High-lights of 2014

Happy new year everybody! I hope you all managed to celebrate the arrival of 2015 in a special way. As expected, I spent the evening baked out of my gourd and watching movies. All in all, a pretty successful evening for me.

Now, moving on to the important stuff, it’s time for me to deliver my opinion on what the best movies of the year were. Before I start, I should say that last year I failed to include some films I should have because they had not yet been released in England. Had I the ability to see them before New Year, 12 Years a Slave and Her would have definitely made the list. I was considering including them on this year’s list but I thought it would be unfair to prejudice the great films that were released in 2014. As such, this year’s list will only include film’s that were released this year. Fortunately, my sojourn to the US meant I was able to see all the Oscar-favourites before they came out here so my choices this year are fairly balanced.

I have picked these five films for a variety of reasons and, as you will see, it’s quite a diverse group. I picked some for entertainment value. Others I picked because of what they accomplished. All in all, I have to say it was an impressive year in cinema and I hope 2015 turns out to be just as eventful.

Boyhood

Boyhood_film

What is it about?

A young boy growing up in Texas.

Why is it one of the best films of the year?

How could it not be? It took 12 years to film and is one of the most audacious films to have ever been made. Boyhood packs and emotional punch but the surprising thing about it is that it’s a film that’s not really about anything. A lot of the drama actually happens off screen: the parents’ split, the domestic violence etc. What we see is the boys’ reaction to these events and how they shape his life with very little input from him. The audience is asked to relate to and forge a connection with the boy simply because we share one thing in common: we were once children ourselves. Boyhood delivers a message which is that childhood is a magical time, but one that ends very quickly. You blink, you miss it. Once it’s gone, you’ll never get it back. The movie made me, a young adult, reflect on my own childhood and appreciate any film that manages to evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Best thing about it?

The realism. The scene in which the boy gets given a gun and a bible on a birthday from his conservative grandparents is a brilliant example. He doesn’t get emotional, he just accepts the gifts politely and then saves his comments for later.

Dear White People

Dear_White_People

What is it about?

Race relations on a university campus in North America.

Why is it one of the best films of the year?

Because it manages to inject appropriate humour into a subject matter that is incredibly sensitive and complex and concerns an issue of the utmost relevance. I must admit, I was surprised by how much I loved this film. I went to see it at the London Film Festival because I had heard good things about it on the festival circuit. Now, as a white guy, race is something I don’t think about a lot largely because I don’t have to. When I lived in the US, it was the first time I experienced the race debate. It was a completely new experience for me but one that fascinated me. So much so in fact, that I took a course on critical race theory. This film dealt with a number of topics we looked at in class: intersectionality, racial identity among minorities, and the myth of a post-racial society. These issues are complex and emotional and to see them discussed thoughtfully and with well-scripted humour was very impressive.

Best thing about it?

Tyler James Williams. They guy has great timing and delivery.

Under the Skin

Under_the_Skin_poster

What is it about?

An alien in Glasgow who picks up men and devours their insides.

Why is it one of the best films of the year?

Because it is both beautiful and fucking weird. I remember leaving the cinema with an eerie sense of dread and discomfort, and I don’t mean that negatively. The film has very little dialogue, and when it does a lot of it is improvised, but it’s a great study of how images and sound effects can influence a person’s mood and emotions. Scarlett Johansson delivers one of her best performances as an alien in a ratty wig and fur coat, seducing men from depressing Glasgow council estates and leading them to their doom. Be warned, this isn’t the sort of film everyone will enjoy and I know people who hate this film. However, in my mind, it deserves to be on the list simply because it was the most unusual, interesting and creative film of the year.

Best thing about it?

Scarlett Johansson asking for directions to the motorway and shopping in Claire’s Accessories.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawlerfilm

What is it about?

A freelance camera man records the aftermath of crimes and car crashes and then sells the footage to TV networks.

Why is it one of the best films of the year?

Because the film manages to be both entertaining and creepy, with Jake Gyllenhaal giving a wonderful performance as a career-obsessed sociopath in a fucked up profession. If I were to pick a group of people who are simply the worst, it would have to be real estate agents. However, Nightcrawler shines a light on an industry I didn’t even know existed and it is clearly full of douchebags. Nightcrawler is quite a slow film at first but the tension builds throughout. The ending is not a disappointment and the tension is released in an explosive and also really twisted way. This is a savvy and inventive little thriller that deserves recognition at awards ceremonies. Also, some beautiful shots of LA and it was filmed in my old neighbourhood….although I don’t remember it being that dangerous.

Best thing about it?

The film’s ability to build tension.

Gone Girl

Gone_Girl_Poster

What is it about?

A woman disappears and her husband becomes the prime suspect.

Why is it one of the best films of the year?

Because it’s a smart and stylish thriller with a great performance from Rosamund Pike and brilliant direction from David Fincher. I am a voracious reader; I get through at least 40 books a year. However, I tend to stay well away from ‘it books.’ The novel was certainly one of those and, because I hadn’t read it, I came to the cinema blind. I had no idea what would happen and thank god for that because it heightened the overall experience. During this movie I laughed, I was shocked, and I was thrilled. It’s a difficult thing to bring out a broad and contrasting range of emotions in an audience, but Fincher manages to do it with Gone Girl thereby securing his title as one of the best directors working today.

Best thing about it?

Honestly, I would say Pike. She’s not going to win an Oscar for her performance but a nomination is highly deserved. She manages to portray a very complex and interesting character with ease and she was a very pleasant surprise….as was Ben Affleck’s penis.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “High-lights of 2014

  1. Abbi

    Great choices. I spent New Years Eve watching Lord of the Rings… although not baked.

  2. Great list! I still can’t believe I missed out on seeing Ben Affleck’s dick. I need to get glasses or something.

  3. Pingback: Collateral (2004) | bakedmoviereviews

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