MY TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014
2014 is over, and it was a memorable year in film, with some real crackers wrapped up in it. There have also been some disappointments, but the good outings more than outweigh the bad. My list refers to films I saw for the first time in 2014 (some whilst in France where release dates differ), and so there may be some crossover with films released in late 2013 in Britain.
10) How I Live Now
The singular vision of director Kevin Macdonald and the strong performance of leading lass Saoirse Ronan led to this film’s retention at the number 10 spot whilst other onscreen exploits slid by. Its beautifully-shot thrills and emotionally-driven plot stand up well on second watch.
9) How to Train Your Dragon 2
A heartwarming animated film, this sequel is almost the equal of its surprisingly brilliant predecessor. Seeing Hiccup and Toothless go on the search for more dragons, and unexpectedly finding a great deal more than that, it’s an emotional and well-constructed little gem.
8) Only Lovers Left Alive
A low-key but intelligent art film about vampires (not something you hear very often), Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton complement each other fantastically in Jim Jarmusch’s latest, which is also subtly funny (the name of John Hurt’s supporting character is a case in point). The film hasn’t gotten enough publicity since release to become more widely known, which is a darn shame.
A unique look at love in the technological age, with Joaquin Phoenix proving his versatility as greeting-card writer Theodore Twombly, a divorcee who falls in love with his new phone’s Operating System, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She also does a brilliant job, giving her best performance to date (though she is good in Under The Skin, which I appreciated but felt was overrated).
6) The Grand Budapest Hotel
Quirky, heartfelt and well-written, The Grand Budapest Hotel boasts a great turn from Ralph Fiennes as the concierge of the titular establishment, and also finds time to be serious about the horrors of war. Full of famous actors in supporting roles and buoyed by a sense of zany joy, it’s a film to savour and laugh at in equal measure. It does many things, and it does them with a marvellous grace.
5) 12 Years A Slave
A harrowing yet brilliant depiction of the inhumanity and irrationality of slavery, powered by a subtle performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor and a manic turn from Michael Fassbender. It may not be entertaining, but it’s important, and at times beautiful in its own way. The sound design is inspired too, and the film’s images have lived long in my memory.
4) Guardians of the Galaxy
The shocker of the summer for me, Guardians of the Galaxy was a shot of pure, unadulterated fun. Featuring humans, animals and aliens of all sizes and colours, it had a heartening message about finding your own group of people, which speaks to the student in me no end. There were also some explosions and some hammy baddies alongside an intergalactic whatsit device and a sprinkle of comic-bookese that the leyman wouldn’t understand to balance it all out, never fear. The soundtrack was out of this world too.
This was a big surprise – not that Christopher Nolan’s latest clever epic made my top 10, but that it isn’t sitting right at the top of the list. It is very good, with all of the hallmarks of a classic Nolan film – good acting, a labyrinthine plot and clever ideas – but there is still the sense that it reaches a little too far for its own good. In being the most ambitious and emotional film Nolan’s ever made, Interstellar may have ended up compromising itself in other senses. I need a second watch to be certain, but certainly on a first spin it’s not as immediately good as Inception, The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises. It’s relatively speaking a disappointment, but still better than every other blockbuster out last year.
An interesting and never-before-tried cinematic experiment, Boyhood had to get on the list somewhere. The reason it didn’t make the top spot was because it wasn’t as purely satisfying a film (just by its very nature) as the one above it. Still, it’s a well-acted and emotional journey through the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 6 to 18, which director Richard Linklater filmed sporadically over 12 years. The last hour, during which Mason ages just a few years, was particularly affecting and chimed with me on the subject of what sort of person you want to be, and in its portrayal of that most frightening of times for any student: becoming an adult. Also, as per Edge of Tomorrow (see below), the end credits song was perfect.
A bittersweet, slow but very moving look at family life in midwest America, this has all the elements of a perfect film but takes its time in putting them together. Bruce Dern and Will Forte are excellent as the alcoholic father and put-upon son respectively, and are two of the many reasons why Nebraska hasn’t shifted from the top spot since I first saw it last April. It may be in black-and-white, but don’t let that put you off – it’s darn near a masterpiece.
Dallas Buyers Club – The film that first convinced me that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto could act, and act seriously, Dallas was the cinematic equivalent of a wake-up call in terms of its message. You only get one life, so live it. Unsubtle, perhaps, but necessary.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – This intelligent sequel was something of a dark simian, with Andy Serkis fantastic as head honcho ape Caesar. The ideas the film plays with are extremely of-the-moment, especially when you see apes handling guns.
The Lego Movie – Inventive, colourful and surprisingly bang-on with its clever skewering of society, this was an unexpected but fully welcomed blast, if not quite as good as everyone said it was.
Edge of Tomorrow – A time-travel action film with a sense of humour, featuring emotional engagement, a good Tom Cruise performance and a hell of an end credits song. Unexpectedly fun.
What were your top ten films/ favourite films of 2014? Feel free to leave a comment below.