My favourite films of 2014, in no particular order.
Big Bad Wolves (2013)
Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
IMDB Synopsis: A series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: The father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder.
Technically, this is a 2013 film so probably has no business being on this list but I really don’t care. It originally popped onto my radar with an endorsement from Quentin Tarantino, who said this was the best film of the year. I mean, he didn’t call me directly or anything, I saw his tagline on the internet and took it upon myself to check it out. I don’t always because let’s face it, Mr Tarantino hasn’t always been right (Hostel) but I thank him for this one.
I’ll try to keep these segments to bite-sized chunks, and not bog you down with too much waffle. Just know that BBW is not a pleasant film. It is hard to endure and frustrating to the point that, if you’re anything like me, you will be yelling at the screen towards the end.
It is brilliant and I have recommended it to lots of my less squeamish friends with the disclaimer, “It’s fucked up but amazing!” If you like your humour pitch black, your characters grubby and your areas as grey as fog (in terms of right and wrong), then this might be your film!
Director: Dan Gilroy
IMDB Synopsis: When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.
Another grubby little number, this time taking to the streets of Los Angeles in hot pursuit of Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy (for want of a better word) Lou Bloom, a man on a dubious mission to become the very best Crime Journalist/Ambulance Chaser in town.
I loved this movie. Jake is one of my favourites at the moment and he doesn’t disappoint as our desperate protagonist. He’s not very nice but a part of me wanted him to rise to the top of his game, however niche. Not really a feel good movie but compelling nonetheless.
Maps to the Stars
Director: David Cronenberg
IMDB Synopsis: A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.
I loved this and boy, is it nasty. Centred around a slew of famous and non-famous people living in the heart of Hollywood, it is an interesting and dark look at celebrity; of how fragile, fleeting and damaging it can be, if you’re lucky enough to ever taste it.
Mia W is always mesmerising and here she plays troubled Agatha, daughter of self-help author, Stafford Weiss (John Cusack). Also in the picture, is Agatha’s younger brother, Benjie, a Beiber-esque child star with his own issues.
On the other side of town, we meet Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), a washed up actress hoping to make a star turn in the remake of a film previously played by her late mother, Oscar nominated (for the aforementioned role) Clarice.
The climax is shocking to say the least and stuck with me for a long time after the credits stopped rolling, which is nothing new when dealing with Cronenberg of course. I was very impressed with the nuanced performances of the all-star cast and even Robert Pattinson‘s wannabe actor/limousine drive, Jerome, holds up well. A definite recommendation from me.
Nymphomania (Volumes 1&2)
Director: Lars von Trier
IMDB Synopsis: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.
Firstly, Uma Thurman‘s Mrs. H steals the show entirely, you will love her. Secondly, and I know it’s all there on the front of the tin, there is a lot of sex in this film. If you are at all prudish or averse to looking at a lot of penis/flap action then there’s really no getting away from it, so maybe this isn’t the flick for you.
But to write it off as gratuitous is probably unfair as I think the film is extremely well crafted. I love Von Trier anyway, though I have had my moments of doubt (the horrible Antichrist) so I went in with a clear idea of what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he tells Joe’s story, from puberty to present day, with humour and (sometimes) sensitivity.
It is an interesting look at sex addiction and what it might be like to live that way. It’s not all fun and games apparently, as Joe alienates herself from the people she loves, loses the way and ultimately ends up in some horrible predicaments. For more, I reviewed it here after I saw it at the cinema.
Director: David Fincher
IMDB Synopsis: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.
God, I really enjoyed Gone Girl which is exactly what I said about the book by Gillian Flynn. It’s only until the very end that I threw the print version across the room in frustration and I remain in the same frame of mind about David Fincher‘s interpretation.
I am resolutely not going to talk about what happens for fear of shocking spoiler alerts but I will say that Batfleck was ingenious casting, given the nature of the character of Nick Dunne. Ms. Pike is beautiful and unbalanced, again sweet casting for Amazing Amy.
All in all, I think this was done well and presents a fuller picture of the relationship between the two main characters than the book does.
Director: Jon Favreau
IMDB Synopsis: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
Chef is adorable and probably the most cheery film on this list. I mean so far we’ve had nothing but murder, abduction, missing persons, sex addiction and cocks. Sometimes you need a rainbow, am I right? Here’s your rainbow – Chef has feel good written all over it.
What I really liked were all the little technical flourishes as chef Carl Casper gets to grips with social media (such as the onscreen Twitter messages that pop up from time to time) and the power it wields, whilst also trying to be a good dad and something of a success. I want to watch this again soon, just because and I want to stuff my face with cheese whilst doing it.
Director: Leigh Janiak
IMDB Synopsis: A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night.
Honeymoon is another film I don’t want to go into too much depth about. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it and I think my experience was all the better for it.
I will say that it has a deep sadness to it, even now I feel a little heavy-hearted thinking about how the story unfolds. Beautifully shot and starring lovely Ingritte from Game of Thrones, it will leave you wondering a lot of things.
Director: Jennifer Kent
IMDB Synopsis: A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
I’ve never seen my husband more freaked out than he was whilst watching The Babadook. He disappeared for 20 minutes in the middle to ‘do a few things’ because he couldn’t face what was unfurling before him.
I wasn’t quite as terrified as I had expected to be but this is a movie experience so multi-layered and original that it sticks with you. I feel like a small piece of The Babadook followed me around for a few days afterward, forcing me to think about it continually.
The performances, of both Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, are incredible and the ending is left to the viewer’s own interpretation, something I love. There is nothing worse than being spoon fed all the answers. The antidote to all the Insidious (Chapter 1 through 68)/Sinister/Annabelle style films that just never live up to hype. If you love your horror, check it out asap.
Begin Again (2013)
Director: John Carney
IMDB Synopsis: A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.
Another rainbow drop, I’m not going to lie. This was a Sunday afternoon treat while I pottered about and the main draw was Knightley, because I love me some Knightley (remember?).
It turned out to be a really pleasant ride with a decent soundtrack. Even James Corden the Hollywood Actor didn’t bug me (I like him as a writer and comedian, okay?) but look, of course it was going to be.
It’s nice, hopeful and sweet – and it’s about finding yourself so what’s not to like? If you’re not into musicals or sunshine then perhaps you should skip it. But ask yourself this, do you hate joy?
Under the Skin (2013)
Director: Jonathan Glazer
IMDB Synopsis: A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. Events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery.
I feel like I need to watch this again because it was very good but I couldn’t coherently explain what happens in it. I won’t spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it but it is that rare type of movie that isn’t enjoyable per se but actually makes you think.
After I’d seen it, and at times I willed it to end – it was fucking odd, confusing and uncomfortable – I considered it long and hard and I’d say it’s one of the best films I saw last year. Weird review?
“I didn’t really enjoy it, it made me uncomfortable and I didn’t understand it – but it was the best film of 2014” ~ A Voluptuous Mind on Under The Skin, January 2015
Sounds fair. As for Ms. Johansson, what does one say? She’s stunning, sexual and at times (in other movies), not great. In this she appears, for reasons that will become clear (or maybe not), like a duck out of water and this calls for an unusual demeanor, which suits her range well.
I notice that this has appeared on quite a few ‘best of’ lists and I agree. It’s brilliant. But also, all those other things I said.
And that’s my list.
What also nearly made the list but then got bumped: Boyhood, Edge of Tomorrow, Starred Up and Obvious Child. The rest of the films I saw throughout the year were pretty meh. I don’t know if you can say it was a fine year for film or not – but it was okay.
My final word: prize for the most bizarre, cray, enjoyable pile of shit movie of the year goes hands (flipper?) down to Tusk. Mental.