The end of the year wouldn’t the same without a list. So here is mine, a look back at my favourite films of 2014, the entertaining, the alluring and the astonishing. First off though apologies to those films I have been unable to see but I imagine may have made it to the list for example What We Do In The Shadows (which criminally had no screenings in my area), Only Lovers Left Alive, Obvious Child, The Guest and Leviathan. This list, and perhaps the absence of some films, will if nothing else show that while I am a passionate cinema goer, I can always try harder next year to fit in as many films as possible.
13) Edge of Tomorrow
Proving that Tom Cruise still has the movie star bang for your buck, Edge of Tomorrow is an unashamedly big brazen blockbuster with a killer premise that the summer was crying out for. With a nod to Groundhog Day, the film sees Cruise’s reluctant soldier living the same day in battle over and over again until he can find a way to defeat an alien invasion. Featuring some ingenious set pieces and a sense of playfulness between the blistering action, it also provides the Cruise haters a chance to see him die multiple times in multiple ways.
12) Two Days, One Night
The Dardenne Brothers are masters of simple, understated social cinema and their latest film continues their gift for raw cinematic realism. Marion Cotillard uses her entire emotional range and physicality to portray Sandra, a woman who has to persuade her 16 colleagues, one by one, to vote for her to keep her job and forgo their bonus. She is a woman trying to keep her dignity whilst battling depression. Cotillard plays with a moving nuance. The Dardennes once again have made a classic social realist drama, entirely relevant in our recession hit times.
11) 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen’s arduous masterpiece was one of the most important films of the year and rightly deserved recipient of the best picture Oscar back in March. It is a film however that is more admired than enjoyed such is the powerful nature of the subject. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an incredible expressive performance that uses his expressive face to say a thousand words, Michael Fassbender becomes the ultimate Fassbastard and Lupita Nyong’o breaks your heart with repeated devastation. Perhaps not repeat viewing but essential never the less.
Without doubt, Ida is the most exquisitely composed and shot film of the year; it also has the emotional gravitas to match its striking cinematography. A young Polish woman on the verge of committing to life as a nun embarks on a trip with her aunt to find out about her heritage. Superbly restrained with wonderfully judged performances, Ida arrived with little fanfare but is the type of film whose quiet dignity will find its deserving audience.
Review at New Empress http://newempressmagazine.com/2014/11/in-review-ida-on-dvd/
A milestone movie that was 12 years in the making, Richard Linklater’s adolescent opus is a majestic chronicle of life and love. The ebb and flow of a boys (and in turn a families) life are captured with delicate detail. The years melt away seamlessly, leaving the viewer to question where their own time has gone. A film of monumental dedication and authenticity, Boyhood is an astonishing achievement, a film about time for our time.
A British film that proves sometimes we are the best at doing this type of cinema-heart-warming, rousing and bitter-sweet. Pride charts the unlikely alliance between the lesbian and gay community and a bunch of Welsh miners during the 1980s strikes, finding friendship and solidarity in their own battles. It deserved to be a bigger hit at the cinema as not many films this year could rival the combination of laughs and tears that Pride so richly produces.
7) The Babadook
The most effective horror is the type that makes us care (such as Rosemary’s Baby) and The Babadook not only provided spine tingling scares but also made you feel for our tormented female protagonist. Hailing from Australia actress turned director Jennifer Kent seriously impressed with her haunting debut about a widow and her troubled son battling a supernatural entity from a terrifying book. Using old school techniques and dark shades of expressionism, The Babadook was a chilling treat for horror fans but also a nightmare for those wanting a good night’s sleep.
Drenched in celluloid sleaze, Dan Gilroy’s seedy LA fable for the media obsessed generation was a fabulously immoral thrill ride through the neon streets of crime journalism. It also provided us with a Batemanesque anti-hero in Ed Bloom, a dubiously ambitious go getter played by a never better Jake Gyllenhaal. Dark, dirty and loaded with a twisted performance by an A-Lister on his A-game, Nightcrawler was a grimy guilty pleasure and a socially screwed satire.
5) Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn’s mega selling page turner was turned into a mega hit by thriller maestro David Fincher. Taking the source material and ramping it up to devilish detailed precision, Fincher creates the ultimate battle of sexes with entertaining calculated cruelty. There is pitch perfect casting as always with a stand out performance from English rose turned ice maiden Rosamund Pike and the film is scored with brooding menace by Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose. A bonafide hit that justifies the hype.
4) The Grand Budapest Hotel
Any Wes Anderson film is destined to end up in my favourite films of the year and The Grand Budapest Hotel did not disappoint. A confection of retro elegance, styled high jinks and an ingenious jailbreak, Anderson’s film will not convert the naysayers but it does delight the devotees of Wes’ wonderful world, as jam packed with intricate details and offbeat charm as ever. Alongside previous Anderson alumni Brody, Goldblum and Defoe, new recruits Tilda Swinton, Mathieu Amalric and Saoirse Ronan fit perfectly into the mix. Meanwhile Ralph Fiennes seems to be having the time of his life as M Gustave, the legendary concierge of the famous hotel, he is like an old school movie star with a touch of Basil Fawlty. As always the whimsy is peppered with the bittersweet, creating a wild and wonderful adventure to sit alongside Anderson’s best.
3) Inside Llewyn Davis
Perhaps a little forgotten about in the end of year lists due to its early arrival, the Coens latest should be treasured for the charmingly blue gem that it is. Set in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s, Llewyn Davis features a soulful performance from Oscar Isaac as our flawed protagonist trying to achieve the seemingly unachievable amidst an uncertain world. The Coens contrasts of warmth and harsh cold realities combine to make Llewyn Davis a mini melancholy masterpiece.
Review at New Empress http://newempressmagazine.com/2014/05/in-review-inside-llewyn-davis-on-dvd/
Loosely based on the character Frank Sidebottom, a creation by eccentric British musician Chris Sievey, Frank was a somewhat unknown entity when it appeared at the cinema. But what emerged was a quirky yet genuinely warm musical comedy as Michael Fassbender donned a paper mache head to play Frank, a surprising piece of casting that instantly felt like the role he was born to play. Lenny Abrahamson’s film manages to sidestep the easy route of poking fun at a bunch of oddball characters, The Soronprfbs and instead brings real emotion in the bouts of mania. Domnhall Gleeson’s Jon is adorably naïve as a young man out of his creative depth and Maggie Gyllenhaal is coolly psychotic as the temperamental Clara. Yet this is Fassbender’s gig, his Frank is playful, enigmatic and, when the time comes for it, heartbreakingly vulnerable. The final scene delivers a gut punch of loaded emotional resonance that has been quietly unsaid throughout the film and lingers in the memory long after. Prepare for a rapturous experience.
1) Under the Skin
This was a film I was prepared to find pretentious, even though Jonathan Glazer’s previous work I had admired, it was the thought of Scarlett Johansson, trying her hand at arthouse, pouting as a sexy alien that seemed irksome. And Johansson is a sexy alien that does pout her way through Glasgow yet this is turned on its head to produce the most entrancing, hypnotic experience at the cinema this year. A bold and disturbing piece of filmmaking, Under the Skin truly lives up to its name, mesmerising its viewer in a spell akin to Johansson’s man hunter alien who lures her prey. The film also has the best score of the year in Mica Levi’s haunting, unsettling music that elevates and enhances the terrifyingly compelling images onscreen. With Under the Skin, Glazer has created a sci fi classic for the modern era, one that makes ourselves feel alien, to look at cinema again with new eyes and encounter a distinctive, unforgettable film.
Full review here https://stakesinatripod.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/under-the-skin/