2014 was a pretty good year for movies, and a great one for What The Craggus Saw. 233 posts in total and over 10,000 views, a new record was set in November for monthly views but how do I filter all that down into the perennially unfair but likewise popular ‘Top 10’?
Well, to qualify, only brand new 2014 releases are included so even if I saw it this year, if it came out in 2013 or it’s coming out next year, it doesn’t count. Looking back, I managed to catch 86 new releases this year in the cinema and out of those I awarded seven perfect 10/10 scores and four 9/10 scores so really, this list almost writes itself.
There were a bunch of great movies at the 8/10 mark which I seriously considered adding to the list despite the scoring but In the end, I couldn’t find anything to cut from the list to make room for the likes of Bad Neighbours, 22 Jump Street (the unlucky 9/10 which didn’t make the actual list), Edge Of Tomorrow, The Hundred Foot Journey, Horns or even Nightcrawler. You can click on any movie title in this post to go through to the review for that film.
Whether you agree/ disagree/ want to lobby on behalf of your beloved favourite which I have cruelly overlooked, then let me know in the comments below. I’ve chosen this list based on the scores I gave them which in turn are driven by how they made me feel so it’s a lot fuzzier than objectively analysing them for technical merit, artistic significance and cultural importance. It’s a sure bet I’ll have missed something you liked or lauded something you loathed. At least we can all agree no Michael Bay films should make these lists, right? So with that out of the way, let’s start the countdown to Craggus’ Film Of The Year…
Edging out “22 Jump Street” for the final place on the list, this edgier entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe took arguably its most kitsch and anachronistic character and made him hot-button topical and bleeding-edge relevant. Taking risks with not only the franchise but the Cinematic Universe itself, it shook up the TV shows and movies around it while delivering a taut and action packed spy thriller.
Having settled into a bit of a rut with his “Taken” and “Taken”-esque action roles, this was a sharp return to form for Neeson, giving him a role to really sink his teeth into and a macabre murder mystery that can stand toe to toe with “Silence Of The Lambs” for nerve-shredding intensity. A powerful, visceral thriller that deserved more acclaim and recognition than it got.
An astonishing achievement in both cinema and storytelling, the lack of soap opera dramatic twists is the film’s secret weapon and because we only have Mason’s perspective we’re really exposed the the lengths parents can go to to protect their children from the darker aspects of family life. Absorbing and, in a gentle way, life changing for the audience and the cast.
7th The Raid 2
Stylised, gratuitous violence choreographed as a savage and bloodthirsty ballet against this is a cod-Shakespearean clash of crime families in Jakarta. The film director Gareth Evans wanted to make all along, it’s a brutal cinematic assault on the senses; a pure, undilutedly violent action movie – provided you’ve got the stomach for it.
6th Mr Turner
Elegant, stagey and gorgeously shot, this biopic brings you as close as you can get to seeing the world the way the great painter did. The passion, intensity and contradictions are displayed on screen in luxurious detail with Timothy Spall towering above everyone with a performance of subtlety, guile and perfect comic timing.
A sheer joy of a movie: heart-warming, life affirming and sweet with a cast to die for. There are no bitter twists or dark surprises, no villains and no tragedies. It’s just a funny, touching and genuine story of a man reconnecting with his son and rediscovering his life’s passions against a backdrop of some of the most mouth-watering food ever to appear on the big screen.
Like a Victorian toy theatre come alive, Wes Anderson’s exquisite use of colour, composition and aspect is deployed to dazzling effect in this high class knockabout comedy drama. Packed to the rafters with starry cameos, delicious set pieces and a vibrant, almost fairy tale aesthetic, it’s still Ralph Fiennes’ imperious Concierge Par Excellence, Monsieur Gustave H that captures your attention. The murder mystery conspiracy storyline zips along with the wit and energy of classic screwball comedies of the 1930’s but there’s a decidedly modern edge to the witty political and social commentary which lurks behind each candy coloured tableau.
Quite simply one of the finest family movies ever made. Nearly every aspect is note-perfect and Ben Wishaw’s vocal performance instantly erases any concerns that may have been caused by the very late in the day casting change. The story is gentle, the hijinks exciting and it’s all good, clean fun. The character design is just gorgeous, and a rose-tinted London provides a storybook backdrop for the fable of a bear from darkest Peru. No wonder Michael Bond himself raises a glass to toast the film in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.
2nd Under The Skin
Astonishing. Uncomfortable. Haunting. Or Impenetrable, Pretentious and Boring? I’m still chilled, horrified and fascinated by this darkly poetic, ambient meditation on the human condition. Powerful, shocking and courageous in both its performances and its narrative choices, it’s allegorical storytelling at its rawest. Divisive in the extreme, I’m a confirmed Under-The-Skin-ophile and despite the fact that friends and family who I’ve recommended this to haven’t thanked me for it, I’ll continue to advocate for this film for a long time to come.
Craggus’ Film Of The Year: Guardians Of The Galaxy
Hooked on a feeling? I’ll say. While it may not have the lofty artistic merit of some of the others in this list, there was only one clear choice for film of the year. Seeing it was a transformative, restorative experience. It reminded me of why I love movies and genuinely made me feel like I was nine years old watching “Return Of The Jedi” for the first ever time again. From its soundtrack to its outrageously tongue in cheek attitude, it blew my dusty, cynical old mind – shocking neglected synapses back to life and bringing a thousand fond memories flooding back. It’s infused every aspect of family life in a way nothing has done since “Star Wars” – The Mertmas has a “Guardians Of The Galaxy” bedspread and I’m jealous of it every time I tuck him in. Is it formulaic? I suppose you could say that, if you were a black hearted turd blossomwho has strangled their inner child with middle-aged ennui. Yes, it borrows from a hundred different movies but it borrows great bits from a hundred fantastic movies and still comes up as something fresh and new. Marvel’s biggest gamble turned into one of their biggest triumphs. It’s a rare film that I already start to feel the desire to watch again before I’ve finished watching it but that still happens, every time I do watch it. In fact, I think I’ll watch it now.