Best of 2014


TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014

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10.  AMERICAN SNIPER

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

I’ve read reviews about this film from left and right wingers but I personally fall into neither category and I thought this film turned out perfect. Many people see Chris Kyle as a serial killer rather than a hero and whilst not supporting the American’s war on the Middle East I found myself caring for the character of Chris Kyle. This isn’t a film about the reasoning behind his action this was a point of view from his eyes and how the war effected him as a person. War becomes a large-scale backdrop to this film and Clint Eastwood concentrates on Chris Kyle and the effect war had on his psyche. American Sniper is one of the best films about the war on terror and sits up there with The Hurt Locker. American Sniper becomes more than just an action film and showcases the emotional journey through Chris Kyle’s life. There will be haters of this film, but the film is what you expect it to be, a patriotic American film done well. Clint Eastwood seems to have returned to form for American Sniper. 


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9.  LIFE ITSELF

Directed by: Steve James

Life Itself is not only a film about the critic world of cinema but also the story of the love of film in general. It was only fitting that Steve James direct this film as he was the director of Ebert’s favourite film ‘Hoop Dreams’; and I can say he done the film fair justice. Once you get used to the Ebert voiceover running through the story you really get immersed into the story. Steve James has a less serious attitude towards portrayal and everything seems light-hearted. Although, when you get to the serious emotional scenes James handles it like a fragile antique; resulting in real emotion on-screen. Roger Ebert did not only live his life but was also creating his own film from the start of his career in college. Everyone to enter his life was a character and Steve James captures everyone’s emotions perfectly; from Ebert’s alcoholism to the cancer changing his life.  From start to finish this is crafted close to perfection and you are thrown into his life feeling every bit of passion and emotion along the journey. Life Itself is a perfect monument to one of the greatest lovers of films and as a critic it was a joy to watch.


Enemy Jake Gyllenhaal

8.  ENEMY

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

A beautiful tale of loneliness and infidelity playing out like Hitchcock’s take on surrealism. Enemy is director Denis Villeneuve’s new film after the amazing Incendies and Prisoners. This film is nothing like his previous efforts and this is the one film that is constantly on my mind after viewing it. You essentially have this neo-noir Doppelganger story that you can feel is trying to become more through the entire film. Villenueve never explained his shock ending and compared it to the final room in Kubrick’s 2001, now many people over the internet have come up with their own interpretations, and I think that’s the beauty of enemy; everyone takes home their own view of the film. Essentially at the core this is a film about adultery in men and the entrapment women hold over us, told through this Lynch-esque noir. One of the most noticeable themes of the film was its haunting cinematography and amazing soundtrack, loneliness is shown in every shot and sound; through the city to the people. This helps the film link in its beautiful themes of suspense that makes the entire film feel like a horror film. Except that in this horror film the horror comes from within the character itself and the city surrounding him, this is epitome of true horror and it’s perfectly told within this story. Many people will not appreciate Enemy because of how surreal it is, the answers you want are never explained; your mind has to explain it all to you.


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7.  FOXCATCHER

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Bennett Miller always creates character pieces, from Capote to Moneyball but Foxcatcher becomes his strongest character piece yet. The study of a character is a very important factor in the ethics of film making. However, many films fail to even grasp the depth of a their lead character, but Bennett Miller goes a step forward and brings three lead characters into this film and analyses all three of their minds on-screen. Foxcatcher was ripe with film making that represented the 1980’s and it almost became a horror film with all the suspense and paranoia it created within itself. Bennett Miller knows how to create shots and with his camera work he amplified the mise en scene of Foxcatcher. The film feels silent and small but its impact feels so large because of the foundation everyone working on this film has created, from acting to production, sound, visuals etc. It all falls together perfectly and if you can sit through a slow-paced film like this you can find the beauty and that is why this is one of 2014’s best movies.


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6.  UNDER THE SKIN

Directed by: Jonathon Glazer

Jonathon Glazer spent 10 years making Under the Skin and to create such an alien yet human film through the medium of Sci-fi was quite an achievement.Visually this film is amazing and the visual storytelling is what the foundation of the film is built upon. This reminded me of Terrance Malick and Stanley Kubrick which made a change from years a generic Sci-fi film’s. The film has a small message but a large area to play with and that’s what makes such a small story beautiful. It’s not a film of a script, it’s a film of thought and the main characteristic is its voyueristic curiosity. The audience becomes the lead character and that’s an achievement in itself.Though subtly told through the directions and visual storytelling you begin to understand what the film is honestly about apart from what the synopsis may tell you. This is the story of an alien finding humanity and her fear in a lost world that she doesn’t understand. Under the Skin is Laura’s nightmare and we see the film from her nightmarish perspective. Under the Skin is visually and symbolically an amazingly original film that becomes one of the cult classics of our generation. My final score is still not my final score for this film because at each viewing it keeps growing on me, but this is more than just a film with hollow visuals.


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5.  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson returns with his most stylised film to date, creating beautiful set pieces and art deco that has never been matched on-screen before. This crime caper had so many underlying themes beneath its exterior and hidden behind all the quirky directing is Wes Anderson’s most serious film to date. This is a film about history, love, war and themes of socialism v. fascism; with neither of these themes being picked up easily. It’s been said before but it is an experience to go see this film just like any other Wes Anderson film. His style and humour stand out against his backdrop of the pastel colour palette and his attention to detail is unmatched. Simple things like a note would be displayed full frontal across the whole screen, instead of just handing it away. These little details go into the grand scale of his film’s creations and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. This is another invite into Wes Anderson’s world and personally this is my 2nd favourite of his films, with the first being The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. With the only fault being the narrative trying to over complicate itself but regardless of this singular fault Anderson has created another masterpiece of cinema that wont be forgotten.


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4.  BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

I’ve seen every film directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and for me this is up with my personal favourite, Babel. However, this is film unlike anything Inarritu has made before, Birdman is unlike any film I have seen before. This is a film about a stage play that is created like a stage play, the whole film plays out like a Broadway piece. Inarritu creates this atmosphere by basing his film inside one central location of a theatre, with only a few scenes in the outside world. The isolation of Riggan’s character inside this theatre makes us believe his dedication and shows the audience the importance of the play to his character. There are many layers to this film with many different themes occupying each layer. It’s filmed as a stage play, but it’s also a surrealistic piece on mental illness and a film about actors, for actors..it is hard to ignore the originality of the film and skill that went into creating this picture. With films such as Avatar being labeled landmarks in film making I must disagree and call Birdman a landmark in film making, with the story coming close to perfection. By the end of the year I’m sure Birdman will probably win many awards not only because of its originality but for the sheer fact that this becomes a film about Hollywood itself.  


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3. WHIPLASH 

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

First the film follows love, which is the starting point for most musicians. It shows Andrews dedication and love for the music and builds around a character who is waiting to be noticed. Then you start to see the passion in his character when Fletcher’s approval becomes the most important thing in becoming “…the greatest”. Such a simple story is told by writer Damien Chazelle who also directed this film as his first feature. I can see Chazelle as a very story based director because he utilises no visual flair, cinematography or imagery. Everything is laid out on the screen and he utilises the editing instead to create a suspense. Whiplash becomes a journey through a story that’s so intense you await to see Andrew achieve his dreams from the beginning. For a film that runs in at 107 minutes the intense story makes it feel much closer to an hour. I would say I was surprised at the films outcome but I was already anticipating this  film long before its release. Now a lot of films didn’t live up to their hype this year, but Whiplash surpassed it becoming my favourite film of the year, so far.


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2. INHERENT VICE

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Inherent Vice becomes a rewarding film for its actor’s who all play eccentric characters full of philosophical narratives.The mass confusion amongst audiences matches the mass confusion amongst Pynchon’s lead character himself, which in my opinion is exactly what Anderson wanted to do. Inherent Vice is a film made for people who understand the mind of a person under the influence of drugs. If you see the story as surrealism and stop trying to fit all the pieces fit together you will enjoy this and stumble through the story just like Doc Sportello does. For a film with such a puzzle at its core repeat viewings are needed, and I look forward to revisiting the world Anderson has created. Personally I can see Inherent Vice becoming a cult classic down the line that joins other films that have polarized audiences such as Synecdoche, New York and Mulholland Drive. Theres no way to describe Inherent Vice, it is as random and eccentric as you can imagine but it holds together a very well written script full of many layers that connect together. This along with the Malick like voice over give us a powerful film that is the most unique film’s i have ever seen and for me personally one of the best in Paul Thomas Anderson’s career. Inherent Vice isn’t a film for the casual movie audience, instead it becomes Anderson’s love letter to cinephiles and a faithful adaption for fan’s of Thomas Pynchon.


vlcsnap-2014-10-24-17h17m47s2431. IDA

Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski

Filmed in 4:3 in crystal clear black and white Ida is the epitome of cinematography in the filmography of 2014. The first thing you notice and what stands out the most is the films unique style of film making that perfectly fitted the era it was set in. Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal take care of the cinematography and whilst utilising Pawel Pawikowski’s long takes the team work together to create a piece of art in each frame. Theres a technical beauty behind it all because each scene is still and has perfect attention to detail in every aspect of imagery. The lighting is some of the best I have seen on-screen to fully aid the black and white and bring out strong blacks almost making it feel like a noir.  This monochrome choice does not only aid the realism to the era, it showcases to us the bleak Polish weather and deprivations of the communist era. Ida is simply one of the smallest films to surprise me at the end of the year and becomes the years best film for me. Simply because of how each frame in the film had a meaning and the story though only 80 min long became so effective. The phrase a picture says a thousand words is so important here and when you reach the final shot of the film, every emotion and thought is conveyed through a simple walk. In a year full of biopic and surrealistic and character pieces this small film comes through where each shot could be studied and features some of the most effective and interesting cinematography of the past few years.

Honorable Mentions (in order)

A Most Violent Year

Leviathan

’71

Interstellar

Gone Girl

Best Director of 2014  : PAWEL PAWILIKOWSKI – IDA

"The Woman In The Fifth" And "Grazia E Furore" Premiere - 6th International Rome Film Festival

Runners Up

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel



Best Actor In A Leading Role  : MICHAEL KEATON – BIRDMAN

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Runners Up

Jake Gyllenhaal – Enemy/Nightcrawler

Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel



Best Actress In A Leading Role  : JULIANNE MOORE – STILL ALICE

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Runners Up

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Elena Lyadova – Leviathan


Best Actor In a Supporting Role  : J.K SIMMONS – WHIPLASH

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Runners Up

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher


Best Actress In a Supporting Role  : AGATA KULESZA – IDA

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Runners Up

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Meryl Streep – Into the Wood

Jessica Chastain – Interstellar/A Most Violent

Emma Stone – Birdman

One thought on “Best of 2014

  1. Pingback: TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014 | Ajay Lee

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