square-eyed-geek’s Top Ten Best Films of 2014

2014 was yet another year of filmic goodness on both the big and small screens. So once again here is square-eyed-geek’s countdown of the top ten best films of the year. I’ve bent my usual rules slightly this year (any films in the list must have been released in the UK in 2014) by including a few films I saw at The London Film Festival. While they’re not on general release in the UK yet, as far as I can tell they aren’t going to be released over here AT ALL. So rather than miss those particular gems off this list, I’ve left them in to spread the word about them…and because they’re just too amazing to not mention. There are also plenty of brilliant films that I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to see this year and that most likely would have been included if I had seen them (The Babadook and Boyhood being just two I can think of), but this list is still full of plenty of the best films 2014 had to offer us. But enough of all that, here is square-eyed-geek’s top 10 of 2014…

10: The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s film about self-made billionaire Jordan Belfort revels in greed, excess and debauchery, resulting in a film that is rude, crude and ridiculously funny. With a razor-sharp script by Boardwalk Empire regular Terence Winter this story never knows exactly which part of Belfort’s life is myth or legend, something that both Winter and Scorsese play on through the use of Belfort as our own unreliable narrator. With a fabulous cast jam-packed with outstanding performances, the obvious standout is Leonardo DiCaprio who relishes the anarchic chaos of this corrupt man’s life, in a lead role that many thought should have got DiCaprio his first and very overdue Oscar.

9: Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

Just when you thought you’d had more than enough of vampire films, Jim Jarmusch comes along and completely redefines the genre. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play the two centuries-old vampires in question, bored and continuing to drift through time in an atmospheric film that revels in their beauty and charm. Effortlessly cool and with dreamlike, ethereal visuals and a haunting soundtrack, Jarmusch creates a mesmerising film that you simply want to ooze into.

8: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Along with The Avengers (2012), this was definitely one of the most fun Marvel films we’ve had so far. The retro sci-fi feel that director and writer James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman bring to the story make it a comic book film with a difference, as do the unusual band of misfits (including a tree and a talking raccoon) out to save the world, rather than the clean-cut heroes we’re so used to. Tongue-in-cheek and effortlessly charming, Guardians was fun in big capital letters and finally gave the amazing Chris Pratt the lead role he’s deserved for so long.

7: The Mule

The Mule

While the plot doesn’t exactly sound like the most riveting experience – an unsuspecting drug mule detained by the police tries not to go to the toilet – this Aussie film written by Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell focuses instead on the characters and the tensions between them, creating something more exciting than most action films. Funny yet with a satisfyingly dark and stomach-churning edge that directors Sampson and Tony Mahony revel in, this is cult comedy at its finest, with a great turn from Hugo Weaving as a deranged cop and Sampson himself as the gentle giant detained for drug smuggling. Uncertain at the moment for a UK release date (it was released in the US on iTunes but only screened at The London Film Festival over here), hopefully UK viewers will eventually get the chance to see this gem of a film in the future.

6: Nymphomaniac: Vols. I and II

Nymphomaniac: Vols. I and II

Lars von Trier’s epic double feature wasn’t loved by everyone (as usual), but for a long time this was going to be my number 1 film of the year. A female nymphomaniac (Charlotte Gainsbourg) recounts her life to a kindly man (Stellan Skarsgård) who takes her in from the streets, in a controversial film that uses real sex scenes to bring her story to life, something that makes the second, darker volume extremely difficult to watch at times. Episodic but never boring, as well as anarchic and surprisingly very, very funny, both films also had a strange element of female empowerment to them (depending on your viewpoint). While the meaning behind the ending is very much up for debate, it can’t be denied that von Trier’s films are still both refreshingly different takes on the issue of sex and the female body, as well as groundbreaking works of cinema.

5: Calvary

Calvary

Poignant and darkly humorous, with a riveting central performance from Brendan Gleeson as a priest who may or may not be living out his final week after he hears a disturbing confession, John Michael McDonagh’s film is a fascinating study of faith and religious doubt, as well as the hypocrisy of religion and its followers. McDonagh’s script is pitch-perfect and almost lyrical in its approach, his direction taking in all the beauty of the Irish vistas, yet also the potential hidden horrors of the land and its questionable occupants, in an ominous and devastatingly sad film.

4: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows

Without a doubt the funniest film of the year. Writer/directors Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement bring a touch of New Zealand charm to the vampire film genre, cleverly lampooning those tropes we’ve seen time and time again by making a mockumentary about four house sharing vampires and the day-to-day problems they face. The result is a fresh, entertaining film with a brilliant central cast (complete with a very funny cameo from another Flight of the Conchords alumni). A delightful and downright hilarious watch. (Full review still to come!).

3: 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

A harrowing yet fascinating watch, this true story of a free man wrongly taken into slavery is also stunningly beautiful, as well as devastatingly real. Mostly this is due to director Steve McQueen’s bold choice to not shy away from showing any of the horrors of the slaves situation, as well as Sean Bobbitt’s use of affecting documentary style cinematography. Yet it is also down to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s brilliantly mesmerising performance as Solomon Northup, as well as other outstanding turns from an altogether amazing cast (in particular Lupita Nyong’o with her extraordinary and emotional turn as Patsey).

2: 10.000 Km

10.000 Km

One of the most heartbreakingly sad films I’ve seen in a long time, this was also my favourite film I saw at The London Film Festival. A couple’s long distance relationship plays out over various uses of technology (Skype, Facebook, etc.), but is this technology keeping them together or slowly breaking them apart? Carlos Marques-Marcet’s film feels surprisingly real through his use of direction and his choice to shoot parts of the film on the actual technology in question. Yet it is Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer’s brilliantly realistic performances, as well as an odd humour they add to the roles, that brings the relationship to life. 10.000 Km is undecided for a UK release date, but I sincerely hope it is released over here so more people can see just how beautifully sad it really is. (Full review still to come!).

1: The Guest

The Guest

This was the one film I saw at the cinema this year that I went in with very high hopes for…and that still completely blew me away. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett create a mash-up of thriller, horror, action, slasher and sci-fi genres to make something that both follows those usual genre rules, and also completely rips them up. The result is a wild, highly entertaining ride with trippy neon-soaked 80’s visuals, complete with a brilliant, thumping synth score and an amazing WTF ending. And let’s not forget one of the greatest and most unexpected performances of the year – a completely transformed Dan Stevens who is fascinating as the charming soldier who is welcomed into the lives of an unsuspecting family, and who is definitely more than he makes out to be. This is my number 1 film of 2014 for all of the above reasons, but also because it was one of the most refreshingly different and unexpected films I’ve seen for a very long time – the sort of film that is made with real passion and that reminds you that cinema is there for filmmakers to take risks, which is exactly what Wingard and Barrett did with this (and something that they will hopefully continue to do in the future). That The Guest was mostly overlooked when it was on general release at the cinema is a crime. (Full review still to come!).

 

(Films that just missed out on the top ten: Inside Llewyn Davis, Exhibition, Her, It Follows, The Falling, Tom at the Farm, American Hustle, Stranger by the Lake, The Grand Budapest Hotel, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Two Days, One Night).

And that’s it for 2014! There’s already plenty of films in 2015 that I’m looking forward to seeing (American Sniper, Foxcatcher, Birdman, Whiplash, Avengers: Age of Ultron), some of which will hopefully make this top ten list next year. Happy New Year everyone! And happy film watching for 2015…

(Agree or disagree with my top ten? Any films I’ve missed off the list? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!)

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~ by square-eyed-geek on December 31, 2014.

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