Well, here we are! Another year gone and another batch of films to wade through and pick out my Top Ten of the last twelve months. It’s been something of a record breaking year for me and the cinema, having seen a total of seventy new releases between January and December. As always, my list is based on UK release dates, so with no further ado and in a loose order, here are Oh! That Film Blog’s top ten films of 2014.
1. August: Osage County
I had a strong feeling as soon as the credits began to roll that August: Osage County was going to remain my favourite film of the year. The picture’s dramatic themes and stellar cast full of a number of my absolute favourites was always going to be a personal winner. Watching Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts tear each other to shreds both verbally and at times physically was some of the most captivating cinema I have witnessed for some time. A delicious, juicy drama that I was delighted to be able to sink my teeth in to.
2. Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey completed his cinematic redemption this year with an Oscar winning performance in the powerful and moving Dallas Buyers Club. The true based story of a heterosexual man’s struggle with AIDS and the new community he finds himself a part of is equal parts inspiring and devastating and the film is a perfect example of Hollywood entertainment mixed with an important and resonant message. A gripping pleasure.
British filmmaking at its absolute best, Pride filled me with so many different emotions from joy to heartbreak to the one mentioned in the film’s title. The story of the Welsh miners and the unlikely LGBT alliance they find during the strike years is hilarious and touching in all of the right ways with a fantastic cast to guide the audience through both dramatic and comedic set pieces with ease. Only the most cynical of viewers could take a disliking to this gem.
4. St. Vincent
St. Vincent was one of my surprise favourites of the year, having known very little about it before I saw it. The film about a miserly neighbour and his relationship with his neighbours is full of heart and dry wit, and Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy relish the chance to play against each other with a restrained kind of humour that I enjoy so very much. An unassuming charm and great cast make St. Vincent a winner.
Whilst Boyhood may not have impressed some people on a plot level, I actually found myself engrossed in the twelve year journey of the film’s characters and the sheer directorial achievement of the picture forces it in to my Top Ten. To have such a long and risky project evolve in such a way in which a cognisant and enjoyable film could be produced at the end of it is nothing short of amazing to me, and brilliant performances were given by all.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
2014 also gave us the best of Wes Anderson in the form of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a charming and whimsical tale of hotel porters and grand adventures that completely captivated me and gave me one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of the year. Ralph Fiennes steals the show in the lead role but is expertly supported by the rest of the cast, and it was a total joy to be thrown back in to the Anderson universe, one of my favourite universes in film.
7. 20 Feet From Stardom
20 Feet From Stardom was a surprise winner at the Oscars this year, but it was totally up my street. A meeting of my two great loves, film and music, is always something I enjoy, and this documentary about the lives and struggles of some of the industry’s most prominent backing singers was one of the most interesting and engaging pieces I’ve seen in a while. Brilliant insight and brilliant musical moments.
8. The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game told the amazing, important and ultimately heartbreaking story of war time genius Alan Turing and the events that shaped both his personal and professional life. A gay man during a time when homosexuality was still a crime Turing’s treatment by the law was nothing short of disgusting, and the juxtaposition between the heroic, life saving mathematical discoveries he made and the way in which the country punished him makes for a memorable and powerful piece of cinema. A brilliant performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.
Another completely unexpected pleasure of 2014, Paddington showed us how to make a modern remake that still possesses the charm and heart of the original source material. The film was full of effective humour that catered to both children and adults and, refreshingly, was not afraid to be a little bit scary when the time came. Children’s films that do not patronise their target audience are rare these days, and Paddington is a shining example of exactly how a great film for young people should be done.
10. Blue Ruin
This low budget thriller was an exhilarating experience from beginning to end, reminiscent of the darkest moments of the Coen brothers with a spine of dark, dry humour running throughout. A twist on the stereotypical revenge narrative, the film’s protagonist is a hopeless failure in many aspects and it provides a brilliant and intelligent change to the norm. Blue Ruin is an absolute must see and a triumph given it’s incredibly small budget.