Friday, 26 December 2014

The 14 Best Films of 2014

So, now we are beginning the end of 2014, which can only mean it's time for a traditional countdown of the years best cinematic examples. Normally, I stick to a simple Top 10, but I've found 2014 to be a pretty great year for film, so due to the rebellious, trendsetting nature of this blog, I've extended this countdown to a Top 14 (because, y'know, 2014). And I'm just going to get this out there now; if there is a film you enjoyed and are disappointed/enraged/plotting my murder due to its absence from this list, chances are I simply didn't get around to watching it. After all, I can't exactly make it to every film released over the year now, can I? OK, sound good? Let's get to it.

Honourable Mentions:

Guardians of the Galaxy
American Hustle
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: Days of Future Past


14. Lucy

13. The Riot Club

12. 22 Jump Street

11. The Lego Movie

10. The Wolf of Wall Street

9. Oculus

8. The Imitation Game

7. The Babadook

6. How to Train Your Dragon 2


5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Acting as the first Wes Anderson production I'd seen, The Grand Budapest Hotel was as surprising as it was wonderful. Taking such an extraordinary cast onto such an extraordinary production was always risky, but it's a risk that paid off. Anderson's style is visually masterful, and unlike anything else this year produced. Playing with aspect ratios and heavily relying on the center of the frame allowed the film to look as interesting as the story it tells; a flashback inside a flashback as we learn the life and business of a hotel owner, but with such depth and characterization amidst Anderson's visual style. Funny in its own original way, appropriately dark when needs be, and riveting from beginning to end, The Grand Budapest Hotel was a stunning technical extravaganza with the story and characterization to support it. 

4. 12 Years A Slave
This is a film that best demonstrates the issue of having different release dates here and across the pond. Released to overwhelming critical acclaim last year in America, and way back at the beginning of January over here, 12 Years A Slave ultimately walked away with the top prize at this year's Academy Awards, and rightly so. Surprisingly, this film was loaded with A-List names, but each one gives their all, and 12 Years wound up arguably one of the most important films ever made. Relentless in its brutality but even more powerful in its emotion, this was a masterclass in storytelling. Telling an undeniably important story that spans twelve years is difficult, but director Steve McQueen pulled it off with ease, in a film that, at some point in their lives, everyone in the world must experience. Only 30 days into the year, and 2014 had unearthed its first all time classic. 

3. Gone Girl
David Fincher is a sublime filmmaker, and this year's offering only confirmed that. With a back catalogue like Fight Club, Se7en and The Social Network under his belt, he returned in 2014 with one of his very best films. An adaptation of the best selling novel, Gone Girl was so brilliantly bizarre, but so utterly captivating from beginning to end. Both Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were astonishingly good in their roles, with Pike pushing herself as a very strong contender come Oscar season next year. There are so many films about missing people, but so few are brave enough to tackle that story in an unusual way. Whilst much of this may have come from the novel, Fincher adapted it seamlessly, and Gone Girl is a dark, twisted tale of love and enough to put anyone off relationships for life. Maybe not the best date movie. 

2. Interstellar
Anyone who knows me will know how much it is killing me to place a "2" next to this film. Having waited over two years to see this, from my favourite director and inspiration, Interstellar did not disappoint. It is a breathtaking journey told across galaxies and dimensions, overloaded with stunning visual effects and technical achievements. But, it never forgets its roots. Nolan never forgets that Interstellar is the story of a man's love for his daughter, and this parental force guides the film from beginning to end. Add to that some of Hans Zimmer's finest soundtrack work, a selection of painfully intense action sequences, a more than healthy dose of cinematic ambition and an innovative approach to common scientific theories, and Interstellar is undeniably one of the biggest journeys ever explored on film. And to have every element of this phenomenal experience work faultlessly is just insane. Any other year and Interstellar would have taken No.1. But then, this happened. 

1. Boyhood

Boyhood is one of a kind. Nothing like this has ever been attempted before, and it seems very unlikely that anything will ever be able to replicate the effect that this extraordinary feat has. Richard Linklater spent twelve years filming intermittently in order to show both the fictional and real life childhood of a young boy, as he grows into a young man. What I respect most about Boyhood isn't its ambition, its acting or its style, although each are sublime in their own way. What gets me most about Boyhood is its sheer simplicity in its storytelling. Rather than have a disastrous upbringing for Mason Jr in which he lives life fully on the edge in an unrealistic way, Linklater simply let Ellar Coltrane grow, and adapted the film around him.

Boyhood represents life at its best, and its worst, and its most mundanely average. But it never lets you forget how simultaneously important, terrifying, stressful and enjoyable growing up can be. Capturing a plethora of emotions and feelings across a huge twelve year canvas, Boyhood is an unforgettable experience that I can't imagine anyone not enjoying. As previously stated, 2014 was a good year for film, and Boyhood is the very best of that wide category. Heartfelt, emotional and quite brilliantly simplistic in its huge ambition, Boyhood is a masterpiece that is just waiting to be discovered from generation to generation, whilst audiences forever will understand the generation of Mason Jr.

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