Tuesday 30 December 2014

The best of 2014 part one

Welcome to my film blog. We'll kick off with a list of my favourite 25 films of 2014 so you can see the kind of stuff I like and then decide whether checking out "As human as the rest of us..." is going to be for you. Feel free to comment on my choices - whether you agree with them or not.

I've seen a lot of films this year - everything from arse-witted CGI tosh I, Frankenstein to bleak German religious drama, Stations of the Cross. To qualify, films had to have been released in the UK between January 1 and December 31 2014. That excludes the likes of Whiplash, Birdman and Foxcatcher, which are already out in the US but yet to surface here, and Snowpiercer which STILL hasn’t been released in UK cinemas (it would have been #8 on my list if it had).

Here are numbers 25 to 16...

25. The Lunchbox (Director: Ritesh Batra)
A gentle romantic comedy from India that also acts as a rumination on mortality and grief. The performances are terrific, the script sharp and tender. Best avoid the inevitable Hollywood remake.
24. A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn)
Stark, brooding spy thriller starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as a lugubrious German spook hunting potential terrorists in Hamburg. There are missteps – Rachel McAdams’ clumsily written immigration lawyer for one – but the quality of the story and acting easily outweigh them.
23. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
I hate most modern horror (lazy, clumsy, unimaginative, not scary) so this frightener from Australia was a pleasant surprise. Essie Davis is superb as a frazzled, grieving mum, Noah Wiseman only slightly less perfect as her disturbed young son.
22. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Triumph of the human spirit theme – check. Big-name actor physically transforming for role – check (x2). Subject matter involving a disability or illness – check. DBC was the very definition of Oscar bait (it won the two male actor prizes, plus best make-up) but still impressed. Matthew McConaughey’s was a career-best performance… for about five minutes until Rust Cohle and True Detective came along.
21. Locke (Steven Knight)
A Welshman sits alone in a car for 90 minutes jabbering increasingly frantically into a mobile phone as his world implodes around him. It's hardly an elevator pitch up there with Alien’s ‘Jaws in space’, is it? Still, what Locke lacks in spectacle and action, it more than makes up for in Tom Hardy’s assured, sympathetic performance. Utterly gripping.
20. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
An amazing story brought to powerful, harrowing life by a fine script and uniformly superb performances from an excellent cast. I was pleased it did so well at the Oscars (winning three awards including Best Picture) but still think Shame is McQueen’s best film.
19. The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)
This biopic of WWII hero and genius Alan Turing wasn’t perfect (it seemed terrified of exploring its subject’s homosexuality for a start) but Benedict Cumberbatch was a perfect blend of infuriating intellect and vulnerability in the lead role. A phenomenal performance.
18. Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg)
The Great Man’s scalpel-sharp, dark-hearted takedown of Hollywood pulled no punches - there appeared to be genuine malice in the satire, while bitter, washed-up actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is a monster to give even Brundlefly nightmares.
17. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
Gloriously bonkers pulp thriller the highlight of which is Rosamund Pike’s turn as the missing-presumed-murdered gone girl of the title. A twisty, turny delight that made me laugh more than it was probably intended to.
16. The Golden Dream (Diego Quemada-Díez)
Bleak but brilliant story of three Guatemalan teenagers trying to enter the US as undocumented migrants. Based on interviews director Quemada-Diez conducted with some 600 people over six years, it broke my bloody heart.

Come back later in the week for numbers 15 to 6...

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