The list is fairly self-explanatory, but a couple of things to note are that I'm only including films that were actually released in 2014. I saw Still Life in 2014 and it is excellent, but its release date was 2013 (even 2012 in some places) so it can't qualify for the list. It was too hard to whittle it down to five, and, as it's my blog and I can do what I like, I kept it at seven. And they're in alphabetical order because I couldn't pick the very best.
7 of the best films from 2014:
- 20,000 Days on Earth – Not only a fascinating insight into the more-than-mildly-bonkers mind of Nick Cave, but also a discourse on the transformative power of performance. Sharply directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the fusion of documentary and drama with talking heads and concert footage is absolutely excellent. It won the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival; it deserves to win many more at many more.
- Calvary – Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, and starring Brendan Gleeson as a good priest, this film has all the commanding scenic shots, black humour, depth of plot and characterisation you would expect. Its combination of deeply disturbing morality and theatrical reverence is both subtle and shocking, reverberating long after its short (1hour 40mins) running time.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel – Sort of like a combination of Fawlty Towers, Allo Allo, and a bumbling prison escape/ murder mystery/ chase-sequence thriller: wonderfully weird, impeccably acted and every scene fantastically framed – I love this sort of description-defying stuff! Wes Anderson directs the tale of the adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the legendary concierge of a famous European hotel between the wars, and exceptional actors fall over themselves for a bit part.
- Mr. Turner – Timothy Spall is brilliant in Mike Leigh’s earthy and grimy biopic in which humanity is ugly, and the only beauty is found in the paintings and the scenery. The film is as much about the nature of fame and celebrity as it is about art and the passing fads in the cultural consciousness. While J.M.W. Turner is the major planet around which all the other actors orbit, they all shine brightly in this firmament.
- Nightcrawler – Excellent and disturbing film about how we get the news delivered to us in the way we deserve. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a chilling performance, Rene Russo mines the emotions behind the cut-throat news service industry, and writer/director Dan Gilroy offers up a lot to think about.
- Paddington – Paddington Bear was one of my childhood favourites, along with Bagpus, The Clangers, The Magic Roundabout and The Herb Garden. I loved the books, I loved the TV series, and now I love the film – feel-good film of the year. Everyone gives a top-notch performance from Ben Wishaw as the voice of the bear, to Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Mr and Mrs Brown. Whereas Disney would have ruined it, Heyday Films, you looked after my bear. Thank you.
- The Trip to Italy – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back and as brilliant as ever. Their (largely unscripted, as is director Michael Winterbottom’s wont) blokish banter of insults and continuous non-sequiturs is reminiscent of the rambles you used to have down the pub in the good old days before someone would whip out their smart phone and kill all creative discussion. The back-drop of scenic Italian countryside, gourmet meals and plush hotels is merely a bonus.