I’m self-indulgently posting a short series on the entertainment that’s fed, stimulated and enhanced my 2014. I’m making this up as I go along, as it’s my game and my rules. This is the first in the series, and it’s the films that have stayed with me. I’ll stick with films I saw at the cinema or in 2014. Probably. Actually I cheated; there’s a few I watched on (legal) download or DVD. I’m in South Africa, so we don’t get all the same films or release dates as the rest of you … there’s a lot I miss or catch up on at a later date on TV or DVD or planes. Planes don’t count as they’re a rubbish place to properly absorb a film. To read my full review of each film, click on the movie title. Years are the year of original cinematic release. Titles are listed in the order I saw them.
An Olympian-scale celebration of martial arts and the action movie genre in general. Breathtaking, even on a laptop screen, it really has to be seen to be believed.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
A richly textured tragic-comedy from Woody Allen, distinguished by uniformly excellent performances and lifted to a whole other level by Cate Blanchett’s remarkable central turn. It’s good enough, too, to ask the viewer searching questions of him or herself.
12 Years A Slave (2013)
Everything has been said about this film, and it’s one of those that the wary viewer might avoid for fear it’s over-worthy or over-praised. That would be a mistake. It’s every bit as remarkable as has been said, and every bit as essential. Somehow I never found the pain or injustice oppressive; it’s as humane and hopeful as it is hard and true.
Pitch Perfect (2012)
A college comedy about music that I first saw on a plane is pretty much a guaranteed disaster. I’ve seen this at least 4 times now, and every time I’ve cried with laughter. It’s a grin-inducing joyride. 2015’s sequel worries me; but we’ll always have this.
Two films in and this is a franchise reboot in danger of serious quality. Special effects used to serve the story, never overwhelming the human element; great action sequences that feel tangibly real; actual ideas to feed the head. It’s hard to credit that people choose Michael Bay films over this.
A remarkable film in every facet, there has never been anything like this. The scale of vision and commitment from director and actors is staggering to comprehend; that it falls together into a coherent, gripping, entertaining whole as opposed to collapsing into a self-important artistic experiment is barely believable.
On paper this is a self-conscious and artificial film; in reality it’s a deeply human, funny, and gripping meditation on the pastoral calling, community and changing cultures and much else besides. The brilliant and devastating closing sequences are masterful.
Sunshine On Leith (2013)
Insubstantial, but as addictive and sky high on smiles as it’s possible for a film to be. Irresistible fun backed up by The Proclaimers’ indestructible set of songs.
Gone Girl (2014)
A darkly entertaining neo-gothic thriller and troubling state of the nation address on our romantic relationships, David Fincher’s on his game and in his sweet spot here. Stay spoiler-free and this will stay with you for a long time.
There are lots of reasons not to see this. It’s flawed. It’s packed with science. It’s long. It’s got some philosophy in it. None of these are remotely acceptable reasons to miss this on the big screen. Staggering, breathtaking, awe-inspiring. A film doesn’t have to be perfect to haunt the memory long after final credits roll.