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Top 10 Films of 2014

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Just a quick update before we get started. I’ll have my Oscar predictions and results from the latest Vote! segment out this week, so make sure to get your votes in before it closes. Additionally, hopefully, my review of “Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” a film I greatly adore, will be published before week’s end. Now let’s get going…

25: The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Evans)
24: Snowpiercer (Joon-Ho Bong)
23: Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
22: The Trip to Italy (MIchael Winterbottom)
21: Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)

20: The Rover (David Michod)
19: I Origins (Mike Cahill)
18: Frank (Lenny Abrahamson)
17: The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)
16: Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)

15: Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
14: The Drop (Michael R. Roskam)
13: Nymphomaniac (Lars Von Trier)
12: Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
11: Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)

10: Starred Up (David Mackenzie)/(’71, Yann Demange, 2015?)

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Are we going with 2014 or 2015 for “’71?” It’s rather comical that up-and-coming super-stud Jack O’Connell had three films screen this year, the worst of which received the widest release. “Starred Up” is a hard-hitting prison drama that’s lifted to towering heights by the performances of O’Connell and co-star Ben Mendelsohn. Swapping the more traditional, cringe-worthy visual aspects of the unflinching prison sub-genre (not all) for impenetrable dialogue and a vast array of relationships teetering on the brink, “Starred Up” will fill you with insight before knocking a few teeth down your throat.

9: Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy) / Enemy (Dennis Villenueve)

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Very few have had quite as stellar a year as Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014, which is why I couldn’t help but rank this remarkable double-feature inside my top 10. This double-dose of Gyllenhaal showcases the actor’s staggering, at times terrifying range. It’s mind-blowing that Gyllenhaal didn’t garner an Oscar nomination for either of these two fantastic performances, but I digress.

8: The Guest (Adam Wingard)

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Containing easily the best soundtrack any film of 2014 had to offer, “The Guest” sees dynamic duo Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett reach new cult status. With incredibly charismatic performances from Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe, in addition to non-stop action “The Guest” is endlessly entertaining!

7: Locke (Steven Knight)

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Looked upon as a reliable, strong-minded scribe with a plethora of solid screenplays to his name, including the creation of “Peaky Blinders,” a personal television favourite of mine. Prior to 2014’s “Locke,” Steven Knight hadn’t much to brag about from behind the camera, but that quickly and assertively changed. Led by a phenomenal performance from occasional Knight collaborator Tom Hardy, “Locke” is a magnificent spectacle of the human experience.

6: A Most Violent Year (J. C. Chandor)

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This is the second consecutive year-end “best of” list J. C. Chandor has cracked for me, personally (All Is Lost, 2013). Much like last year’s film “All Is Lost,” “A Most Violent Year” didn’t get much love come award season, but once again that didn’t discourage my ranking it inside the top 10. With formidable performances from its entire cast, including Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks, a subtle, yet immensely powerful story, gloomy atmosphere, and the sure-handed direction from Chandor, “A Most Violent Year” is a must-see to any who missed it.

5: Force Majeure (Ruben Ostlund)

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As I’m sure most of you are aware, comedy cinema doesn’t sit too well with me. Which should only speak volumes in regards to “Force Majeure’s” placement on this list. Providing the laughs, abundantly, and a rock-solid story that’s never as easy to watch as its breezy demeanour would insist, “Force Majeure’s” Oscar snub is almost as unforgivable as the absence of “Mommy” in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

4: Gone Girl (David Fincher)

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To say that I adore David Fincher and his very impressive resume would be a massive understatement. “Gone Girl,” although not the illustrious filmmakers best work to date, certainly has a place amongst the top of his efforts. Further cementing Ben Affleck as a force to be reckoned with both on and off screen and earning Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination, deservedly so I might add, “Gone Girl” mixes all the potent Fincher facets into one hell of a morbid cocktail.

3: Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

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The odds-on favourite to take home “best foreign language film” at this year’s Academy Awards, “Leviathan” is an aptly titled juggernaut. Breathtaking visuals, impressive performances, and an unfathomable socio-political complexity are just a few tangents of what makes “Leviathan” triumphant.

2: Mommy (Xavier Dolan)

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Directed and written by home-grown Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, “Mommy” catapults the young filmmaker to the relative peak of my top 10. I’d feel very unpatriotic leaving Dolan’s latest off this list, but rest-assured he earned this spot. “Mommy” is brutal, unforgiving, whilst conversely evoking the most genuine and rooted responses of the emotional spectrum. Performed with the utmost investment by the entire ensemble, “Mommy” is one foreign language film you won’t want to miss.

1: Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)

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It doesn’t exactly bode well for the credibility of Nolan’s latest topping this list, seeing as I could be considered the leader of Nolan’s group of so-called “Fanboys,” but I can’t stress “Interstellar’s” greatness enough. You’ve either seen this film by now and loved it or hated it. I fail to see the middle ground and apparently so does everyone else. With monumental visuals, a complex, out-of-this-world premise that simultaneously showcases the down-to-earth emotionality and intellectual reach of the human race. “Interstellar” will leave you in awe and down-right flabbergasted. Thankfully, this film offers much post-viewing reading that should solve any issues or curiosity.

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What did you think of my list? Have a list of your own? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

Best Cinema Experiences of 2014:

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What really counts in this post is the experiences, not the wording or grammar, etc… That’s my polite way of asking you to disregard the lazy, formulaic summaries and to focus on each, particular screening and the atmosphere each created. Also, please forgive my shoty camera work and the quality of some of the videos…

I Origins (Cast and Director Q and A):

I’m a Mike Cahill admirer. “Another Earth” blew me away and I couldn’t wait for his follow up…and it did not disappoint. Oh, and having Michael Pitt join Cahill in a post-screening Q and A was the icing on the cake.

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99 Homes: (Cast and Director Q and A):

Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, and Andrew Garfield so close I could literally reach out and touch them…need I say more? Shannon is one of my all time favourite actors and the chance to hear him speak about his latest film nearly had me in tears of fortune and excitement.

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Locke: (Stephen Knight Q and A):

If you know me, you know that my fandom in regards to Tom Hardy and “Peaky Blinders” knows no bounds. Naturally, having the chance to catch an advance screening of “Locke,” Hardy’s and “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight’s latest collaboration, left me winded. It’s also the only time my mom has ever stepped into my world, the life of a die-hard cinephile. And the fact that she loved it in its entirety left me overjoyed.

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The Imitation Game: (Cast and Crew Q and A):

Benedict Cumberbatch…in person…that is all… Oh, and Keira Knighley and Matthew Goode too.

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Q and A: Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The Guest: (Director/Writer/Cast Q and A):

This past year’s screening of “The Guest” during TIFF 2014’s Midnight Madness program was easily the most fun I’d had at a cinema all year. Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard are uproariously funny and extremely talented at what they do. Add in the charismatic, unbelievably charming and handsome Dan Stevens in addition to the lovely Maika Monroe, and you’ve got one hell of a theatre experience. The film itself cracks my top 10 of 2014 with ease and this screening has a lot to do with it. I hate to admit it, but having my lame-o friends undergo the craziness with me made all the difference in the world. Plus, we were the only ones to bring a beach ball! Which only added to the over-the-top atmosphere throughout the entire screening. I should probably explain… Midnight Madness is TIFF’s most out of control cinephile experience. There’s loud music beforehand, it starts at midnight, there’s the potent scent of substance abuse lingering in the air, and usually has a ball or two being tossed around. It’s essentially a rock concert that replaces the band with a film.

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The 50 Year Argument: (Martin Scorsese Q and A):

This is, without question, the best experience I’ve ever had in a theatre to date, let alone 2014. Of course, any occasion that has you sitting in the presence of one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers is a monumental occurrence indeed. To be completely honest, the film, “The 50 Year Argument,” although thoroughly engaging and utterly interesting, was simply a welcomed formality, a terrific bonus. Being granted the opportunity to listen and digest Martin Scorsese discussing film and his career for an extended period of time is unlike any euphoric treat that’s ever graced itself to my presence.

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Did you have a particularly awesome cinema experience this past year? Let me know in the comment section below, I’m dying to know! Also, if you haven’t contributed your voice to the latest poll, please click on Vote! in the bar above to do so…don’t make me chase you down!

Locke (2014)

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There’s really nothing special about Ivan Locke, he’s actually quite common. He has a wife and two children. He departs for work every morning in a respectable vehicle and returns home to his family at day’s end. He dresses satisfactory, has a scruffy beard, and catches colds like the rest of us. At his place of employment, he answers to his superiors and manages those with an inferior title. He struggles mightily with his own mortality and cheers on his favourite football team. For reasons beyond his control, Ivan was deprived of a father figure growing up and sadly lives his life to achieve an unreachable status of fatherhood immaculacy, a goal his neglectful dad could never dream of fulfilling.

Ivan has lived his life as if it were a blueprint. He takes excruciating precautions not to misstep, as he understands the consequences of an error, no matter how small. Unfortunately however, Ivan has made but one mistake in his trivial existence and it will end up costing him everything. For you see, on any other day, Locke would be retuning home about now, but he should have realized that a single mistake sets off a chain reaction. And like a series of dominoes tumbling over one another, Ivan’s empire, slowly but surely, will collapse… Yes, I guess you could say Ivan Locke is nothing special.

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If I’m to be honest, there’s a multitude of reasons why Steven Knight’s “Locke” is such a triumph. It’s incredibly strong dialogue, endless chain of symbolic metaphors, and brilliant use of rhetoric and pathos sets a marvellous, nearly flawless foundation which allows director/writer Steven Knight, his crew, and ensemble to not only take risks and part ways with convention, but to thrive inside their own trial and error. They consistently violate and push their own discoveries to an extreme like no filmmakers have done before them. I mean, some of the things done in this film left me flabbergasted. Not to mention that the realism of “Locke’s” premise, dialogue, and circumstances gracefully and painfully transcend the screen. In fact, it’s so revolutionary that regardless of the fact if you enjoy the film or not, one can’t help but admire and revere what Knight and company have done here. With “Locke,” less is truly more.

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I do find it odd however, rather ironic actually, that a film centred around the notion that safety comes with structure and convention has such disdain towards method and canon. I mean, at countless moments we are gagged with the premise that to build something concrete, one needs feasibility, rules, design and stability. And yet, Steven Knight’s “Locke” is existing, contradictory proof. It’s quite the paradox when you think about it.

“Locke” is experimental, minimalist cinema at its finest. The film was shot entirely on three cameras mounted inside a BMW with only a handful of external shots sparsely spliced in. In addition to a minuscule budget, “Locke” was filmed in its entirety from start to finish each night twice during production, with Hardy inside the vehicle and the voice actors in a hotel room calling the number connected to the X5. There are so many little quirks and factual tidbits about the film that you just have to investigate and experience for your self. Like Tom Hardy having come down with a head cold immediately before production so the script was changed so his character could accommodate the sickness. Additionally, Hardy’s seemingly brilliant sporadic anger fits are just a bi-product of the X5’s incessant “low fuel warning” alarm interrupting his performance.

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Now, with a director like Terrence Malick, for example, the scope can never be too large. Knight’s latest on the other hand, takes it down to the microscopic scale. And although the amplitude may vary, I can assure you there are equal amounts of talent and dedication on either end. And while Knight isn’t exactly new to filmmaking, actually he’s quite the wily veteran, he is still getting ahold of directing as “Locke” is only his second full-length feature behind the camera. It’s rather comical actually seeing as one would think Knight had been directing his entire life judging by the caliber of “Locke.” His mastery of the film’s mood is nothing short of superb. His ability to create this dark, almost apocalyptic atmosphere that lingers so heavy on the screen translates to his characters and the film’s overall effectiveness. Of course, it does help that the film’s soundtrack is as hauntingly ambient and foreboding as they come.

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If you know me at all, it should be crystal clear that I can’t say enough good things about Tom Hardy. The guy’s a one man show, literally. I honestly thought I’d seen his best, but once again Hardy manages to dazzle in ways I never thought possible. I know I’ve been praising Knight’s technique, inventiveness, and ingenuity a lot in this review, but his efforts would have been for nothing had Hardy not carried the film in the manner he did. Shifting from a stoic, control hungry realist to an inconsolable and flawed man with seemingly little-to-no effort, Hardy appears to get better with each outing. His voice, eyes, and demeanour give Hardy unbelievable control of the screen, and the fact that the film takes place in such a confined space only enhances his abilities. I know it’s early, but Hardy’s performance in “Locke” is easily the best of 2014 thus far.

Ingenious, hard-hitting, and undoubtedly simple, “Locke” is an expressionistic piece that is, without question, one of a kind. Featuring a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy and stern, resourceful direction from Steven Knight, “Locke” is one of 2014’s must-see.

Locke: 9 out of 10.