Every year usually starts off with Oscar homework and 2014 was no different. Straight out of the traps there were David O.Russell’s 70’s grifter tale “American Hustle”, Scorsese’s incident filled “The Wolf of Wall Street”, The Coen’s fictional take on the 60’s folk scene in New York “Inside Llewyn Davis” all followed swiftly by McConnaughey’s brilliant performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”, Spike Jonze’s digital love meditation “Her” and the gut wrenching “12 Years a Slave”. All worthy films in my opinion, I ignored “August: Osage County” though and still think it was for the best.
In February JDIFF brought their A-Game again, highlights included 5 star films in the shape of Wes Anderson’s funny and moving “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and the goddamn adorable “We Are The Best!” about three punk girls in 80’s Stockholm (pictured above). Nearly as good were Jim Jarmusch’s tale of world weary vampires “Only Lovers Left Alive”, the beautiful Australian desert trek movie “Tracks” and I appreciated Michel Gondry’s whimsy in “Mood Indigo” even if no one else seemed to, then a real indie gem in the shape of a bloody and thrilling revenge movie “Blue Ruin” and a world premiere of “Muppets Most Wanted” among others. Only bum note for me was Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem”, but even then the great man himself turned up for a Q&A, so I was in the same room as a Python, not bad eh?
I kicked off the second quarter of the year with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” which was alright but was soon exceeded by Jonathan Glazer’s fascinatingly weird “Under The Skin”, Lenny Abrahamson’s left field tale of eccentric musicians in “Frank” and Tom Hardy-in a-car-for-80-odd-minutes in “Locke”. I also think Tom Cruise’s Groundhog Day sci-fi “Edge of Tomorrow” was solid fun and the story of Kathleen Hanna in “The Punk Singer” also worthy of a mention, didn’t really feel “Starred Up” though, a prison drama with man of the moment Jack O’Connell. Then the World Cup arrived in all its beauty and took me away from movies, but just before it did I took in the heartstring-plucking documentary about the worst international football team in the world trying to get it together in “Next Goal Wins” and I was very glad I did.
At the Galway Film Fleadh in July I only managed to take in two films; the pitch perfect “Obvious Child”, starring Jenny Slate as a standup who has to make some big decisions after a one night stand and the slightly too twee “God Help The Girl”, a feature film debut by Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch about a girl who starts writing songs in order to get over some emotional troubles. It wasn’t bad by any stretch, but not for me really.
August brought Linklater’s much lauded “Boyhood” and while filming over such a long period of time and managing to make a watchable movie is obviously a great credit to him, I must admit I didn’t really connect with most of the characters apart from Ethan Hawke’s. James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” brought colour back to movies set in space, good on him, and the Dardennes’ “Two Days, One Night” a tale about a woman trying to get her job back had plenty of humanity on show.
September brought a stylish Nick Cave documentary “20,000 Days on Earth”, great B-movie fun in the shape of the bonkers “Lucy” and violent mystery thriller “The Guest”. At the IFI’s Stranger Than Fiction fest I enjoyed the candid look at film critic Roger Ebert in “Life Itself” and “Showrunners: The Art of Running A TV Show” an interesting look at high level US TV production.
October brought Jack O’Connell back onscreen in the great “’71” as a soldier stranded in East Belfast, decent Irish dramedy “Gold” and Fincher’s “Gone Girl” which was entertaining trash. At IFI’s Horrorthon I adored two New Zealand horror comedies; Gerard Johnstone’s “Housebound” about a woman under house arrest who’s being pestered by strange noises and occurrences in her own home and “What We Do In The Shadows” Jemaine Clement’s and Taiki Waititti’s low key mockumentary about vampires house-sharing in modern day Wellington.
In November I caught “The Skeleton Twins” a well observed film about siblings forced back together, Timothy Spall grunting in “Mr.Turner”, Cumberbatch in the better than expected “The Imitation Game”, Jake Gyllenhaal looking scary and gaunt in “Nightcrawler” and the okay Dennis Lehane scripted “The Drop”. I then finally caught up with the disappointing “Interstellar” that reached for greatness but never quite made it. I caught up with the two really clever Miller/Lord big budget comedies “The Lego Movie” and “22 Jump Street” and loved them both. At the Carte Noire French Film Festival at the IFI again I took in Mathieu Almaric’s thriller “The Blue Room”, Volker Schlöndorff’s fine adaptation of the play “Diplomacy” and then Laurent Lafitte, of the Comédie-Française no less, turned up to introduce the well worked thriller “Elle l’Adore” about a singer needing help off his number one fan and the family dramedy “Tristesse Club”.
December was mainly spent trying to catch up on films I missed like “The Rover” with Guy Pearce which was very good, “Ida” about a Polish nun in the 60’s was really beautiful, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was better than I could have hoped for, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was fine and “Calvary” really did very little for me and finally “Godzilla” was sadly a little too dull. In the cinema I caught an interesting take on musician Edwyn Collin’s stroke and recovery in “The Possibilities Are Endless”, Tommy Lee Jones’s odd western “The Homesman” and the not so great “St Vincent” with Bill Murray. Didn’t make it to see “Paddington” unfortunately but hey, I think I caught enough this year at this point, overall a good year.