the first movie to capture the defiant spirit of punk rock and DIY culture as it sprung to life in the late 1970s — track this one down through video on demand.
The Grand Budapest Hotel — Given the extraordinary artistic success of his last few films, it's safe to say Wes Anderson finally has found the soul to match his overactive imagination.
The Great Beauty — The eternal city of Rome is the unqualified star of Paolo Sorrentino's lush and surprisingly hopeful examination of sometimes frivolous 21st-century life and culture.
Ida — Polish-born director Pawel Pawlikowski's moving and visually stunning (in glorious black-and-white) tale of a young woman's search for cultural identity may have been the year's most welcome surprise.
The Lunchbox — Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra's warm and funny film presents an unlikely romance between two lonely denizens of megacity Mumbai and reminds us that some things are universal, even half a world away.
Tim's Vermeer — Science and art blend seamlessly in this fascinating documentary about inventor Tim Jenison's quest to unlock the secrets of Johannes Vermeer's mysterious paintings.
Venus in Fur — Master filmmaker Roman Polanski returns in top form with a biting satire on the battle of the sexes that's also the most successful film adaptation of a Broadway play in years.
Films that almost made the list: 20,000 Days on Earth, Calvary, The Imitation Game, Joe, Last Days in Vietnam, Love Is Strange, Under the Skin and The Rover.
Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, Ida, or The Grand Budapest Hotel