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Top 10 Favorite Films of 2014

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In looking back at 2014, Lake Effect film contributor Dave Luhrssen doesn’t think the last year was an especially strong one for movies. 

He can’t necessarily tell us what the best films were, but he did count up his top ten of favorite films.

1. Birdman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJfLoE6hanc

"What a groundbreaking movie in terms of filmmaking for major release," Luhrssen says. "It kind of looks at this wavering line between reality and fantasy...the movie touches on so many different things - the arrogance of critics, the arrogance of people in the theater, the dumbing down of the world, it leaves nothing unscathed."

2. Only Lovers Left Alive

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycOKvWrwYFo

"It's a very cool hipster vampire film," he says. "You have to know a lot of the world we live in to get most of the references in the movie. The characters played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are just fascinating people."

3. The Lunch Box

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJIGJtb_N7E

"It could very much sound like a bad Hollywood romantic comedy, but the movie is very sophisticated in its handling of human emotions and is just phenomenally well put together as a film," Luhrssen says.

4. Love Is Strange

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuJsduRY5ik

"It stuck with me for the brilliance of being able to handle something that's very topical - gay marriage - on the one hand, but also use that as a way of exploring a whole raft of other issues in our society," he says. "What happens if you lose health insurance? What happens if your social status goes down hill all of a sudden? What happens if you're forced upon relatives to live with them?...I think the movie touches very nicely on all of those topics."

5. Whiplash

http://youtu.be/7d_jQycdQGo

"It was probably the most intense movie of the year in terms of pacing," Luhrssen says. "You have this extremely driven instructor trying to literally drum his pedagogy into the heads of his students at an elite conservatory...The movie is trying to look at what point do we challenge the mediocrity in the world right now, but when does that get out of hand?"

6. Locke

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdaofZfgV_Q

"The idea of making a dramatically exciting and moving film set in a moving car with only one person talking the whole time...I think it deserves recognition for being quite an accomplishment in drama," he says.

7. Into The Woods

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6Yz5BRMGIQ

"The music was sophisticated, the acting was quite good...the storyline plays with the reality of Grimm's fairytales, which were far grimmer than the usual Walt Disney studio versions of them," Luhrssen says. "The tone of this movie is much darker and I think more interesting than what we think of stereotypically as a Disney film."

8. A Man Most Wanted

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUyYBrlF_W8

"If it wasn't [Phillips Seymour Hoffman] in it and you had a capable actor playing that part, the movie would still be very good for this murky look of it. It captures visually the whole twilight atmosphere of espionage and counterespionage and informers and infiltration into secretive organizations...a very appropriate looking film with a great actor starring in it," he says.

9. Belle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiI8PNdvkhY

"I call it Pride & Prejudice with the emphasis on prejudice...it's a fascinating story about the various ways that race and identity have played out over the past," Luhrssen says.

10. Gone Girl

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esGn-xKFZdU

"It kept me interested all the way to the end...I left feeling, 'is this really over-the-top believable or not, or should we not care about that aspect of it?'...I like the movie, but I'm not sure I ever really want to spend another three hours with it again in my life," he says.

Dave Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express weekly and author of its "I Hate Hollywood" blog.

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.
David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.