Friday 5 December 2014

Top 20 of 2014 - 20 to 16

After my top 30 of glorious 2013, 2014 did not quite reach such heights, hence a top 20 instead of 30 this year. In an effort of consistency, I have only included films with a UK release date in 2014, and frustratingly, I saw most of the films in this top 20 at film festivals last year, while most of the best films I saw this year were also seen at film festivals, and are sure to feature in my top films of 2015, a trend which reflects my viewing habit of the last few years. This is no snobbery but the cinema going experience has become so depressing... and I found film festivals to be the best and nearly only way to enjoy films with a respectful audience. Indeed it seems as if multiplexes are determined to discourage dedicated film fans from visiting them, through gimmicks and general lack of respect for the medium. But there is hope with cinema still, as the variety of talents, countries and genres in my top 20 reflect.

20) Transcendence

It is an understatement to say that Transcendence wasn't well received upon its release. But this isn't contrarianism, I'm always 100% honest with my assessment of films. This first film from Christopher Nolan's long serving DP turned out to be a great surprise for me, a sort of anti-blockbuster, understated, slow-paced and yet quietly moving and wonderfully atmospheric, harping back to the a certain kind of 70's cerebral sci-fi which only indie films seem to adopt these days.

19) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

My list features more blockbuster than it ever has since 1995 (the year Batman Forever featured, I was young...). It has become fashionable to slate Marvel as the root of all blockbusting evil but they are the wrong target. I'd argue that the studio has produced some of the most exciting and pleasing blockbusters of the last few years, by taking some genuine risks and respecting their audience of fans and neophytes alike. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of their best, a smart and unlikely yet thrilling mix of 70's cold espionage paranoia and modern day action. Interestingly, why many films I loved this year have all but vanished from my memory after a few months, Captain America remains, hence its spot here.

18) We Are The Best 

There is something about European coming of age films that American cinema rarely seem to manage. Unsentimental yet moving, truthful and relatable, they look at teenage years without rose tainted glasses and We Are The Best is no exception. Evoking the boredom of suburban life, the lack of understanding from well meaning parents, the best friendships you'll ever form before life catches up with you, and that feeling that you have your whole life ahead of you yet not quite knowing what to do with it, We Are The Best is also absolutely hilarious and heart-warming without trying too hard.

17) The Rover

Australian cinema is often lost in between the glitz of American cinema and the prestige of its European counterpart, yet it is one which, to my mind, has produced some of the most interesting films of the last few decades. And here with The Rover David Michôd confirms the promises from Animal Kingdom. A bleak, nihilistic drama that offers a very realistic view of a post apocalyptic world like a thinking man Mad Max, The Rover is brutal and uncompromising, with both Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson offering some of their best performances to date.

16 ) Edge Of Tomorrow

Yet another thrilling blockbuster, one that sadly struggled to find the audience it deserved. There is something fascinating about the way you could take its high concept as a prism in which to see Tom Cruise's recent career: eschewing a move into more grown up dramas that he actually use to feature in his younger years, he has refused to age, reliving the same film/day over and over again, honing his action hero persona to perfection. But without going into this. The Edge Of Tomorrow remains a smart, exciting and surprisingly funny blockbuster, which shows that you do not have to go down the Bayhem route to entertain.

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