Best of 2014: The Voice‘s top 10 movies and albums

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December 4, 2014


1. Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s 11-year epic Boyhood is nothing short of a landmark film. Boyhood follows the life of Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), from his early elementary school days to his college move-in day. Cast at the age of 8, Coltrane plays the role with tremendous honesty, exhibiting growth both as Mason and as an actor. The actor’s efforts are aided by Linklater’s powerful script. Moving quickly through the years that make up youth and adolescence, Linklater incorporates music and realistic dialogue to move the story along. Though other films this year proved ambitious in their ideas and techniques, Boyhood makes the biggest impact with the simplest of plots. — Dayana Morales-Gomez

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

A story within a story within a story, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel weaves a complex tale of how Mr. Moustafa, once a lobby boy at the famed Grand Budapest Hotel, gains ownership of the legendary establishment as Europe hurtles between the continent’s two bloodiest wars. The quick description just skims the surface of the masterful and complex plot sequence that unfolds. Almost every shot is a symmetrical work of art, putting Anderson’s exquisite attention to visual beauty on full display. Action, drama, love, subtle humor, and Voldemort with a nose, The Grand Budapest Hotel has it all. — Carolyn Zaccaro

3. Gone Girl

In his brilliant adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s mystery novel, Gone Girl, David Fincher delves into a brutal exploration of what everyone knows and says: marriage is hard work. Though slow at first, Gone Girl progressively picks up the pace as more and more juicy secrets emerge following Amy Dunne’s (Rosamund Pike) mysterious disappearance. In the interwoven backstory, viewers watch as the Dunnes’ sugar-coated marriage implodes into unending lies, distrust, fear, and ultimately, violence, all overshadowed by the tyranny of a news media hungry for blood. It shocks and intrigues on multiple levels and never lets up, easily making it the year’s best thriller. — Kenneth Lee

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy strikes a stellar balance between edge-of-your-seat action, emotional complexity, and a healthy dose of satire that appeals to a wide variety of cinematic tastes. Though it is disconcerting to see Chris Pratt from “Parks and Recreation” step out of his role as the beloved Andy Dwyer and become the cynical space hunk Peter Quill, a.k.a. Starlord, Pratt owns the role, crafting Starlord into an equally badass and lovably inept hero. Quill’s team of Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and the taciturn Groot turns Guardians into a fun team effort. Previously unexposed to a big audience, this franchise will be a household favorite long after its summer success. — Caitriona Pagni

5. Interstellar

In Interstellar, director Christopher Nolan pulls out all the stops, crafting a surprisingly emotional story with enough scientific accuracy to satisfy the savviest of astronomers. The ensemble cast, led by Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain, shine in a script that, while heavy-handed at times, manages to make the bond between father and daughter downright tear-jerking. With Hans Zimmer’s wondrous score blaring in the background, Nolan takes the audience on a visual journey through the stars in some of the most realistic space sequences ever put to film. The hopeful ending and intense visuals produce a film that must be admired for its ambition alone. — Graham Piro

6. Birdman

In what is certainly one of the year’s strangest films, Michael Keaton plays a washed-up actor who made a name for himself by playing the titular hero in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s daringly brilliant Birdman. Birdman feels refreshingly meta. Iñarritu edited the film to appear as if it was shot entirely in one take, producing a technical marvel. The cast, led by Keaton, the wonderful Emma Stone, and the spiteful Edward Norton, all come together to create an experience that’s as confusing as it is insightful. Birdman‘s layered script and unique filming set it apart, but its ambiguous ending leaves the viewer wanting more. — Graham Piro

7. The Theory of Everything

Despite the enduring illusiveness of the unifying theory to which its title refers, The Theory of Everything delivers on its ambitions. Depicting the turbulent but ultimately loving relationship between theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first ex-wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), the film is a testament both to Hawking’s ongoing perseverance over his debilitating ALS and a sobering meditation on a disability’s impact on caregiving loved ones’ daily lives. Though it shamelessly deploys tired clichés about the relationship between science and religion, the film gracefully casts family and romance as, if not everything, at least that which is most important. — Ian Philbrick

8. The Fault in Our Stars

Anticipated across the country, The Fault in Our Stars loyally adapts John Green’s bestselling novel, retelling the story of young, star-crossed lovers. Shailene Woodley expertly plays Hazel, a cynical, relatable teenager plagued by cancer. A tragic story on its own, the tragedy only grows when she falls in love with Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a charming, heroic boy and fellow “cancer kid.” Their desperate attempts to lead meaningful lives interchange between wholly unrealistic romanticism and convincingly beautiful realism. Through the tears, The Fault in Our Stars reinvigorates the trope of doomed yet extraordinary teenage love. — Maya McCoy

9. Dear White People

Dear White People slaps the myth of post-racial America right across the face. An elegantly irreverent comedy, Justin Simien’s first film follows the stories of several black students at an elite university—one not too different from the Hilltop—as they navigate the increasingly hostile racial landscape of institutional privilege. The jokes are incisive, the plot explosively well-timed, and the characters complex and unique. Though plagued by excessive melodrama during a few segments, Simien’s satire will make you laugh in the moment, and think long after. — Ida Dhanuka

10. The LEGO Movie

Don’t let the childish animation fool you. The LEGO Movie packs an adult punch. The film follows Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt) on his quest to save the Lego Universe. He is joined by an elite group of “master builders” who come from every known Lego world, including Abraham Lincoln and the 2002 NBA All-Star Team. While primarily intended for an adolescent audience, the movie refrains from overly slapstick or infantile humor, opting instead for witty dialogue and absurd scenarios. Coupled with stunning visuals and an easily digestible message, the humor truly makes for a remarkable 100 minutes. — Daniel Varghese


1. Hozier by Hozier

Born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, the 24 year old singer-guitarist Hozier manifests the unlikely convergence of Irish storytelling roots and a blues-soaked upbringing in his debut, eponymous full-length. Sonic cues taken from a childhood spent listening to John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters back the artist’s soulful, utterly haunting vocals. Hozier‘s 13 tracks draw heavily upon themes of religion, sex, doubt, and passion. They fix a high resolution lens on what it means to be human in an age where those themes are often at odds. Taken in one dose, the album is a gorgeous, if sometimes somber, experience and demands an attentive listen. — Christina Libre

2. Salad Days by Mac DeMarco

Canadian indie rocker Mac DeMarco reflects on the bygone days of his youth and innocence in his latest and appropriately entitled album Salad Days. With a penchant for evading convention, DeMarco has developed unique, synth-heavy melodies that draw influences from electronic Japanese music and incorporate themes about the suffocating music industry, integrity, and loyalty. Many criticize DeMarco for moving away from his twangy, bayou sound in his successful earlier album 2, however, in this piece DeMarco manages to adapt elements of his former aesthetic in a way that better highlight his outrageously quirky personality. — Shalina Chatlani

3. Turn Blue by The Black Keys

Gone are the days of recording in Patrick Carney’s basement with a gritty feel and heavy blues riffs. Under the direction of Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, in the studio for a fourth time, The Black Keys create the same polished, clean sound of their past album, El Camino, while still venturing in new directions through the exploration of prog synth effects and extended guitar solos in songs like “Fever” and “Weight of Love.” Turn Blue stands as a strong display of The Blacks Keys’ encouraging transformation as a band and willingness to take risks with new sounds. — Ryan Miller

4. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey

In her third full-length album, Lana Del Rey tones down the pop in favor of rock themes and layers of lower vocals. While she sings in the same dark, seductive, and glorified manner about Hollywood problems, Del Rey delivers a matured perspective through her altered sound and bolder choice in lyrics. The personas in Del Rey’s songs have grown from ditsy, crazy girls to classy, crazy women. Although Ultraviolence has been a chart-topper around the world, its individual songs have yet to earn their deserved recognition as Del Rey’s best. — Ambika Ahuja

5. Morning Phase by Beck

Beck’s latest release, Morning Phase, plays more like a symphony than a rock album. Beck’s first record since 2008 begins with “Cycle,” a 40-second orchestral composition that ebbs and flows through gorgeous chords into the rest of the album. After this opener, these compositions move into the background, underscoring Beck’s gruff, yet gentle, voice and virtuosic instrumental lines. Much like the legendary compositions of the impressionist and romantic periods, Beck’s Morning Phase manages to combine these potentially discordant elements with great precision. The result is incredibly moving and stunningly beautiful. — Daniel Varghese

6. This Is All Yours by alt-J

Although alt-J’s This Is All Yours was not praised by the Pitchfork pundits, the indie rock outfit’s sophomore release is just as worthy of the chart-topping acclaim garnered by crowd favorites “Tessellate” and “Breezblocks.” Alt-J successfully blends the analog synth of their 80s forebears, alt-rock chords of their peers, and the computer-generated beats of cutting-edge electronica. “Every Other Freckle” paints a soundscape incorporating crescendoing cymbals, dripping reverb, and hair-raising vocals all in the first 20 seconds. The album is rich with aural color, a panoply of chimes, chirps, and chants. Powerful and musically kaleidoscopic, there’s no real reason not to love This Is All Yours. — Sam Kleinman

7. My Krazy Life by YG

My Krazy Life is as fully-realized a concept album as Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city and as impressive a piece of production as Kanye West’s Yeezus. From YG’s gleefully clever rhymes about the Glock-and-palm-tree SoCal gangster life to DJ Mustard’s spare, infectious beats, this album is to ratchet rap what Chief Keef’s Finally Rich was to Chicago drill back in 2012: a blueprint for the genre. My Krazy Life, however, is a much more sensitive work. For every expected bar about bottles, bitches, and bands, YG spits an introspective line. He’s the intellectual’s strip club emcee. — James Constant

8. Ghost Stories by Coldplay

In their sixth studio album, superstar British group Coldplay offers a surprisingly mellow, stripped-down sound that is a refreshing contrast to the more upbeat and electronic Mylo Xyloto. Frontman Chris Martin’s hauntingly beautiful voice emphasizes his heartfelt—often poignant—lyrics, especially in songs like “Oceans” and “Another’s Arms.” Thank you, Gwyneth Paltrow. The album offers a diverse range of songs. “Midnight” has a hypnotic, Bon Iver-esque sound to it, while “A Sky Full of Stars” is the token feel-good dance anthem. Ghost Stories is yet another example of why, after nearly 15 years of music making, Coldplay remains one of the most successful bands in the industry. — Marisa Hawley

9. 1989 by Taylor Swift

Calling Taylor Swift a polarizing figure is a bit of an understatement. Indifference to her music and pop culture dominance is not an option, and 1989 is no exception to the rule. It’s all too easy to dismiss her newest musical shift as a sell-out to pop homogeneity, but that would only skim the surface of her savvy. Her new pop sound has an airy purity to it, but there’s an edgy punch behind Swift’s trademark earnestness. She’s keenly aware of her image and isn’t afraid to gleefully satirize it, her best moments are those when she looks romance in the face and just laughs. — Julia Lloyd-George

10. You’re Gonna Miss It All by Modern Baseball

The four college guys who make up Philly’s Modern Baseball put most Hoyas to shame with their résumés: in addition to (more or less) staying in school, they’ve risen to the fore of the emo pop-punk scene, touring the nation no less than four times this calendar year. With You’re Gonna Miss It All, the band delivers another round of rousing choruses and energetic, punk instrumentation. You’re Gonna Miss It All fails only to meet the very high bar set by the band’s now-canonical debut Sports—a sure sign of the sophomore slump. Buoyed by anthemic hits like “Your Graduation,” the album is fun, frenetic, and frighteningly relatable. — Noah Buyon

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