Fraking Favourite 20 Films of 2014

Fraking Favourite 20 Films of 2014

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I’m just going to state it upfront, 2014 has been the best fraking year in cinema in over a decade as far as I’m concerned. Spoilt for choice, the quality enticements have spanned all genres, budgets and distribution methods. That means that in compiling this list I had to make some truly painful, SOPHIE’S CHOICE type sacrifices with many fine achievements omitted.

I managed to see a total of 73 new releases this year, a far cry from the over 100 titles I used to cross off when I was a professional film journalist with all the complimentary VIP perks that entailed. The rub is that a handful of potential highlights have not been screened at the time of publication. (BOYHOOD, WHIPLASH and INTERSTELLAR being the big 3 I have yet to see). The advantage though is avoiding the Faustian price of having to endure bottom of the barrel inferior works and instead being able to focus exclusively on films that have personal appeal.

That’s not to say there aren’t some let downs but this year I haven’t even assembled a Ten Worst of the Year due to a lack of exposure. (Let’s just say that NEED FOR SPEED, AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 and TMNT are best avoided.)

As with all lists of this type it’s a subjective opinion and I’ve very consciously used the word “Favourite” instead of “best” in the headline. Now as the cinema fades to black and the curtain is drawn, I now present the Frakers top 20 favourite films of 2014:

 20. The Double

“I’d like to think I’m pretty unique.”

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 19. Gone Girl

“You. Fucking. Bitch.”

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 18. Blue Ruin

“That’s how this works, man. The one with the gun gets to tell the truth.”

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 17. Filth

“The games are always, repeat always, being played. But nobody plays the games like me. Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, soon to be Detective Inspector Bruce Robertson. You just have to be the best, and I usually am. Same rules apply.”

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 16. Young Ones

“I never saw this land when it was green. My father did.”

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 15. Under The Skin

“You’re not from here? Where are you from?”

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 14. The Signal

“They’re testing us, Nic. Like little rats.”

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13. The Homesman

“She thinks she’s God.”

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 12. Only Lovers Left Alive

“How can you’ve live for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living. It could be spend in surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship, and dancing. You have been pretty lucky in love though, if I may say so.”

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11. Calvary

“I think there’s too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues.”

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10. Dom Hemingway

Oh, my head is throbbing. It’s fuckin’ throbbin’, Dickie. Like a disco in my head. Like a fucking Manila disco full of transvestites and suckling pigs.”

Dom Hemingway is a blended cockney cocktail of Withnail & I like repartee, dominated by Jude Law’s intoxicating performance. Right from the first words of dialogue as an imprisoned Dom effortlessly weaves the English language into some kind of sharp tongued Cockney crim’ poetry about his throbbing member I had a smile on my face. A full strength comedy that will surely become a cult classic like Writer/Director Richard Shepard’s THE MATADOR that reshaped Pierce Brosnan.

Click here to read my FilmFrak review

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

            Well, Serje? Don’t keep us in the dark! This has been an absolute, bloody nightmare. Tell us what the fuck is going on!”

            For me this was the culmination of all the elements that make Wes Anderson’s work enjoyable and then injected with a darker streak than he has dared previously. In some ways it was like the writer/Director’s take on James Bond. From the imaginatively rendered  snow chases to DeFoe’s gloriously despicable villainy and the espionage flavors that lace the plots inner mysteries. The multi talented cast all excel with Ralph Fiennes dazzling, Tilda Swinton disappearing and all players boosting the already delightful dialogue.

  1. Raid 2

            It’s a question of ambition, really. Let me rephrase that. It’s a matter of limitation. And the importance of knowing yours.”

How can I put this subtly? RAID 2 is the greatest action spectacle since John Woo’s THE KILLER. Nothing short of the benchmark to be aspired too in the future for excitement, cinematography and staging this game changer makes most in the genre seem like light sparing at best. If only every filmmaker could spend 18 months choreographing full contact combat while coordinating camera moves that participate in the carnage. This is a bone crunching high velocity experience that leaves you physically exhausted from the infinitely energetic, blunt force damage inflicted. Taking the lean, zero fat plot of RAID REDEMPTION to the next level this sequel has the audacity to actually work as an epic crime saga brimming with observations on organized crime and shot with a colorful eye most art house cinema only wishes it could achieve.

  1. Joe

“I don’t know who I am, but I know what keeps me alive is restraint. Keeps me out of jail. Keeps me from hurting people. A mark of some fucked-up faith that there’s a reason. A reason for all this. A reason in most moments I shouldn’t do what I wanna do. Do as I’m told.”

Director David Gordon Green’s (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, PRINCE AVALANCHE) dark tale of redemption slowly burns with a controlled dramatic build that carries the dread of inevitable confrontation. It’s easy to forget just how daunting Nicolas Cage’s range is and then he lodges the kind of naturalistic, tic free performance that wields the honest emotional power only the acting elite can conjure. Tye Sheridan’s (MUD) is already a child actor with seemingly endless, tortured potential and the gruff script tells a story that left me moved and disturbed.

  1. Dawn of Apes

            “Human Work”

From my review: “DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is that fraking rare example of a sequel that climbs to the highest, hard to reach branch exceeding an expectation raising predecessor. Compelling science fiction masquerading as spectacular popcorn entertainment, the predetermined consequences of the established mythology carry a cinematic gravitas that devastates emotions and stimulates contemplation. Inevitable tragedy is in mind as looming conflict is delivered with a deft hand at narrative. Each new scene captivates as we hurtle towards the impending conquest where man will no longer serve as Earth’s overlord.

Click here to read my FilmFrak review

  1. The Rover

“You should never stop thinking about a life you’ve taken. That’s the price you pay for taking it.”

 Aussie Director David Michod (ANIMAL KINGDOM) again proves to be an antipodean filmmaker with panache for character story telling in well worn genres. Guy Pearce as a harbinger of death and Robert Pattinson representing the kind of naive innocence only civilization can nurture deliver a combined kinetic chemistry that forced me to reassess both performers. This is the kind of understated, powerful cinema that resonates as the stark outback wasteland, the relentless violent threat and barren humanity in a post global economic collapse dominate every frame.

  1. Cold In July

 “You know when a dog bites you… you can either chain him up… or shoot him.”

 Michael C Hall (DEXTER) with a killer mullet, Don Johnson’s continued renaissance as a good ole boy detective and Sam Shepard bringing that gruff menace are a trio of reasons this throwback stirred my pot. Adapting Joe R Lansdale’s (BUBBA HO-TEP) novel, it’s a twisted subversion of genre tropes that unbalances and amuses with each turn of its serpentine plot. What begins as a domestic thriller quickly descends into noir territory and beyond all to the accompaniment of a John Carpenteresque musical score. Director Jim Mickle (STAKELAND), is a modern genre director who endeared himself by capably picking up the filmic gauntlet of those that came before and along with Adam Wingard has become a must watch creative force for this frakker.   

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

 “WE are Groot.”

 Why is pure popcorn entertainment so high on the list? Here is a snippet from my review that may help explain:

“I had lost hope there was ever going to be another film that would ever make me the feel the way this made me feel. I was not prepared. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (GOTG) provided an impenetrable sense of immersed escapism that was almost transcendent, I wasn’t a viewer, I was a participant. My inner child, the one who was taken to a galaxy far, far away many moons ago was being fed the primordial building blocks that birthed a life spanning, debilitating cinematic obsession.”

Click here to read my FilmFrak review

 2. Birdman

“Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige”

I emerged from BIRDMAN and immediately declared to anyone that would listen that I felt the same way I imagined audiences did when they first walked out of the first talkie or first film in color. The level of “truth” this film captures in its lens is staggering. This is one of those rarities that advance’s the entire medium. Hitchcock did it with ROPE as an exercise in suspense and to experiment with technique. RUSSIAN ARK used it as an observational tool, but what cinematographer Lubezki does with the unbroken shot is reflect the unedited life we experience. As the improvised, pounding drums beat, keeping us off balance we are forced into the psychological mindset of the lead character played with a naked realism that is uncomfortably revealing. Examining ego, id, love, death and desire with such potency that it’s impossible not to be absorbed into the drama. Funny and inspiring, plumbing the depths of artistic expression the meta script is a marvel elevated by Michael Keaton’s soul baring, career topping performance.

  1. Nightcrawler

 “Why you pursue something is as important as what you pursue.”

 Oozing nocturnal atmosphere under the L.A. stars this film had me absolutely spellbound. The sardonic script, eye drawing cinematography and jagged score slowly boil to frenzied mayhem and I was pushed into the back of my seat by the time the intensity overflows. Writer Dan Gilroy’s Directorial debut is a scathing commentary on the fear peddling, grotesque underbelly of the media as much as character study of unchecked ambition and the isolated loneliness of psychological detachment. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a resourceful parasitic sociopathic with a remorseless immersion that echoes his despicable characters single minded drive. It’s another superb turn on the tail end of last year’s ENEMY and PRISONERS cementing him as a formidable acting force who commands unblinking attention.

 

Runners Up: (Alphabetical)

 

A Most Wanted Man

Automata

Babadook

Big Bad Wolves

Blood Ties

Boxtrolls

Captain America 2: Winter Soldier

Fury

Lego Movie

Locke

Maps to the Stars

Noah

SnowPiercer

Starred Up

Stretch

The Guest

Two Faces of January

Willow Creek

 

2 comments to Fraking Favourite 20 Films of 2014

  • Jason King  says:

    Great list Adam! Need to see Blue Ruin and Cold in July and damn!! The Signal was a massive oversite on my list!! Still need to review that and Joe! Will message U also about getting and activating a mobile version of the site 😉 makes it easier to view on the phone.

  • FilmFrak  says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment JK.

    There is so little variation from y#1 to #20 on this list. All are 8/10 to 9/10 films. Rankings were based purely on personal taste as the film craftsmanship and success of targeted intent was so high.

    BLUE RUIN, JOE and COLD IN JULY are superb modern noirs, a favored genre for me. Look forward to hearing what you think of the two unseen.

    THE SIGNAL really is a solid sci-fi mind bender that stays with you long after viewing, glad it has a developing fan base.

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