2014 was a year of great soundtracks and captivating performances from actors that put themselves out there in a new creative realm.
Here's a few of the best movies of 2014 that centered around original music.
From behind a paper mache mask, Michael Fassbender played Frank with near perfection. Based around a strange alternative soundtrack and even stranger characters, Frank was an enlightening drama/comedy that further proved Fassbender's abilities as a leading actor and brought him notoriety as the frontman of the fictional band, Soronprfbs. Their music is hard to categorize but could be viewed as a eclectic and messy mix of a poetic Jim Morrison, folk sensibilities, noise rock, and Talking Heads. With notable hooks and a mind melding mash up of musical styles, Frank was a movie that didn't only provide a great story, but made relatively unlikable and cold characters some of the best of 2014.
Frank is a dark, music infused comedy that drifts in to the rabbit hole of mental illness while never abandoning its big hearted tale of friendship, loyalty, and the family-like relationship that's formed between this socially awkward group of musical geniuses. Frank sheds light on numerous thematic topics including mental illness, our modern obsession with social networking, and how emotional instability can either fuel the fire of creativity or can be its worst enemy.
Although Frank didn't get much mainstream attention, it's one of the best friendship stories of last year and truly deserves more notoriety than it got. It's on streaming services now and will hopefully gain a cult following. If anything, this movie proves that Michael Fassbender owns the screen, even when he's hidden underneath a large mask.
Boundless chemistry between leads, Knightley and Ruffalo, mixed with a shockingly good performance from Maroon 5 frontman, Adam Levine, makes Begin Again one of the sincerest films of 2014. Hailee Steinfeld and Mos Def both play in supporting roles while a mopey Catherine Keener plays third wheel to all of them. But the main star of the film is the hook based music and Knightley's truly gifted voice for folk oriented pop songs. Yes folks, she really sings and she's torturously good.
Based around hit worthy songs and excellent vocals from Knightley and Levine, Begin Again was marketed as a chick flick but ended up being one of the better music oriented films of 2014. Even though the recording process in the movie was a far stretch from reality, the film is a relationship drama/comedy that relies just as heavily on its music as it does on its weighty and dynamic cast.
Begin Again succeeds in its nearly perfect delivery of its heart tugging message, yet struggles with its overtly sentimental plot points that tend to feel a bit unrealistic if not too sugary sweet at times. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't fall in love with this movie immediately. This isn't the type of film you don't like. Begin Again is drama, musical, comedy, and lower budget indie blended into an experience with characters that feel grounded and lifelike. And again, the soundtrack and outdoor musical performances made this a unique experience at the cinema with main characters you just want to see succeed at life.
Sadly, I hadn't seen Rudderless before we published our best of 2014 list. This overtly emotional experience through the eyes of a mourning father brings moments of pain, depression, and creativity to light while relishing in nearly unbearable moments of parental anguish. The pairing of Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin is a perfectly timed gesture that offsets the dark themes of Rudderless. As a directorial debut for William H. Macy, it's an astounding film that will speak to parents with an honest take on one of this world's hottest modern topics, school shootings. But the uplifting and nearly spiritual music is an added treat that will stick with you for days.
Rudderless further proves what most people have been saying for years. Billy Crudup is one of the best actors out there. He's extremely picky and eclectic when it comes to the types of roles he takes, which in turn leads him to brilliant, emotive, and distinctive roles like these. With Rudderless, Crudup gives a charismatic portrayal as a mourning father haunted by his son's death. You can literally feel his pain, his remorse, and can sympathize with his alcohol infused haze.
This movie went mostly unnoticed but deserves accolades for Macy's freshmen effort behind the lens, Crudup's natural performance, and Yelchin's talent for singing these songs. It's a sad day for domestic cinema when a movie this good gets no mainstream promotion and ends up buried beneath a slew of massive summer blockbusters. Crudup deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance here and the soundtrack should be respected for delivering top notch writing to a movie that truly fell by the wayside.