It's been a tough list to compile as there's been so many great films this year. That's why it's a list of favourite films instead of a top ten!
These are films I have watched in 2014, not necessarily released in 2014.
This three hour epic really felt like I’d been on an emotional journey. It feels really special (apologies - I know that's soppy!). I do not like overly sentimental films, but this pulled it off so well. It’s amazing that it even came together; as they filmed a bit every year for 12 years. The characters are actually growing before your eyes and it’s an amazing achievement by everyone involved in the making of this film. The chemistry between all of the actors really came across to me, and I felt as if I could keep watching more and more of their lives, to the point where I felt as if I was actually going to miss them when the film ended.
We Are the Best!
This Swedish delight set in the 1980’s follows three teenage girls trying to start a punk band despite the fact that they can’t actually play any instruments. It’s heart-warming, funny and nostalgic, and just made me want to say ‘up yours’ (or something stronger) and start an angry punk band!
Inside Llewyn Davis
A lovely film with a lovely pace, a lovely protagonist (despite being a bit of an ‘asshole’) with lovely music and a lovely tone and even a lovely cat (and I normally hate cats). Lovely lovely lovely.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand its sentimental action/sci-fi. Martyrs, parent/kids (the good old ‘you-can’t-kill-me-I-have-kids’ thing), one man saves the world malarkey just does not cut it for me. Then there’s the style over substance issue with the perfect example of Gravity – phenomenal visuals, sound, atmosphere etc, but with a crap plot (you screenwriters out there may be familiar with the ‘Save the Cat’ thing – I think this was way overused in this film!), and empty, boring characters. What Interstellar does is mix amazing visuals with deeper characters, an interesting plot, and super clever theories to form pretty much, nearly, the whole package. It’s not perfect of course, there are some sentimental bits which I am willing to overlook as the rest of it is so great. A film that can make people think, ponder our existence and the universe is a winner for me. Plus anything that can make me want to learn about science must be a miracle worker!
A mature, clever, moving and profound film about a man who falls in love with a computer. It’s a sci-fi story that’s been covered many times before but this seems to go much deeper. The relationship between the characters, brilliantly played by Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, is realistic and true to life, and quite believable for the future. The most impressive thing about this film for me was how it went further than just being an interesting spin on a relationship drama, to the depths of our existence, the future of us and technology and our evolution. I came of out of the cinema obscenely jealous, wishing I could write such a fantastic screenplay!
After watching the trailer, I thought this film would be more about fast cars and crime scenes, but I’m so glad I still sent to see it. Focused on the relentlessly driven media obsessed with getting the best, grisliest, juiciest stories first, Jake Gyllenhaal is at his finest as a man who will stop at nothing to reach his career goals. There’s an element of Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) to his character, deep, dark, and never quite knowing what depths he will sink to. The best protagonist in a film this year I’d say.
Moving, emotional yet funny and poignant, this film is a lot more than I expected. Set in the Thatcher era, it’s based on the true story of a LGBT group who raise money to support miners, much to their prejudices. It’s another which could have easily been too sentimental, but managed to avoid being cheesy.
Much like the previous film by the same director A Separation this is an intelligent, mature look at complex family issues, moral dilemmas, truth, lies, desperation and deception. Brilliantly scripted dialogue, fantastically delivered.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Poor old Leo, never getting an Oscar! If he didn’t get it with this, I’m not sure what he can do to top it. He and Jonah Hill are both fantastic in this fun, energetic film full of debauchery, frolicking and a hell of a lot of f**k’s!
Interesting, original and quirky, this is a story about a frontman in a band who wears a large painted head. It’s a fascinating insight into what makes a musical genius, and mental health issues.
The Golden Dream
Harrowing and unsettling, this drama about a few teenage Guatemalan immigrants trying to get into the USA isn’t something I’d want to watch again in a hurry, but it was an important film to be made.
Much like ‘The Road’ this is a bleak dystopian starring the wonderful Guy Pearce. It has a very simple plot which manages to carry a lot of depth and the performances are captivating, starring Robert Pattinson proving he can be more than just a boring bloodsucker.
All this Mayhem
I think the sign of a great documentary is that it can be enjoyed by people who don’t know a lot about it subject matter. This is about Australian skateboarding duo and their roller-coaster journey through fame.
What we do in the Shadows
I've sneaked this one is as a late entry! As a great fan of 'Flight of the Conchords' and 'Boy' (plus having lived in New Zealand for 2 and a half years), I knew I was going to love this film. It's a lot of fun, that's all there really is to say. Just go and see it.
And a few of the worst…
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Totally overrated, this film was like watching a bunch of actors with ADHD take speed and run around a hotel which looked like it had been made over by Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen.
The mix of comedy within this depressing story of a priest about to die just didn’t go together for me.
No matter how cool and hipster this indie film tried to be, the female lead was just crass and annoying; way too self-aware, trying too hard to be the quirky funny girl next door making jokes about being all different and uncool when obviously knew she was cool. Just some dumb bimbo, with the obligatory gay best friend, rambling hipster shit in a book shop and dancing around in her bra in her lounge for ten minutes. The only one redeeming factor of this film was the subject matter, the difficult decisions surrounding abortion and that you’re not alone, but it still did it in a wishy-washy, too cool for school, play it safe, non-offensive sort of way.
12 Years a Slave
AKA ‘Slave Porn’. AKA ‘White Guilt’. This was actually a 2013 film but I want to put it in anyway, just because I can. The performances were good, apart from Brad Pitt’s, but I felt as if I should have been really blown away with emotion, which I really wasn’t. Overly long shots just drew the whole thing out into this trying-too-hard-you-have-to-cry-Goddammit sentimental crap. It made a mockery of a real man’s true story.