December 26, 2014 1 Comment
It has been a particularly strong year for cinema, both blockbuster and indie. There have of course been disappointments along the way, but 2014 has been bolstered by a reinvigorated superhero genre, whip-smart animations and accessible foreign fare. It was a good year for the Brit-flick (Postman Pat: The Movie notwithstanding), an interesting twelve months in Australian filmmaking (The Rover sits just outside my top twenty) and high time for some cinematic introspection (even Step Up: All In had something to say about reality television and celebrity culture). Most importantly, however, it’s been glorious fun. Scroll down to see my pick of the most thoughtful, emotional and entertaining films of the year. Haha, awesome!
Based on a true story, Pride dramatises the unlikely alliance of the LGBT community and a Welsh mining village in protest against Tory spending cuts to tremendously rousing effect. Though fundamentally uplifting, director Matthew Warchus doesn’t underestimate or undermine the obstacles that stood in either group’s way.
The story of Noah’s Ark may be a Sunday school favourite, but Darren Aranofsky’s adaptation is no nursery rhyme. Mining the fairy tale for unseen dramatic depth, it is a brutal tale of obsession, egomania and entitlement that ends in exile, attempted murder and alcoholism. Amen.
Four years ago Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ How To Train Your Dragon topped my list of the best films of 2010. The sequel — this time directed by DeBlois alone — came very close to doing so again, thanks to its emotional performances, spirited score and unparalleled 3D animation.
Eleven years in the making, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a film like no other. Documenting the development of Mason Evans, Jr. (and Ellar Coltrane, who plays him) from boy to man, it condenses and in many ways concentrates the aging process in a manner that is both inspiring and utterly heart-breaking.
06. Life Itself
Although perhaps best known as part of a double act, Roger Ebert was still remarkable in his own right. Steve James’ documentary explores his subject’s formative years, his international, multi-media success as a film critic and his almost decade-long battle with terminal cancer with an honesty that makes the story accessible to all.
It’s safe to say that nobody went into Bryan Singer’s third X-Men movie expecting very much. Since X2 the series had staggered and stagnated, spreading itself paper thin and rendering itself almost unintelligible through endless spin-offs, retcons and reboots. Not only did Singer manage to create one of the best superhero movies ever, however, but retroactively consolidate and even exonerate a franchise that had apparently passed its prime.
Based on a memoir which was in turn based on a National Geographic article, John Curran’s Tracks told the true story of Robyn Davidson, a disillusioned Australian woman who in 1977 walked 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. Tracks is remarkable not only for its story, its minimalist script and its beautiful cinematography, but for Mia Wasikowska’s transformative central performance.
03. Under the Skin
It’s been quite a year for Scarlett Johansson, but while the traditionally indie actress managed to prop up tentpole movies such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Lucy it was in Jonathan Glazer’s low-budget, high-concept Under the Skin that she truly excelled. By turns sexy, sympathetic and terrifically sinister, it’s a performance that mesmerised almost everyone who witnessed it. This adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel also boasts the best soundtrack of the year and an ending that will haunt you long into the next.
02. The LEGO Movie
How To Train Your Dragon 2 may have boasted the best animation of 2014 but The LEGO Movie is its best animated movie. Simultaneously satirising consumer culture and embracing it, writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller both have their cake and eat it. With a top-notch voice cast, cameos from some of cinema’s most iconic characters and a gag rate that most live-action comedies would give their whoopie-cushions for, The LEGO Movie is the very definition of family entertainment.
Unfairly dismissed by most who saw it, Men, Women & Children has to be the most underrated and misunderstood film of the year. It may not be realistic, or even particularly subtle, but where would cinema be without the occasional suspension of disbelief? Using Pale Blue Dot as reference point, Jason Reitman asks pertinent and even prescient questions about our place in the universe — whether the abstract or exotic realities we forge online or the insignificant little galaxy that we call home in RL. Ansel Elgort and Adam Sandler, meanwhile, give the performances of their respective careers.