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My Picks – Best And Worst Films Of 2014

December 31, 2014

dawn of the planet of the apes horses

For the record – I saw 28 features in the theater this year, purchased 19 DVDs and Blu-rays, watched 64 movies at home and wrote 48 reviews. Theatrically, it’s been     a surprisingly good year for good movies – particularly in the indie scene, but more surprisingly; there have been some excellent studio films too.

As there have been so many great films released this year, I’ve had to expand my list of favorites from five to ten. These are my faves mostly because they were the films which stayed with me for days or weeks after seeing them. Also, as the indie film scene has been so strong this year, I’ve decided to divide best film into two categories – best indie film and best studio picture. So here (in no particular order)     are my top ten for 2014:

Top Ten Favorite Films Of The Year:

(in no particular order)

Noah

Fury

Gone Girl

Nightcrawler

Charlie’s Country

Under The Skin

Only Lovers Left Alive

Edge of Tomorrow

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D

Honorable Mentions: Blue Ruin, Predestination, These Final Hours, 20,000 Days on Earth, Jodorowsky’s Dune

ALL YOU NEED IS KILL

Most Fun I’ve Had At The Cinema In 2014: Edge of Tomorrow

This latest Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle is a classic case of marketing gone awry.           The theatrical trailers depicted the film as being nothing more than just another stodgy run-of-the-mill marines vs aliens sci-fi actioner (along the lines of Battle Los Angeles) – oddly neglecting to give any inkling of the humor inherent in the film. Perhaps if more attention were given to relaying just how much fun this film really     is – then maybe more people would have gone to see it. Even those who aren’t necessarily fans of Cruise will find much to enjoy from his unconventionally comedic performance and his comic timing is spot on. Highly recommended.

divergent tris

Most Underrated Movie Worthy Of More Attention: Divergent

I feel it’s unfair to judge a film adaptation based purely on its premise being implausible – when that premise is lifted straight from the source material (in this case the best-selling young adult novel of the same name). No one seemed to have   a problem with the central premise of Luc Besson’s Lucy being brazenly ludicrous. And to compare Divergent with The Hunger Games is also incredibly unfair – sure,     it’s another dystopian female-driven young adult adaptation – but so what? Divergent is an extremely well made and entertaining film and one which deserves to be considered on its own merits – without immediately leaping into the hysterical     knee-jerk accusation of – ‘Rip Off!’

Most Unfairly Maligned Movie Of 2014: Transcendence

Much like last year’s After Earth and The Lone Ranger (and Sucker Punch and John Carter before it) – it seems almost everybody had their knives out for Wally Pfister’s directorial debut. It’s almost as if he were being punished for having the gall to depart from his long-term collaboration as cinematographer with Christopher Nolan and strike out on his own as a director. Granted – this film has its problems. But they are primarily script-related and have nothing to do with Pfister’s actual direction – which is solid. I know I am going to be chased off the internet by enraged Nolan fanboys for saying this – but Pfister’s direction displays a real flare for pacing and evoking authentic emotion; aspects which were sorely missing from Nolan’s latest film. Sure, this isn’t the greatest movie ever made – but it’s not nearly the dog it has been made out to be by the bandwagonist critical fraternity.

under the skin

Most Audacious Movie Of 2014: Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s third feature has fearlessly polarized audiences like no other film this year; his incredibly precise ‘pure cinema’ visual style drawing absolutely justified comparison to the late Stanley Kubrick. It appears Glazer has essentially attempted to make a film from an entirely alien perspective; in other words; it is a film made BY aliens – FOR aliens and therefore nothing needs to be explained. The audaciousness of this film lies in the way Glazer effortlessly crafts a remarkably coherent story without any exposition whatsoever. Under the Skin is also a film whose imagery     and tone haunted me for weeks after seeing it, and indeed – continues to do so.

Worst Movie Of 2014: Two-way tie: I, Frankenstein, The Monuments Men

While the premise of Monuments Men is undoubtedly intriguing (a small band of Americans infiltrate Nazi Germany during the final days of WW2 – in an attempt to recover priceless works of art before they are destroyed by the Nazis) – it is the film’s languid pacing, structural issues and complete lack of tension which culminate in an experience which is ultimately dull and uninvolving.

And while I, Frankenstein and Monuments Men are poles apart as far as execution and genre, the one thing they do have in common is they are BORING – which         is the worst thing a film can be. Sure be moronic, be dumb, be infuriating – but at least treat your audience with some damn respect! To be boring is a complete and utter waste of everybody’s time.

Which leads me to …

interstellar

Most Disappointing Movie Of 2014: Interstellar

What can I say about Interstellar, that I haven’t said already? Without going into a spoiler-filled diatribe – not much – except to say I wasn’t expecting 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Gravity for that matter. But I was hoping to see a film which was     at least coherent, well-directed and one which instilled a sense of wonder and awe. Disappointingly Interstellar, for me, was none of these things. And contrary to popular belief, I didn’t go in with high expectations – nor did I go in scheming to hate on it     (as I have been accused). I don’t have an issue with people liking this film – or even loving it (why would I?). But what I do have an issue with is being personally attacked for having a differing opinion (not attacked on this blog I must stress – but elsewhere). It’s just that I PERSONALLY had a really bad time with every single aspect of this faux-emotional, jarring and tedious mess – SO DEAL WITH IT!!!

gone girl rosamund pike

Best Performance Of The Year: Four-way tie: David Gulpilil – Charlie’s Country, Sarah Snook – Predestination, Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl, Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Honorable Mention: Emma Watson – Noah

All five of these actors were incredible in their roles and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rosamund Pike is at least nominated for a gold statue in the coming months. I’d also love to see David Gulpilil receive an Australian film industry best actor gong – to place alongside his Cannes best actor award in the new year.

divergent fighting

Best Cinematography: Divergent

Despite all the hate this film received, there is no denying that Alwin Küchler’s cinematography is simply gorgeous.

Best Visual Effects: Weta Workshop – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Weta’s flawless work on this latest Apes movie truly takes motion capture to a whole new level.

Best Motion Capture Digital Performance: Two-way tie: Andy Serkis – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Toby Kebbell – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Please please, will the Academy just recognize the incredible contribution of these guys with a special Oscar gong this year? It’s not too much to ask.

Best Editing: Edge of Tomorrow

With all the constant cutting back and forth in time which constitutes the bulk of Edge of Tomorrow, it would be easy to get lost in the narrative. But thanks to razor sharp editing by James Herbert and Laura Jennings – this never becomes an issue – and instead becomes a driving factor in generating much of the humor woven throughout.

tank-in-fury

Best Production Design: Fury

While I would usually give the design nod to a sci-fi or fantasy film, this year the look of pretty much all of the films in these genres have been somewhat uninspired and generic to say the least – and nothing we haven’t seen before (although I did very much enjoy the look of Aronofsky’s ark in Noah). So this year I’d like to give this nod to David Ayer’s WW2 tank battle drama and the work of production designer Andrew Menzies and the art direction of Phil Harvey and Mark Scuton for evoking such an authentic-looking and highly-detailed period setting for Ayer’s film.

Best Sound: Fury

The immersive quality of David Ayer’s film owes much to the incredible sound design by Oscar-winning sound designer Paiu N.J. Ottoson (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker). Truly impressive.

Best Original Music Score: Brett Aplin, Amy Bastow and Ricky Edwards – James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D

Best Screenplay: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Utilizing subtitles, screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver & Mark Bomback have created a unique and believable vernacular for the apes, which deepens our understanding of and sympathies for these non-human characters.

Russell Crowe as Noah

Best Direction: Darren Aronofsky – Noah

Visionary director Aronofsky again demonstrates why he is one of the most original and exciting voices working in cinema today. Taking a musty old bible story like this and putting his own unique idiosyncratic spin on it results in a truly epic and at times breathtakingly beautiful ‘re-imagining’ which confidently weaves the director’s own world view and commentary on the human condition into large scale world-building without the personal ever becoming lost in the spectacle.

Best Indie Film Of 2014: Under The Skin

What more can I say about this amazing film? Other than it’s my pick for reasons already covered in the ‘Most Audacious Movie’ category.

dawn of the planet of the apes serkis

Best Studio Picture Of 2014: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves’ follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is everything a big summer blockbuster should be; incorporating spectacle and big action set-pieces and visual effects in the service of character and story – never losing sight of delivering an emotionally engaging cinema experience – something which many of the other big summer movies this year didn’t come even close to achieving. This new Apes series is lovingly crafted with a clarity of vision and I for one eagerly anticipate the next installment.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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4 Comments
  1. Xenolicker permalink

    In defence of I, Frankenstein… I, Xenolicker like to say that it has the best reanimated rat.

    • gregory moss permalink

      I must have dozed off during that bit … 🙂

      • Xenolicker permalink

        Sorry, correction: I mean best reanimated rat after Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow”. But that’s obvious, really!

      • gregory moss permalink

        Ha!

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