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Even though 2014 has come and gone in a flash, these films have burned brightly enough to land on this list intact, undiluted, and positively throbbing with accomplishment.

1.    The Imitation Game
    A big, big mind undone by small ones

2.    The Theory of Everything
    A woman deals with the physics of a man who mastered everything     except control of his own body.

3.    Gone Girl
    Follow your schemes.

4.    The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Farcical tale by *straight men (and women) that serves up the     absurd with a side of wry. *denotes comedic, NOT sexual preference.

5.    Birdman
    “I Believe I Can Fly” is meant to be a metaphor!  And an R. Kelly song, but     I digress.

6.    John Wick
    “Hello, I’ll kill you.  Won’t you tell me your name?”

7.    CitizenFour
    Need a personal shopper?  The NSA knows just what you like.
8.  Still Alice
    Even through the looking glass, this Alice doesn’t live here anymore.

9.  Wild
    Walking my way back to me.
10. A Most Wanted Man
    You don’t want to be wanted like this.

Plus, JM’s SF/Fantasy/Horror Shout-Out:
Whether down in Middle Earth or up in the cosmos, these departures from the mundane world of man make for a stellar visual journey.  No hotel needed.

Guardians of the Galaxy
A raucous raccoon, a one-word tree, a green girl-warrior, a brawny, literal brute, and a snarky Star Lord prove that, in space, EVERYONE can hear you scream…with laughter.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Bilbo, Thorin, and the Company of Dwarves have plenty of company at Lonely Mountain – so much that they almost have to rename it.  Jackson’s final chapter wraps up The Hobbit with a bow (the kind an actor takes at the end of a worthy performance).

It’s ALWAYS a drag when dad’s work means he can’t spend time with his daughter, especially when he returns decades younger than her.  Blame it on the stars, literally.  Nolan’s ambitious tale proves that light CAN escape from black holes when powered by a four-letter word that starts with “L”.

The Babadook
This creepy horror thriller from the folks down under will bring out the “crikey” in you.  Single mom, little boy, unwelcome visitor, dark house.  Seen it all before?  No, you haven’t.  Noah Wiseman’s performance is pure adrenaline.

A note about Scarlett Johansson: Props for performances in LUCY and UNDER THE SKIN.  She frequently succeeds even when the story goes adrift, with an ever-widening range that is part formidable, part vulnerable, and wholly effective.

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