Disclaimer: Before reading this list of the five Films that stood out to me in 2014 I feel it important to state that I am not saying that the Films on this list are the absolute best ones of 2014 and that everything else was subpar in comparison. These are simply the Films that grabbed my attention and held onto it for dear life, these Films demanded my attention and they certainly got it. Finally this list is in no particular order because it didn’t feel fair to pick favourites.
Before I start I want to clear some things up about certain films that won’t be able to appear on this list. Some of those films are Birdman, Whiplash and Foxcatcher etc. Despite the love and acclaim these films are receiving I cannot consider them for this list for two straight forward reasons. Number one is that I haven’t seen any of them at the point of writing this piece and that leads into my second reason. All three of these films and some other ones release here in the UK in 2015 and so cannot be considered for the 2014 list. So just in case there was any confusion, that is why those films won’t appear on my list of standout films in 2014. So now onto the films that stood out to me in 2014.
Wow, wow is the word that I have to use when describing the year in film that 2014. There have be some absolutely incredible films this year, starting off the year strong with some films that I at first had no idea about but quickly became some of my favourites of the year, you may even see some popping up on this list. Then we went into the summer and I’m just going to say it, this was one of the strongest summer blockbuster seasons I’ve had the pleasure of sitting through, and then we capped of the year with some great award season contender films, some once again may pop up on this list somewhere. I love how great a year for films it has been and I’m excited to talk about some of them here on this list.
Grand Budapest Hotel
The first film on the list comes from the always interesting Wes Anderson. Grand Budapest Hotel was a return to form for Wes Anderson, in my personnel opinion. Everything about this film screamed originality and fun, from the setting, to the story, to the wonderful array of characters that you expect from a Wes Anderson film. From the moment the film began, to the moment I left the cinema I was smiling ear to ear, this was a film that started on a path of excellence and never once deviated from it, every aspect was a joy to watch.
Leading the film was Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave the obsessive and very punctual man in charge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and by his side was his new right hand man, Zero Moustafa played by Tony Revolori. Both of these actors were on the top of their game in the film and new boy on the block Tony Revolori has a bright future ahead of him in the business. Mr Fiennes though is definitely the one to spread the word on, not enough people were, or have been lording this brilliant performance from him, which is a shame; this is in my opinion his best work to date.
On top of the strong leads, the film also has its supporting cast of actors/characters, ones who are impossible to ignore. Some of the names that make just brief cameos but definitely leave their mark in this film are: Jeff Goldblum, Willem Defoe, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton etc, etc. That is a list of not only great actors but hilariously great characters. Some may only have the tiniest of parts but with there being so many great ones, scattered throughout the film, each one is like a little treat each time they happen.
With all that this film already had going for it what I must add is that this is probably one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year. The comic timing, the brilliantly choreographed slap stick moments, this film absolutely nailed the comedy and Mr Fiennes in particular never missed a beat. The laughs alone in this film are enough reason to see it but it still has so much more to offer still.
One of the final things I wanted to add about this great film was the wonderful use of miniatures, subtle visual effects and some of the most elaborate and stunning sets to grace a film this year. When our main characters are standing in the main foyer of the Hotel and then a hilarious chase scene begins in which they start running away up into the heart of the place and Wes Anderson utilises simple camera movement to show you just how large and extensive it all is, it really is something to behold. There was no expense spared on this film, the level of detail is sublime and the craftsmanship appreciated.
If you haven’t already, see this film and watch what is certainly one of Wes Andersons best films in quite some time and certainly one of my favourites of this year.
Check out my full review for Interstellar here.
Interstellar is a film that has definitely split opinion this year, perhaps more than any other one. A lot of people love this film and what it accomplishes but there also a lot of people who believe this to be Nolan’s worst film yet. The whole list thing kind of gives it away but I fall on the side of loving this film, I have always been a person who is captivated by what Christopher Nolan puts on screen and this film was no different.
I feel it important to point out that I do acknowledge that Interstellar is not a film without its flaws and I do go into more depth on them in my full review. Having said that I still think Interstellar is more than deserving of being on this list, not if for just the fact that what Nolan was able to achieve with this film, was I feel astounding.
There were scenes in this film that had me close to tears and then there were scenes which just left me a mess of satisfaction in my chair. So much of this film is a pleasure palace of delights for each and every one of the senses. My ears were attended to by the score, brilliantly crafted by Hans Zimmer, my personnel favourite from the soundtrack would have to be ‘No Time for Caution’, if you find the time I would recommend that piece in particular. My eyes were engorged by the stunning visuals in this film, from wormholes, to impossible worlds and onto black holes with one or two secrets up its sleeve, each moment in this film was more beautiful to look at than the last and they just kept coming. If nothing more this film is a worthy example of when done right, how all manner of visual effects can be assets and not eye sores for a film.
I want to close this part out on my appreciation for the acting in this film, namely my stand outs Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy who do a beautiful job. McConaughey brings the level of commitment that he has been bringing for a while now and his consistency is not only great for the films he’s in, it helps put them on the map but it’s also great for us, the audience. To know going into this film that it would have the stability of his performance is a welcome joy. Mackenzie Foy however is an actress that I am excited to see going forward. She did an incredible job of being the anchor for back on Earth, if she hadn’t been as interesting or heartfelt in the way she gave her performance then the whole life of the film would have failed before it even got off the ground, we wouldn’t have cared about McConaughey’s character trying to get home or the concept that every passing minute was another hour lost with his daughter, those ideas were so important for this film and she helped make that connection work. Both these actors and everyone else in the film gave the kind of wonderful and strong performances that you’d expect/want from a Nolan film.
This is definitely the most high profile film on my list and so I probably don’t need to tell you how much you should see this film but I still wanted to give my appreciation for what was a beautiful film.
Edge of Tomorrow
Check out my full review for Edge of Tomorrow here.
I think I was as surprised as everyone else at just how good this Tom Cruise Sci-fi flick was. When I first came out of the film I couldn’t really get it into my head just how much I enjoyed the film, I enjoyed it so much in fact that it is the film that I believe is the stand out success of the Blockbuster season and deserves to be spoken about and highlighted to anyone who perhaps passed this one by.
What I think made this film stand out so much to me was the themes that the film dealt with and more importantly how it dealt with them. Death, the way in which this film dealt with death was really interesting, now I know the whole concept of dying and then coming back to life over and over again isn’t the most original idea but the setting and actually Tom Cruises performance in showing how such a thing can affect you was brilliantly done.
First off the setting, a Normandy beach landing like scenario that had a much more superior foe than the people who were landing on the beach made for some very interesting battle scenes, also add to that, that our main character played by Mr Cruise wasn’t this all American badass who could immediately defeat anything in his way and was an unstoppable killing machine. No instead Cruise’s character was a coward and a person who used lying, bribery and desertion to try and get out of going to the front line. Not only is this an interesting character to begin your save the world Sci-Fi film but it’s also a really interesting person to have Tom Cruise playing, this is a man who usually is this all American, unstoppable force. This film did everything it could to go against the stereotypical plot choices and I am so glad it did.
How the film tackled death was brilliant (which is the most morbid thing I’ve said today) and helped once again by Cruise. As the film goes on and we slowly see Cruise’s character dying over and over again, and failing over and over again, those moments begin to seep into his performance where you can see it in his eyes, in the way that he carries himself that what is happening is badly effecting him (rightly so) and to watch that, to see the hero slowly giving up because he doesn’t think he can do it any more is a fascinating character study and a blockbuster film that is actually using its brain and treating the audience like they actually have the brain to comprehend what is happening.
I applaud this film for what it did and how it did it. This really is a film that stood up high against the rest in my personnel opinion and more people should see this film and appreciate what it did.
Check out my full review for Nightcrawler here.
Nightcrawler is a film that I was excited to see for a long time and once I finally did it certainly didn’t disappoint. The constant unsettling tone that ran through out the film and the spot on performances made this film an absolute joy to watch.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the unhinged ‘Louis Bloom’ and he plays it so well that he is my personnel favourite to win best actor at the majority of award shows this year. Gyllenhaal is absolutely sublime in this film, never before have I seen him get so lost in a character as much as he does in this one. Not only is he physically different as ‘Louis Bloom’ but the creepy and manipulative personality of the man is something that you can’t look away from, the commitment he brings to this role is unreal. From the moment he first appears on screen he is someone who you are captivated by, he is so different in the way he interacts and behaves it is just fascinating to watch.
The look of this film is also so distinctive, utilising the backdrop of Los Angeles but the parts of Los Angeles we don’t usually see, the film feeds of these places that almost seem lawless, the wild west if you will and Gyllenhaal’s character seems to relish in the hardships of these places. This film is just an assault of things you think you should be turning your eyes away from but you just can’t. Nothing more heightens that point than this films social commentary and spot on portrayal of how the modern day news channel gathers and reports its news.
This film has so much to say, from the way in which news is handled in current times to how the seediest of people can achieve such heights by standing on everyone else. Not just is this a film with some incredible acting (particularly by Gyllenhaal) but it is a film of such substance. This is a must see film because this is one that people will be talking about quite a bit in the weeks/months to come.
Under the Skin
Check out my full review for Under the Skin here.
Under the Skin has been the film that I have been the most excited to talk about and is without any doubt my film of 2014. I have seen a lot of films this year and nothing is as different or mesmerising to watch as Under the Skin is. Directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Scarlett Johannsson this is a film that once it had finished I was immediately trying to figure out its mysteries and fully understand everything that this film was hiding directly under the surface.
Under the Skin is a film that is the pinnacle of not holding the audiences hand. The director never gives the audience one hint of what might be happening; everything is left to you to figure out and to follow along with. I loved this, I’m bored of films just blatantly telling you what everything is and why it is the way it is, exposition in films is at times the most frustrating part for me, that is one of the main reasons I love this film, there is no exposition, there is no hand holding, quite literally everything in the film is left for you to understand. Long after the film was finished I was reading a multitude of different theories any one of which could have been the correct one. This added a layer of discovery to the film which in turn made this a film stay in the forefront of my mind for a long time, it is still a film that puzzles me and that’s exciting.
This is also the most chilling and uncomfortable film I’ve watched this year, from the use of the music and the haunting undertones that run all throughout the film, I never once felt safe in what I was watching or what might be coming next. Mr Glazer did an absolutely incredible job with this film. It looks beautiful (helped by utilising the back drop of Scotland) it sounds fascinating and other worldly and like I emphasised before never really knowing what is happening and to be left constantly guessing as to what the main characters motives are, is an extremely satisfying way to watch this film.
I don’t want to say too much about the film for fear of spoiling something or ruining its mystique, all I’ll say is that you absolutely need to see this film; it is masterful in what it achieves.
Before I close this piece out I want to highlight some films that still deserve your attention but I just didn’t necessarily want to write about for fear of having this piece run too long, so these are some other films that you should definitely make the effort to see.
- The Guest.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (You can read the full review of that here).
- Gone Girl (You can read the full review of that here).
So there you have it, that is my list of some of the films that stood out to me in 2014. All of these films are well worth your time I assure you of that, I had an absolute blast watching all of these films and I am really excited to see what 2015 brings.