Monday, 5 January 2015

Top 10 Films of the Year: Part 2

5. Frank

The brilliance of Frank is encapsulated by two performance scenes that bookend the film: the first, when protagonist Jon first steps onto the stage with the band, captures the exhilarating experience of the their music and the profound strangeness of the papier-mache-headed lead singer Frank (Michael Fassbender); the second again reinforces all these elements, only this time with an added emotional punch that ninety minutes of intelligent character development and honest portrayals of mental illness and artistic creativity sets up.

4. Under the Skin

British director Jonathan Glazer’s latest was a thrillingly avant-garde film about an alien (Scarlett Johansson) roaming the streets of Glasgow, which looked and sounded like nothing ever to have appeared on a cinema screen before. The alien spaces and imagery are totally devoid of sci-fi cliches and look genuinely extraterrestrial, provoking the kind of awe and eeriness you’d imagine from contact with a new sentient species. Then there’s the unforgettable score, full of hypnotic drums and icy strings that chill the bone and haunt you long after the film’s end.

3. The Lego Movie

This year’s biggest hit at the UK box office was also the funniest, a near-miracle for what initially looked like little more than a feature length advert for a toy. A hilarious script with a smart satirical undercurrent was devised, and brought to life both by an inspired cast that blended big Hollywood names (Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell) with some of the best performers in the US’ thriving sit-com scene (Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation, Alison Brie from Community, Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Will Arnett from Arrested Development), and a startlingly original form of digital animation devised to retain the idiosyncrasies of lego blocks while sending them on a dazzling fast-pace big screen adventure. As promised, it was awesome.

2. Whiplash

J.K. Simmons’ performance as jazz teacher Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash must be seen to be believed - he is at once unstable, inspiring, hilarious and utterly monstrous, one of cinema’s most fascinating creations. Miles Teller gives as good as he gets as driven student drummer Andrew, and forms a fascinating dynamic with his teacher that forms the heart of the film. One electrifying scene follows another and somehow the film gets better and better, up until an explosive crescendo in the finale that will leave you breathless.

1. Boyhood

It’s almost become boring to see Boyhood pop up on yet another end of year top ten list, but that shouldn't cloud just how extraordinary a film it is. Over one hundred years since films first started being made, Richard Linklater has demonstrated how there still exists new ways of telling a story with his unique long-term structure. For the first time ever audiences at the cinema were able to watch both a character and an actor literally growing up, and the experience was remarkably immersive and involving.

Both audiences and critics loved it - it is one of those rare films to have gained 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and near-universal five star reviews, as well as feature in the top 100 of IMDB’s top 250 films. When future generations look back at 2014, it will surely be remembered as as the year Boyhood was released.

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