To describe this list as the 'best films of the year' would be inaccurate as the 84 films I've seen represent only about a quarter of new releases in this country - and this year there has been a significant number which I would have seen were it not for personal circumstances (such as injuring myself in taking a heavy fall) or through inconvenient showing times and venues.
One of the more recent ones I had to miss was the Bill Murray comedy 'St Vincent' which has had good reviews, albeit with its sentimentally mushy ending - a film which some of my followers recommended but, regretfully, was not to be seen by me. There were maybe another 10 or 12 others through the year which I similarly wanted to see.
Anyway, that notwithstanding, 2014 was an exceptional year for high standard, 'quality' films and it was by no means easy to whittle them down to just ten. There are omissions in the list e.g. '12 Years a Slave' which was outstanding in every respect except that its subject matter was so heavily serious I could not honestly say that I enjoyed it. Other regretful omissions which I thought were going to make the final cut included 'Lilting' and 'Blue Ruin', but in the last lap they just had to make way for others I considered even more noteworthy.
So, in reverse order of enjoyment:-
10) 'The Imitation Game'
9) 'Mr Turner'
7) 'Gone Girl'
5) 'American Hustle'
A taut, virtually single-actor film (Tom Hardy) in the claustrophobic world of his own car, juggling with responsibilities and loyalties on his (hands-free) phone while on the move. Very effective drama which keeps one guessing as to which direction it's going to develop.
3) 'Under the Skin'
A film that came out of nowhere (if you'll pardon the expression), about a predatory alien being who arrives on earth, in Glasgow, in the unlikely form of Scarlett Johannson. Could have been a calamitous, or even an unintentionally comic, disaster but I don't think any film this year has haunted my memory more than this one. And it's all achieved within the confines of a modest budget. It's so darned creepy!
2) 'Deux Jours, Une Nuit'
Intensely human drama concerning worker in a small firm on the verge of being discharged from her job (in Belgium) trying to gather support for her being kept on. The subject matter may not set the world alight but it's a small scale, very sincere, minor miracle of a film. Despite repetition in that the lead character (Marion Cotillard) has to garner sympathy by seeing her co-workers individually it doesn't flag at all and I found myself rooting for her throughout. I'm also pleased that a non-English language film has turned out to be, for a change, my number two film of the year.
Much of my decision to give this my accolade must stem from the fact that it was precisely the kind of film that I'd have expected not to have liked. In the event this extra-long film turned out to be mesmeric - though it's not easy to identify exactly why as there are no really 'major' events in this chronicle of a boy growing into a man, shot over a number of years in real time, and with no sign of more advanced film techniques being evident for the latter part of the film as compared to the start. I left the cinema quite stunned - and, to use the title of another film in my list, this one really got under my skin. Superb.
And, finally, my least enjoyed film of the year, which I'm apprehensive in naming because a number of my esteemed blog-pals really liked it, and liked it a lot. In fact I'm the only one I know who disliked it so much, to the extent of being irritated by it for its entire length. Soppy (just my own reaction) teenage romance which, death(s) apart, I'm glad and grateful to say that I've never experienced. I give you:-
'The Fault in our Stars' (Take and keep it - please!)
I wouldn't advise anyone not to see this, as the chances are that they will 'get' it despite the 'it' having evaded me completely. It could well turn out to be your own Number One film of the year.
And finally, on this Christmas Eve, as I sit here surrounded by five pussycats, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish each and every one of my much-valued followers a Very Happy Xmas, and if I don't 'see' you again during the next week, a prosperous, contented and (most of all) a healthy 2015! My heartiest best wishes to all.
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