This is too tough. I decided to leave documentaries out and still couldn’t quite fit these in: The Call, What Maisie Knew, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Good Vibrations, Pacific Rim, Mud, NO, The East, Prince Avalanche, In A World…, Robot & Frank, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Cloud Atlas…
#10 – Blue Jasmine
While Cate Blanchett is deservedly getting all the plaudits, it’s really her supporting cast here who caught my eye. Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale are all really deserving of your attention. Let’s hope Woody keeps up this run.
#9 – Simon Killer
A film that premiered 23 months ago at the Sundance Film Festival and got a small UK and Ireland release last May.
Brady Corbet is superb as the psychopath, delusional college graduate out of his depth in Europe in a film that says so much about misogyny in just 100 minutes.
#8 – Arbitrage
The very best pulpy thriller of the year. Indie darling Brit Marling (who also shows up in the wonderfully misunderstood The East – hint: to enjoy, you’re not meant to take it too seriously) is a terrifically cold foil to Richard Gere’s disintegrating finance executive who just can’t get a handle on life after the accidental death of his mistress.
All the while his ice queen wife Susan Sarandon is more interested in holding onto her place in society’s high-life.
More of this kind of fare please Dickie.
#7 – The Broken Circle Breakdown
Belgium’s entrant into the 2014 Foreign Language Oscar race is a stirring character drama, a musical and a heartbreaking story of losing a loved one. It’s not an easy film to stomach but it’s impossible to turn your eyes away.
The film’s music also manages to haunt and enthral in equal measure in what can only be dubbed a toe-tapping weepy.
#6 – The Way Way Back
It’s so hard to find fault in Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s coming-of-age tale. It’s far from the most original story you’ll have seen on screen this year but in summer where mainstream American cinema continued to be devoid of originality is that really a complaint? Heart-warming, affecting and fun.
I also want Allison Janney to mount a late surge for a Best Supporting Actress award for her terrific turn as “drunk neighbour mom”.
#5 – Zero Dark Thirty
The one-time Best Picture Oscar favourite ended up with a sole (shared!!) award for its sound editing. It’s a terrifically blunt “boots on the ground” look at the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and how it took over the life of one woman, Jessica Chastain’s Maya. It’s sad that a film that is really quite matter-of-fact became so politicised as it’s really just a terrific story powered by a captivating female performance and the best female director working today.
#4 – The Selfish Giant
Artist Clio Barnard’s first film The Arbor was incredibly hard to pin down, but made for fascinating viewing. With The Selfish Giant, she now finds herself elevated to a status of premium “new” British director alongside the likes of Steve McQueen, Ben Wheatley, Richard Ayoade and Andrea Arnold. These are not men and women who will be found taking on episodes of Downton Abbey for ITV.
The story is incredibly simple and almost acts as an allegory about everything that’s wrong with Britain today. Expect big things from breakout performer Conner Chapman who is as likely to make you laugh, cry or become incensed.
#3 – Frances Ha
Spooool’s consensus film of the year is one that speaks to our generation – we’ve too many options and yet have never been more unhappy. In Frances, Greta Gerwig (who co-wrote the screenplay with her beau director Noah Baumbach) has formed a character that just can’t seem to feel like she’s on the right track.
Her positivity and energy is inspirational but with it comes a lack of focus, drive and confidence which will resonate all too much with any of us who didn’t become accountants and get married at the age of 21.
#2 – Before Midnight
I needed to see Before Midnight again before I was sure what I thought of it. Second time round it was clear that director Richard Linklater and his stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have created one of the most affecting parts of a relationship saga imaginable.
It would have been all to easy to tell part three in the Céline and Jesse as another random meet-up, chat and walk but instead they took the brave option and gave them kids and a decade-old relationship that’s carrying a whole ton of baggage that’s really starting to sag around the edges.
#1 – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
A forgotten masterpiece?
David Lowery’s first major feature did well following its debut at Sundance and, powered by a cast of well-known names, was expected to do quite well when pushed out on a limited release. Instead the unlikeability of Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in real life (they’re rather dour and from from laugh-a-minute celebrities) seems to have contributed to an international box office take of only $800,000 and next to no awards traction.
While Lowery’s star seems like it’s on the rise, it seems like his darkly beautiful tale of life in the mid 20th century in sweaty Texas isn’t going to be on too many people’s Christmas stocking lists. Do the right thing and track down this film.