Best Films of 2014: Writers’ Choices

| December 23, 2014 | Comments (1)

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Earlier we selected our Top 5 films of the year. Below you can enjoy the complete list of Film Ireland writers’ choices on the best films of 2014.

 

Anthony Assad

Ida
A soulful journey of self-discovery, every frame like a painting, serving the story, its characters and our own wonderment.

Frank
Genius, madness and mystery all rolled up inside one paper-mâché head, a sublime tragicomedy performed by a dream team cast.

The Possibilities Are Endless
Edwyn Collins is a man of his word: ‘the possibilities are endless’, a miraculous document of survival and an ode to life, love and creativity.

Leviathan
A hardboiled, vodka-fuelled portraiture of life and strife in contemporary Russia – critical, courageous and composed as it cuts to the bone.

Boyhood
Proving that growing up can never grow old is just one of this lovingly realised films many virtues.

Martin Cusack

1. Nightcrawler
Gyllenhaal’s vampiric turn powers this riveting and timely LA masterpiece

2. Ida
Pawlikowski’s gorgeous minimalist B&W compositions brought this quietly devastating story powerfully to life

3. Under the Skin
Divisive and deeply flawed but the most daring and original movie of the year

4. Mr. Turner
Spall shines in Mike Leigh’s unhurried portrait of Britain’s greatest painter

5. Maps to the Stars
Cronenberg takes us on a demented ride through Hollywood’s blackest corridors in this nightmarish satire.

Richard Drumm

1. Enemy
In a year not short on great performances from Gyllenhaal, this film as much as (if not more than) Nightcrawler is all the evidence you need that he is a phenomenal actor when he finds the right material. The trance-like directing, the washed-out cinematography and unsettling sound all contribute to this being the most memorable film of the year. It has all the unease and weirdness of a Lynch movie but with the discipline of someone crafting a deliberate puzzle box of a movie that if you really pay attention to, you might just figure out on a first viewing. To echo what I was told before seeing it; read nothing about it and just watch it. Also *that* ending.

2.The Grand Budapest Hotel
An intricately crafted, impeccably acted, constantly hilarious confection of a film that still has a streak of melancholic bleakness that makes the humour even funnier and the overall journey feel that much more worthwhile. (Probably the best the soundtrack of the year too.)

3. The LEGO Movie
This movie is simply better than it has any right to be. Giving the project to the creative mad scientists behind Clone High (and the recent Jump Street movies) was the first stroke of genius, the casting and tone were the others. An almost perfectly paced comedy that works as an action film, a kids film, a parody of numerous genres and an interesting critique of modern Hollywood, this film has it all. LEGO Batman is also probably the best onscreen Batman we’ve ever had.

4. The Congress
Some have argued that this movie doesn’t work as a film on its own but rather it’s two halves of two very different but equally great movies that simply don’t fit together. It’s not a baseless argument but if you can get as swept up in this movie as I did, it won’t matter. This is Robin Wright’s movie and she’s just great; funny, frail and at times heart-breaking to watch. It’s a smart, plausible sci-fi movie on the one hand and as an acid-trip journey through a history of animated cinema, it’s unmatched. Even if you don’t get all the references, you’ll never be bored by it.

5. The Babadook
There were probably better films this year but there were no better horror films (and I’m trying to keep this list diverse in genre). Babadook managed what so few horrors ever manage these days; being both relentlessly, effectively atmospheric and having a powerful and rich thematic undercurrent. Probably one of the saddest movies I’ve seen all year, almost all of which rests on the shoulders of an Oscar-worthy performance by Essie Davis. Genuinely freaky, inventive when it needs to be and thoroughly, narratively satisfying.

 

Paul Farren

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Probably Wes Anderson’s best to date. A bittersweet tragedy dressed as a farce. Beautiful to watch, wonderful performances all round but Ralph Feinnes steals the acting plaudits on this one.

2. The Lego Movie
Non stop, bonkers, slightly let down by a cheesy hit and miss, typically American resolution but well worth the ride, as it’s featured song goes, Everything is awesome.

3. XMen: Days of Future Past
What’s not to like? Time travel, Wolverine and a cheeky ending that must have had nerds swooning worldwide.

4. Mr Turner
Mike Leigh’s beautiful biopic of the famous painter is a compelling look at the last years of his life, with stunning cinematography from Dick Pope.

5. Cold in July
Nice and seedy piece of retro noir from Jim Mickle. Starting as a revenge film of one sort then turning into some thing else altogether. Don Johnson gives a star turn as a private eye, pig farmer.

 

Sarah Griffin

Best Blockbuster:
Guardians of the Galaxy
It’s the return of the blockbuster, with all the wittiness of Indy, old-school sci-fi of Star Wars, and uber-cool smartness of Marvel… the perfect combo.

 

Best Sleeper Hit:
Nightcrawler
Gets under your skin and doesn’t let go… Jake Gyllenhaal is mesmerisingly sociopathic.

 

Best Way to Lose Sleep:
Under the Skin
A love-it or hate-it movie that I loved.  Unbelievably atmospheric, and reminiscent of Kubrick at his brilliant creepiest.

 

Best Existential Knockout Combo:
The Zero Theorem/The Double
Richard Ayoade can’t help but be influenced by the mad genius of Terry Gilliam, and Zero Theorem is Gilliam at his finest – wrapping up his dystopic trilogy with flair.  That 2014 gave us both movies feels like synergy!

 

Most Ignored Gem:
Are You Here
Beautiful pathos, well written and with great performances all round.  Zach Galifianakis in particular gives an understated performance that’s really something to behold.

 

Special Mention:  
The Babadook
For psychological horror that made you forget what you were watching wasn’t real.
They Came Together
For pure stupidity that still managed to have more chemistry than the rom-coms it parodies.

 

Stacy Grouden

1. Boyhood
In an age where time-lapse photography goes viral and ‘big-picture’ television shows are among the most celebrated modes of storytelling, there has still never been anything quite like the time capsule of Boyhood. With a production title of Twelve Years (and forever mentally subtitled Twelve Years a Boy in my brain), the film’s stream-of-consciousness approach to depicting events large and small (admirably weighted) in a boy’s life from ages six to eighteen, Boyhood deserves to be celebrated not only for its novel, quietly ambitious production, but for its humanity – the powerful emotional response it will evoke in anyone who has ever grown up, at any point in their lives, or is continuing to do so.

 

2. Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer’s nuanced treatment of the loose, simple plot of Under the Skin  – mysterious alien explores the UK – results in an extraordinary affecting film. Its narrative opacity makes the film something of a Rorschach test, allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps and create their own meanings and motives within it. Impossible to classify in terms of genre, presenting dialogue-light vignettes set to an understated, hypnotic soundtrack, there are images in this film that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and may never leave me – it’s an unforgettable experience.

 


3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The madcap and macabre hijinks in the alternate pre-war Europe of The Grand Budapest Hotel  are ostensible window-dressings for Wes Anderson’s presentation of a postmodern and very entertaining twist on the 1930s-style detective story. But the quietly-elegant performances from F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori as Zero, the eccentric hotelier recalling his days as a lobby boy, juxtaposed with Ralph Fiennes’ canny concierge Gustave H., elevate it to a poignant memoir, an ode to times past, and to dearly-departed mentors.

 

4. Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler is a sign of the times, from its darkly satiric and grotesque themes and narrative about media ethics, very smartly explored, to its protagonist’s desire for financial success at almost any moral cost. Stalking the streets of LA after dark, seeking victims to film and exploit for sensationalised crime news, Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler was this year‘s best-realised screen anti-hero. His ghoulish goofiness and tightly-controlled speaking manner occasionally betraying a darkness within him, Gyllenhaal is as much skin-crawler as Nightcrawler, perfectly complementing the nightmarish escalation of its plot and making it one of the year‘s best, most under-the-radar thrillers.

 

5. Inside Llewyn Davis
‘If it’s never new and it never gets old, it’s a folk song,’ singer Llewyn Davis riffs to a crowd, and much the same could be said about a Coen Brothers’ film. Llewyn is a typical Coen sad sack slightly out of time, his earnestness and talent a stark contrast to the film’s admirably unglamorous representation of the music industry – showing it to be as unrewarding and repetitive a career as any nine-to-five. Low-key but meditative and with some fantastic musical set-pieces, there may have been better films this year, but Oscar Isaac’s Llewyn made Inside Llewyn Davis one of the more empathetic films I saw this year.

 

Susan Leahy

The Double
Less is more.

 

The Lunchbox
The slow suspense.

 

Pride
Got me feeling motivated.

 

A Most Wanted Man-
Philip Seymour Hoffman.

 

Showrunner
Made me want to be one even more.

 

Michael Lee

Under the Skin
Because Jonathan Glazer didn’t just change the wheel with this film, he essentially redesigned it in almost every conceivable way, in one of the most visually striking films  I’ve seen in years. Mica Levi’s predatorial score haunts and enchants as it lulls the viewer through strange new places  with alien eyes.

 

Nightcrawler
Because it was badass… and Jake Gyllenhall literally sent shivers down my spine.

 

Frank
Because its really whacky, zany, fun, part Woody Allenesque, part new wave, part Fu Manchu,  but unmistakeably the work of Lenny Abrahamson.

 

Stephen McNeice

At Berkeley
How is a four-hour documentary set pretty much entirely on a university campus so compelling from first frame to last? Frederick Wiseman allows the camera to soak up the sights, the stories, the people, and offers a masterclass in documentary filmmaking in the process.

Goodbye to Language
Jean Luc-Godard, cinematic troll extraordinaire, rips apart the rules of 3D and storytelling with equal parts playfulness and complexity. It’s the only 3D film you ever need to see – although you’ll need to see it again. And again. And probably again after that.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson manages to make a film even more drowning in his own eccentricities. And thank god he did, because The Grand Budapest Hotel is delightful cinema from one of the medium’s most singular auteurs.

Her
Where other films treat technology with fear and suspicion, Her is defined by its empathy and humanity. A thoughtful and beautiful sci-fi romance.

Snowpiercer
The greatest cinematic travesty of the year was that Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian masterpiece was denied a proper release here (hopefully rectified in 2015). Those who sought it out were granted a genre film of electrifying intelligence, grace, skill and style. Not even the finest Hollywood efforts of the year came anywhere close to the accomplishments of this train journey.
 

John Moran

1. Mr Turner
A brilliantly realised cinematic portrait of the great British artist by an outstanding British talent.

 

2. Boyhood 

 

3. Two Days, One Night

 

4. Maps to the Stars

 

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
 

Ellen Murray

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson is back in all his Wes-Anderson-esque glory with this flick. Delightfully whimsical without ever being vapid, this film provides the perfect cinematic experience. Aided by superb performances from its ensemble cast, The Grand Budapest Hotel will make you laugh, cry, and think wtf?!

2. Under the Skin
This is a dark, dark film. While the story can be a bit meandering at times, it’s haunting and subversive imagery will implant itself in your memory for many years to come. I predict this film will become a favourite subject for debate amongst film academics in the not too distant future.

3. The Homesman
This probably one of the best Westerns made in the last decade. Jones’ subtle directorial approach creates an interesting juxtaposition between the brutal lives of the pioneers and the almost mythological quality of the American frontier.

4. How To Train Your Dragon 2
This film is everything that a sequel should be. Funny with plenty of stunningly animated action sequences, this film also has an emotional undercurrent that gives it real substance. Other animation companies could learn from this!

5. The Way He Looks
The brilliance of this film lies in its simplicity. It’s touching without being over sentimental and sweet without being too sugary. A beautiful film about realising one’s own sexuality.

Cormac O’Meara

1. Boyhood

 

2. Snowpiercer

 

3. Interstellar

 

4. Birdman

 

5. Godzilla

 

Ailbhe O’Reilly

The Babadook
I’d usually be hard pressed to choose a horror film as one of my favourite films of the year. I don’t often take this kind of film very seriously; and it is a rare occasion that I would rank a modern horror film in the same esteem as The Exorcist or The Shining. The Babadook is such a film. The Babadook is both a truly scary horror film as well as the psychological study of a woman in the midst of a breakdown. She is played excellently by Essie Davis, with an honourable mention to Noah Wiseman who plays her disturbed son. What is most exciting about this film is that it is the first feature film from its talented director Jennifer Kent, so hopefully there is more to come from her.

Obvious Child
The unique comedy talents of Jenny Slate are excellently captured in this very unique romantic comedy. Most romantic comedies these days could write themselves, Obvious Child, couldn’t be more different to those films. It is certainly funny and there is a romance but that’s where the similarities end. It is also about a young woman who unexpectedly becomes pregnant and seeks an abortion, but it couldn’t be further from an issues film either. It is simply a well told, hilarious and sweet film and an unexpected addition to the best films of 2014.

Locke
Tom Hardy has gone from strength to strength over the last few years and Locke is a film that showcases this talent magnificently. Tom Hardy is alone in a car for the whole film and the film’s success lies mainly on his excellent performance. The supporting cast deal very well with the difficulty of communicating only by phone during the film. The restriction of a single location only intensifies the atmosphere of this exciting film.

Boyhood
Richard Linklater’s 12 year project to film a boy’s life from age 5 to 18 is as fascinating as it should be. The star of the piece, Ellar Coltrane is engrossing to watch on screen as he gets older bit by bit. True to Linklater’s style the plot is lose and not the main focus of the film. There is character development, but the style of the film is very natural and almost like a documentary at times. Boyhood is a unique and fascinating journey.

Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal transformed himself for the role of Lou Bloom in this film about the seedy world of L.A.’s crime TV journalism. Gyllenhaal is skinny and gaunt in the film, which makes his eyes large and creepy, with slicked black hair for added effect. It all comes together to produce an outstanding performance which really holds the film together. Rene Russo also makes a welcome return to form as the TV producer that works alongside the sociopathic Bloom.

James Phelan

1. Blue Ruin
At last, a film of few words that actually says something. Equally an American indie that finally surpasses and subverts expectations. And a rare film that casts Kickstarter campaigns in a good light. Taking its lead, I’ll try to pay tribute with precise brevity.’ Blue Ruinis smart. Sparse. Taut. Thoughtful. Brutal. Gripping. Horrible. Human.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
At various points, even the most ardent fan must have tired of the Anderson aesthetic. The over stylized whimsy and visual tropes were exceeding overkill when Wes emphatically proved that he could apply his vision to something darker and deeper while hosting emotive ideas beneath all the varnish and veneers. Illuminated by an award worthy (and currently unrewarded) performance from Ralph Fiennes who is splendidly equal parts refined, filthy and goofy as the legendary concierge Gustave H. Bubbling under the impeccable surface of this adventure comedy is the encroaching shadow of imminent barbaric wars, the loss of sovereignty and the loss of self. It’s hard to dispel the film’s central thesis that all these erosions begin with the almost casual abandonment of simple civility and manners.

3. Under the Skin
An odd, immersive and surreal trip from Kubrick’s genuine heir, Jonathan Glazer. Some critics’ assertion that the film will retrospectively represent a high watermark for film in 2014 when future generations look back may be erroneous. Barely seen, barely known and barely causing a ripple in its release year suggests a stubbornly obscure cult hit, beloved by a few but we few, we lucky few.

4. The Wolf of Wall Street
More inspiration. This time I don’t really care that MartinScorsese made this film. I care that a 72 year old made this film. That is genuinely inspiring and to reclaim that most American of words – awesome. All that improv chaos may suffer under the scrutiny of repeat viewings but when it was unleashed, it was just the wild, irreverent and rude shot in the arm cinema needed.

5. Edge of Tomorrow
A major flaw of the film industry is that too many people want to be Terrence Malick and not enough people want to be Doug Liman. Frankly, I don’t even want Terrence Malick to be Malick anymore. By all accounts, Liman believes in an arduous creative process and leaves scorched earth on virtually every project. However,the result justifies the means in this case because, clearly and crucially, he keeps the audience utmost in his mind. Look at his track record again and acknowledge that the guy makes smart, challenging and creative blockbusters. If this is mass entertainment, take me to church.

Hypes of the Year:
The Guest
Style and Cliche went to war in this film. Cliche won. Rendering a heap of artistic effort to prop up a sliver of a story utterly redundant.

Nightcrawler
Certain stretches of this film year had major droughts of quality. Leading to, I contend, mass hysteria when projects with any semblance of apparent intellect finally surfaced. This is not a bad film per se but its presence on end of year lists is baffling to me. Like the other film in this category, it comprised mainly of the main character’s convoluted plans consistently coming off without a hitch and unfailingly to his benefit. This is not the stuff of drama. Not good drama anyway.

Worst Film of the Year:
Noah
OMG. Maybe not worst. A worst list can be such a slam dunk that the simply odious and purely incompetent must be ignored. In this case in favour of epic hubris. How a film this bonkers should remain so stubbornly unentertaining is a mystery. From stone Transformers to solving the long posed Eddie Izzard conundrum of the inherent poo storage problem of the ark, each scene threatens to trump the next for sheer madness. My favourite remains Emma Watson being magically cured of not having a womb, running ten steps and commencing noisy sex in clear eye and ear range of her adoptive grandfather Anthony Hopkins.

David Prendeville

1. Under the Skin
Following an eight year hiatus since 2004’s Birth, Glazer finally returned to our screens with this astonishing science fiction drama. A visual and aural feast and featuring the best ever performance by Scarlett Johansson, the film is possibly most notable for the uncompromising nature with which it asks vital, undesirable questions about the human condition. Already a modern classic.

2. Goodbye to Language
This late masterpiece from Godard could not be more quintessentially Godardian. Perplexing, fascinating, irritating, cold, moving, and extraordinary. Hardly needs to be said that it features the best use of 3D ever.

3. Night Moves
Reichardt confirms her status as one of American cinema’s leading talents with this spare, insidious thriller which combines the sensibilities of Bela Tarr and Alfred Hitchcock to superb effect.

4. Leviathian
The great Russian film-maker Zvyaginstev follows up the magisterial Elena with this robust, astute and deeply affecting examination of his homeland.

5. Maps to the Stars
A terrific return to form for Cronenberg, which sees him turn Hollywood into a surreal, distinctly Cronenbergian landscape filled with sleaze and viscera. Superbly acted, particularly by Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska.

A strong year for cinema overall, some other honourable mentions are: Inside Llewyn Davis, The Tribe, The Double, Stranger by the Lake, Boyhood, Nymphomaniac, The Wolf of Wall Street.

David Turpin

1. Under the Skin
I loved this film’s combination of glassy science fiction and Scottish desolation, as well as the way it reframed Scarlett Johansson’s “movie stardom” as something otherworldly and disturbing. While I initially missed the explicit commentary on the meat industry that’s made in Michel Faber’s source novel, I found the last third of the film unexpectedly moving. Mica Levi’s score is also terrific.

2. Ida
The beauty of the black and white photography and the concision of the storytelling made this film a string argument for the power of understatement.

3. Stranger By the Lake
The most sinister use of sunny climes since Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water, and a totally persuasive conjuring of a specific micro-society. I also found the murder scenes unforgettable.

4. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears
A lot of people seemed to hate this, but I loved its restless invention. There’s no plot to speak of, but every shot oozes sinister glamour. The directors, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, have a palpable love of cinema.

5. Maps to the Stars
I thought this was miscategorised as a satire, when it is in fact a weird mythological fantasy that unfolds in an alternate Hollywood that combines the worst excesses of the 1990s and the 2010s. I loved the juxtaposition of Julianne Moore’s barn-burning performance with David Cronenberg’s dispassionate framing.

 

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  1. James says:

    Great article guys! You should do more like this.

    Can’t believe ‘Locke’ and ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ were only mentioned once. Ah, well.

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