Nightcrawler bolsters a fear that’s rattled my core since first it became clear that digital was here to stay: every schmuck with a video camera thinks they can direct. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, a determined drifter who taps his inner-video journalist to become a successful network news stringer. Don’t let his unblinking doe-eyes, hands-in-pockets demeanor, and proverbial gift of gab fool you. Within minutes of meeting Bloom, screenwriter and first-time director Dan Gilroy casts a purposeful light on his character’s basest instincts. What follows is a gritty urban comedy noir, a scathing, Network-worthy disembowelment of television newsgatherers that will leave you craving a shower. From its airtight script, seamless performances, and stunning night cinematography (praise be to Robert Elswit), no American film this year has reminded me why I fell in love with movies in the first place quite like this incandescent masterwork. With memorable supporting work by Renee Russo and Bill Paxton. (2014) — Scott Marks
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