Now that the halfway mark has hit between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we're inclined to look back on the past six months of cinematic glory. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. Next, we turned to movie scenes and moments. And finally, we take on the big guns: the best movies we've seen so far this year, listed below in alphabetical order. Check 'em out, and see which ones sound worth catching up on.
Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection
BORGMANA mysterious vagabond makes himself at home on the property of a posh, rapidly fissuring Danish family. "All is not what it seems" to the nth degree.As a bonus: The film's proclivity to tease its viewers for their inevitable search for answers to its mysteries.
BOYHOODThe life of a boy as he grows from age six to 18. More of a poem about the bounties of life and presence than a traditional narrative, and unlike any other film you'll see.As a bonus: The eventual realization that you've been looking at life all wrong, but that it's not too late to find a new kind of existential harmony.
THE DOUBLECrippled by his anxieties, Jesse Eisenberg is tossed into a dark and comical existential whirlwind when he meets a man who looks just like him (also Jesse Eisenberg, naturally) but acts the exact opposite.As a bonus: The engaging debates following the movie about whether or not director Richard Ayoade is just ripping off Terry Gilliam.*The Double made our Best Performances list for Jesse Eisenberg, but we'd also like to give special props to Wallace Shawn for his hilariously dimwitted boss.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTELAt the dawn of the Third Reich in Eastern Europe, the consierge of an esteemed luxury hotel in sets off on a wild caper, his lobby boy in tow, when he is suspected of murder.As a bonus: Finally getting a Wes Anderson movie that you think your non-Wes Anderson-fan friends might actually enjoy.
HIDE YOUR SMILING FACESA simple and closed-mouthed but incredibly dense film about two young brothers dealing with the death of a close friend. Heartwrenching and accessible all the while.As a bonus: The faith that debut director Daniel Patrick Carbone is definitely going places.
Music Box Films
IDAOn the dawn of her inception into a monastery, a teenage orphan finds out that she is Jewish and sets off to meet her alcoholic, free-wheelin' aunt for the first time. Terribly sad, but incredibly funny at times.As a bonus: The realization that this movie is kind of like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles set in post-WWII Eastern Europe.
JOEAn emotionally rattled Nicolas Cage rambles about his rural town, solving and causing problems for neighbors, friends, his dog, and a young boy who comes to him looking for a job (and a father figure).As a bonus: You can't help but delight in the fact that Cage actually gets to be in a good movie for the first time in years (and does a hell of a job in it, too).
THE LEGO MOVIEA tribute to the omnipresent children's toy, as well as to creativity, individuality, and spaceships. Funny as hell.As a bonus: If for some reason your kids didn't like LEGOs, hopefully this will do the trick.
LIFE ITSELFA documentary that scales the life and work of Roger Ebert, the most decorated film critic in the history of the business. As a bonus: If you're a film critic, this will really, sincerely make you feel good about what you do for a living. And if you're just a movie person in general, it will simply just make you feel good.
MANAKAMANAA weird, formless movie that follows a series of passengers on a cable car traveling to and from the Manakamana Temple in the mountains of Nepal.As a bonus: The one American featured in the movie is... comically American.
MOOD INDIGOMichel Gondry's whimsical tragedy (if such a thing ever existed, it was Mood Indigo) about an eccentric couple that falls victim to one party's fatal illness.As a bonus: Gondry's Science of Sleep-style imagery is in full force here, even in the darker chapters of the feature.
NIGHT MOVESThe second Jesse Eisenberg picture on the list: this time, he's an eco-terrorist whose plans to blow up a problematic dam go awry. A rare gem that captures thrilling tension and precise intimacy at once.As a bonus: You'll learn a few things about living "green." Just don't blow up too many dams.
OBVIOUS CHILDA traditional rom-com — she's kooky, he's serious, and New York is a palpable character (man, They Came Together really got it right), but fresher, funnier, and centered around the process of getting an abortion.As a bonus: Although Obvious Child doesn't seem to have any political angles, the fashion in which it treats abortion is particularly important in the interest of quelling the stigmas facing those pursuing the option.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVEPossibly the best thing to come out so far in 2014, Jim Jarmusch's story about a pair of madly-in-love but decadently depressed vampires uses the mythology of immortality to discuss just how sad mankind is getting, and just how sad a man can be.As a bonus: It's basically a love letter to classic rock. If you're a music lover, this is a must-see.
PALO ALTOA fever tream about suburban teen ennui, involving the stories of three high school students and a lecherous soccer coach.As a bonus: Hey, we've got another Coppola now!
Abramorama via Everett Collection
PARTICLE FEVERA chipper, accessible documentary about the Higgs-Boson particle and the nature of existence altogether. It doesn't condescend but it doesn't shoot too far over your head, either.As a bonus: It's a movie about the very fabrics of the universe. What more do you need?
SNOWPIERCERWhere do we begin? Long after the human race has been wiped out, a "super train" containing the last living people runs indefinitely, hosting a vicious class system that is about to be uprooted by a blue collar revolutionary.As a bonus: Tilda f**king Swinton.
UNDER THE SKINThis one is hard to explain. Basically, Scarlett Johansson drives around Scotland bringing men back into a black room containing a carnivorous liquid floor. Kind of. Just see it, okay?As a bonus: The movie helped one of its actors overcome the hardships of his disease.
WE ARE THE BEST!Three Swedish schoolgirls find agency and identity in the punk rock scene, forming a band and a tight friendship in this endearing and joyful tribute to the coming-of-age genre.As a bonus: HATE THE SPORT! HATE THE SPORT! NA NA NA NA HATE THE SPORT!
ZERO MOTIVATIONA weird mix of sincerity and loony surrealism, this Tribeca Film Festival entry about best friends toiling as grunts in the Israeli army is oddly funny, charming, and original.As a bonus: Imagine if Stripes were about kooky, petulant teenage Israeli girls.
Michael Jackson's pop star nephews 3T were left stranded in Europe on the fifth anniversary of the King of Pop's death after they were caught up in the chaos of France's air traffic controllers strike.
The singers, Taj, Taryll and TJ Jackson, travelled to the Italian city of Milan this week (beg23Jun14) to attend a fashion show, and planned to head home to California on Tuesday (24Jun14) ahead of the anniversary of the superstar's passing the following day (25Jun14). However, they faced a travel nightmare after arriving at the airport to discover industrial action in France had affected outgoing flights.
TJ updated fans in posts on Twitter.com, writing, "Just got to the airport to head home and apparently there is a strike from the Italian air traffic control. The wait game begins... So it's a French air control strike... But I still have nothing but love for (the French) so it's all good. A lot of free time to play guitar..."
The brothers managed to board a flight to London later on Tuesday evening, but they were unable to catch a connection to Los Angeles so they had to spend the night in the British capital. Taryll tweets, "Hello (Britain)... Well it looks like I'll be staying the night here in London & heading home first thing in the morning."
The group spent the morning of the emotional anniversary in London before they were finally able to board a flight to L.A., with TJ confirming, "Finally heading home."
The Thriller hitmaker passed away on 25 June, 2009 following a lethal dose of the anaesthetic Propofol.
Michael Jackson's friends, family and fans joined together on Wednesday (25Jun14) to mark five years since the King of Pop's death. The Thriller hitmaker passed away on 25 June, 2009 after suffering an overdose of anaesthetic administered by his doctor, Conrad Murray, who served two years in jail on an involuntary manslaughter charge for his role in the tragedy.
The fifth anniversary of Jackson's death prompted a flood of tributes on social networking websites, with fans across the world sharing their memories of the pop superstar and making #MichaelJackson a trending topic on Twitter.com.
A number of stars also took to the website to mourn the loss of the singer five years on. British supermodel Naomi Campbell shared a picture of herself posing with Jackson with her hands on his face, adding, "I miss you #MJ #RIP with #angels #kingofpop #loyalfriend #legend# #Icon #MichealJackson in our hearts... (sic)."
Rapper/actor Ludacris adds, "R.I.P. The King Of POP M.J."
Jackson's pop star nephews, Taj, Taryll and TJ Jackson, of 3T, were stranded in Europe on the day of the anniversary due to a strike by French air traffic controllers, but they managed to add tributes to their late uncle before boarding a plane back to California to be with their family. Taryll writes, "To my idol, teacher, uncle and best friend... 'I love you more'. #alwaysinmyheart #love #foreverMJJ #bestofalltime (sic)," while his brother TJ, adds, "Not a day goes by where I don't think about him. And today even more so... His smile, his laughter, his walk, everything. Love you, Doo Doo."
The co-executors of Jackson's estate, John Branca and John McClain, also released a statement to mark the fifth anniversary of the singer's passing. The message, posted on Jackson's official website, reads, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael's loved ones today as we remember the kind, gentle and giving spirit who generously shared his amazing artistic gifts with the world along with a limitless empathy for those in need. Time has shown that with each passing year the world's appreciation deepens not just for Michael's talent but also for his lifelong passion to spread peace, unity, love and hope across every culture and society. Michael's friendship, kindness, humour and joyful warmth will always be missed. The world is a far better place for having known him."
A number of memorial events are planned around the world on Wednesday - American fans are set to come together for a candlelight vigil around his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, while other gatherings are planned in countries including Spain, Holland and the U.K. Fans are also expected to visit Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana.
A one-night-only production of American composer Cole Porter's variety show The Ambassador Revue is set to be staged in New York, 85 years after it debuted in Paris, France. The original 1929 show featured singers like Morton Downey and Evelyn Hoey performing a collection of Porter tunes, but the production closed after a few months and the tracks were never heard outside of Europe.
The songwriter went on to return to the U.S. and find fame with hits like I Get a Kick Out of You from Broadway musical Anything Goes, What Is This Thing Called Love from Wake Up and Dream, and one of his most popular releases, Night and Day, which was covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Eartha Kitt, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
The revue songs were long thought lost until musical theatre historian Ken Bloom and bandleader Vince Giordano discovered the missing compositions in an archive at Universal Music's offices in Milan, Italy, and tunes like Boulevard Break and Blue Hours were heard in a revived production in Paris in 2012.
Now the pair is taking The Ambassador Revue to the Big Apple, where Porter fans will be treated to a collection of 'lost' tracks with singers, tap dancers and showgirls taking part in the one-off show at The Town Hall in New York on 27 June (14).
Former The Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat will star, while Bloom will direct and Giordano, who arranged the show, will perform with his band the Nighthawks.
Veteran heavy rocker Dave Lombardo has joined Casey Chaos' group Amen for an upcoming album and tour. The former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo will join Chaos and Amen's latest line-up, featuring bassist John Fahnestock and guitarist Duke Decter, when the band tours Europe in August (14).
Meanwhile, the five-piece has started work on a new album.
Lombardo says, "I am very proud to have been asked to be part of this amazing production. My career in thrash was created from my love of the punk genre. There is an excitement in this particular style of music that's vital for me. It's aggressive, honest and needed."
The drummer parted company with Slayer last year (13) following a contract dispute with the other members of the group. He has since been replaced by Paul Bostaph, who was Slayer's drummer from 1992 until 2001.
Sky Ferreira is battling worsening health troubles on tour after she was struck down by a sinus infection, a hand injury and an allergic reaction - all within four days. The singer has been busy promoting her album Night Time, My Time, while also supporting Miley Cyrus on her Bangerz world tour and playing a number of shows in Europe.
Ferreira was hospitalised with a nasty leg injury while on the road with Cyrus in February (14), and she has now told fans she is facing further health troubles.
She writes on Twitter.com on Wednesday (28May14), "I've managed to have a sinus infection & completely f**k up my right hand & have a crazy allergic reaction within 4 days. I love touring."
Ferreira still plans to perform at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday (28May14).
Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry fears the band will never record another full-length album thanks to the commercial failure of their 2012 release Music From Another Dimension! The record debuted at number five on the music charts and none of the four singles released, including Legendary Child and What Could Have Been Love, made it onto the Billboard Hot 100.
While Perry insists the rockers will continue to make new music, he admits they're wary about putting out another album.
He tells RollingStone.com, "I'm obviously disappointed (our last album) didn't work out the way it was supposed to. But on the other hand, once a record is out, it's out forever..."
He continues, "Our contract to Sony is fulfilled and we're free agents right now. We're trying to figure out what that means. I don't even know if making new albums makes sense anymore. Maybe we'll just release an EP every six months. I don't know what the future looks like."
Aerosmith are currently on tour in Europe.
Kanye West has fuelled speculation he is preparing to wed Kim Kardashian in Florence, Italy after revealing the couple's baby daughter was conceived in the city. The showbiz couple is set to marry in Europe later this month (May14), and although initial speculation pointed towards Paris as the location for the nuptials, reports now suggest guests will have dinner in the French capital before they are flown to Florence for the ceremony.
The rapper has now given a huge clue about the location of the wedding by revealing the couple's daughter, North West, was conceived during a trip to the historic Italian city.
In an interview with Florence's La Nazione newspaper, which was published on Friday (16May), West opens up about his love for the city and his personal connection to the area, saying, "I adore Florence. I love Italy and the Italian lifestyle. To tell you the truth, I already came to the banks of the Arno (Florence's river) with Kim last year, just the two of us, incognito. I think that our daughter North was conceived here among the Renaissance masterpieces. It was our first honeymoon. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world - for me the most beautiful in Europe."
West was speaking during a trip to the city this week (beg12May14) when he visited local fashion designer Ermanno Scervino. The publication reports that West and Kardashian have chosen Florence's historic Fort Belvedere for the wedding, which is said to be taking place on 24 May (14).
Stars including Boy George and Simon Le Bon have congratulated Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst, who triumphed at the annual Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night (10May14). The singer, real name Tom Neuwirth, caused a huge stir even before the event took place with his long hair, glamorous outfits and full facial beard.
Wurst triumphed for Austria with the song Rise like a Phoenix at the camp extravaganza in Copenhagen, Denmark, and stars took to Twitter.com to send their well-wishes to the winner.
Boy George wrote, "Gorge. A vote for gay solidarity!", while Le Bon added, "I'm glad #Austria won #Eurovision. Here's to beardy chicks the world over. Yas (wife Yasmin Le Bon) probably won't shave today."
Actor Simon Pegg was also thrilled by the winner, adding, "Holy sculpted facial hair! Looks like I missed a doozy after all. Good on you Europe for showing some trans gender love. #eurovison."
Rapper Action Bronson is returning to his culinary roots to front a new TV series about food. The heavyweight hip-hop star, who frequently raps about his love of food, used to work as a gourmet chef in New York before launching his music career and now he is drawing on his cooking knowledge for the series F**k, That's Delicious.
The show documents Bronson's food finds as he travels the world on tour, tasting local cuisines in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, the U.K. and Eastern Europe.
In the trailer for the new monthly series, which will debut online in May (14), he says, "People probably look at me and think he's not really like a cook or a chef. This is my life beforehand, so I could probably do this s**t with my eyes closed."
Bronson isn't the only musician to land his own food show - rapper Coolio also fronts an Internet series, while R&B singer Kelis recently scored her own programme on America's The Cooking Channel.