Row Three Favorite Films of 2014

A weak year or a strong year? You tell us. With an eclectic group of favorites from so many different people there’s an argument to be made that 2014 was one of the best years ever for film… but was it really? Either way, we all found plenty to love and these are each of the contributors here at RowThree favorites of 2014 along with some honorable mentions as well as notable misses and stinkers on the year. Each contributor is listed below, but you can click to any one of our lists with the links provided below.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by the site, listened to any of the great podcasts hosted here and/or took the time to leave some comments in a post somewhere and some time throughout the year. We really appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks and good job. Cheers.

Andrew James
Matthew Brown
David Brook
Bob Turnbull
Corey Pierce
Bryan Dressel
Kurt Halfyard
Marina Antunes
Matt Gamble
Matt Price


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My Movie Moments of 2014



A cobbled together list of some of my favourite moments from 2014’s films as well as older ones I saw for the first time this past year…


2014 films:

  • - The story of creation in Noah – beautifully composed as it also worked in evolution and epic timescales into the mythology of the story.
  • - The Grand Budapest Hotel – every perfectly centred frame.
  • - Those final credits of 22 Jump Street – they’re funny cuz their true…
  • - Being in the same theatre with Caroll Spinney (the puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch) and James Randi within the same week during Hot Docs.
  • - The breathless car chase in Nightcrawler.
  • - The bracing last 10 minutes of Whiplash.
  • - The wonderful sing-a-long in A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (more fully described here).
  • - And then followed later in the film by the gut punch…
  • - The docking scene and entry into the black hole sequence from Interstellar.

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Row Three Favorite Albums of 2014 [music]

The big list of awesome movies from the third row’s 2014 experience is just around the corner – we’re just waiting for some last minute screenings to show up in the next week or so. In the meantime, we’ve had some time to sift through all the tunage from 2014 and along with other movie-blogging friends have put together this nice list of great sounds of 2014. There are 1000 movies released each year, but there are tens of thousands of albums. So by no means did any of us get to them all, but here’s a sampling of all our favorite listens over the last 365 days.


Jim Laczkowski
Andrew James
Bob Turnbull
David Brook
Scott Olson
Corey Pierce


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Favorite Films I First Watched in 2014



Hi, there! Remember me? I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things in the third row this year, so I figured why not jump back in with a massive and massively solipsistic post all about things I personally watched in 2014!

Row Three’s big group post listing everyone’s Top Ten Films of 2014 will be out later this month, but I’ve been curtailed in my new release viewing this year and only had seven or eight films to choose from for 2014, so I opted to celebrate films I saw in 2014 regardless of release year in a number of hopefully entertaining categories. In keeping with my 2014 stance against evaluation, there is no winner in each category, nor ranking within them, nor strict limits on how many films could be in each category. Here’s my complete list of 2014 watches.

I will try not to include major spoilers, but for some categories I may have to in order to talk about why I chose the films I did. So just…keep an eye out, I guess.

[originally posted at The Frame]


Whether in premise or character or storytelling, these are the films that made me think the most this year, sometimes for days or weeks after seeing them.

Snowpiercer (2013)
No film I saw in 2014 has a better premise than Snowpiercer, which envisions society as post-apocalyptic train segregated between haves and have-nots, complete with class warfare, rebellion, military subjugation, brainwashing, idealism, and cynicism. It’s very high concept, and gives you a lot to chew on, both about this society as its envisioned, and about our own in relation to it.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Most people (rightly) point to the first half of this film as the more iconic and memorable, but a lot of the depth and thoughtfulness is really in the second half, as we see what happens when these troops, trained by the drill sergeant from hell in the first half’s boot camp, actually hit Vietnam and discover how lacking any type of training is for the real hell of a war like Vietnam. The second half is messier, but it’s intentionally and thought-provokingly messy.

Employee’s Entrance (1933)
This is one of the few films of the year that I planned to write an in-depth post about, but I unfortunately never actually got around to it. Why did I find this piece of apparently Pre-Code fluff so striking? Warren Williams plays a confident, smarmy businessman as he so often does, the general manager of a Manhattan department store trying to keep his business afloat during the Depression – which often calls for reducing staff, making existing staff work longer hours, etc. And this doesn’t even include his horrific treatment of Loretta Young’s character and her fiance, his assistant who he wants unattached to better serve the business. Yet what could’ve been a straight-up underdog film about overthrowing evil Business for the sake of the underlings is actually more nuanced, thoughtful and relevant than I expected; today as in the Great Depression, balancing business and humanitarian regard isn’t always easy.

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
What? A slightly regarded late Wilder comedy about a pair of bumbling songwriters carrying out an elaborate ruse to get Dean Martin to listen to their songs is “thought-provoking”? Yeah, I know. I’m probably stretching a bit, but of the late Wilder films I’ve watched recently, this one’s sticking with me to a surprising degree, largely because it employs a level of sexual freedom that I wouldn’t have expected even in 1964, when such things were beginning to loosen up, and it does so with a frankness that’s refreshing even though I may not have ultimately agreed with the characters’ actions.

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2014 List of Lists [updated 12-23]

…And here they come down the final stretch. The year ain’t quite over yet and some of us don’t even start the idea of a list until January (especially the procrastinators in the third row). Yet the heavy hitters claim they’re ready to go and the “best of” lists have already started popping up. My obsession with lists has waned in the past couple of years, but that goes out the window this time of year. I like to stay in the know with popular opinion and keep all of these lists handy. I think some of the readers here do too. But rather than publish a daily “here’s another list from Mrs. X” post, I’ll periodically (about once a week) be on the lookout for new top ten lists from critics, directors, bloggers, podcasters, the wise old owl down the street and Joe Bob Briggs. At any rate, this will be the go-to place for a constantly updated source to where you can find all of the movie top ten lists that are being spurted all over the interwebz.

I’m trying something a little bit different this year. Rather than an epic, long list with periodic updates populating the list even further, I’ll just add a new section to the list with a date and the new entries. Perhaps towards the end of January as the list releasing slows down to a halt I’ll condense them all into one long list. But for now, each time this post is re-published, you’ll be able to see all of the new entries listed by date. It may not be as easy to find a specific list right away (ctrl + f is your friend), but for those that are keeping tabs, it will be easier to see the newest updates.

If you’ve got your own list or seen a list laying around that you don’t see below and think should be included, by all means email me the link or drop it in the comments below.

(#1 film in parentheses if applicable)
AZ Central (Boyhood)
Badass Digest  
Cinedelphia (Nightcrawler)
Cole Smithy (Mr. Turner)
Comic Book Movie (Interstellar)
Daily Review (The Babadook)
Deadshirt (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Dork Shelf (Boyhood) (Under the Skin)
The Guardian (Under the Skin)
Hey U Guys [blogger awards] (Boyhood)
ID Film (The Tribe)
IMDb [users] (The Interview)
IMDb [CEO] (Interstellar)
JoBlo #1 (Boyhood)
JoBlo #2 (Whiplash)
Josh Lister Review Blog (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Mark Kermode [part one]  
New Zealand Herald (Interstellar)
Onion A/V Club (Boyhood)
Quiet Earth (Hard to be a God)
Ropes of Silicon (Birdman)
Screen Crush (Nightcrawler)
This is Mine (Blue Ruin)
Tony Macklin (American Sniper)
Troma [Lloyd Kaufman] (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Variety (Goodbye to Language)

[worst] Onion A/V Club (Left Behind)
[worst] Screen Crush
[for “grown-ups”] AARP
[horror] Fangoria
[horror] Icons of Fright (At the Devil’s Door)
[animated] T10 Image
[best scenes] Onion A/V Club
[most overrated] Joyless Creatures (Snowpiercer)
[best posters] The Playlist
[about women] IndieWire
[documentaries] The Playlist (The Overnighters)
[indies] Let Us Nerd (The Lengths)

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Occultober – Day 31 – The Exorcist

The Exorcist
What more can be said about the undisputed big-daddy of possession horror? The mega-hit that has endured decades, in fact it is still scary as hell; movie magic at its most fine. I won’t belabour the quality of the film, but if you haven’t seen it on the big screen with an audience, you should really get on that.

When young Regan McNeil (Linda Blair) starts behaving very, very oddly, her mother (Ellen Burstyn) enlists the help of a young priest (Jason Miller) and an old priest (Max Von Sydow) to do battle with the demon inside the child. Vomit is spewed, there is masturbation with a crucifix, rattling and levitating beds, near-subliminal devil-imagery, and anything else shocking that wunderkind filmmaker William Friedkin can throw out at the camera. For my money, the sequence where Regan gets a carotid angiography in the hospital, which is shot as realistic as possible, might be the most difficult to watch.

The legacy of The Exorcist is huge, not only the sequels, and lesser knock-offs, but also in terms of kickstarting (with help from Rosemary’s Baby) by way of the huge financial success, the entire occult subgenre in the 1970s, which more than likely planted the seeds in the cultural consciousness for the Satanic Panic hysterias of the 1980s and 1990s. Amongst other things, was an indirect cause behind the West Memphis 3 miscarriage of justice. It was the basis and the tipping point for this series which ran the entire month.

We hope you enjoyed.

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Occultober – Day 30 – The Omen

The Omen
T he ultimate film in the ‘demon seed’ subgenre, has the son of Satan being adopted by an American ambassador to Britain, played by a greying Gregory Peck. Even as a child, this baby-faced anti-christ is willing to exert supernatural influence to murder in the pursuit of grabbing power. The Omen was directed by Richard Donner, just prior to him landing the Superman gig and coming off decades churning out TV episodes in all genres. It was one of many films that made a play to ride the coattails of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Marginally less exploitive than Michael Winner’s gonzo freakshow, The Sentinel, but not afraid of graphic imagery, and disturbing juxtapositions; for instance a woman hangs herself at a children’s birthday party in one scene.

Shadowy satanist organizations, American political powers, and everyones favourite villain David Warner (here playing a shaggy haired photographer who figures out the truth), Rottweiler and Baboon attacks, the mark of the devil 666, and a creepy performance from child actor Harvey Spencer Stephens insured that The Omen was a huge success at the time. Even at the Oscars, it won prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith his only Oscar. The film spawned many sequels (bringing actor Sam Neill over from New Zealand to Hollywood in the process) and a 2006 remake, as well as a plethora of homages. including the church steeple kill in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz.

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Occultober – Day 29 – Rosemary’s Baby

Rosemary’s Baby
A film that has stood the test of time better than most, Roman Polanski’s second film focusing on a woman slowly devolving into hysteria (the first being Repulsion), the success of Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 is paramount in the rise of the modern incarnation occult film in the 1970s. This is patient, if not entirely subtle filmmaking that also mark the vibe of the decade to follow.

In the first few moments of the film, there are enough portent signs and signifiers and waiting for the eventual reveal is a painful kind of bliss with only the soothing balm of Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer’s performances, both goofy and slick (respectfully). I find it difficult to find fault with this rather unique approach, and the whole proceedings have a hell of a capstone.

But really, the first 15 minutes of the film is where it is at. That ‘seeking’ pan across the New York City skyline set to an off-kilter lullaby version of Que Sera Sera. Score rather than song is absent the lyrics and inspires dread rather than hope, but the question is nevertheless, “when I was just a little girl, I asked my mother what I would be…” The answer, is apparently the mother of Satan. If Doris Day can belt that song out in Hitchcock’s , surely it can be subverted here as an anthem for the woman who knew too little, too late.

I took a huge amount of pleasure in noir-staple character actor Elisha Cook Jr. fastidiously showing off the grand old apartment (of spook central) to the young married couple. His question – and the first actual line of dialogue in the film – is whether John Cassavetes’ character is a Doctor or an Actor. The film will feature many doctors (and more than a few midwives) who are indeed more actors than doctors. A stray scrap of paper is shown belonging to the former, quite deceased, owner of the apartment whose last act was to block a closet door on the thin shared wall of her creepy and nosy neighbors with a heavy wardrobe. It reads “I can no longer associate myself.” Perhaps a hint of Mia Farrow’s soon-to-be overwhelming paranoia and powerlessness. A magazine cover will later query, “Is God Dead?” Never has a film so front-loaded its purpose only to then draw out and tease the audience for nearly two hours as surely as Farrow’s body (and hairdo) slowly withers away. But then that kicker of a climax is as surprising as it is inevitable. This is Cinema of Masochism made with exquisite craft – and so many great Polanski films would follow.

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Occultober – Day 28 – The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror
There’s something about those 70s horror films – the steady creep, the look and feel of their surroundings and, as exemplified by the original The Amityville Horror, the pace. This particular film grabs you early and then ever so gradually reels you in with only a very few slow spots (e.g. that sex scene between James Brolin and Margot Kidder went on a bit longer than I was comfortable with…). And to be honest, not much happens for most of the movie…But it still manages to keep you just a little bit nervous throughout and always waiting for the next incident. It’s that compounded and built-up dread that is almost its own reward and forces an engagement with the story and characters. It also hopefully pays off towards the end…In this case, the ending sort of gets away from the film a bit and it sputters just when it should be vrooming, but when a movie can build the tension this well (and throw in a bleeding stairway too), that can be forgiven.

After its release, the movie became the largest grossing independent film ever and held the record for a good 4-5 years afterwards. Short of the lovely job it does in building up that fear throughout, the reasons are pretty obvious. The film (and its book) purport to be about a “true story” of a family living in a possessed house which tries to make them leave (“GET OUT!!”). The occult was certainly a trendy thing at the time and with a storyline that feels so relatable (big rambling old houses do seem rather spooky…), you can understand how word of mouth spread as many people wondered if their own house’s bumps and creaks during the night may be similarly attributable to restless spirits and demons.

I put off seeing this box office winner until just recently as I had always assumed it would be a fairly tedious affair with much mumbo-jumbo. Instead it’s quite intriguing…And though there certainly is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo spewed (with a whole lot of gusto from both Rod Steiger and Helen Shaver), just like many of the occult practices and beliefs, it’s all in service of tightening its grip on its audience. Not so great if that’s done to suck in unsuspecting people to believe in demonic acts, but perfect for a horror movie.

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