This Sunday will mark a fortnight since the staging of the 87th Academy Awards. On that evening, Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) came away from the Dolby Theater with the much sought after Best Picture award.
For many, The ‘Oscars’ represent the pinnacle of the awards season. It is also an opportunity for critics and fans alike to champion their favourites and deride others.
Here at Fake Geeks HQ, we are no different. We love films, we love lists, and we love a good debate. The upshot of this? After having our annual pow-wow, we will now go all High Fidelity on 2014 in Film.
How it works
The Five Geeketeers each submitted a personalised list of their top 15 films. Scores reversed for the positions were assigned, and these were tallied to produce the following top twenty.
For those new to our Films of the Year lists, it is worth noting that our qualifying criteria differs a little from the Academy Awards. For us, a film is eligible if it has had its UK general/wide release in the calendar year of 2014. For example, whilst Birdman…, Whiplash, and Selma were up for this year’s Academy Awards, they are actually eligible for our 2015 list – so keep an eye out for them next year.
Close, but no cigar
Just before we kick things off, we’d like to take a moment to mention a few of the films that didn’t quite make it onto our final list. If our film list ran to 30, entries would have included the surprisingly good Lone Survivor, the bonkers Frank, the thought provoking Mandela: Long Road to Freedom, and stirring Next Goal Wins. All are worthy of DVD/Blu-Ray purchases.
Hall of Film
So, who will join Black Swan, The Dark Knight Rises and Gravity in our Fake Geek Hall of
Fame Film? We hereby present Part I of the Fake Geeks Top 20 Films of 2014. Please read on for the films that finished 20th to 11th.
It may have taken a number of liberties with historical accuracy with both the events and Turings character, but the Imitation Game brings the story of Alan Turing to the screen in a warm and engaging way. Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock’s his way through the main role, Kiera Knightley does well with an admittedly somewhat underwritten character, whilst Charles Dance particularly stands out amongst a strong supporting cast.
The story focuses on Turing whilst minimising the contribution of others, but this is to be expected. And in telling Turing’s tragic story (one of the more shameful chapters in British history), this pushes the film to a greater level than U-571 or Enigma. Less welcome are some of the dramatic contrivances, but this is still an above-average thriller and biopic.
How the hell did this get greenlit? An anarchic, irreverent film about the lives of Lego blocks – soulless pieces of plastic. Taking a scattergun approach, no coherent setting, uneven, mocking whatever pop culture target is in their eyeline… it’s a mystery. But not only was it made, it was good. Borderline brilliant even.
Fast paced, hilarious, clever, endlessly inventive, adopting and disposing of genre cliches with gleeful abandon… even if the film loses itself slightly towards the end, this is still one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of 2014. Whilst it would have been easy to slack off and create a standard kids film which would have still made a fortune at the box office, this hasn’t happened. This was a labour of love for the filmmakers, a nostalgia trip to the joyful anarchy that a box of Lego can provide. And it may have one of the best dystopian anthems in ‘Everything Is Awesome’.
Like with The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar is one of those Nolan films that has a use-by date for it’s brilliance. At first you think it is incredible but then over time more and more mold begins to grow on your opinion of it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it for it’s sheer scale and ambition, it just had too many short cuts in it’s plot for it to be the solid masterpiece Nolan wanted it to be. Ultimately it has to have a place within any films of the year list, it’s just unfortunate that it didn’t reach the outer limits of our expectations.
The Zero Theorem
As the film opens, a man sits nude at a computer workstation in a abandoned church. Hello there Terry Gilliam, you’ve been away far too long. Returning to the science-fiction future dystopias of Twelve Monkeys and Brazil, the film focuses on the search for the point to pointlessness in a bright neon city with some of the best visual work of the year.
Ridiculous, enticing and horrifying in equal measures, the setting and technology is as much a character as any of the leads, though this is to take nothing away for any of the actors as they get to grips with the madness that surrounds them. Christoph Waltz is superb in the lead role, Melanie Thierry shines as his computerised dreamgirl and there are excellent supporting roles with David Thewlis standing out as someone who should have been the seventh Python. A film that will no doubt infuriate as many as it enthralls, but there was nothing else quite like it in 2014.
This ambitious project spans over a decade and was written and directed by Richard Linklater, following 12 years in the life of Mason Evans from the age of 7. The interesting and risky part of this is that the film itself had a general plot planned out but is actually filmed over 12 years using the same core cast, and was written and filmed on an annual basis.
The film itself is a series of short scenes that rather than following a narrative as such merely pick out and show defining and also seemingly innocuous moments in his life. This may seem aimless to some viewers but aims to show the beauty and impact that the smaller scenes in your lifetime which build up to make chapters and define who you become. The soundtrack helps capture each era and the long investment in the filming method really strikes a unique chord as it charters a small path in the journey of a life, a life fascinating in its normality. The scenarios may be sometimes extreme or heavy handed but the script and general flow is so realistic it likely mirrors moments we have all experienced and relate to, drawing us in. A strong support cast including Ethan Hawke also help portray changing, flawed and complex characters as this venture reminds you to capture and hold onto the small moments of fleeting imperfect majesty in life.
Say what you like about Bat-fleck, I’ve always been a big fan and I think he’s set to do a bit of a Matthew McConaughey in the minds of his critics come the Batman-Superman movie. Judging him by his work on Argo & The Town you could even argue he’s better suited to directing. In Gone Girl he is a desperate Nick Dunne, trying to find his wife & prove himself innocent to both the police and media. Rosemund Pike is extraordinarily complicated in this twisted story of deception, turning from victim to vixen throughout the saga. Fincher’s tenth time in the director’s chair is arguably his best since Fight Club.
2012’s The Raid used a very simple formula. Police on bottom floor of tower block, chief baddies on top floor of tower block, minions on other floors of tower block, begin throaty-kicky fun. So a basic plot, but you can say similar of Die Hard. Or Dredd, which rather unfortunately came out around the same time and managed to be basically the same film. So whilst The Raid was fun, you can’t do the same thing twice – the formula needs to be expanded.
And thus it was so, as The Raid 2 is a sprawling complex epic with sympathetic characters across rival gangs with an entire city as its playground. And still lots of throaty-kicky fun. The story channels Internal Affairs & The Godfather, and whilst it takes a little while to get going it is most definitely worth the build up. And the film doesn’t skimp on the violence either, with several scenes designed to make you wince – particularly with characters called Hammer Girl & Baseball Bat Man. I’d say bring on part 3… but let me catch my breath first.
Edge of Tomorrow
Groundhog Day with guns, this story shows us Major William Cage a smarmy public relations officer for the army who finds himself on the front line against an alien horde. When he kills a unique breed of the alien he finds himself reliving the same day and gradually grows in skill and desperation alike as he strives to break his cycle of futile death and torment. This is reimagined from the book ‘All You Need Is Kill’ by Hiroshi Sakurasaka. It’s a teen-styled, hormone-fuelled book, fun but flawed as it romps its way through an interesting story but little description beyond the nearest attractive female character.
The film however is much more mature and although there plenty if action the film is smart and striking. Comedic lines, styles and even amusing deaths are well placed and moral judgements come into play as well and only the end ing of the book is superior in my opinion. Emily Blunt plays Rita Vrataski or ‘Full Metal Bitch’ a seasoned soldier who guides and assists Cage to breaking his cycle and using his ‘gift’. Her back story is wonderfully vague in its tragedy and the war becomes a well shot and gloriously dire backdrop for their struggle, and for Cage’s to merely escape. The film doesn’t get bogged down in details but just tells the tale and even the unavoidable love story is light but effective with only a handful of poignant lines and one fantastically framed shot at the farm house with muted but definite chemistry. This ticks all the normal boxes as a sci-fi action flick but ticks them in way so bold, neat and stylish that its a surprisingly captivating watch with solid performances and tight production.
A special guest entry from Dan, of the All Your Base podcast.
Based on the true story of Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey – who reportedly lost 50 pounds for the role), Dallas Buyers Club is about one man’s transformation from a homophobic ‘white trash Texan hick’ to a progressive HIV treatment activist. After contracting the disease from a prostitute, Woodruff is given only 30 days to live. This being the 1980s, he is ostracised by his friends, and forced out of his job and home (due to having “faggot blood”). Woodruff then embarks on the current treatment for HIV (a drug known as AZT, only in its trial phase); he bribes a janitor to guarantee access to the drug, thus avoiding a placebo.
However when this route of supply is cut off, Woodruff finds himself referred to a doctor in Mexico. The doctor informs him of the dangers of AZT and steers him to cocktail of less harmful medications with significantly better results.
To avoid strict pharmaceutical regulations on the sale of drugs in the US, Woodruff creates the Dallas Buyers Club – you pay to be a member and get access to the cocktail of drugs for free, essentially creating the legal loophole required.Woodruff quickly finds his earlier mentioned cowboy style attributes, a barrier into the largely homosexual world of HIV suffers. Enter Rayon, played by Jared Leto (yes, Jared Leto from whiney emo teen band 30 seconds to Mars) who makes his fantastic acting breakout in this surprising, but expertly portrayed role, giving Woodruff the access to the buyers of the cocktail. As popularity grows Woodruff goes beyond simply importing and selling the treatments, to a leading figure in offering hope, embracing the HIV suffering community, regaining friendships and a sense of purpose. However as the club grows, it also attracts the attention of the IRS and FDA, who take steps to close down it down. In doing so denying the treatment of Woodruffs patients now numbering in the hundreds.
Sneaking in under the radar, this is a tense, subtle and creepy horror film that shone in an otherwise disappointing year for the genre (yes Annabelle, we’re looking at you…). But is it truly a horror film? Yes, there are tense moments that had us glued to the screens. But this is a film with a strong psychological element, focusing on how far a mothers love will stretch in very difficult circumstances. A film that subverts traditional genre expectations, setting up a resourceful child and put upon mother before turning the traditional formula on its head as a dark force is unleashed by a sinister childrens book called the Babadook… though the realisation where the monster lies is truly inspired and unexpected. Amazingly, this is the debut feature of writer-director Jennifer Kent, who must have a great future in film lying ahead. But the two leads are both fantastic, in particular Noah Wiseman who manages to be both painfully annoying and vulnerable without irritating the audience.
So there you have it. Congratulations to those films that finished 20th to 11th on our list. Check back tomorrow for Part II of our feature, where we will reveal the films that finished 10th to 5th. Well, technically, joint 9th to 5th.
Did you see any of the films listed above? What do you make of our commentary and their placement? Too high/low? Please leave us a comment below.