Today marks a fortnight since the ceremony for the 87th Academy Awards. To celebrate the pinnacle of film awards season, the Fake Geeks teams have pooled our collective thoughts and compiled a list of what we consider to be the best 20 films from last year. Friday, we revealed those that came 20th to 11th. Yesterday, we unveiled those that finished joint 9th to 5th. Today, it is our pleasure to announce which features inhabit the upper echelons, as well as which sole film with be inducted into our Hall of Film.
12 Years a Slave
12 Years A Slave is the story of Solomon Northup, an African-American who published his memoirs after spending 12 years in slavery working on a plantation. The film from Steve McQueen shows Solomon being tricked into servitude for 3 owners and the harrowing ordeal this includes.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is simply fantastic as he portrays Solomon with genuine trauma and heart wrenching brutality, one scene of around minute simply focuses on his face and the well of emotion etched across his features. Scenes are simple yet disturbingly uncomfortable and unafraid to dwell on the truly horrible moments making you squirm and suffer in ways minuscule in comparison to the people depicted. A staggering support cast includes Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Scoot McNairy, Brad Pitt and Paul Giamatti as well as Oscar winning Lupita Nyong’o giving a sensational turn as a slave driving her master mad with confusing lust. There are fleeting moments of warmth and even humour to contrast the terror to, as well a truly heartbreaking end unmatched in its effect.
The film is not an easy watch but it is unarguably worthy of respect for its unflinching and raw look at a shameful page in history, as it refuses to polish over the shocking evil we have been capable of as the human race. An important and brave film, also respectful in its uncompromising honesty and skilled in its crafting.
David (Dan Stevens) is an Afghanistan War veteran tracks down the family of a deceased colleague to pay his condolences. When he explains that he made his comrade a promise to look out for them, the family invite him to stay for a while. Unfortunately, not is all as it seems.
Writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard reform the formidable team that brought us the critically acclaimed 2013 horror, You’re Next. The Guest is a dark thriller with a deliciously bleak humourous streak. Palpable tension is created pretty much from the get-go, and is adroitly weaved throughout. The bar scene exemplifies this in microcosm; a near perfect example of building the tension to just the right moment, before unleashing chaos.
In lead role, Stevens is a revelation. The Downton Abbey alumni shows a great range as the charming, and calculating David. Whether it is subtle movement, or an overt gesture, he continually holds the viewers gaze throughout – this is very much a breakout performance.
The superlatives Stevens has garnered should not detract from the quality of the cast as a whole. Lance Reddick is solid, while the remaining supporting cast are even better. Leland Orser (ER, The Bone Collector) puts in a particularly good turn as the father of the family, a man slowly descending down the neck of the next beer.
The soundtrack veers between retro melancholia (Sisters of Mercy, Clan of Xymox) and a score containing equal amount of jarring chords and ethereal tones. It all adds up to an expertly crafted complement to the rest of the feature.
Brendan Gleeson is Father James; an honourable, kind hearted Catholic priest (seriously) who only wants to help his parishioners. He takes confession from a mystery man who reveals he was abused by a Catholic priest as a child and he will take his revenge by killing Father James in one week’s time.
James spends the week helping and advising his parishioners in the struggles of their lives, reconnecting with his estranged daughter and all the while ruminating on the threat to his life and the mystery of the would-be culprit.
Calvary is a moody, dramatic piece which handles weighty themes which could put-off some with a strong dose of black comedy and a career best performance from Gleeson. As James’ week goes-by, Calvary gradually creeps towards its dramatic conclusion as director John Michael McDonagh quietly builds a masterpiece.
The 2014 Fake Geeks Film of the Year
Dan Gilroy’ directorial debut sets his career off to a glittering start with this intense, simmering and dark instalment. Gilroy sets his fate in his own hands as he also pens the tale of his main character Lou Bloom played expertly by Jake Gyllenhaal on top form. Lou Bloom is introduced as a cold criminal whose polite and clinical demeanour thinly veils and blood curdling aspiration to succeed at any cost.
When Bloom witnesses Bill Paxton’s freelancer Joe Loder filming an accident who then sells it to the highest bidding news station. Bloom has found his calling applied himself with admirable yet unnerving gusto as sets up a regular business agreement with Nina Romino the morning news director played by Renee Russo. As his business builds moment the moral surroundings and people around him begin to blur as he creates and manipulates crime scenes and innocent lives to stay at the top.
Tragedies become gold mines and people become puppets for him to use and exploit. Gilroy does a great job of making you question yourself more than you question Bloom, as you wonder what justice is and what he should get away with as undoubtedly ‘earns’ his glory. Gyllenhaal gives a clinic on unstable as he weaves his twisted logic to trap all others in his web of ambition. A tense and blistering affair, this film grabs and holds all your senses relentlessly and trust me you will put up no fight.
There you have it. Nightcrawler narrowly beats out Calvary (the gap was a solitary point) to take the crown of Fake Geeks Film of the Year for 2014, and be inducted into our Hall of Film.
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.