Here at ORWAV we’re not going to bore you with a Best Films of 2014 round-up just because we’re halfway through the year. Instead, our writers are here to offer something different, with the specific moments that have made their year in film so far. We’ve got arthouse elegance, blockbuster brilliance and awards show highlights all for your consideration. It goes without saying that there are PLENTY of spoilers ahead.
10. Under the Skin – The Black Void (Lina)
An alien comes to earth, disguised as a young woman. As she drives through Scotland in a white van, the nameless beauty picks up strange men. She lures them into a mysterious black space, slowly undressing. The men follow her willingly, until they gradually sink into a silent, black void before imploding and dissolving, leaving a floating mass of what was once their skin.
The scene is a perfectly-paced blend of hyper-naturalism and stylised science fiction, taking its time in revealing the men’s fate to the audience. Mica Levi’s dissonant soundtrack and Scarlett Johansson’s iconic performance seduces us like them, luring us into a place that is disturbing, fascinating, and incredibly cinematic.
9. Noah – The Flood (Patrick)
For all its faults, Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of the story of Noah is not short of visual spectacle. Recalling the immediate aftermath of the great flood unleashed by ‘The Creator’, one particular image comes to mind. Unmoved by his family’s pleas to help the “innocent” outside, the camera cuts from Noah’s impassive face to the torrent outside. Against a backdrop of the floating ark, a solitary mountain peak pierces the waves, onto which the last remnants of humanity cling for dear life. This moment encapsulates Noah’s unenviable moral dilemma – that of how to decide who is spared and who perishes.
8. The Raid 2 – Hell’s Kitchen (Conor)
From the moment Rama and the “final boss” of the film, The Assassin, sloooowly square up to one another, you know you’re in for something good.
Six weeks to design, ten days to shoot and containing 196 shots, it’s a nerve-shredding martial arts masterpiece. Silat is a balletic but brutal style; it’s fluid and dance-like, but Gareth Evans never lets you forget these guys are fighting, not waltzing.
He also fully incorporates the kitchen environment, with trays, pots, glass partitions, wine bottles and metal cabinets all being used to gruesome effect. Not to mention The Assassin’s curved, serrated karambit knives. So. Much. Blood…
7. Godzilla – Atomic Breath (Chris)
Through the darkness a blue-white light flickers into existence. Others follow, the spikes on Godzilla’s back and tail illuminated from within in an ethereal crescendo as the King of Monsters rises, inhales, and unleashes a hellish blast of atomic fire…
Edwards’ visual eye is impeccable, his use of light and contrast masterful, and his camera works in harmony with the character’s movement allowing the sequence to develop organically.
But most importantly it confirms Edwards nailed the character: a common complaint of Godzilla (1998) was the lack of Big G’s trademark atomic breath; here Edwards reveals Godzilla’s party-trick with confidence and style.
6. 12 Years a Slave – Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar (Sophie)
“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.”
In truth, there’s not much to say about Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar speech that it doesn’t say for itself. A year after J-Law tripped on her dress, Lupita charmed us with a genuine show of humility and an acute awareness of just where her happiness had come from. On a night when the focus is on the rich and famous and awards are given on the votes of the overwhelmingly white and male, Lupita turned the world’s attention to the long road we’re still walking down – both how far we’ve come, and how far we have left to go.
5. Her – Spike Jonze at the Golden Globes (Calum)
Amidst the grander moments of 2014’s awards season, one quiet speech stood out: Spike Jonze, collecting his Golden Globe for writing Her. By the time of his Oscar win he’d become a tad more polished, but in January, apparently still shocked by the reception, his acceptance was mumbly, stumbly, uncertain and really quite sweet. A great validation for all the other shy, weird individuals out there and a lovely antidote to the increasingly wearying Hollywood hyperbole-trains about McConaissances and Letting it Go. If nothing else, it was one of the most frankly, genuinely real awards show moments in years.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street – ‘From now on, it’s gonna be nothin’ but short, short skirts around the house.’ (Cameron)
Waking to the sound of Jordan’s drug-addled moans for last night’s hooker, Mrs. Belfort discards all prospect of physical intimacy, as well as her underwear.
Having already been exposed to Jordan’s somewhat indulgent excess via countless first/second/third class prostitutes, it would appear that abstinence was not going to be making its moral debut. However, despite the surprising lack of sexual gratification throughout the scene, it nonetheless epitomises the pathetic severity of Jordan’s debauched existence. As Naomi’s casual exploitation of Jordan’s second-circle vice sees him beg, mesmerised by expectancy, Mr. Fuzzybear continues his watch, Rocco and Rocco behind his hidden lens, and a crib at his side.
3. Jersey Boys – End Credits (Tori)
Four Seasons belters including ‘Sherry’ and ‘Beggin’’ have been sung, but there is an important – nay, vital – ingredient yet to appear. Just as the film ostensibly ends, as you begin to question everything that is right and good with this adaptation… there it is. The teasing piano jingle from the film’s opening credits, blissfully expanded into a full-on street party version of ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’. Every character joins in, including Christopher Walken, in three minutes of joyous, jazz-hands abandon. Thank you, Clint; it’s what we all needed – musical redemption – and made all the richer for waiting.
2. Inside Llewyn Davis – Please Mr. Kennedy (Tom)
Inside Llewyn Davis is a beautifully melancholic film, but with this barnstorming performance Isaac, Timberlake and Driver lighten the mood with a feel-good nugget of comedy gold. Strapped for cash, Llewyn agrees to help his friend Jim record a song at odds with his creative integrity and the trio deliver the greatest novelty space record that never was.
The song captures the bizarre contradictions of Llewyn and the folk scene perfectly: political but absurd, traditional but progressive, talented but self-defeating. The highlight, though, has to be Driver, who with every insane interjection steals the scene so thoroughly it’s a miracle his co-stars could keep a straight face.
1. The Wind Rises – Farewell to a Master (Christopher)
Acclaim is sumptuous company to keep, but treacherous in nature. How many times has hype caused even the most accomplished filmmaker to wobble? And there are few as accomplished as Hayao Miyazaki, the Walt Disney of Studio Ghibli.
Fortunately, The Wind Rises is not only a beautiful film, but a poignant love letter of farewell from auteur to audience. Its story of gentle, quiet genius serves as a most fitting eulogy to Miyazaki’s own magical career.
As with life, films always end in darkness. As The Wind Rises’ credits roll, and its closing theme whispers adieu, we realise the wind has risen. Miyazaki has retired.
Now we must try to live.
Agree with our top 10 Movie Moments? What have been your cinema highlights of 2014 so far?