Sunday, 4 January 2015
My Top 20 Films of 2014, 10-1
Of all the year's lengthy films aspiring to the standing of great novels (Nymphomaniac, Norte, the End of History, Winter Sleep), this Russian titan was the one that to me felt the most complete and satisfying in its storytelling.
9. Next Goal Wins
Not just a rare notable football movie, but a magnificent group portrait of people getting better. If Roy Hodgson had gathered the England squad together to show them this, rather than allowing them to drift away to film their Subway and Head & Shoulders promotions in the weeks before the World Cup, maybe the players would have come away from the experience with some sense of why this beautiful, chaotic, exasperating, persistently silly game actually matters so much to many of us.
8. A Touch of Sin
As brilliant (and unsparing) a portrait of modern China as Leviathan was of modern Russia.
7. The Lego Movie
Because, sometimes, when our corporate overlords put their resources in the right hands, even they can get things awesomely right.
6. How We Used to Live
I'm a sucker for this sort of archive-collage, granted, but even so, this collaboration between director Paul Kelly, writer Travis Elborough and the band Saint Etienne provided one of the loveliest hour-and-a-bits I had watching movies in 2014.
Along with Ida, the year's best response to prevailing movie maximalism: a small but faultlessly sincere and immeasurably honest weepie, using its few effects to better render its characters' deep-seated emotions. Great performance by Ben Whishaw, too.
4. Mr. Turner
2014's richest, most finely detailed spectacle, and - just pipping the Browns in Paddington - its most cherishable definition of national character. Although, Pollyanna that I am, I still wish Leigh had swapped the last two shots around, the great miserable bastard.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
A good year for the Coens: their amanuensis Noah Hawley fixed up and fortified Fargo's somewhat suspect plotting in his TV offshoot, in the process reminding us of what we've really always cherished about these filmmakers - though they did plenty of that themselves, in this wry, fond, very funny late-period display of empathy for all those fate leaves out in the cold. Best cat of the year, too.
2. 12 Years a Slave
Kudos to Steve McQueen, and - at the other end of the seriousness spectrum - to Barry Shitpeas, for pointing out the film's hitherto unnoted debt to Horrible Bosses: "After twelve years a slave, I just don't think he could stick it any more."
1. The Raid 2
In truth, there wasn't one standout release for me this year - as opposed to 2013, when I responded to Before Midnight in much the same way everybody else did to Boyhood in 2014 - and any of the top six could have found themselves at number one. So I've gone with my gut: this rock 'em, sock 'em action compendium/masterclass was the most exciting experience I had in a cinema this year, and consequently the closest I've come in some considerable while to handing in my critical faculties and becoming an unapologetic fanboy.