The ultimate wrap-up of the year that was in both film and music, where I name my favourite films and songs of 2014.
MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2014:
6. Nightcrawler (dir. Dan Gilroy)
Lurking in the shadows of L.A’s underworld is Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an egotistical psychopath who sees himself destined for greatness, whatever that may be. Soon he discovers the “art” of nightcrawling, a form of freelance journalism that involves finding and filming bloody tragedies like car crashes, shootings and house fires, and selling them to local TV news stations. Commenting on everything from human morality, the role of the media and the strive for the American Dream, Nightcrawler deals with a lot of heavy seediness and grit. Gyllenhaal is incredible as the psychotic Bloom; he is all-together a delusional, charming, cunning and maniacal sociopath, like a combination between Patrick Bateman and Norman Bates, minus the homicidal tendencies and mummy issues. Drenched in neon lights due to a setting where it is almost always night, with bursts of ultraviolence and led by an oddly sympathetic anti-hero, Nightcrawler certainly attempts to criticise the issues of its time, where lavish real-life violence on TV is unfortunately nothing out of the ordinary.
5. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
It’s Greenwich Village, 1961; the folk community is on the cusp of a artistic breakthrough and the times certainly are a changin’. Over the course of a week we follow the ups and (mostly) downs of fictional folk singer, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). Llewyn is down on his luck, and tragically both a little too late and a little too early for the type of music he makes. His glory days as a popular folk duo are over after his partner committed suicide. He’s sleeping with his married ex-girlfriend and couch hops his way through friends until they all end up resenting him. Moody, pessimistic and constantly making mistakes and terrible life choices, Llewyn isn’t so much a hero or anti-hero, but merely a man trying to get by with making a minimum impact on the world around him. With bursts of the Coens’ usual black humour but with a gloomy melancholy running through its veins, Inside Llewyn Davis is a special sort of gem that perhaps not everyone will appreciate and understand.
4. Gone Girl (dir. David Fincher)
On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home to find his house in disarray and his beautiful wife, Amy, missing. With no sign of where she has gone, the police start suspecting foul play, and accompanied by a brutal, 24-hour news cycle and Nick’s nonchalant attitude towards his wife’s disappearance, it’s not long before all leads start pointing to him. In flash backs told through Amy’s diary entries we observe her and Nick’s relationship from its blissful start to its vicious dissolution. Gone Girl is not only a terrific crime film, but it also makes serious comments on marriage, gender roles and the media. With a powerhouse performance from Rosamund Pike as the illusive Amy, and David Fincher’s usual grimy, brutal direction, it’s one of the best psychological thrillers of recent times.
(Read my full review of Gone Girl here)
3. Her (dir. Spike Jonze)
Quirky and unique, Spike Jonze is known for being one of the most original filmmakers working toady. His latest film, Her won him the Best Original Screenplay Oscar at this year’s ceremony, and it’s not difficult to see why. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely man who writes other people’s letters for a living. He purchases a new operating system for his computer which has an inbuilt artificial intelligence in the form of a unique voice that can communicate with people. Theodore’s is named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), and she is everything he is looking for in a person; well, except a body. The two embark on a beautiful relationship with understanding and compassion. More than just a comment on how we have become so attached to technology, Her is a heartbreakingly beautiful love story between two souls; one with a body and the other without.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson)
Saturated with a pastel colour palette and shot in perfect symmetry, with a screenplay laden with pitch black humour and peculiar characters, The Grand Budapest Hotel is something only the quirky genius of Wes Anderson could come up with. Following the ongoings of the eponymous hotel and its strange residents throughout the years, Anderson has created his own fictionalised version of Eastern Europe between the wars. The film has everything going for it: an extraordinary cast led by a heartfelt and brave performance from Ralph Fiennes, combined with a visual spectacular and action-packed story, added with Anderson’s usual dose of whimsical charm and quirkiness; it’s a pure joy to behold. If Anderson was looking to create his magnum opus, I think The Grand Budapest Hotel may just be it.
(Read my full review of The Grand Budapest Hotel here)
1. Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)
There’s not much I can say about Boyhood that hasn’t already been said. Richard Linklater’s epic film of one boy’s childhood shot over the course of 12 years with the same cast and crew has captured attention and praise for its realistic portrayal of, simply, life itself. Over the course of the film we see the titular “boy” of the title, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), grow from a shy 6-year-old into a sensitive young man. But it’s not only his life that we explore over the course of two-and-a-half ambitious hours, but also the lives of his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke), his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and the various figures who float in and out of his world throughout the years. From school bullies, stepfamilies, domestic abuse, a distant father figure, a struggling single mother, an overachieving older sister, first loves and tough choices about the future, everyone can take something out of Boyhood and relate it back to their own life experiences. It’s one of the most incredible cinema experiences I have ever had, and the film really is an experience. In fact, Boyhood is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
(Read my full review of Boyhood here)
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2015:
Some of the films that I’m most looking forward to in the New Year.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman has been described as a tour de force for the performance of its lead, Michael Keaton. In an eerie moment where art-imitates-life, (ex-Batman himself) Keaton plays a washed up movie star known for his superhero franchise who is trying to revive his career by adapting an off-Broadway play. With exquisite cinematography that gives the appearance that the entire film was shot in a single take, a black comedy satire on the vanities of actors and terrific supporting performances from the likes of Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts, it’s sure to be a favourite come awards season.
Tim Burton’s biopic Big Eyes stars Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, an artist in the 1950s and 1960s, whose husband (Christoph Waltz) takes all the credit for her whimsical paintings of big-eyed children. Both a comment on sexism in the art industry and the consumerist market, Burton’s new film has been praised for its beautiful set pieces and gutsy performances from its two leads, Adams and Waltz. Burton has tackled a biopic before with the highly acclaimed and beloved, Ed Wood, which was based on the life of the worst director in history Edward D. Wood. Less gothic, more kitschy, and with not a Johnny Depp in sight, Big Eyes has a fascinating story to tell and looks visually beautifully.
Initially I perceived The Imitation Game as an Oscar bait vehicle for Benedict Cumberbatch, but upon inspection the hype surrounding the film seems less token and more actually worthy. It’s clear that the story of mathematical genius, Alan Turing, needed to be told. As a crucial code breaker during World War II, his cracking of the infamous Nazi Enigma code is thought to have brought the dissolution to the war sooner than thought possible. Turing’s personal life is also on show, specifically his secret life as a gay man during a time when it was subject to horrific punishment. With a stellar supporting cast including Keria Knightley as Joan Clark, a female code-breaker during a time when it was a boy’s only game, Matthew Goode and Mark Strong, The Imitation Game looks like a beautiful interpretation of an important story of a very clever and brave man.
MY FAVOURITE SONGS OF 2014:
10. Shades of Cool – Lana Del Rey
In 2014, the Queen of sultry came back with her second LP Ultraviolence, an ode to Hollywood and all its demons. In this Nancy Sinatra-esque power-ballard of lust that could easily play over the credits to a James Bond movie, Del Rey’s stunning operatic vocals melt with screeching guitar and dramatic strings, proving it to be one of her greatest songs to date.
9. Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay) – Sky Ferreira
Surprising her harshest critics, Sky Ferreira finally released her debut album Night Time, My Time in 2013, with this being one of the album’s standout tracks. Heavy doses of 20-something moodiness mixed with seamlessly perfect pop-rock, it’s the ultimate anthem for teenage girls who worship Courtney Love and David Lynch.
8. Rapt – Karen O
Recorded between the 2006-2010, Karen O’s solo EP Crush Songs showed a new side to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman that played with elements of acoustic guitars and distorted vocals. Echoing her Oscar nominated song The Moon Song from Spike Jonze’s Her, Rapt slowing erupts with dizzy laments of longing and loss.
7. Talking Backwards – Real Estate
Whimsical, dreamy, melancholy, effortless; all words that could describe Real Estate’s sound. Talking Backwards, the lead single from their third LP Atlas, is a beautiful, almost childlike song that simply washes over you. Perfect to listen to whilst imagining endless perfect summer days.
6. Lazaretto – Jack White
Always producing music that is gritty, brutal and staggeringly sexy, Jack White followed his first solo outing of 2012’s Blunderbuss with this year’s Lazaretto. Its lead eponymous single begins with a thumping bass that erupts into a screeching guitar that never ever stops, as if it is a train flying full speed ahead with epic insanity. Underlined with almost a hip-hop/bluesy beat, but nonetheless rock’n’roll, White never gives up on his strive for creating the perfect guitar song.
5. Go – Grimes (Feat. Blood Diamonds)
No longer evoking the sounds of an alien/woodland fairy from her previous efforts, like 2012’s masterpiece Visions, this standalone single from Canada’s favourite electro-pop Queen is heavy on the beats and bass. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno and the descent into hell, it was actually originally written for Rihanna who (unsurprisingly) turned it down. Only Grimes could pull off this twisted mix of EDM and falsetto.
4. All the Rage Back Home – Interpol
Once again playing with the same passion and force as they did on their incredible debut album Turn On The Bright Lights, Interpol came bounding back this year with their fifth album El Pintor, a true return to their post-punk form. All The Rage is expansive, driving and thrilling, evoking the same feelings as their classic songs PDA and Slow Hands. Gothic, moody and a little bit (appropriately) OTT, it’s the rock anthem of the year.
3. Red Eyes – The War On Drugs
Combining the same Americana feeling as a Bruce Springsteen song and the same grandeur as an Arcade Fire track, Red Eyes makes you want to run down a long road in the middle of the desert, kinda like Forrest Gump. Heavily influenced by 70s and 80s American rock like Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac, Red Eyes is a vastly layered song full of swirling melodies and infinite melancholic tendencies.
2. Birth In Reverse – St. Vincent
Electrified and dazzling, St. Vincent (stage name for American musician Annie Clark), is truly one of a kind. Birth in Reverse is the cheeky, gritty lead single from her fourth album. With a guitar lead that tears a hole in the space-time continuum and lyrics that play on the mundanity of life from an outsider’s POV, Clark is both alien like and robotic in her approach to music. Her music is both carefully timed with precision, but all in all very otherworldly and bizarre with an added fusion of accessibility and uniqueness. In her own words, it’s “a party record you could play at a funeral.”
1. Seasons (Waiting On You) – Future Islands
Placing No. 1 on many end of the year lists, including NME, The Guardian and Pitchfork, this perfect piece of elcetro pop could make even the most stone hearted among us feel like either dancing or crying (or perhaps even both). The thing that separates Seasons with any other indie electro hit of this year (or any other for that matter) is that it has soul. It hasn’t been created to bring buzz to the band who have been making music since 2003 and who have released three albums before this years’ Singles. In fact, it was an accidental hit, with the band’s performace on David Letterman in March going viral and bringing the band well deserved attention for the feel good hit of the year.
♥ ☆ ♥ ☆ ♥ HAPPY NEW YEAR! ♥ ☆ ♥ ☆ ♥