Published on January 9th, 2015 | by Michaela Buckley0
Top 10 Films of 2014
As the fight for good films to screen here in gloomy Southend raged on, there was a variety of big and small budget films that made it all worthwhile. The abundance of subversive and well-directed material also leaves little but the less obvious for the Oscars to go for this year, lets hope they warm up to the wild side…
10. The Lego Movie
Unexpectedly fresh, The Lego Movie offers all the laughs and action for the kids and witty commentary and heartwarming nostalgia for adults, it’s visually impressive and has a great ‘take it or leave it’ feel, which is exactly what we need in this sequel-infested climate.
A secret film showing offered this jewel of a movie which isn’t technically out in the UK until later on this month, but I saw it last year, so on the list it goes. Whiplash follows a young Jazz drummer under guidance of a ruthless teacher, and is the best kind of subversive film, one that utilises its genre material, which in this case is competition/underdog films and uses it to jump off to create new and exciting concepts that elevate it beyond its means. Some great performances in this film, with JK Simmons leaving out the syrupy conventions in favour of a gripping and sharp presence that has you both loving and hating his character.
8. Under the Skin
Scarlet Johansen plays an alien stalking men in Glasgow, Under the Skin is among those few films, such as 2001 and Irreversible whose astonishing sound design and patient scenes end up suffocating viewers with the tension. Wonderful cinematography and a haunting performance by Scarlet Johansen make this a wonder to watch; there’s certainly no question about how great this film looks and feels, but the sorry fact is, that ‘under the skin’ of it, there’s not a whole lot there, putting it at the lower end of the list.
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
It’s always a bit embarrassing to put superhero movies, and a sequel no less, on a list above Oscar-tipped films like Whiplash, but when it’s one that manages to step out from underneath an umbrella the size of The Avengers and the other superhero movies that have made awesome returns, while also putting something thought-provoking material on the table, then I am proud to put Cap 2 on this list.
I really wanted this to be my number one, but when I am in the middle of a cinema, laughing my arse off at a film for even considering that ‘love is a empirical science’, it’s a wonder it’s here at all. Interstellar is a film that wanted the heart to pull off something as bold as the above but neither has the wits nor the time to do so, not when there’s a space opera, hero flick and introspective on American ideals going on around it. For the same reason that I love Prometheus, Interstellar is here, not because of what it does or doesn’t do, but because it tried.
5. The Babadook
From Australia, The Babadook is a horror film about essentially the boogie-man, but far from the cookie-cutter thrillers we’ve seen before, it offers a great insight into motherhood, grief and solitude, that is unlike any other of its genre. There’s comical aspect to this film too, not quite Evil Dead, but an essence of satire and somewhat childish humour, that sometimes can pervade into the chilling segments. Strangely, it neither adds or subtracts from the film, but remains an oddity which is a part of the experience.
4. Gone Girl
David Fincher’s adaptation of the 2012 novel manages to capture all of the essence without dragging the negative weighty social issues that Flynn infected the novel with, allusive and weighty, Gone Girl was the film that had people leaving the cinema talking and it weighed heavily on minds long afterwards.
Without appearing tawdry, the film rounds out all of the important moments, especially the final sequence and allows the actors to breathe a little more nuance into the characters than the book could afford, fortunately, we are viewers in the affair and not lingering in their head space like in the novel.
A surprise winner for me was Nightcrawler, a film I was initially drawn to by the cool 80’s aesthetic reminiscent of Drive, but stayed for the American Psycho-esque character piece. Set in Los Angeles, a go-getting thief who seizes an opportunity to become a ‘nightcrawler’, someone who finds accidents and crimes and shoots footage to sell to the big television channels.
Featuring lurid visuals as well as sharp direction, the most captivating part of the film was Jake Gyllenhaal’s standout performance, having lost weight for the role, he creates a character that is at both empathetic and despicable, the film rolls on to a perfect climax.
Rene Russo also played her role as a TV exec to perfection, a refined yet emotionally unstable woman outside of Hollywood’s heyday, it will be great if the Oscars gives some recognition particularly to this film.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
I had never seen a Wes Anderson film before I saw this, but this film made me rush out and watch most of his films afterward. The Grand Budapest Hotel is what I would call his best film, visually arresting and full of vibrant characters and humour, the classic Anderson formula is applied and mixes well in this tale of a hotel owner framed for murder and on the run with his bellboy.
The set design and cinematography is stunning, set in a fictional European country, there’s nothing that looks quite like it, a hodgepodge of German, Russian and aristocratic French architecture and interior design, with warm colours to complement it.
Grand Budapest evokes British humour, casting Ralph Fiennes in the title role, amongst other famous actors in cameo or side roles, but unlike most grabbing films of this ilk, it uses its cast wisely and not too sparingly. There’s some brilliant performances from some unlikely actors, especially in funny roles, such as Adrian Brody as the antagonist, while the child actors were probably some of the most talented and charming that I’ve ever seen.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
Of course this was my favourite film of 2014. It has 80’s inspired sci-fi and comedy superheroes and features a talking raccoon!
Guardians managed to surpasses the fairly high expectations I had for it, being a Marvel Disney film we could all expect something worthy of our time, but the non-stop action of Guardians of the Galaxy I didn’t quite expect. Somehow the film manages to identify, subvert and exemplify common tropes found in superhero movies, amongst other things, and never gets old.
The characters are all fairly brilliant and even the obligatory female love interest had her moments, one of my favourite things I like to ask people who have watched the film, is who their favourite character is, because (apart from Gamora) everyone has a different favourite character, with Groot being the majority’s favourite.
People of all ages and backgrounds can find something to love in Guardians, I can only hope they manage to keep the momentum going after this.