It’s harder and harder to see great cinema at the cinema but the peerless potential of the medium to move through stories fictional and factual is unabated. The battle for cinema is one that can be won if the lines of the conflict are redrawn and we can get more of the kind of films on my list (and I’m sure the other Noters’) on big screens in more places for longer periods. Honourable mentions to Nightcrawler, Starred Up, Life Itself, ’71, Maps to the Stars, Two Days One Night, Locke, Snowpiercer and Edge Of Tomorrow, which in any other year could have easily featured in my top ten-list. Living in Cornwall also means I haven’t seen some biggies including Leviathan, Ida, Calvary and The Lego Movie.
Some notes. There’s a flow to my list. The top 3 are interchangeable depending on the day. I really can’t choose between them for my favourite this year, so I’ve ranked them by cinematic individuality. Number 4 is a standalone mind-blowing epic. 5 through 7 are uplifting feel-good wonders tinged with darkness. All are stunning examples of how to balance comedy and pathos with real humanity and surrealism (in the cases of 5 and 7 prominently). Numbers 8 and 9 are supreme examples of how the rock-documentary genre continues to evolve and be one of the most interesting and innovative documentary forms. And then there’s number 10 and we all know about that film don’t we?
10. BOYHOOD | Richard Linklater
Everything has already been said about Linklater’s ridiculous cinematic experiment. Maybe the most ridiculous thing is how impressive it is in pretty much every way and how creatively and intellectually lazy he made pretty much every other filmmaker on the planet look in one fell (well 12 years in the making) swoop.
9. 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH | Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
The rock-doc got a further notch on its increasingly innovative and heady belt with this ‘A Day In The Life’ document of Nick Cave’s personal and creative processes. It’s playful, enigmatic and revealing in the ways his music is and provides a wonderful visual accompaniment to his impressive audio catalogue.
8. AMERICAN INTERIOR | Dylan Goch & Gruff Rhys
Gruff Rhys had a good year. His American Interior project slayed live audiences, became an award nominated book and app, an acclaimed record and, as a film, a wonderful rock-doc following Gruff across America as he traces a great ancestor’s footsteps in search of community, meaning and collaboration.
7. WE ARE THE BEST! | Lukas Moodysson
Akin to my 6th pick Frank, this is a gloriously celebratory movie about outsiders and individuality (as well as what it means to be a girl in a male dominated society) that also has some of the funniest moments and greatest music of the year.
6. FRANK | Lenny Abrahamson
The funniest film of the year. Brilliant music and a gleeful celebration of outsiders and the vulnerable. Full of fantastic messages about creativity, mental health and friendship that are never bludgeoned but instead delivered through great characters, a great story and a big paper maché head.
5. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL | Wes Anderson
It’s as if Wes took criticisms that Moonrise Kingdom was too ‘Wes Anderson-y’ and said “oh, if you think that was, wait til you get a load of this” and threw everything in his considerable armoury at this anarchic and subtle emotional fable. It’s sweary and if Ralph Fiennes doesn’t win an Oscar the world has gone mad.
4. WINTER SLEEP | Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Nuri Bilge Ceylan is modern cinema’s Chekhov and his latest is an astounding, moving and funny epic of humanity that reminds through its stubbornness the power that cinema can contain and reveal when given the opportunity.
3. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS | Joel & Ethan Coen
It’s a polarizing film but in its bleak beauty and profound examination of greatness and what it takes to be truly free artistically it is astounding. It’s also one of the best things the Coen Brothers have ever done. Beautifully shot and replete with that incredible music.
2. HER | Spike Jonze
Directly, this is the film that has had the most impact on me this year through its complicating ideas around technology and relationships. A peerless Joaquin Phoenix is the perfect guide for anxious romantics fearful of where this loud and incessant planet is headed.
1. UNDER THE SKIN | Jonathan Glazer
It’s rare you can call something a unique experience without hyperbole but this film earns it through a cacophony of ideas, tension and visual wonder. It manages to be subtle and tremulous as well as directly unsettling and memorable. It’s a masterpiece.