The Geek Show’s Best Films of 2014
It’s not a new year here on thegeekshow.co.uk without the obligatory best films of the year list, and we aren’t ones to disappoint. The past 12 months at cinemas for UK audiences haven’t exactly been all that memorable. This is especially true when one considers the lack of standout world cinema titles and the lack of established names seeing work releases this year. Even so this year has been a high point the blockbuster with the megaplex playing host to some of the best spectacles in years.
Before getting into the best of the rest, 2014 has marked the year where the geek show has solely reviewed titles hitting the home market. For our money, the best title to debut on home video came from the super indie Third Window Films with their sparse release of the phenomenal BLEAK NIGHT – A film that fights against all the classic ideals of what this Korean New Wave can be and is. A film that is set to feature in lists of great directorial debuts for years to come – if it ever got the credit or attention it deserves. For the label to take a risk with such an unknown title like that screams the praises of why such a label is necessary to the curious filmgoer, a sentiment echoed in their impressive NEW DIRECTORS FROM JAPAN release financed by Kickstarter campaign.Before we get into the beef of this rundown, let’s take a look into the best of the rest – titles 25-11.
25. Ilo Ilo (Dir. Anthony Chen)
24. Edge of Tomorrow (Dir. Doug Liman)
23. The Missing Picture (Dir. Rithy Panh)
22. The Lego Movie (Dir. Phil Lord & Chris Miller)
21. We are the Best (Dir. Lukas Moodysson)
20. ’71 (Dir. Yann Demange)
19. Pluto (Dir. Shin Su-won)
18. Paddington (Dir. Paul King)
17. Guardians of the Galaxy (Dir. James Gunn)
16. Her (Dir. Spike Jonze)
15. Frank (Dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
14. The Story of Yonosuke (Dir. Shuichi Okita)
13. Gone Girl (Dir. David Fincher)
12. The Boxtrolls (Dir. Anthony Stacchi & Graham Annable)
11. Blue Ruin (Dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
Now, without any further hesitation – the top 10.
While not as much of a white-hot blast out of nowhere as its prequel, The Raid 2 earned its place beside the best films of the year. The action that won Gareth Evans legions of fans was amplified to new heights. It’s not often that an action film can climb to new heights without the need to blow everything up and congratulations need to go to choreographers (and lead duo) Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. The latter showed just how good of an actor he is with a devastating character arc. Amazing action, great choreography and surprising depth housed within a patient (if over long) call back to 1970s Yakuza films.
Hayao Miyizaki is a victim of his own success; his films are packed with wondrous invention and imagination, and his legacy is one of a kind. Be that as it may it’s as clear as day that this is a film that the legendary animator has wanted to make this film for a long time was never allowed the freedom to do so. The Wind Rises is a gorgeous film populated by the visual invention and beauty found in the legendary director’s work with an all too rare emotional maturity. This animated biopic weaves dream logic together with the romance of the skies, the forced maturity of war and disaster, industrial politics and the difficulties of love and class besides the much more typical qualities found in an awe-inspiring earthquake sequence. This is the purest expression of Miyizaki and a near perfect swansong.
Jim Jarmusch is a great director of that they can be no doubt, sadly his work that is fixated with the proto-hipster and New York pales in comparison to his genre experiments. Ghost Dog and Dead Man are prime examples of this; Only Lovers Left Alive makes that duo a trio. Only Lovers Left Alive works so well for two reasons, cast and world building. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton have rarely been better cast than they are here as the titular lovers. Through them the film depicts what immortality means beyond the horror implications and the persona’s created over centuries are gleefully embraced by Hiddleston and Swinton, whereby they became two of our favourite characters of the year. Adding to the dark comedy and craft is a brilliant score by Jarmusch’s own band Sqürl.
TV favourite Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine featured in many a top 10, but for us its mix of awkward comedy, mumble aesthetic and French New Wave-isms was a good debut and no more. Film #2 – The Double – deserved far more than the middling reception it gained. Ayoade’s take on a Dostoevsky novella showed just how much of a talent he is. Although people mockingly suggested the double “out Gilliam’s terry Gilliam” there is a great deal of truth to be had in those words. Ayoade added surrealism and satire to his repertoire with a savagely dark comedic insight into persona and thanks to a career high from Jesse Eisenberg. The Double is a dazzling performance led drama that delves deep into a bureaucratic pit of despair like a modern Bunuel. Also doesn’t hurt that Paddy Considine features in the year’s best cameo.
Next up is the single most important film of 2014. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood will collectively outlive and out-influence every other item on this list for the simple fact of it successfully carving out its audacious ambitions. Linklater takes a family and follows them for 12 years, 12 real years; the only parallel comes in the documentary world with the Up documentary series. Linklater and his cast observe every passage one goes through when passing from Boyhood to Manhood. Following the cast in real-time results in such a unique experience and a miraculously personal film, being part of Mason’s childhood becomes endearingly voyeuristic. All of which cements Linklater’s place at the top of the directorial ladder, Boyhood is the most singular film of 2014.
The only leftover of 2013 to belatedly hit cinema screens in our top 10 and the best of all. The Coen Brother’s latest film sees them on serious form with a serious film about depression of the perpetual sameness of the gig circuit. A gig circuit which sees each musical number – a debate could be made for Llewyn Davis as a musical – brought to screen by performers at the top of their game, even when the film opts for the farcical. Darkly humorous is a term best saved for the Coen’s and Llewyn Davis is no different thanks to the select few scenes that feature long-term collaborator John Goodman. With its cold façade Inside Llewyn Davis is close to perfect at capturing the depression of the music industry breadline, with the monotony and heartbreak he finds in his art. Watching Oscar Isaac spill out his soul to indifference sees the Coen’s at their most affecting.
Number 4 and our second musical film on the bounce is something of an indulgence. Being a fully signed up fan of Nick Cave, the pseudo-documentary 20,000 days on Earth ticked all of our boxes, now whether the same can be said for non-fans remains to be seen. His music has developed a romantic gothic narrative, a poetic narrative and it’s perfectly adapted to the screen through first time directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Sequences in which he recalls not entirely true tails from the road or the moment he fell in love with his wife are pure cinema, Cave’s idiosyncratic patter is paired with gorgeously expressive editing which was rarely matched all year-long. Even something as simple as kicking the air on stage instigates a wondrous bout of eclectic editing. Documentaries are typically quite stark in the visual identity, 20,000 days on Earth’s photography mutates suburban Brighton and Cave’s theatrics into highly stylised art comparable to Michael Mann’s Collateral or the sadly overhyped Nightcrawler.
2014’s most critically acclaimed horror film and for good reason too. Jennifer Kent’s debut is skin-crawlingly creepy in the establishment of its titular creature thanks to its guttural sound design, a delightfully macabre pop-up book and the use of puppetry and stop motion. This is no simple ghost train or quiet loud horror film designed by committee. The Babadook is a historically aware film that looks back to the origins of the horror film and the cinematic medium. The one complaint that is levelled at it by many is that many don’t find the film scary, to which we say a horror film isn’t merely a box of tricks designed to scare; a philosophy, once more, championed by the Babadook. As well as being a consummately crafted horror film, the Babadook is a heightened drama about single parents and their domestic conflict with their children. A mother’s struggles and fear of her boisterous child are just a pivotal to this new horror classic as the beast stalking the house.
John Michael McDonagh featured in a previous top 10 with his ecstatically anarchic police comedy/drama the Guard, his follow-up is a world away from that beginning. That’s not entirely accurate; Calvary shares its lead in Brendan Glesson, its set in rural Ireland and it continues to be darkly comedic. Glesson features as a priest who is told he will be killed in a week’s time, from which Glesson professionally carries out his responsibilities while dealing with the personalities and his own mortality and life choices. This is unambiguously a film about death; naturally for such a subject this is a blackly dark material. So suffocating is the darkness that this was the only film I struggled to sleep afterwards, McDonagh asks some big questions that work because of its prodigiously strong ensemble and cast. A horrifyingly austere character study that manages to be funny and powerful, as good as it is I’m not sure I ever want to watch it again.
Number 1 and our favourite film of 2014 is the Grand Budapest Hotel, simply because Wes Anderson’s latest was the most entertaining film of the past 12 months. Another way to describe our pick of the bunch is “The most idiosyncratic film of the most idiosyncratic filmmaker our there”. Ralph Fiennes delivered a perfect comic performance is this light-hearted –sort-of- film-noir with a subtle but matchless application of stop motion animation. Wes Anderson has divided audiences throughout his filmography, 2014 was the year when he truly became mainstream with a film that was impossible to leave the cinema without a smile beaming across your face, that’s all anyone wants when they head out to their local cinema.
That’s everything Here’s to 2015 and the delights that the cinema screens hold. What about you? What are your favourites from the past 12 months – comment below.