Last year, I wrote an early blog detailing my 10 favourite films of 2014 but only then realising that there was only 9 films I’d seen. Being in New Zealand (even in the UK), the bulk of cinema releases get to the rest of the world in the following year, so in a break from tradition and with plenty of distance between here and the interminable same things being said in end of year lists, here I dust off that same old shit for a go-round a year later when you’ve forgotten!
10. Far From Men – David Oelhoffen: “Spare” was the watch word which usually means “empty” but this spare French thriller starring Viggo Mortensen has so much more boiling away under the surface. Set in Algeria during the war of independence, Mortensen as school teacher Daru, has to escort prisoner Mohamed (Reda Kateb) to be executed at the nearest municipal town. What starts out as a fairly standard western fable becomes a tragic tale of men out of time and place. Hoping we see more from this director.
9. It Follows – David Robert Mitchell: Teens followed by ghoul in middle America. Standard, surely. In actual fact, this is a horror movie which takes the time out to flesh out the teen characters and crucially likes them too. This isn’t anything revolutionary, of course – Wes Craven and John Carpenter and others always liked their characters and this picks up that baton. That said, it does it’s job really well and really engagingly and is very John Carpenter without being gratuitous.
8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Matt Reeves: If only all Hollywood blockbusters were like this. I saw this having not long before finished reading Jon Lee Anderson’s ‘Che Guevara – A Revolutionary Life’ and it was surprising the parallels that Dawn had with it in terms of the power struggles and moral compromises. Caesar’s desire to live alongside the humans is compromised by his treacherous second-in-command, Koba. Can he make peace with the similarly divided humans whilst keeping his cohorts united?
7. Pride – Matthew Warchus: Ultimately, the best thing about this movie is that it was a movie intended for mainstream appeal and then actually became a mainstream hit! It totally deserved to aswell – this true 1980s set tale of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners has bucketloads of charm and takes you through the full gamut of emotions (unless, I suppose you hate the working class and those gays but then it’d be fair to say, if you didn’t know what it was about going in, then more fool you).
6. The Lego Movie – Phil Lord and Chris Miller: What to say that I haven’t already said before but what a consummate bit of filmmaking and I never thought I’d say that about the movie of a toy… mind you, there is Toy Story so shouldn’t be prejudiced but this also flags up Lord and Miller as really great comedy directors in the same vein as Edgar Wright. Will they ever get that recognition, though? Although, Edgar Wright is probably a long way from the recognition he truly deserves anyway.
5. Jimmy’s Hall – Ken Loach: A film met with a shrug by international audiences and critics. Ken Loach doing that film he does again apparently but Jean-Luc Godard did that load of old bollocks he does again with Goodbye to Language and they couldn’t stand up for falling over. This biopic is about Irish Communist, Jimmy Gralton and his attempts to reopen his hall for dancing, debating, teaching and allsorts of community activities under the noses of the church and local law enforcement. It just goes to show the need for community and togetherness which we are losing quite rapidly now.
4. Boyhood – Richard Linklater: Well, I never thought this would get so far down the list which just goes to show how good a year it was. Richard Linklater proves he is one of our film treasures in this 12 year production portraying the development of a boy and his family from age 6 to 18. Linklater’s concerns about time and how people get by in those spaces are explored through what will probably in the future be forgotten moments in this family’s life.
3. Two Days, One Night – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne: Late entry and one about which I will probably do a fuller review later on but this latest Dardennes’ drama is their best as far as I’m concerned. Having blitzed through their back catalogue earlier this year and liked every one (in particular The Son and L’enfant) but this tense and emotional race against time with Marion Cotillard’s incredible performance as Sandra, trying to save her job while battling the downslide of a bout of depression really hit home and had me welling up on several occasions. Great support from Fabrizio Rongione as her steadfast husband, Manu.
2. Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy: Actually usurped from number 1 spot but still an amazing film with one of the best performances in recent years. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is an antogonist for our times, discovering his lowest depths when he starts filming for TV news, capturing car crashes, break-ins and shootings. Going from lonely pervert to news-manufacturing sociopath supported by the most unscrupulous denizens of the news media.
1. Girlhood – Céline Sciamma: Usurps Nightcrawler as my favourite film of the year. I was sold from the get-go with this brilliant story of girl gangs in the Paris banlieues, left behind by schools and forming a bond with each other regardless of what all the boys and all the grown-ups think and fuck it! I liked and a lot of people agree with me and the scene with Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ is amazing and fuck you I’ll like whatever I wanna like!
Honourable mentions: The Fool; Foxcatcher; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Guardians of the Galaxy; Mr. Turner; 99 Homes; Phoenix; A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence; The Raid 2; Samba; Selma; ’71; Theeb; Welcome to New York; What We Do in the Shadows;