The Best of 2014

The top ten

Under The Skin
Her
The Wind Rises
Ida
Boyhood
The LEGO Movie
Nightcrawler
The Guest
Nymphomaniac Vol. 1
Only Lovers Left Alive




Film Of The Year
Under The Skin

Under The Skin detaches the viewer from the identifiable shapes of conventional filmmaking, evoking an alien approach to such banal locations as shopping malls and roadside cafes. Watching the film is like discovering our trivial routines anew, from a removed perspective.”

A phenomenal piece of work. Dark, deathly serious, but hypnotic, fascinating, calculated in every single majestic, perfect shot. What initially seems cold and slow isn’t anything of the sort on subsequent viewings. Glazer’s film is a superbly paced study of our world from the outside looking in; a slow evolution that manages to achieve heart-rending connectivity despite it’s veneer of chilliness. Johansson’s performance is deceptive. Compare her in this to, say, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and you’ll see how much work she is doing. Some will inevitably dismiss this as the arty boring one where she got her kit off, but it’s so much more than that.

Following the initial, repetative ‘hunt’ section of the movie (itself a satisfying thriller set to the eerie pulse of Mica Levi’s unique score), Glazer’s film opens up, expands in ambition, revealing a cornocopia of questions about what makes us what we are – both the positives and the negatives. We’re a unique species, and this film is as fascinating as all of our terrible, beautiful foibles. Along with last year’s equally exposition-free Upstream Color (though tonally miles apart), Under The Skin points to a future of intelligent, iconic and purely cinematic films brimming with ideas, posing provocative questions. This resolutely is not for everyone. Many will outright hate it. But for me nothing came close to touching it in 2014. Quite what Glazer does next is anyone’s guess.



Her

“Jonze’s film is extremely provocative, yet feels as light as air. This is partly down to the sublime production design. Jonze’s near-future is as sleek and as minimalist as a GAP advert.”

Her is just wonderful. Durable (watched it six times so far this year!), funny, insightful and soulful, Jonze’s latest film is also his best. Credit to Joaquin Phoenix who holds the film through many, many long scenes, and equally to Spike Jonze for taking up the task of writing the superb screenplay. Everything about this parable hums with a serene and deceptive sense of ease. Hits the kind of notes most other films aren’t even aware of.



The Wind Rises

“Open up to it, luxuriate in the details, and you’ll find yourself in a rich world of nuance and empathy which seems likely to endure and reward repeat viewings.”

If The Wind Rises truly does transpire to be Miyazaki’s swan song (recent rumours suggest, hopefully, quite the opposite), then he’s finished on a high. The paper plane sequence is one of the most simply romantic of recent times, while the human voices substituting engine noises are a fun treat. A deeply human picture, and one of the finest biopics in any medium.



Ida

” It may appear cold as the snow, but there’s an undeniable warmth beneath that frozen surface. Humanity colours the film where Pawlikowski has left it monochrome. Until it feels disarmingly personal.”

Still humbling. One of those precious films that transports the viewer and changes perspective. It’s a contemplative piece, and one which requires attention and appreciation. You can’t half-watch this one on an iPad or during other busywork. In Ida Pawlikowski has crafted a film to be admired and loved like art, and in Agata Trzebuchoska he has found a soulful muse.



Boyhood

“As the parents grow older and see the shape of their lives, so we see the children turn their gaze to the world around them; open roads leading out into a world of possibilities. It’s fleetingly as if Linklater has captured a microcosm of humanity perpetuating itself.”

It’s uneven, especially in it’s early stages as Linklater copes with Ellar Coltrane’s youth and inexperience (the drunken step father storyline clearly acts as a patch for this), yet as it goes on Boyhood slowly begins to feel like a relative itself; not often seen but familiar and truthful and, in a strange way, comforting. A fine accomplishment and one which grows in stature with time.



The LEGO Movie

“LEGO didn’t need for this 100 minute advertisement to be great; their product continues to be so successful that it would go on just fine without it. It’s a coup for them that their brand will now be bolstered by – I’m calling it – one of the funniest American movies in years.”

The LEGO Movie is a complete success. Kids love it. Grown-ups love it. Lord and Miller’s frenetic creation has tonnes of re-watch value (there are so many little details to pick out in the backgrounds), and for pure entertainment value nothing matched this in 2014. And that third act? Superb creativity in a movie that celebrates a toy that celebrates creativity. Fitting.



Nightcrawler

“If Nightcrawler has any immediate flaw it is that, as events escalate, we start to lose a grip on Bloom as a person at all. He becomes a sort of media content Terminator, prowling the streets for his next victim.”

Gilroy’s voyeuristic Nightcrawler is an astounding showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal, reminding audiences why he was such an exciting prospect when he first appeared on the scene. The film itself is a slick, sinister ode the dark alter ego of L.A., and resonates with neo-noir renaissance of the early 80’s



The Guest

” It is only as the violence escalates, and David’s manner grows more and more unhinged (a phenomenal piece of charismatic acting from Stevens) that the bubble bursts and the audience is left in manic, B-movie free-fall.”

Utterly bonkers, but ridiculously enjoyable, Wingard’s The Guest is his first step out of the umbrella of indie-horror, an idiosyncratic action romp which should lead to bigger things. Dan Stevens is superb in the lead role of David, while the film’s synthy score ought to receive the same love that Drive‘s has encountered. Your cult-viewing recommendation of the year.



Nymphomaniac Vol. 1

“He’s always been a gifted storyteller, but Von Trier is positively on fire here, utilising everything from split screen, stock footage, black and white, different film stocks and aspect ratios, not to mention a recurring motif of layering text and/or diagrams over his images. Nymphomaniac Vol. I almost feels like a Von Trier greatest hits package.”

Take away the gimmicks itemised above and you still have a remarkably engaging, surprisingly funny film on your hands. Von Trier may be an incorrigible trickster, but the cinematic landscape would be a drab place without him. In addition, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 raises the number of superb films starring Shia LaBeouf up to one.



Only Lovers Left Alive

“Jarmusch’s film is happy to poke fun at its own elitist attitude, mocking hipster sensibilities continuously. The more extended punchline is that this film seems likely to be embraced by the very set it lampoons.”

Only Lovers Left Alive may lack narrative propulsion, but the joys here are worth languishing in. Hiddleston and Swinton are superb (especially Swinton) and Jarmusch hasn’t been this easily digestible in a little while. Plus, you get to see where Jack White grew up. Maybe.



The best of the rest…

Appropriate Behaviour
Inside Llewyn Davis
Gone Girl
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Horns
Two Days, One Night

12 Years A Slave
Obvious Child
The Rover
Calvary
Locke

The Babadook
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Lucy
Maps To The Stars

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