Around this time of year it seems every writer, blogger, or vlogger (I’m still not convinced that’s a real word) insists on their rundown of the ’10 Best Films of the Year’ lists. Each year I am totally bewildered by how anyone can narrow down the diverse wealth of film based entertainment over the year into just ten ‘top film’. Seriously, I have trouble getting it down to 30 films, and that’s when I’ve only seen 31 films (I always have at least one stinker). So, each year, rather than compiling a top list, I tend to choose to just discuss the films that kind of meant something to me, for good or bad. This year, I’m going to categorise the films into groupings similar to some kind of award (hey, it is the start of the Award season, so what a great segue).
All that said, even though I can’t do a list, I can state one outright winner of the top slot…
Best Film of 2014 – The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’ve got a lot of love for Wes Anderson’s films. His quirky style in films packed with witty lines of dialogue, and framed beautifully like art-pieces, resonate soundly with me. From Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom, every film he has made has been a work of cinematic art. This, his latest film, makes the others pale in comparison. With shifting aspect ratios to denote the time period of each element of back story, a frantically paced plot, and a stand-out comic turn by Ralph Fiennes, the film is an utter joy to watch and I urge everyone to seek it out on DVD or Bluray.
Her came a very close second here, and is another film I urge people to check out. A social satire reflecting our obsession with technology and how we relate more to computers than to fellow humans, the film is also the best love story on film in recent decades. Seriously, check it out.
Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a close third too, with a dark look at the underbelly of news reporting through the eyes of a sociopath who wants to make something of himself.
Best Blockbuster of the Year – Guardians of the Galaxy
The huge blockbuster film is the staple of the industry. Ever since Spielberg thrilled audiences with a rubber shark, the summertime (and, indeed, the wintertime these days) blockbuster is the bread and butter of the film world, and the film are aimed to excite, thrill, and amuse in equal measure. Whilst Edge of Tomorrow was a close second here, Guardian’s simply blew everyone away. I’ve loved the characters for years through the comics, but had concerns that the general public wouldn’t accept a talking raccoon. Boy, was I pleased to be wrong, as it means another outing for the team is in scripting process now. The balance was right, and although you could argue that the basic story was exactly the same as Avengers (infinity stone, bad guy powers his weapon with it to lead an army to destroy a planet, group of adventurers who don’t get on forced to unite and save the day), who cares when it is delivered with so much gusto.
Winter Soldier bubbled just under in this category, taking the character that was generally considered the weakest of the Phase 1 film entries (The First Avenger) and delivering one of the finest spy capers in recent years.
No Chance of Me Watching Award – Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie
I generally say you can’t criticise a film until you’ve seen it, and I will stick to that. But, saying that I do avoid films that I feel are destined to rile me up, especially if their source material was poor, or previous films in the series were poor. Hence Inbetweeners 2 also makes this category, but Mrs Brown is, in my opinion, the worst thing to happen to comedy since Adam Sandler.
Hercules (the one with Dwayne Johnson in it) is another one I will not watch, but this time it isn’t because I hate the source material. In fact the comic series “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” ranks high in my opinion. However, it is because I love the comic so much that I refuse to see the film, as the creator of the comic, Steve Moore, was poorly treated over the rights and asked for his name to be removed from all publicity for the film. However when Moore passed away in March, the film distributors added his name back to the posters and marketing for the film, which I find extremely distasteful to deny his personal wishes after he passed away.
Biggest Disappointment of 2014 – Interstellar
Flame retardant suit on. Right, here I go. Interstellar was a mess. A film that thought it was clever, but failed to actually fulfil any promises it set out. The cast are okay, but the characters are so poorly written. The film falls apart the most on the story, especailly when the ‘reveal’ of who created the wormhole is thrown out, thus making the entire thing make no sense. No wonder there is a fan-theory out there that says that they all died and the last hour of the film is a death-dream. I had high hopes for this film having loved all of Nolan’s non-Batman films (and one and a half of his actually Batman films…Batman Begins was okay, Dark Knight brilliant, and Rises was a mess), and the pre-publicity around the film played the hype up even more. “Intelligent sci-fi,” “2001 for a modern age,” and other such exclamations were thrown out. Sadly, the result was an overblown film that could do with having around an hour edited out of it to make it better.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 made this list also, more because by the time the film came out we had already seen the stand-out moments and thus had nothing left to thrill us. Seriously, less is more when it comes to marketing Sony.
The ‘Give it a chance’ Award – Robocop
It seems many people had already made their minds up on this film before it came out, purely because of the 12A rating. Those people quite obviously think that over the top blood and gore, and swearing are what makes films good, and not great acting, solid story, and dynamic action. I guess the Saw films are the pinnacle of film entertainment for those people, whilst comic book films of recent years all suck (after all, they are 12A). I, however, was optimistic going into Robocop, and enjoyed the film immensely. Whilst it isn’t as much an instant classic as the original was, it does take the concept and do its own thing with it enough to make it work as a film in its own right.
Another film in this category is Godzilla, which isn’t the rubbish film many would have you believe. “Godzilla isn’t in his own film enough!” people cry out. This, for me, is what makes it work. The slow build and tease, before final reveals. Heck, you could argue the aliens aren’t in Alien or Aliens enough, or that the cenobites are absent for all but around 5 minutes of Hellraiser. Does that make them bad films? No? Well, stop moaning and embrace a human story set in a world of monsters.
Comedy of the Year 2014 – What We Do In The Shadows
Not many people will have got to see this gem as it had a very limited release, but I urge you to track it down on home release and see what the fuss is about. The film is a fake documentary about a house of vampires in the modern world, and from the offset is hilarious. Very similar in tone to films such as Spinal Tap, the film looks cheap, but has some skilful effects work to make it believable.
22 Jump Street almost made this spot, but narrowly missed out. The first Jump Street film had fun playing with the idea that reboots of old 80s ideas are generally bad, and this sequel takes the same stance on how sequels always seem tired and repetitive…and then proceeds to be anything but.
Films I Am Ashamed to Have Missed 2014
Despite how much people raved on about these films, I still didn’t get around to watching any of them. Yes, I know I should feel bad, but in each case the universal praise given to them meant that my expectations were thus too high and the film would never be able to match them. I’ll no doubt embrace them when they come to home release (again, Edge of Tomorrow was in this category also, and I loved that when I finally got to see it). So, feel free to throw eggs at me and bemoan how I missed out on such gems…
Gone Girl, Frank, Under The Skin, Calvary, The Zero Theorum, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Railway Man
Pleasant Surprise of 2014 – Paddington
There are a few films that make this list, such as Lone Survivor (who would have thought Mark Wahlberg could be in a good film?), and Fury (again, but with Shia LaBouf), but Paddington was a film that when it was first announced I anticipated rot of a similar nature to other kid’s shows to film translations (Thomas The Tank Engine, or even this year’s Postman pat film are notable examples). So, when the trailer arrived and it looked quite amusingly charming, I decided to give it a go. The trailers, as good as they are, fail to give the film the credit it deserves, and the end result is a marvellous family film with plenty of wit for the adults to enjoy, and charming antics for everyone to embrace.
Another pleasant surprise was Horns, which saw Daniel Radcliffe really grow up in a darkly comic role as a guy who starts growing horns and discovers he has supernatural powers, which he uses to find out who really killed his girlfriend.
Animated Movie of the Year 2014 – The Lego Movie
Without any Pixar film released, it gave the other studios a chance to shine, and shine they did. Mr Peabody and Sherman was an educational joy to watch, How To Train Your Dragon 2 thrilled and wowed, but it was this awesome film that stood out. Unlike various animated Lego shows, or the cut scenes in games, The Lego Movie was deliberately clunky in design. The characters had movement of Lego pieces, and the story made clear that these were just toys acting out a story from a child-like imagination, but boy did it work.
Seriously, That Didn’t Feel Like Three Hours Award – Wolf of Wall Street
The running time of films seems to be getting longer and longer each year. Michael bay clearly doesn’t know how to edit his films when he delivers 2 hours and 45 minutes of clashing metal and calls it Transformers (if he edited out all the bits that don’t work on those films they would be, at the most, 3 minutes long), and sometimes it can be a chore to sit through a 2-hour-plus movie. The Raid 2 just about managed to keep me interested over the 150 minutes running time, mainly due to the sumptuous action set pieces. However, Wolf of Wall Street tipped the 3 hour mark, and as the credits ran I had to check my watch in disbelief that I had sat watching it for that long. In fact, it is safe to say I’d have been happy to watch another 3 hours of the film as it was engrossing, witty, well directed, and garnished with a foot-tappingly perfect soundtrack. Well, it was Scorcese, what else would he deliver?
Now, I could write all day about the rest of the films that impressed, or upset me, but I guess I have to draw the line somewhere. A few honourable mentions that are left out of the above lists are:-
Good films – X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dallas Buyer’s Club, 12 Years A Slave, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
Bad Films – Muppets Most Wanted, Pompeii, Sex Tape, 300: Rise of an Empire, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Last Days on Mars
Just Plain Average Films – Bad Neighbours, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Expendables 3
So, that’s 2014 in summation. Looking at the release scehdule for 2015, it’s entirely likely that next year’s summation will be about as long as War and Peace (seriously, we are in for a packed year). What films stood out (for good or bad) for you this year?