THE BEST MOVIES OF 2014 (in alphabetical order)
Jennifer Kent's spooky story about a single mum wrecked by grief and sleep deprivation features a standout performance by Essie Davis. Within the space of a few bad days she goes from meek to monstrous, and her homegrown horror is riveting. Criminally underseen here, it's at least getting its due raves overseas.
Richard LInklater's unconventional movie about the ordinary business of growing up is sweeping awards left, right and centre, and deservedly so. "I loved every single frame of it," said Peter Galvin in reviewing the film. "I’m not arguing that it is perfect or even especially profound. Only that its pleasures are real and deep and I reckon they will last and grow like the best friendships do."
It's hard to believe that Abdellatif Kechiche's lusty 2013 Palme d'0r winner is on a list of 2014 movies (and no, don't say it's because the movie is so very, very long). Such are the realities of the release schedules of Australian distributors. Shane Danielsen called it "the best, the saddest, the most powerful work I’ve seen this year", and you can catch this fearless story of love, loss and longing during its current season on World Movies.
Rolf de Heer made this movie for his friend and frequent collaborator, David Gulpilil. Rochelle Siemienowicz noted in her review that Charlie is "the ultimate leading role for the actor", which "fully exploits his magnetism". What could have been a bleak and depressing essay on 'man's inhumanity to man' is actually a bittersweet and yes, hopeful story, brought to life by Gulpilil's electric, expressive eyes.
A family ski trip takes a morbid turn when a brush with death exposes a young father's warped priorities, in this dark and deeply satirical Swedish stunner. As an avalanche rumbles towards the lunching holidaymakers, the dad pulls what is universally considered a 'dick move'. We see the consequences of his actions, um, snowball, as he scrambles in vain to recover his wife's trust.
Wes Anderson made a triumphant return in 2014 with this whip-smart, deeply satisfying romp about the refined, salty-tongued concierge of a storied hotel. Ralph Fiennes revels in the fanciful moments of a plot riddled with slapstick, which includes a stolen inheritance, a gaol break, a blossoming teen romance - and the rise of fascism throughout Eastern Europe.
For an austere black-and-white Polish period piece, Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida feels thoroughly, refreshingly modern. A sheltered teen is about to embark on her novitiate in the early-'60s, when her Mother Superior drops the hint that she might want to get to in touch with her roots first. A series of revelations follow, which deal with the everyday awfulness of the darkest moments of Poland's modern history.
What's not to love about Dan Gilroy's brilliant satire of 'if it bleeds, it leads' churnalism? This story of an opportunistic small businessman who spies a market in servicing our own dark appetites for gawking at others' misfortune, is easily one of the films of the year.
Review from Venice Film Festival
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2014 was the year of Supernatural Scarlett. She played a reluctant drug mule whose cargo nested under her skin and mixed with her body toxins to elevate her to a higher evolutionary plane (or something) in Luc Besson's Lucy, whose leaps in logic were the stuff of perfect popcorn guff. But it was as a ravenous visitor that she shone in Jonathan Glazer's bizarre, trippy allegory of desire in the bleak void of Scotland. That dark fantasy dug in and burrowed itself into a spot as one of the best films of this year.
(Special mention also to her work as an operating system in Her, which was one vote shy of scoring a spot on this list)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan landed himself a Palme d'Or for his withering story of unrealised potential and human nature, and specifically, the barbs we throw to deflect from our own shortcomings. An arrogant hotelier has his comfy bubble burst - first by rioting renters, then by his bitter wife and sister, and after some high-minded talk, the resentments result in truthbombs. That it's both exhausting and energetic is only one of the paradoxes of this accomplished, excellent film.
Movies that featured on 3 or more critics' lists
What gets your vote for the best movies of the year?
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Need some help? Here's a guide to what came out in 2014
How we voted
Our team of critics each nominated their favourite films of the year, and films that rated four or more votes made it on the list. Simple. Participants were: Craig Mathieson, Rochelle Siemonowicz, Shane Danielsen, Fiona Williams, Peter Galvin, Lynden Barber, Russell Edwards and Eddie Cockrell.