Best Films 2014

Here’s the countdown of my favourite films of 2014. I didn’t review all of them originally, but where I did I’ve included a link.

10. Gone Girl
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/002/60589995/files/2014/12/img_0083.jpg
Ben Affleck is going from strength to strength and Gillian Flynn has given us a completely gripping story and one that offers plenty of promise for her future writing output. With the mighty David Fincher at the helm and adding another top quality title to his catalogue of first class films, seeing it is a no brainer.
Read original review here

9. Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin
An erotic sci-fi thriller, with Scarlett Johansson starring as an alien at large in Glasgow, seducing unsuspecting men before murdering them in the most bizarre of fashions. With a description like that, what’s not to like? Subtly effective, it kept my intrigue on edge throughout. 

8. Giovanni’s Island / ジョバンニの島 (Mizuho Nishikubo, 2014)
IMG_9234
It is overall a very depressing subject matter. By this I’m talking Grave of the Fireflies sort of level of depressing. There were many teary eyes as the film reached its conclusion, and that is testament to what a fantastic job Nishikubo has done here.
Read original review here

7. Marvellous (Julian Farino, 2014)
Marvellous
A late entry into this list (so late so I haven’t got as far as reviewing it yet). A moving BBC biopic of cult legend Neil Baldwin, former kit-man at Stoke City FC, with English actor Toby Jones in the lead role. It was at times hilarious, at times devastating. Well worth watching (and it might be on iPlayer if you’re quick about it). The most entertaining 90 minutes of TV concerning Stoke City FC in a long time.

6. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2014)
Llewyn Davis Singing

The soundtrack is clearly the driving force behind the storyline. One of the greatest achievements the Coens manage is to allow our attention to be fully dedicated to the music. It’s never a case of starting a song and cutting away to a montage or separate conversation whilst the song goes through the motions of a second verse or middle 8. It is clear they are truly passionate about the music that drives the story and in almost every case the song is uninterrupted from start to finish. It could well be the greatest Coen Brothers soundtrack yet, and if you’ve heard the O Brother Where Art Thou? OST then you know what a compliment that is.
Read original review here

5. ’71
Doctor Who Series 8 Iconic

Despite his frequenting of the tabloids, Jack O’Connell keeps on proving himself to be an actor with plenty of natural talent and it’s fantastic to see him building on his excellent performance in last year’s Starred Up. With a fantastic support cast (Sean Harris stands out as Captain Sandy Browning), this is a solid film worthy of your attention. Seek it out.
Read original review here

4. Guardians of the Galaxy
rocket
A breath of fresh air for the still thriving but bordering on repetitive superhero film market, finally Guardians of the Galaxy has given us all some great new characters to enjoy on the big screen… and the lunchbox manufacturers some new faces to stick on their products. Hilarious, fast-paced and an awesome soundtrack to boot, this is a great start to an inevitable franchise.

3. Nightcrawler

Gyllenhaal is a wonder to watch in a film like this. He has chosen his films wisely over the years and has a body of work he can already be very proud of, including Donnie Darko, Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac and Source Code. This is definitely amongst his best overall, and I’d go as far as say that Lou is his most defined character yet. He plays sinister very well and clearly knows how to make his audiences tick. At times it’s a real joy to watch, at times it made me want to cover my eyes; both responses indicative that I was hooked.
Read original review here

2. Lilting
Lilting

Hong Khaou’s Lilting is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s a stunning study of the emotions people go through when someone they are close to dies with a secret, and the difficult resolutions they find to deal with the loss. If you get a chance to see it, then grasp it with both hands. Watching it is a deeply moving experience.
Read original review here

1. The Imitation Game
IMG_9227

Every so often I see a new film that absolutely blows my socks off, where the storyline sits perfectly with my mood and I get totally enthralled in the joyous and rare occasion of seeing what could be one of my favourite films of all time. The Imitation Game was one of those films.
Read the original review here.

Oscars 2014 – What missed out

20140302-181314.jpg

With the Oscars taking place later tonight, I look at the films that have been overlooked by the Academy.

Monsters University
20140302-181458.jpg
Okay, it wasn’t the best picture Pixar has come up with over the years. It wasn’t even the best Monsters film they’ve produced. That said, they did find space for The Croods in the nomination pool, which was fine but could you really say it was better than MU? If Pixar had released The Croods, there would have been mass derision. Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is a hot tip to take the prize this year, but I can’t comment until it gets a UK release.

Rush
20140302-181717.jpg
I feel like this film has suffered because it wasn’t released in the typical awards season. It didn’t play by the book. It came out back in September 2013 and performed well at the box office without an Academy recommendation. Bruhl and Hemsley were both outstanding, not just as eerily accurate take-offs but as flawless acting performances in their own right. The recreation of the classic races was spot on from Howard and the story was as exhilarating as the action. In my eyes, it could have easily come in as the 10th film on the best film list. To not even get an appreciative nod for best makeup (Bruhl’s scarring was critical and spot on) or visual effects (though admittedly this was a strong category this year) is surprising.

Inside Llewyn Davis
It’s the Coen brothers latest release and they usually get nominated, right? Not this year. Whilst it’s a strong year for nominations in the Best Picture category, it should have received a nod for best song. In fact, whole soundtrack could have been considered. It received one for best sound mixing, which is a bit of a throwaway category overall. At least it was appreciated on some level.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
20140302-181550.jpg
Okay, I don’t agree that this film should have been nominated for best film or best acting or anything else. However, the song “Atlas” by Coldplay is easily one of the best original songs in what was admittedly a poor year for soundtracks. It’s a shame they had a song on the list that was later disqualified, especially one as awful as “Alone, Yet Not Alone” by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel. There was also space for the bland “Ordinary Love” by U2. Neither of these should have made it and they would have made room for “Atlas” and, well, anything from Inside Llewyn Davis or Her.

Saving Mr Banks
20140302-181628.jpg
One of the biggest and most talked about shocks was the lack of a nomination for Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks. It’s frustrating to see Meryl Streep nominated for the 18th time for a role that she will never win the top prize for when Thompson could have been a front runner for.

Nymph()maniac
20140302-181509.jpg
I would have loved it if the Academy could have found it in themselves to nominate Uma Thurman’s fantastic supporting performance in Lars Von Trier’s latest film. It blew me away and really stood out in what was otherwise a pretty bland film. That said, it may not have qualified this year so we may have to wait another year before we see if this – and indeed Christian Slater’s excellent performance – was overlooked.

Elsewhere
Tom Hanks missed out twice for Saving Mr Banks and Captain Phillips, the latter being the biggest shock as it is probably his best performance for over a decade. Whoever thought the cinematography in 12 Years A Slave wasn’t worth noting must have been on drugs. Nothing for Robert Redford’s performance in All Is Lost was also a big surprise, though I’m not convinced Redford lost any sleep over it. The Butler was a massive omission but maybe a little too much like a typical Oscar nominee.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2014)

Before I start I must confess I’m a huge Coen brothers fan. So much so that I recently went on a day-long course at Broadway Cinema (which was excellent by the way). I look forward to every Coen brothers release and when it’s coupled with a Palme d’Or win then you know you’re in for an entertaining two hours.

The looping storyline concerns the struggling titular character, a performing artist in New York’s Greenwich village, as he tries to make ends meet and regain the popularity he once had with his former singing partner Mike Timlin (who has since committed suicide). It is packed full of astonishing musical performances, not least from Oscar Isaac (previously famed for the King to Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, though set to become quite well known when he stars in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII). Joining him are Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan as the main stars of the film, though they are definitely in supporting roles. There are also cameos from heaps of great actors, my favourite being the highly comical contribution from John Goodman.

Llewyn Davis Singing

The soundtrack is clearly the driving force behind the storyline. One of the greatest achievements the Coens manage is to allow our attention to be fully dedicated to the music. It’s never a case of starting a song and cutting away to a montage or separate conversation whilst the song goes through the motions of a second verse or middle 8. It is clear they are truly passionate about the music that drives the story and in almost every case the song is uninterrupted from start to finish. It could well be the greatest Coen Brothers soundtrack yet, and if you’ve heard the O Brother Where Art Thou? OST then you know what a compliment that is.

If you’re looking for something to lift your mood, steer clear. Indeed, if you are a struggling artist yourself, you might also want to give it a wide berth unless you are just interested solely in excellent musicianship. With someone this talented struggling to make ends meet and not showing any sign of getting anywhere with his music, you might leave convinced to never pick the guitar up again. If you can put all that aside and simply appreciate the (perhaps surprisingly) excellent musicianship captured so perfectly here then you’re bound to be a happy viewer.

This film is not going to go down as one of the great Coen Brothers films. It just doesn’t have the indescribable magic of, say, The Big Lebowski or Fargo. It is by no means a terrible film, but I just don’t think it has the widespread appeal of some of their other releases. It’s well worth checking out, though I recommend you give it your full attention.

Inside Llewyn Davis is out now in UK cinemas.

Best Albums 2013

In case you wondered, here are my top albums of 2013:

1. David Bowie – The Next Day
20140122-160353.jpg

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
20140126-211050.jpg

3. Ed Harcourt – Back Into The Woods
20140126-211058.jpg

4. Foals – Holy Fire
20140122-160410.jpg

5. Inside Llewyn Davis OST
20140126-211440.jpg

6. The Flaming Lips – Peace Sword
20140122-160402.jpg

7. Haim – Days Are Gone
20140122-160428.jpg

8. Local Natives – Hummingbird
20140122-160344.jpg

9. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film
20140126-211709.jpg

10. Atoms For Peace – AMOK
20140126-211953.jpg

11. Arctic Monkeys – AM
20140122-160421.jpg

12. Primal Scream – More Light
20140126-211726.jpg