So here we go. Based on UK release dates, the team at One Room With A View have voted, and we can now reveal our Top 20 Films of 2014.
What a great year of film it has been.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is exemplified by one of 2014’s standout scenes: Quicksilver, an excellent new mutant, zipping around at super-fast speed shown in ultra-slow motion. Fast enough to keep you engrossed in its wide cast and time-hopping plot, DoFP still offers opportunities to appreciate the finer details and extensive cameos. This balance is what makes director Bryan Singer the X-Men’s greatest asset, with this his triumphant return. Bringing together the best of old and new with visual flair and an emotional core, this seventh film re-energises the series and its fans.
After a deadly virus virtually eradicates humanity, Caesar’s colony of intelligent apes believe that they are alone. Tensions rise, however, when a band of humans arrive seeking to activate a hydroelectric dam to supply power to the city. Faced with the prospect of war, Caesar’s leadership is challenged by the militant Koba, portrayed in bewitching fashion by Toby Kebbell.
Putting aside the substantial leap forward in motion capture technology that it achieved, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was that rarest of things: a sequel that was not only equal to its predecessor but in many ways surpassed it.
This time last year, only the most optimistic of brick fans would have predicted that the upcoming LEGO Movie would turn out to be not a joyless and calculated cash-grab, but a giddy, vibrant joyride, and probable frontrunner for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
With The LEGO Movie, writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller cement themselves as Hollywood’s go-to guys for turning unlikely-sounding properties into huge commercial and critical hits. Packed to the rafters with hilarious gags and memorable quotes, the razor-sharp script is perfectly served by a stunning visual style and a star-studded voice cast. Amazingly good fun for kids and adults alike.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the Kings of 2014. Having conjured a heartwarming, clever and idiosyncratic triumph out of an elongated advert (see LEGO above), the writer-director duo reappeared to try and defeat the curse of the much-maligned comedic sequel.
Led by the tremendously childish double act of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, the franchise succeeds and even surpasses itself. Relentless in energy and humour from beginning to end, the film’s ability to raise the bar on so many levels for future comedic films is unparalleled and inspiring.
Frank is one of those fabulous films which occasionally drops in from the festival circuit and passes you silently by, but deserves more recognition than it actually gets.
It’s an extravagant arty romp, wherein the lieutenant from Inglourious Basterds (Fassbender) kidnaps Bill Weasley (Domhnall Gleeson) and forces him into being the keyboard player for his eclectic band of musical hipsters – who then travel to an abandoned part of Ireland living in seclusion for a year whilst writing and perfecting their next album. It’s the perfect match of psychedelic, awesome and wacky. Outstanding.
Every star that twinkles in the sky of show-business is destined to receive its curtain call. Tragically, not everyone is fortunate enough to decide just when it might come. If anyone deserved to fly out of the rafters of cinema on a self-induced high note, however, it is Hayao Miyazaki.
The auteur’s purportedly final film (we’ve all heard that one before… ), The Wind Rises, has perhaps more in common with a butterfly than its central Mitsubishi A5M: it’s a delicate, fluttering and colourful work of beauty. A warm squeeze of a goodbye, this is Miyazaki’s trumpet – not tombstone.
Mr. Turner is perfectly pitched. Chronology and ‘story’ do not encumber Mike Leigh whatsoever as he expertly paints an unhurried series of intimate and immense interludes that form a rich portrait of the artist’s final years.
Suitably beautiful for a film about art, Mr. Turner shows cinematographer Dick Pope turn screen into canvas as he uses Turner’s palette to luminous effect. A lyrical and enigmatic atmosphere underpins each moment, augmented by the scintillatingly sublime score, kaleidoscope of motley characters and Timothy Spall’s flawlessly elusive, eccentric and coarse performance.
Mr. Turner is nothing short of glorious: human, humorous and endlessly enjoyable.
After The Guard, one might bemoan Calvary’s seriousness, finding themselves jarred by the seemingly-glacial tonal shifts between profound existentialism and coal-black humour; and yet, Calvary shoulders this ambition with ease in a film that grapples faith, virtue, retribution, and death.
“There are bodies buried back there,” bellows one character towards Calvary‘s breath-taking conclusion. It is an exquisite piece of filmmaking; McDonagh’s sophomore feature delves into a dark aspect underpinning Ireland’s recent cultural heritage, but does so with startling intelligence and searing social insight that is gifted conviction by an awards-worthy Gleeson. A near-masterpiece, no doubt.
Starred Up carries the tone of a nature documentary, its audience peering at a cage full of alpha males left to stalk, posture and snarl their way through their respective sentences. What results is akin to guilt, at reducing these characters to a sum of their myriad animalistic behaviours.
O’Connell’s performance deservedly hoovered up much of the attention on release but it’s the relationship with his father (Ben Mendelsohn) that draws it during and after runtime. For all its achingly naturalistic brutality, Starred Up serves an utterly convincing, affecting father/son relationship, ruminating on the familial path all but taken.
From its opening scenes Nightcrawler remoulds any apparent genre trappings into something more constructive and original. What sounds like another groan-inducing “media satire” – see 2014’s more one-note Maps to the Stars – grows into a passionately arch deconstruction of the present job market, the story’s showbiz content all but backgrounded as writer-director Dan Gilroy, cinematographer Robert Elswit and an utterly manic Jake Gyllenhaal pull us through the greatest bizarro nightmare comedy since Scorsese’s After Hours. Gripping, laugh-out-loud, and really quite left-field, this intimidatingly well-polished gonzo surprise was as smart, and unhinged, as they come.
The Raid took modern martial arts films, locked them in a multi-story apartment complex and smashed them to pieces. The Raid 2 tells The Raid to brace itself, because this is going to hurt.
SWAT rookie Rama, having barely survived the first instalment, is going up against the big boys. The Raid 2 is simply breathtaking; at the same time horrifyingly brutal and utterly beautiful, it pushes the limit of martial arts choreography. Engineered around incredible performances, life and death hang in the smallest moments of every intricate battle, and endurance is everything – for characters and audience alike.
Jean-Marc Vallée’s gripping tale of cowboy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey)’s transformation from foul-mouthed homophobe to resourceful AIDS-treating drug trafficker probed the immorality of pharma and FDA involvement with the AIDS crisis, without simply polarising the key players.
Making Woodroof an anti-heroic, prejudiced paradigm through which to dispel common misconceptions about AIDS, Vallée’s film handled its subject with due sensitivity yet didn’t circumvent graphically presenting the disease. Shot sans lighting equipment in just 25 days, the result is a triumphant example of how much a modest budget can achieve, and masterfully avoids insincerity, sentimentality, and dialogue-as-exposition in favour of subtle storytelling.
Tune in every day, up to the 30th of December, as we count down our Top 10 Films of 2014. What will be our number one?
Better yet, what is your number one? Let us know in the comments below.