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The Top 20 Movies of 2014 — Part Two!

We’re exploring my favorite films of 2014!  Click here for part one of my list of The Top 20 Movies of 2014!  And now, onward…

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15.  Life Itself Steve James’ documentary about film critic Roger Ebert is a magnificent love-letter to Mr. Ebert himself, and to his passion: the movies.  The film is a fascinating exploration of Mr. Ebert’s life and career as a movie critic.  We dig into many of Mr. Ebert’s notable film reviews and opinions, and of course there is a lot of great behind-the-scenes details of his relationship with fellow At The Movies critic Gene Siskel.  It’s fascinating to explore Mr. Ebert’s approach to film criticism and to see how that appealed to and/or put off others.  But what makes this documentary extraordinary is that, at the same time as the film tells the story of Mr. Ebert’s life and career, it also follows him and his wife Chaz during the last year or two of Mr. Ebert’s life.  Mr. James and his cameras had impressive access, and we see the extraordinary challenges that Mr. Ebert faced in his last years, as cancer and surgery after surgery left him without the ability to speak, and missing most of the bottom part of his face and jaw.  I’d seen a few photos of Mr. Ebert from those years, but I never understood the depth of what this man went through.  This film presents a wonderfully compelling human story, one that is tragic but also joyful, and it’s all wrapped up in Mr. Ebert’s profound and infectious love for the movies.  (Click here for my original review.)

FADING GIGOLO

14.  Fading Gigolo John Turturro has created the best Woody Allen film in well over a decade!  This film, written and directed by Mr. Turturro, who also stars alongside Woody Allen, totally took me by surprise.  It’s rare to see Woody Allen appear in a film he didn’t write and direct, and it’s wonderful to see Woody give such a fantastic performance, full of life and joy and comedic zest.  Murray (Woody Allen) and Fioravante (John Turturro) are friends.  Murray’s used book store has closed, and he finds himself at something of loose ends.  When his dermatologist (Sharon Stone) mentions that she and her girlfriend (Sofia Vergara) might be looking for a man with whom they can have a ménage à trois, Murray offers to set them up with his friend Fioravante, for a modest finder’s fee, of course.  Fioravante requires some convincing, but eventually agrees to go along.  Thus begins an Murray’s unlikely career as a gigolo, and Fioravante’s as a male prostitute!  Everyone seems happy, but things get more serious when Murray encounters … [continued]