Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Over

A year ago today I was bitching about the state of cinema in 2013, well that's so last year. Let's do over 2014 instead.

This space is usually reserved for me to decry the apalling state of modern cinema, to point out how culturally malnourished we are as endless CGI cartoons slowly erode our cognitive abilities and push us back out into the world as mindless drones that drool over brightly coloured lunch boxes.

However a quick review of 2014 shows this to be an untruth, there's still plenty of rancid bollocks out there but there's been a sharp increase in the truly excellent stuff breaking through as well. Usually films shown in the rural multiplex struggle to worry a best of the year list but impressively in 2014 I could give you ten finest picked solely from this selection.

Presumaby the influx of intelligence smuggled in behind the popcorn is occurring in order to balance out the mind numbing imbecility of adults who wear onesies, so lets not put those dumb fuckers up against the wall just yet. Instead let's celebrate the amazing year in film with twenty favourites in reverse order, instead of the regular ten. Because it's been that fucking good.

20 Favourite New Films That I Saw On A Cinema Screen

20: Noah
A Biblical Epic that was low on the Biblical and high on the Epic.

19: Blue Ruin
An exploration of vengeance that comes off like early Coens refracted through the prism of modern indie slacker cinema.

18: Killers
This attempt to splice together two culturally different genre styles is ambitious to a fault but frequently spectacular all the same.

17: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Jackson doesn't close the door on his expansive Middle Earth foray gently. Instead he slams it in your face over and over again with this roaring beast that essentially amounts to a two hour compendium of decapitations.

16: Face Of An Angel
An incredibly dense thought piece centred on the Amanda Knox controversy. Winterbottom probably wanted a scene with a kitchen sink in there too, but you can't have everything can you.

15: Godzilla
Purest Jaws homage with an eye kept on being visually astounding at all times.

14: Edge Of Tomorrow
Watching Tom Cruise die with such frequency was always going to capture fascination but it was a pleasure to see the repeated fatalities embedded in a joyous romp, even if the confidence of all concerned faltered in the final act.

13: The Raid 2: Berandel
To say 'not as good as The Raid' is a churlish criticism given the control exerted over this sprawling crime tale. A phenomenal achievement for only a second feature and so nearly over a bar set impossibly high by the original.

12: Interstellar
Nolan continues to explore unconvential time structures through his films, this time he's managed to house relativity inside a superb bit of Spielberg pastiche.

11: Patema Inverted [Sakasama no Patema]
Effortlessly toys with your perception all the way up until the very final fantastic minute.

10: Nightcrawler
Gyllenhall's slthering Demon enraptures as he mercilessly exploits the morally dubious news networks of America. A fine breeding ground for ancient evil if ever there was one.

9: The Wolf Of Wall Street
A Scorcese film being good is little surprise by now but to watch him deliver a film that manages to equal career highlights like Goodfellas and Casino, well that was a very welcome surprise indeed.

8: Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers weave their usual magic and present it with such ease it almost suggests that they may have figured out how to autopilot perfection.

7: Guardians Of The Galaxy
The adventures of a bloke, a sentient tree, a wise cracking racoon, a blue giant with Aspergers, a green psychopath turned good, a blue psychopath with a secret heart of gold, another blue psychopath totally beyond redemption and a purple headcase. The best application of Marvel's cinematic heft so far.

6: The Babadook
One of Frightfest's crown jewels. An old school story of hauntings and monsters intertwined with a potent tale of grief and loss that played on the nerves as though they were the strings of  a harpsichord. Most impressive is the superb ending that shows just how mature Horror has managed to become.

5: Creep
The other gem of Frightfest was simply two men and a camcorder using found footage to concoct a deeply disconcerting relationship that cleaved to the jump-scare structure of a bog standard horror movie despite never being any such thing.

4: Boyhood
A deft, subtle handling of what it is to grow up, live and remember made all the more remarkable by it's twelve year production schedule.

3: Maps To The Stars
Whilst nothing to do with the body horror that had its last hurrah in Existenz, this is still by far the most 'Cronenberg' film the man himself has produced in some time with its focus on human physicality, extreme imagery and general all round weirdness. Vabina.

2: Nymph()maniac
Not the four hour torrent of hard sex action you were probably expecting. Unless you were expecting extreme long-form visual poetry on the topic of hard sex action, in which case this is exactly what you were expecting.

1: The Lego Movie
Borne out of what makes Lego itself brilliant; simplicity, fun and imagination. Best exemplified by a scene at the centre of this multi-million dollar movie consisting of a minifigure jerking about on a clearly visible piece of string. Fuck CG let's do everything with Lego from now on.

5 Favourite Films I Watched On A Little Screen

The small screen trappings were thin indeed this year, which says nothing more than that my choices maybe haven't been as discerning as they could have been. Still here's five of note;

5: Moneyball
Shows that any passion when presented well will be involving for anyone brave enough to watch it.

4: The Seventh Continent [Der Siebente Kontinent]
Haneke's first film displays that he was a master from the off.

3: Dead Of Night
The best of JoeFest was also the oldest and the one that managed to carry the coldest chill.

2: Lisa And The Devil [Lisa e il diavolo]
Bava at his most sumptuous. Common sense thrown to the wind in favour of gorgeous set dressing and stylish murders.

1: Blue Is The Warmest Colour [La vie d'Adèle]
The oldest story there is, two people falling in and out of love, presented with a raw elegance that got overlooked because of the mucky bits.

10 Shittest Films

Bad films these days are best measured in failed potential. A film like Psycho Santa carries little to no expectation of any worth and when this is exactly what's delivered it's difficult to muster anything more than a shrug, despite the fact that it's so bad it can barely be described as a film. With no budget and no talent all filmed on a shitty camcorder, it had no potential to fall short from.

The films on this list all had some potential, no matter how small (nobody expects a Michael Bay film to be any more intelligent than the average housepet, but still...) and yet they all dropped staggeringly short of their goal. They are bad films.

10. I Spit On Your Grave 2
I was intrigued as to why the same director would choose to make a totally unecessary sequel to his totally unecessary remake. Turns out it's because he wanted to make a fucking awful film in Bulgaria. He achieved his goal.

9. Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Constant attempts at simpering apology to original Transformers fans (an old school Optimus truck, the introduction of Dinobots) followed by Bay senselessly fucking it up over and over again.

8. Nymph [Mamula / Killer Mermaid]
Frightfest's worst. First bludgeons you with an hour of shit acting, then slaps you with a terrible CG killer mermaid, then Franco Nero turns up to finish the whole affair off with what may well be the worst groaning, exposition vomiting fisherman I've ever seen.

7. X-Men: The Last Stand
"I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!", ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, what? No, seriously? Fuck off.

6. The Lost
Jack Ketchum novels use hideous acts of violence to open a glimpse into the limitless abyss of human darkness, this film adaptation then misses the point entirely and tries to make it look cool leaving a very bad taste indeed. Nobs.

5. Do You Like Hitchcock? [Ti piace Hitchcock?]
Argento showing no trace of past glories or indeed any evidence that he's made a film before.

4. Annabelle
'Spin-off' is the latest cynical Hollywood excuse used to milk every last penny from a successful film and now sits neatly alongside the equally terrible 'Sequel', 'Remake' and 'Reboot'.

3. Cabin Fever 2
Total fucking train wreck of a film, whoever thought the glacial Ti West was the man to bring a madcap high school gorefest to the screen needs to be shot.

2. Aftershock
That man of course was Eli Roth, who also facilitated this mangled abortion into being. He was also responsible for Green Inferno which is only just lurking outside this ten. Which surely makes him cinema's top cunt, until Shyamalan belches out another movie that is.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Every turtle is a charisma absence stumbling over well worn catchphrases, Megan Fox stalks about with barely concealed indignance and Splinter looks like he's just been dragged out of the back end of a cow. A spectacular mishandling of what should be a surefire property into the filmic equivalent of an unflushable turd.

... and on to the next twelve.


  1. Of the films I saw from this selection, Creep was head and shoulders above everything else . No bones to pick elsewhere except for Godzilla, which I didn't really rate, and Guardians of the Galaxy - but maybe I'm just sick of Marvel...

    Creep 9/10
    Moneyball 7
    The Babadook 7
    Edge of Tomorrow 6
    The Lego Movie 6
    Dead of Night 5
    Godzilla 4
    Guardians of the Galaxy 3
    Do You Like Hitchcock? 1
    Nymph 1

  2. OK, here's my rundown. First, the bad. Because I only saw 40 odd movies last year, and a fair few of the worst I only kinda watched while packing, I'm not going to do a full 10, but I warn you against watching Transformers 4, Transcendence, Robocop, Jack Ryan and Once Upon A Time In The West (although that does have the odd scattered funny gag).
    My worst film of the year was Sin City : A Dame To Kill For, a horrendously mysoginistic mess that was so lacking in imagination, humour and fun I tuned out and smoked a jay while noodling on my phone for the last 15 minutes. Atrocious.
    Now, the good. There was rather a lot of it this year. So many trying to accurately hone down a 10 seemed unfair to a whole bunch of movies that would, in most years, have likely been top 10 movies. So, the countdown...
    Equal 10 (in alphabetical order)
    12 years a slave, 22 Jump Street, The Babadook, Edge of Tomorrow, Gone Girl, Her, The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies, Interstellar, Noah, Patema Inverted, X-Men : Days of Future Past
    9 - Maps To The Stars
    Distinguished from 10th by being the best damn thing Cronenberg has made for a long time.
    8 - The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Distinguished from 10th by being the best damn thing Wes Anderson has made for a long time.
    7 - The Raid 2 : Berandel
    It felt strange to be disappointed by the second best action film for 20 years because it was remarkable.
    6 - Inside Llewyn Davis
    Another Coen loser getting shit on to massively entertaining effect.
    5 - Nightcrawler
    Like one of those great 70's movies only made now, about now. Fantastic.
    4 - Boyhood
    The one guaranteed timeless classic from 2014. Such a simple idea executed to perfection that will be aped for years.
    3 - Guardians of the Galaxy
    The most gleefully fun blockbuster since, oh I'm not sure when. Spidey 2 maybe? No re-inventing the wheel (it follows the Marvel narrative formula to the letter), but great characters, great dialogue and cracking action.
    2 - The Lego Movie
    What could so easily have been the most cynical movie cash grab is actually wildly inventive and imaginative fun for every glorious frame.
    1 - The Wolf of Wall Street
    Scorsese seemingly fully engaged and back in New York for the first time in years and he makes his best film since Goodfellas.

    1. Of course in my films to avoid I mean A Million Ways to Die in the West (which was poor), not Once Upon a Time in the West (which is brilliant)

  3. Wow, I finally think I have to ditch my cineworld card. I don't think I've been more than 10 times this year. Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, Nightcrawler - missed them all.

    Highlights for me - Wolf of Wall Street, Lego Movie and Fury.

    And very glad to hear you didn't hate Once Upon a Time in the West, James.

  4. Gone Girl was really good too. Wasn't as enamored with Maps to the Stars as others - I found it a bit clunky in its grotesqueries. Much preferred A Dangerous Method.