Thursday, 1 January 2015
My Top 20 Films of 2014, 20-11
20. Under the Skin
An obvious outlier, and one I sense I really need to experience for a second time before deciding on any definitive placing: on a first pass, I found its singularity of vision both hugely impressive and challenging in the extreme. I'm tempted to take the copious anecdotal evidence that suggests it disturbed and alienated so many as proof of its exceptionality: whether you dug it or not, it was clearly capable of having the most potent effect, and I wonder whether anyone who walked out or backed away from its particular frequency at an early stage simply missed the more affecting notes sounded in the denouement.
19. 20 Feet from Stardom
The year's most berserk movie, yes, but also its best sustained black joke.
These pellucid images achieve more in 4:3 than Christopher Nolan ever dreamed of doing in IMAX.
15. The Overnighters
An extraordinary and finally devastating snapshot of where we are now.
14. Life Itself
13. 20,000 Days on Earth
And I'm not really a Nick Cave fan. This was, nevertheless, an elevating response to the dispiriting doominess of Cave's previous screen work (The Proposition, Lawless): a crisply composed, illuminating, often wryly playful documentary unfolding of the many reasons an artist gets out of bed in the morning - and stays awake at night.
For much of the year, I found myself championing Aronofsky's Biblical epic in generally defensive terms - something to do with the ambitious battiness of its conception. However, a second look, in the immediate aftermath of Ridley Scott's far more prosaic Exodus: Gods and Kings, pointed up just how shrewd the writer-director was in the handling of his hot-potato source material. Aronofsky is willing to go along with the story for the extraordinary images it yields (how many directors could resist taking a crack at the Creation?), but at a crucial moment - around the time Russell Crowe's very able seaman puts his family, two-by-two, into lockdown - he starts interrogating the idea of unquestioning faith, and the extreme measures such faith leads some to take, in a way 2014's lesser congregation-courters (God's Not Dead, Heaven is For Real) simply wouldn't countenance. (Within this director's body of work, Crowe's Noah initiates the obsessive line that begets Pi's mathematician protagonist and Requiem for a Dream's addicts: after a while, you wouldn't choose to follow these guys anywhere.) In so doing, this ark achieved an unexpected - and, to these eyes, genuinely impressive - balance between belief and scepticism, or to put it another way, between critical thinking and astounding spectacle.
11. The Golden Dream
Any post-Cowell reality show contestant lazily reaching for the word "journey" to describe their only moderately choppy passage into the first-world public's gaze should be obliged to watch every last minute of Diego Quemada-Diez's remarkably affecting immigrant song. Now, this - this is a journey.
My Top 10 for the year will follow tomorrow.