Most WordPressers got their 2014 lists out of the way weeks ago. Better late than never. The year of our lord Two Thousand and Fourteen was a pretty good one for films, but there was an unmistakable atmosphere of panic, as all the little guys cleared the way before the boulder of 2015 blockbusters came crashing through the multiplex aisles and onto our screens. Not that weren’t still some huge productions because there definitely were: Interstellar, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy (my personal favourite among the big players), Transformers: Age of Eggs that Stink, and The Moses vs Noah biblical epics were all giant beyond comprehension but, let’s face it, they’re no Star Wars or Avengers II. My list has nothing no one else’s has, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. I’ll also include clips of my favourite scenes to stave off boredom… yours and mine.
10. Only Lovers Left Alive
2014 was a virtuous year for the vampire movie. There’s another one further down the list too, but let’s start with this startling drama from Jim Jarmusch and starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, which shrouds the prospects of immortality and a never-ending love life in sumptuous nihilistic dread. Would you really go around in convertibles, drink virgin blood or have two-month orgies? At first, yeah. But then after a century or two you’d get bored stiff, move to the dilapidated outskirts of Detroit to master seventeen instruments, and reminisce about the days when you use to sell Bach music at a tenner a sheet, occasionally disposing of a body in an acid bath while voicing your appreciation of Jack White.
Best Bit: Playwright/scholar/spy/bloodsucker Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), now four hundred and forty nine years old, dismisses his centuries-dead acolyte William Shakespeare as an ‘illiterate zombie philistine’. (V)Lad.
Russian movies don’t get much more Russian than this, a Russian film featuring Russians drinking Russian Standard Vodka in Russia and shooting Russian-made-Kalashnikovs at black and white portraits of ex-Soviet (as in Soviet Russia) political party leaders. There is also romance, heart break, betrayal, and a great deal of Russian speaking. And a dead whale. Probably Russian.
Best Bit: ‘That’s our shitty Northern sense of humour…’ No, this clip isn’t best bit, but it’s the best bit I can show that doesn’t give away major developments in the story.
8. Under the Skin
Most divisive film of the year? Possibly. Jonathan Glazer is best known for his grandiose music videos and Guinness advertisements, but the man can put a movie sequence together like very few others can. His chilling tale of an alien roaming the streets of Britain is marrow-curdling at times. It tears away the fragile fabric of reality, making it impossible to view a shopping centre or night club the same way ever again.
Best Bit: On one of her predations around Glasgow, Scarlett Johansson picks up a random man (a non-actor who had no idea he was on film) in her van, proceeding to ask questions about his life and repeating his answers to the letter. Spookily distant, her reptilian eyes belie her seductive tone, hinting at otherworldly beast hidden just below the surface.
Yes! Nicolas Cage can act again. Ex-con Joe is the closest thing to the mythical Paul Bunyon that there can be, roaming as he does through the land with a smoke in his mouth, an axe in one hand and a jack and coke that’s nine tenths bourbon in the other, making the best he can of bad situations and making no excuses for himself. David Gordon Green had better never make another ‘Your Highness’ if this is what he’s capable of when he sets his mind to it.
Best Bit: A man and his dog go to a brothel. Waiting for a punch line? There isn’t one. Check the film out.
Brendan Gleeson cuts a lonely figure in this oil-slick black comedy about the afterlife. Calvary’s mindful approach to its subject matter demands deep concentration. Not to be missed. Father Dead?
Best Bit: The troubled Father James (Brendan Gleeson) drops in for a visit to ex-parishioner Freddie Joyce (played by Brendan’s son, Domnhall Gleeson) an unrepentant cannibal murderer serving a life sentence. There’s no death penalty in Ireland, but if there were Joyce would probably request that his last meal be himself.
5. The Raid 2
The Raid! Two!
Best Bit: Tough choice. The ingenious main car chase features an astounding spot of kinetic cinematography in which an operator, disguised as a seat, passes the camera to a man taped to the unseen side of the speeding vehicle as it darts between traffic…BUT, the best scene has got to be the bone crunching jailhouse fight. Video below. I’d say enjoy, but ‘endure’ would be more accurate.
4. What We Do in the Shadows
From the men that brought you Flight of the Conchords comes this astoundingly funny, genre twisting mock dockumentary about Vampires, so groundbreaking that I was somehow able to write two thousand words of academic speak about it for my Documentary to Mockumentary coursework. If you thought living with a few humans was hard, try (un)living in a flatting situation with several other blood-starved immortals, one of whom is 8,000 years old. These boys have a serious vitamin B12 deficiency, and they get up to all kinds of no good in their crusade to cap(e)ture some.
Best Bit: Bisgetti.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
An outstanding acting ensemble (Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Roanan, Harvey Kietel et al) wrapped in a fabernache-alike set design coloured by a master class in cinematography and tied up with the most whimsical, far fetched but ultimately endearing screenplay of the year. Wes Anderson makes The Grand Budapest Hotel into something relatable despite the many dated concepts and characters – it’s a taste of the old world, and it is glorious. Make sure your TV remote works when you watch the DVD, because otherwise you’ll have to watch the whole thing in the wrong aspect ratio, which would be downright physically repulsive, to misquote M. Gustave.
Best Bit: Prison break. Oh, and every single indulgent super-drawn out mega zoom-in shot, of which there are many.
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
You can’t beat a Coen, let alone two of them. Even when they make musicals they own the show. Inside Llewyn Davis’ folk-tapping feet are firmly placed in tragic comedy, which overrides the sombre tone that some found disappointing after a boisterous romp like O Brother, Where Art Though? Played by the bottomless well of talent that is Oscar Isaac, flagging solo act Llewyn is as relatable as a main character can be; he has no control over his fate, he has no idea where he’s going and at the end of each day his struggles with cold-hearted music moguls and New York blizzards are undermined by the whims of a tabby cat called Ulysses.
Best Bit: Llewyn’s final gracenote performance in the Gaslight Cafe: ‘Fare thee well-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l…..’
I couldn’t find that particular clip, but here is an amusing video.
Life on film across twelve entire years, following a family growing up , sticking together and adapting to the challenges of an ambivalent universe. Richard Linklater put his own blood, sweat, tears and children into the making of Boyhood, and it is the most heartfelt and accurate a study of the ‘generation Now’ to date. If you can’t connect with this story you’re either dead or haven’t been born yet.
Best Bit: Too many. Like existence itself there are no grand moments of glory, no humanity-defining achievements; people sort of just get on with it, and try to have fun if possible. I’ll put a couple of favourite clips underneath.
Safe for staying alive another year so that you could keep up to date on my movie film website page. I know how much it means to you all. Or to me. Or something. If Boyhood doesn’t win the Oscars (best animation included) then I’ll have to go on a rampage in Los Angeles and take Neil Patrick Harris hostage #JeSuisMason.