The Ford On Film End of Year Awards 2014: Best Film
Only Lovers Left Alive
Edge of Tomorrow
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
10. The Babadook
In an era of horror in which every major film seems to be the same generic mix of loud noises, predictable jump scares and barely-written characters, it was terrific to see Australian director Jennifer Kent’s debut The Babadook ignore all convention to deliver a near-masterpiece of fear. Kent slowly ramps up the tension and delivers the big scares, while Essie Davis rightfully won my award for best actress and Noah Wiseman gives one of the best child performances since Hayley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Critically and commercially successful, The Babadook was the best horror film in years.
9.We Are The Best!
One of the year’s most unexpectedly great films, Lukas Moodysson’s punk rock coming-of-age drama hit all the right notes. The tale of three outcast girls who form a band (despite only one of them having any musical talent), this warm and charming film managed to avoid many of the music-film cliché, and the final scene, in which the girls play ‘Hate the Sport’, the one song they’ve written, is a genuine fist-in-the-air triumph.
8. The Raid 2
Already near the top of the list of great action films, Gareth Evans’ pulse-raising sequel to breakthrough film The Raid was the most gloriously exciting film of the year. I gave Gareth Evans my award for best director of the year, for his insanely ambitious fight sequences and hyperkinetic camera work, and while a lot of the success of The Raid 2 comes down to his huge effort, plenty of praise should be heaped upon leading man Iko Uwais, one of the most impressive action heroes of all time.
7. Blue Ruin
I went into Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin knowing next to nothing, and came out blown away. A low budget mystery thriller, Blue Ruin works best with only a basic knowledge of the plot; the twists come thick and fast, and the film never slows down for the length of its runtime. Leading actor Macon Blair (an unknown who will surely be cast in more mainstream affair after this) gives a stunning performance, all wild eyes and genuine fear. Criminally underseen on release, Blue Ruin is destined to become the cult film you force all your friends to watch.
6. The Guest
Though Adam Wingard’s You’re Next was a pretty fun horror, I don’t think anyone could have expected his follow-up, 80’s thriller pastiche The Guest, to be as thrilling as it was. Featuring one of the year’s breakout film stars in leading man Dan Stevens, The Guest was a film that started slowly, with some quiet tension as a mysterious soldier comes to stay with the family of a deceased friend, and quickly ramps up the action, tension and sheer fun from there. I named the film’s central set piece, a truly awesome bar brawl, as my favourite scene of the year, but the rest of the film lives up to the high quality. Possibly the most fun I had watching a film all year, and one of the most effortlessly cool films around.
5. Under the Skin
Stylish, sinister and stunningly well crafted, Jonathan Glazer’s big screen return Under the Skin was easily one of the most divisive films of the year. To some, it’s slow, pretentious drivel. To myself and other people who discovered this Scarlett Johansson-lead sci-fi, it’s one of the most thought provoking and disturbing films of 2014. The mood and atmosphere of this film stuck with me long after the closing credits, and Johansson’s completely alien performance was difficult, obtuse and totally underrated. On the strength of this film, I hope Glazer doesn’t leave it quite so long to make his next film.
Nightcrawler will be known in years to come for featuring Jake Gyllenhaal’s greatest ever performance, an awards-worthy portrayal of an intensely driven, ruthless young man who makes his money filming car accidents. I named the performance the best of 2014, and it is an all-time classic performance, but it shouldn’t detract anything from the rest of the film; Dan Gilroy’s debut feature is beautifully shot and directed, with stunning scenes of the LA nightlife, while supporting actors Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo provide great work. Still, it is Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance that will long stick with you, and he is definitely the main reason Nightcrawler is as brilliant as it is.
It’s safe to say that Boyhood is the critics’ film of 2014. Richard Linklater’s experimental coming-of-age drama, shot over twelve years with a main star (Ellar Coltrane) who literally grows up on film, is loved by just about everybody, and for fair reasons. The sheer ambition and skill on display is unbelievable, but Linklater isn’t getting plaudits for his directing just for amount of effort that went into the production. He works wonders with first time actor Coltrane, and supporting stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette give some career best work. It will make you laugh, cry and make you reflect upon your own life and history; what more can you really ask for from a film?
Calvary was in first place during my mid-year report, so it’s done amazingly well to only drop one place in the succeeding six months. A blacker-than-tar comedy drama about a priest who is threatened with murder, Calvary features perhaps the sharpest screenplay of the year, as golden lines are sprouted by just about every character (I would expect no less from a McDonagh brother). Of course, a good script would be wasted on a bad cast, but Calvary has an outstanding ensemble cast; Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd and Killian Scott give excellent turns, but it is leading man Brendan Gleeson, giving a career best performance, who is the stand out. Though it sadly looks like he won’t be, Gleeson deserves every award he can get, for he is a national treasure, and one of the greatest actors around, as proven in the magnificent Calvary.
There wasn’t another film I loved nearly as much as Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank this year. Despite having some reservations about its unruly tone on first viewing (it placed 3rd in the mid-year report), Frank has grown on me more and more through repeat viewings, and I now think it might be my favourite film in many years. It’s difficult to describe what it is that I like so much about this utterly demented film.
It might be Michael Fassbender’s performance, truly fearless as he gives an all-out physical performance under a papier-mâché head. It might be Domnhall Gleeson’s leading role, sympathetic even when he becomes essentially the villain of the piece. It might be the wonderful supporting cast, from icy Maggie Gyllenhaal to lovably tragic Scoot McNairy. It could be the film’s tone, disorientating on first viewing but on repeats a melancholic slide into serious mental illness. Maybe it’s even the film’s avant-garde soundtrack, with crazy jams like ‘Ginger Crouton’ and ‘Secure the Galactic Perimeter’, and the tragic ballad that is ‘I Love You All’.
Perhaps I’ll never quite understand why it is that Frank feels so tailor made to my tastes; all I know is that director Abrahamson, along with writers Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, have created an exhilarating, bold and truly sublime music film, and I have no problem with calling Frank the best film of 2014.
By Harry Ford