It’s that time again, when everyone is putting their end-of-year lists together and grading all the things they’ve done, read, watched and listened to, in the hopes that someone, somewhere, somehow, will give the slightest tiny shit about their tedious, uninformed opinions. So let’s get on with it!
All told, I saw about 70 newly released movies in 2014. In no particular order, they were the following (DEEP BREATH);
Uwantme2killhim?, Snowpiercer, After Tiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 12 Years a Slave, The Machine, Grudge Match, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Robocop, G.B.F., Godzilla, A Case of You, The Double, Gimme Shelter, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Calvary, Transcendence, A Long Way Down, The Lego Movie, Road to Paloma, The Armstrong Lie, Now You See Me, Under The Skin, Contracted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Frank, Nebraska, The Zero Theorem, Guardians of the Galaxy, Her, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Locke, Around the Block, Grand Budapest Hotel, Enemy, Charlie Countryman, Canibal, Best Man Down, Night Moves, Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent, Perfect Sisters, The Square, Nymphomaniac, The Guarantee, We Are The Best, Horns, The Monuments Men, The Unspeakable Act, Automata, The Returned, All is Lost, Whitey: United States of America vs James J. Bulger, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, What If, The Babadook, As Above/So Below, Belle, The Maze Runner, Lucy, Predestination, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gone Girl, Joe, The Purge: Anarchy, Tusk, The One I Love, Jimmy’s Hall, The Salvation, and last but not least, The Interview.
I also saw Mystery Road in 2013, but since it only got a proper release this year…I’m counting it. The films marked in blue are the ones I would heartily recommend to anyone who is looking for something great to watch.
Anyway, that’s why you won’t be seeing the likes of The Raid 2, Boyhood, The Rover, Interstellar, The Canal, Fury or any other of the myriad of potentially fine films released this year; because I haven’t seen them. Bearing all that in mind, these are my top 5 (drumroll, please):
5. Grand Budapest Hotel
How you react to this movie really depends on your overall perception of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre; if it’s too twee for your liking, you’ll probably hate it. However, if you adored Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic, or his adaptation of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, you will love this, his best work. Sumptuous to look at, filled with laugh-out-loud moments, and strangely poignant given the implied backdrop of Nazi-era repression, the Grand Budapest Hotel also features some of the finest comic acting this year, from a glorious cast. Tony Revolori gives a breakthrough display in the lead role, and who knew that Ralph Fiennes could do comedy?! Exceptional film.
John Michael McDonagh followed up The Guard with something a lot darker, more layered, more seedy, and harder to watch. The Irish auteur is fast becoming one of my favourite filmmakers, partly because he knows how to frame a great shot, and partly because he is economical with dialogue. His efficiency means that he can cram a lot of complexity into the characters and story within a relatively short running time, and a seven-day plot that moves along at a brisk pace. Props here to Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran, who both act against type to turn in quite heart-rending performances. Calgary’s pathos stays with you long after the end credits.
3. We Are The Best!
Easily the sweetest film of 2014, and my pick of the foreign language films this year. Based on Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel Never Goodnight, the adaptation is brought to the screen by Coco’s husband Lukas Moodysson, who takes the directorial reins with aplomb. It’s just a really lovely story about a couple of teenage girls growing up in early 80’s Sweden, enduring all sorts of hardship for being unapologetic, hardcore punks. The kids at the centre of the movie put in such earnest and talented portrayals that you can’t help but love them, and the whole thing is just beautiful to watch. An absolutely stand-out feature.
2. Mystery Road
This is a tale of identity, divided loyalties, justice, prejudice and honour. Set in present-day Queensland, this film is an homage to classic westerns, hardboiled detective stories, crime thrillers, and social dramas. A whodunnit in the Australian outback, with all the environmental beauty acting as counterweight to the grim deprivation of the people residing there, Mystery Road follows an aboriginal cop as he tries to solve the murder of a young indigenous girl. In so doing, he comes up against the understandable distrust of his fellow aboriginals, the racism of the local white populace, and even the feckless incompetence of his colleagues in the police force. Aaron Pedersen is outstanding in the lead role, but mention must also be made of Hugo Weaving’s electric supporting turn. A genuinely unique and brilliant film.
It’s funny; the other films on this list – and the one which barely didn’t make the cut, Predestination – are all visually complex affairs, with hard work required to execute the director’s vision. This, in sharp contrast, is the simplest of aesthetics; one man, in a car, at night. Of all the features listed, this is the one that sounds like it could easily be a stage play, or indeed a radio play. There doesn’t seem to be much to it.
Boy is that a daft assumption.
Oddly spectacular despite it’s limitations, Locke is the story of the eponymous Ivan Locke, a construction engineer working on the biggest job of his lifetime, who makes the sudden decision to abandon his career obligations in order to…you know what, I won’t spoil it. Just watch the damn thing!
Tom Hardy is simply extraordinary, a magnetic and mellifluous man at the helm of a tough, gnarled, strangely poetic vessel. The voice-only supporting performances by Andrew Scott and Olivia Coleman are wonderful too, as they have to be in order to maintain the gripping drama of it all. Make no mistake, in a film as apparently bare-bones as this, whether the whole shebang succeeds or fails is down entirely to the cast – and every one of them is marvellous.
Writer-director Steven Knight put together the most breathtaking of austere movies and, as a result, Locke is my favourite film of 2014. By far.
Solidarity, brothers and sisters…★