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Staff Selections: 2014 The Year in Review


Only Lovers Left Alive
  1. Only Lovers Left AliveThis bohemian vampire satire is a piece de resistance from an enduring original of indie cinema. Nice one Jim, I was in Culture Vulture heaven.
  2. LockeWith maxiumum risk and maximum pay-off, this one-man show proved that not everything has yet been done in cinema. Devastating.
  3. GravityWhile not as personally thrilling as the aforementioned, this is the work of a genius auteur putting a lavish Hollywood bugdet to awe-inspiring use.
  4. Under the SkinKubrickian sci-fi at once otherworldly and authentically charged with sexual politics.
  5. What Richard DidSharing a theme with "Locke", this is another stirring tale of the guilt and redemption of a decent bloke.
  6. Cheap ThrillsA brave, hilarious and super-confident exploitation movie packed with topical subtext.
  7. The Wolf of Wall StreetExpensive thrills. Ripsnorting tale of amorality and excess told with just enough satirical edge to make it palatable.
  8. The Grand Budapest HotelNot normally a Wes Anderson fan, but this was as finely crafted and eye-catching as a Faberge egg.
  9. StokerA decadent Hitchcockian tale orchestrated by the visionary Korean dir. of "Old Boy".
  10. HouseboundFan-boys and girls the world over wish they could make a fright flick as ingenious as this Kiwi effort.

Coulda been contenders: Detachment, Gloria, Enough Said, Philomena, Nebraska, Blue Jasmine, Much Ado About Nothing, What's in a Name?, Frank, Wrong, The Babadook, Best Docos: The Galapagos Affair, Antarctica: A Year on Ice


Under the Skin
  1. Under the SkinA singular travelogue of the Planet Earth, featuring close encounters with misogynists, chocolate cake, a bleak-as-hell Scotland and other gifts of humanity.
  2. The Wind RisesMiyazaki's eleventh and final film is his most touching, humanistic and quietly sophisticated. And, for the record, his best.
  3. Rectify (TV Series)This great series has no time for plot twists and cliffhangers. It cares about the deep emotional well of character, the chance to slow down and absorb the lives of others, and the surrealism of the mundane and ordinary. You should too.
  4. A Touch of SinJia Zhang-ke's outlaw political tract is full of blood, outrage, awesome gunplay, and his signature awareness of the ever-shifting boundaries of modern Chinese society.
  5. IdaMoviemaking at its most distilled and aesthetically pleasing.
  6. The Red HouseThe most subtle, poetic, cine-literate film by a New Zealander since, well, forever.
  7. A Story of Children and FilmA thoughtful postscript to Mark Cousins' globetrotting Story of Film which promotes some of the great, unheralded movies about childhood to the canon.
  8. Blue RuinFinally, a revenge thriller that understands killing is hard work, and getting even is only the beginning of a long, tedious cycle of violence where there is no end in sight, just death in many forms.
  9. Ernest & CelestineThe adorable platonic love story of a cute mouse and a demonstrative bear who just want to live together in solitude away from all the other annoying, prejudiced animals.
  10. LucyLuc Besson's "The Tree of Life" (that's actually a good thing).

Bringing up the rear: The Act of Killing, Camille Claudel 1915, Computer Chess, Foxfire, Gloria, Gravity, Her, The Interrupters, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, The Lego Movie, Nebraska, Only Lovers Left Alive, Policeman, The Raid 2, The Selfish Giant, Snowpiercer, The Spectacular Now, Stranger By the Lake...


The Selfish Giant
  1. The Selfish GiantMud and horse-poo splattered portrait of struggle and joy in Northern England, the faint-of-heart can (and have) avoided it like the bad smell it unashamedly is.
  2. The Raid 2A sublime aesthetic achievement, and at two hours length this is no quick fix - it's a performing arts masterpiece.
  3. PolicemanCareful examination of Israel's revolutionary underground and counter-terrorism culture. Philosophical and wordy, subtitle-phobes need not apply.
  4. Stranger By the LakeImpeccably unpleasant thriller, a sort-of queered Hitchcockian mood-piece lashed cruelly with the social consciousness of Haneke.
  5. Mistaken For StrangersA self-conscious and insecure metal-head bogan follows his famous brother on tour with indie band The National, discovers the meaning of life and rocks out to Judas Priest at 4am. Alone.
  6. Blue RuinCommendably unsatisfying revenge movie where a guy fumbles his way awkwardly through a maze of imagined retribution and no one is left unscathed. An unmitigated downer.
  7. The CounselorInsane Tex-Mex non-sequitur with a refreshingly uneven tone and failed narrative. Featuring a Cormac McCarthy script full of joyfully grandiose and inappropriate literary references.
  8. The Source FamilyA shameless thrill for anyone with a penchant for weird and and ethically dubious spiritual sub-cultures. Perfect paired with...
  9. The SacramentSee above!
  10. The Act of KillingHeartbreaking examination of Indonesia's terrifying political history and ongoing institutionalised denial. For those who willfully avoid "difficult" cinema, there couldn't be a more urgent challenge.

Runner Ups: The East , Upstream Color, Utopia (TV Series),


Under the Skin
  1. Under the SkinStylishly luring you in before coldly immersing you in darkness, it's vision of nocturnal human behaviour (and its soundtrack) continues to haunt me.
  2. Only Lovers Left AliveI had forgotten that vampires could ne cool. Pure rock'n'roll cinema.
  3. LockeA drama that relies exclusively on the top half of Tom Hardy. The risk pays off. His performance seamless alternates between earthy realism and British stage aplomb.
  4. The Act of KillingThis troubling documentary provides an eye-opening snapshot of a real-life dystopia. Also a fascinating experiment revealing the power of cinema.
  5. The Wolf of Wall StreetI've had to defend this film more than once, but Scorsese tips the scales just enough into parody to avoid glorifying excessive greed and misogyny
  6. GravityOnly a genius could make a good film out of Sandra Bullock NOT dying for 90 mintues. By technical standards, one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen.
  7. FrankA silly little comedy with a delightfully deluded protagonist. Becomes great as title character abandons his world of musical escapism and regresses into crippling mental illness.
  8. Blue RuinA simple thriller decorated with understated dark comedy.
  9. The Grand Budapest HotelIn terms of style over substance, this may be Wes Anderson's most sinful film yet. I forgive him.
  10. SnowpiercerI should have hated this childish film. Despite it being contrived, pointless and on-the-nose, I found it good-looking, well-paced, dreamlike and quite original.

Bubbling Under: 12 Years a Slave, Venus in Fur, Room 237, The Lego Movie, Her, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska,


Under the Skin
  1. Under the SkinA unique trip. Startling imagery and the soundtrack of the year.
  2. LockeA dazzling reminder that day to day life is the stuff of thrillers.
  3. Rectify (TV Series)Sublime drama that really has no comparison in modern television.
  4. Computer ChessNot so nostalgic depiction of geek nirvana.
  5. PolicemanAn unforgettable and unusual portrait of modern Israel.
  6. Camille Claudel, 1915Comparatively restrained for Dumont but pungent all the same, with a jolting final act.
  7. Blue is the Warmest ColourA heady brew of love, class and the pleasures of great food.
  8. On TourAmalric's self-mockery is just one of the many pleasures of this affectionate depiction of the vaudeville life.
  9. IdaDeeply classical in its construction but also deeply moving.
  10. Stranger by the LakeAn elegant thriller that expertly builds to a chilling end.

Second Helpings: 22 Jump Street, 56 Up, Antarctica: A Year on Ice, The Armstrong Lie, A Touch of Sin, Frozen, Fruitvale Station... Hannah Arendt, The Interrupters, Joe, Kill Your Darlings, The Lego Movie, Nebraska, Prince Avalanche, The Raid 2, Stories We Tell, The Two Escobars, White Tiger...


Guardians of the Galaxy
  1. Guardians of the GalaxyFinally, a Super Hero movie I look forward to the sequels of.
  2. The RoverGripping thriller set in a subtle dystopian future.
  3. Holy Motorsan epic and awe-inspiring film. (Er, This was 2013, dude - ED)
  4. Dom HemingwayWhat a rude man! Hilarious.
  5. Starred UpThis man was not in the same prison as Dom Hemingway - shudderingly intense.
  6. What We Do in the ShadowsEveryone should have seen this by now.
  7. The Broken ShoreOverlooked small-town Aussie cop mystery.
  8. Room 237You gotta love Kubrick conspiracy fans. Bonkers.
  9. It's a DisasterBest end of the world dinner party ever - don't be late!
  10. Open GraveThrilling. The less you know about this the more you'll enjoy it.

Also running: Robocop, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Spirit of '45, London: A Modern Babylon, Stoker. Best TV - Happy Valley, Utopia, True Detective, Walking Dead, Elementary.


Under the Skin
  1. Under the SkinThis stunning take on the succubus mythos is intensely heightened by the masterful directing, writing and acting, which in turn is made all the better by the moving score.
  2. Wolf of Wall StreetDicaprio pours his heart and soul into what is the best performance of the year, while the masterful script displays the hypocrisy of his character's reign while taking place from his point of view.
  3. Edge of TomorrowGroundhog Day meets action proves to be a winning combination. This is hands-down the best 'PG-13' action film since INCEPTION, which it possibly even surpasses.
  4. RushA film truly anyone can enjoy, this got me into Formula 1 history for a few weeks as the movie managed to compress all the great parts about the sport into one tight package.
  5. Dawn of the Planet of the ApesTruly brilliant acting, characters and effects takes this modern take on a war movie and turns it into something truly special. Knowing what is to come only heightens the crucial decisions made in the film.
  6. GravityThe brilliant directing alone secures it a place on this list, however its multiple flaws are enough to keep it from greatness. This film is amazingly shot and a true triumph of cinema though ultimately its contrived plot contradicts itself and diminishes the major aspect the film relies on: realism in space.
  7. The BabadookAn above-par horror flick but on further analysis appears to be a wholly original tale about dealing with depression and the human psyche. May well be my favourite film on this list in a year as it is continually growing on me.
  8. The Lego MovieDespite the quite on-the-nose satire of today's media and product placement, this still manages to be the best animated film since RATATOUILLE, with family fun and laughs aplenty.
  9. Captain PhillipsA truly thrilling albeit stretched-out take on modern-day pirates, bolstered by incredible performances and brilliant directing.
  10. Room 237Ascher takes us for a ride through the warped minds of fanboys/girls and shows us what becomes to those of us with too much time on our hands. The funniest movie of the year.

Also running...

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