This is my selection of top/favourite 2014 cinema releases. They’re mostly arthouse releases, and the list attempts to represent clever, moving, and entertaining filmmaking rather than laughs, explosions, and bang-for-your-buck blockbusters.
9. Wish I Was Here
Zach Braff’s film about adult immaturity, fatherhood, and the struggle between unrealistic dreams and the realities of responsibility. The mix of humour and drama is touching and special, with great performances from an ensemble cast.
As usual, Spike Jonze tells this story in a completely unpredictable way. While the film’s plot summary makes it seem like an intellectual drama about the way technology has infiltrated our lives, it really turns out to be a sweet love story between a man and his computer.
7. The Spectacular Now
A high school coming-of-age film about a screw-up teenager who I could actually identify with (for a change). Even if this kind of film doesn’t usually appeal to you, this one is executed better than anything I’ve ever seen.
Best experienced in IMAX, Christopher Nolan proves that there’s more to him than gritty Batman films. His movies keep going bigger and bigger, but here the scale and scope of the story never hurts the narrative. A simple film at its core, but with big ideas and a lot of (harmless) appropriation from similar movies.
5. Faan se Trein
An Afrikaans film that’s not a cheaply produced fish-out-of-water romcom?!! Yes, Faan se Trein successfully follows in the footsteps of serious Afrikaans cinema like Paljas and Skoonheid. Willie Esterhuizen especially shows that he’s capable of more than silly comedy.
4. 12 Years A Slave
A stunning, beautiful, but true-to-life disturbing story of a slave in 1850’s America. A long film about the cruelty of slavery and the mistreating of slaves, treated with more scary realism than 2012’s Django Unchained.
A cute but dramatic, middle-aged “coming of age” film about father-son bonding, but even more about aging, dementia, and relearning to love and care for a parent. Typical Alexander Payne, it mixes realistic drama with a touch of dark comedy – this time delivered with a unique black & white palette.
2. Gone Girl
An amazing, suspenseful thriller that twists and unfolds throughout. It’s the kind of film that offers a fascinating character study of a human being, and lets you question how much you can ever truly trust another person.
Richard Linklater has always been a brilliant artist to keep an eye on, and here he finally delivered his magnum opus. A long film that chronicles a single character’s transition from boy into man, as filmed with a growing actor over 12 years.
That’s my 10 personal favourite movies of 2014. Is your list different from mine? Did your favourite (or least favourite) film make the list? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. With movies, as with all art, there isn’t a right or wrong answer, so we’d love to hear yours!
Check back here next week for the 2015 films I’m most excited for! It’s going to be a great year for going to the cinema!