Anything and Everything

SCREENQUEENS’ TOP PICKS FOR 2014

SQ top picks for 2014

2014 has been a spectacular year for film, its offered everything from brutal stories of inequality with 12 Years a Slave and Pride, obsessions with perfection in Whiplash, The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis, mind-boggling visual sci-fi’s with Interstellar, heart-stopping thrillers with Nightcrawler and Gone Girl and a 12-year epic in the likes of Boyhood. Here’s 5 Screenqueens’ Top 3’s alongside a few of the flicks that weren’t so great….

Note: The films listed are in accordance with release dates from each individuals country

ASHLEY WOODVINE: (UK)

1Inside Llewyn Davis

Ask any of my friends which film I’ve been most annoying about, and they’ll say Inside Llewyn Davis. I was crazed. I watched the trailer multiple times a day, even listening to Fare Thee Well as I write this makes me well up just that little bit. I don’t know why it had such a profound effect on me, but it really did, beyond even a supremely attractive lead and an overarching story about a cat. Maybe it was the feeling of being stuck creatively, and the yearning for creativity that gets you stuck anyway. All I know is that there are certain shots in this film and snippets of dialogue that still give me goosebumps nearly 12 months later.

 

 

2The Grand Budapest Hotel

This was without a doubt my most anticipated film of the year, and it did not disappoint. With this film, Wes Anderson made probably his greatest cinematic triumph to date. It’s funnier and more focused on plot than his divisive films such as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited (even as a die hard Wes fan, I like the latter but not the former). The Grand Budapest Hotel is incredibly universal in it’s appeal, but loses none of it’s intricacies in Anderson’s writing, direction or casting. I am so pleased it’s gathering steam in terms of awards because, though he’s never needed it, Anderson deserves that sort of public recognition. It would be especially fitting for this film I think, because in my opinion it’s the best story of the year.

 

3Boyhood

Boyhood in many ways has been a cinematic vein running through 2014. It premiered at Sundance back in January to a darling reception, which only increased upon its July release. And even though that was nearly 6 months ago, people are still talking about Boyhood – that longevity perhaps undoubtedly make it the film of the year. In my opinion, it’s as good as everyone says it is. It’s a triumph and it’s innovative but it doesn’t lose any heart or any traction. The performances from Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are incredible, and Richard Linklater proved more than ever before that he’s completely unafraid to make the films he wants to make.

 

 

LEAST FAVES: Godzilla

 

CHLOE LEESON: (UK)

1Pride

If there’s two things I love in film, its Britishness and any period from the 60s-80s. Pride combines both of these elements and the topic of inequality; something I’m also obviously passionate about. Based on a true story, Pride finds its home with an LGBT group who decide to raise money for the miners who are suffering terribly under Maggie Thatcher’s leadership. ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ see parallels between their suffering and the miners and descend upon a Welsh mining town to mix in with the locals. It is undoubtedly the most heart-warming film of the year, and a very interesting and (still relevant) period of time to depict. The cast are hilarious and heartfelt, tear-jerkers and rib ticklers, great 80s fashion and one of the most under-rated flicks this year.

 

1Interstellar

Interstellar seems to be the film of 2014 that divides opinion. It either clambers onto the critics top 10 or is met with a murmur about 2001: A Space Odyssey and ‘the good old days’. But to me Interstellar is one of the most daring films of this year (that I’ve seen anyway), so I can forgive it for its downfalls. I really felt like Nolan was trying to challenge me, urging me to try and understand (of course I didn’t for the most part) what he was telling me, giving me an immersive cinema experience that was like nothing I had personally experienced before. McConaughey’s southern drawl combined with stunning visuals of space lulled me into a trance and then a booming score bolted me right back up. I was kept on my toes and scratching my head throughout and by the end I had two friends crying, one saying ‘what the fuck’ another not speaking and myself in the midst of an existential crisis.

2Gone Girl

I wasn’t sure about my inclusion of Gone Girl onto this list, sure there will have been better, more boundary pushing films out there (that I clearly haven’t seen) but I have to put my hands up and admit that I enjoyed Gone Girl a whole lot. It’s not anything new, it’s not unlike anything Fincher has done before (aka. The Big Twist) but it was completely solid and engaging throughout. Ben Affleck deserves more recognition than he gets, but oh, Amy Dunne. What a marvellous creation. A psychotic deconstruction and re-moulding of female ideals all within one character, she explores ‘the cool girl’ and typical housewife standards to their most warped potential. Amy Dunne provides great commentary on our treatment of women protagonists, why do we hail her as a hero? Is this because we are given such little else to see of ourselves? Do we forgive her actions and why? Such questions for me personally, made this one of the more thought-provoking films this year for feminist issues.

LEAST FAVES: Annabelle, Transcendence, Exodus: Gods and Kings

 

CAROLINE MADDEN: (US)

1Interstellar

Interstellar was my absolute favorite of the year. While I was a bit disappointed with parts of the ending and some lack of character development, that does not overshadow my love for this film. It’s an incredible balance of thrills, visual spectacle, top-notch acting, and thought-provoking ideas. The visuals are a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, especially one depicting space. Matthew McConaughey is nothing short of outstanding, especially his scene where he watches the videos of his child growing up before his eyes. It shoots through the heart and will leave you aching. As will many other moving moments. The scientific and time-travel elements will blow your mind. (Even if you don’t fully understand them) I consider it to be, and I believe it should be held up as a modern classic.

 

2Whiplash

Whiplash is majorly intense, thanks to the squaring off of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons as clashing jazz music teacher and student. The film explores how far you are willing to go for your talent, how far you’re willing to go for your art. The drumming in this is insanely amazing, (and looks very painful…) and apparently Miles Teller actually did it. You cannot look away, it is be brutal and horrific yet compelling. J.K. Simmons, who is known as Juno’s loving dad or J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man, is chilling and terrifying. It never fails to shock the lengths that student Andrew will go to vie for a starring spot in his teacher’s eye. The finale packs a powerful punch and will leave you on the edge of your seat.

 

3Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler really makes an impression, and that’s all due to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. His Lou Bloom echoes Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. Lou is success-hungry and sociopathic, he will stop at nothing do advance further in his career. He is completely committed to achieving success as a news cameraman, who films crashes, accidents that take place at night. Lou has no qualms about crossing moral lines. Although it is not just Lou who lacks morality, for Nightcrawler also gives a scathing look at the news and modern media. The newscasters who work in tandem with Lou will also stop at nothing to get that perfect shot and story, so who cares about the people it happened to? The more tragic the event, the better the news. Nightcrawler is an incredible thriller that really leaves a stamp in your mind thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s star performance.

 LEAST FAVES: Annabelle

 

HANNAH RYAN: (UK)

1The Wolf of Wall Street

If I had to describe ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ in one word, it would probably have to be luxurious. Inviting?  Yes. Enjoyable? Most definitely. But glamorous? No. The story of Jordan Belfort’s self-absorbed rise through the financial world is, without a doubt, a thrilling one and, yet, I came away from the film with no particular desire to follow him into his private paradise, all because Scorsese had created a wonderfully satirical narrative of Jordan’s expenditure, one which only left me resenting society’s shameful obsession with how much money we can make, and waste, before we die. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is excessive, indulgent and frustratingly self-satisfied, as we are subtly encouraged to despise Belfort, rather than yearn to join him and his band of merry misogynists. A fantastic piece that had me both laughing and desperately longing to dismantle capitalism.

212 Years a Slave

The polar opposite of Belfort’s self-titled wolf is ‘12 Years a Slave’; an unforgiving example of the dehumanisation that many faced simply as a result of ignorance. The suffering that Solomon Northupp is subjected to during his time in slavery is often unbearable to watch; made only worse by its truth, as we are reminded of the horrors that occurred during our darkest period in time. ’12 Years a Slave’ did not just aptly highlight the horrendous effects of racism and hatred but also brought us a debut unlike any other in Lupita N’yongo’s unflinching portrayal of Patsy; a young slave whom catches the eye of Michael Fassbender’s slave master and is forced to endure the most heinous of acts, as N’yongo gives us all that she has in a beautifully powerful performance, littered with fragility and desperation, that is sure to impact audiences for years to come.

3Blue Is the Warmest Colour

If there is one area that the world of cinema often tends to neglect, sadly, it is the presentation of the LGBT community. Yes, there have been some films that have handled the subject of sexual orientation in a delicate manner but the majority of movies that enjoy commercial success often focus solely on white, heterosexual characters, whom are also males, without any indication towards the varying sexualities and gender identities that actually exist. However, this year, we were given ‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’; a wonderful piece of filmmaking that expertly conveyed the struggles that the LGBT community often face, as the protagonist, Àdele, tenderly explores the possibility of falling in love with a woman and, as a result, embarks on a touching relationship that eventually shapes her whole life. Beautifully filmed, this is an effective depiction of life outside of what some would call the ‘norm.’

LEAST FAVES: The Inbetweeners 2

CRISTINA VAZQUEZ DE MERCADO (NZ)

1Whiplash

I never really considered myself a jazz fan, but after watching this film and leaving the cinema, I couldn’t get the music out of my head. (I even contemplated buying my own drum set.) I love films that are able to spark new interests in me and give me an inside look on lives that I never even thought about taking the time to discover. A boy who goes to a music school in hopes of becoming successful in jazz? Boring, right? Wrong. Not only do Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons kill it in the acting field, but the cinematography is spectacular. You can just feel the intensity of the dynamic between the musicians as the cameras quickly cut from shot to shot and continuously switch between major close-ups and wide shots. Although the dialogue is superb, I could tell the director (Damien Chazelle) wanted to create an authentic atmosphere mainly through visuals and music. This was achieved through the believable acting, especially when emotions were expressed through facial expressions during scenes of both intense music playing and complete silence. Miles Teller even played all of the drum sequences himself, which is incredibly badass. If you’re hesitant about watching it, just watch it anyway because I guarantee you’ll be inspired to follow your own passions afterwards.

 

2Guardians of the Galaxy

I am so obsessed with this film that I’ve watched it multiple times back to back, wrote an entire essay on it for a film class, and waited in line in the cold outside a record store to get my hands on the limited edition cassette tape of the soundtrack. To start off, the music in the film consists of songs that my parents played when I was a kid, so it’s nostalgic to me. Also, the main characters that make up the team are diverse (and no I’m not just saying that because a tree-like humanoid and a genetically engineered raccoon are a part of it). As a person of color, I was glad that Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Vin Diesel got the opportunity to portray superheroes because, well, people of color should be able to play the part of superheroes, too. Yes, the leader is a white man, BUT this white man is Chris Pratt so I’ll take it (I’m a huge fan of Chris Pratt). The cool thing about this film is that it’s spoofing itself. Anytime you think the film is going to get cheesy, the characters have a moment of self-awareness which is only one example of the many post-modernistic aspects of the film, and I’m all about post-modernism. Although the film is ultimately comedic, it has a nice balance of witty dialogue, action-packed scenes, and heart-felt moments.

 

3Boyhood

I would have to say that Boyhood was probably my most anticipated film of 2014. I was completely crushed when it was sold out at the Seattle International Film Festival, so when I found out it was playing at the New Zealand International Film Festival during the time I was studying abroad, I skipped school to see it (no regrets.) This film pays so much attention to detail, which is definitely appreciated by someone like myself who constantly checks out props and pays attention to soundtracks. Since it was filmed throughout twelve years, obviously things in the film’s world would have to naturally change as time went by. The film soundtrack consisted of songs relevant to the different years of Mason’s life. Even the video game consoles Mason played with accurately changed as he got older. Since he’s about my age at the end of the film, it was an incredible experience to watch it. Not only was I seeing the actor who plays Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow up, but I felt as if I was going back through my own childhood. I realized not many people, besides people my age, would ever understand that feeling whilst watching the film.

LEAST FAVES: Wish I Was Here, Annabelle

CHEROKEE SEEBALACK (UK)

1Maps to the Stars
This film, man. David Croneberg, you gone ‘dun it again. Like, how is it even possible to produce something this surreal, this fucked-up, this much of a satire and commentary on Hollywood that, still, no one is talking about it? It came out to a couple of people raving about Julianne Moore’s performance as Havana, an actress determined to revive the role that her mother (who was also an actor) played many years ago. She’s been nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, but it’s one of those under-the-radar films that will now be referred to because of Moore. She’s important to the film, but not what makes it special; not what draws you in.
From the opening scene of Mia Wasikowska’s character, Agatha, heading to LA with the bright-eyed imagination echoing Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive, you know that something is up. But you don’t know how mad and twisted it’s going to get.
It’s everything, it’s life. I want to watch it over and over again and do an Agatha on everyone to get them to love it just as much as I did. (Okay, maybe not going that far…)
Also, can we start talking about how damn awesome Evan Bird was as the Justin Bieber-like teen star, Benjie? For me, he was the standout performance. The film wouldn’t have been the same without him.
2Under the Skin
I wrote about this one for Screenqueens a couple of months ago and I still love everything about it. To try and not trend writing-waters I already have done, I will say one thing – I still stand by (100%) what I wrote for that piece and, if you haven’t seen this film already, GO. WATCH. IT. NOW. PLEASE. OKAY THANKS BYE.
LEAST FAVES: X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-man 2 (Note – I don’t hate superhero films, anything but. Jeez did these suck, though.)

 

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