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BEST OF 2014

THE YEAR'S BIGGEST FILM HIGHLIGHTS

LATEST REVIEWS
By Charlie David Page
14th December 2014
2014 has been a year of highs and lows on the big screen - we've seen some rare gems amongst the rough filmic landscape. SWITCH's contributors take you through their top movies of the year.
JUMP TO...
Daniel LamminDaniel
5. 'NOAH'
Of the many great high-concept sci-fi/fantasy films we’ve had this year, ‘Noah’ is the one that still keeps my brain ticking. It’s far from perfect, but Darren Aronofsky’s wildly ambitious adaptation of the biblical story goes for broke with astounding visuals, big and dangerous ideas, a spectacular score and a great central performance by Russell Crowe. While others might have made it a more palatable experience, Aronofsky dares to ask big questions and demand the audience think about them. There aren’t many films like it, so it’s one you either love or hate, but for me, this was one of the most exciting and memorable films of the year.
4. 'THE BABADOOK'
When coming up with my Top 5, I decided the criteria would be films that I couldn’t stop thinking about, ones that had stuck with me, and Jennifer Kent’s furious debut is certainly one of those. Taking issues of motherhood, survivor's guilt and crippling grief and morphing them into a visceral gothic horror film, Kent brought horror back to its terrifying essence, aided by an incredible performance by Essie Davis and a beautifully menacing design aesthetic. This was a ripper year for Australian film, but the lasting power of ‘The Babadook’ makes it one of the best and an instant horror classic.
3. 'THE WIND RISES'
Studio Ghibli gifted us two masterpieces this year, but while ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ was an overwhelming achievement, it couldn’t quite beat the emotional and artistic power of Miyazaki’s final film. Subtly pushing animation into new emotional territory, this hand-drawn marvel about Jiro Horikoshi, the inventor of Japanese fighter jets during the Second World War, is the master animator at his most personal, telling the story of a man driven by imagination and hope. Like the best of Miyazaki’s films, it leaves you overwhelmed by its heart, its intelligence, its magic and its staggering beauty.
2. 'WHIPLASH'
For sheer unbridled visceral fury, there was nothing this year quite like ‘Whiplash’. Damien Chazelle’s lightning debut about a drummer striving for perfection (Miles Teller) and his maniacal band leader (J. K. Simmons) is partly an inspirational drama but mostly a most wicked horror film. Every emotional and physical beat hits like a sledgehammer, executed with staggering energy by Chazelle and his team. ‘Whiplash’ is breathless, breathtaking, horrifying and utterly exhilarating, one of those rare beasts that you don’t simply watch but experience, dripping with tears, sweat and oh so much blood.
1. 'GONE GIRL'
David Fincher is always the consummate artist, but ‘Gone Girl’ was unlike anything he’s done before, a provocation to an audience built around the reprehensible actions of reprehensible people that challenges and confronts our society immediately. The performances are terrific, Gillian Flynn’s screenplay is sharp as hell and Fincher’s direction is utterly sublime, but this is a film that haunts you, a perfect riddle box even multiple viewings can’t totally solved. I have discussed and argued about this film with others more than any film this year, and that fact alone, that I can’t get this one from under my skin, makes it my top pick for the year.
James CercheJames
5. 'GONE GIRL'
From the first moments of the opening credits, ‘Gone Girl’ manages to unsettle. Masterful director David Fincher delivered a twisted, confrontational mystery enclosed within clinically precise filmmaking that resulted in one of the year's most talked about flicks. All the aspects of cinematography, score, direction, editing and performance come together to maximise the feelings of mounting dread as we accompany the accused Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck in career best form) on a journey through the media circus that goes from bad to worse. A worthy addition to Fincher’s powerful canon.
4. 'THE BABADOOK'
In a year packed full of memorably disturbing sequences, local gem ‘The Babadook’ contains the most frightening of all. In fact, it’s probably one of the most genuinely frightening movies to come out for years. A simple story of a single mother’s struggle to control the imagination of her young son, whilst battling an unhealthy dose of loss and guilt, provides the perfect setting for a spook destined to be remembered as the classic 2014 boogeyman. Stunningly executed practical effects add to the film’s tactile impact and visual horror. This is a film our country should be proud of making. Hopefully in coming years it receives the recognition back home that it is deservedly collecting overseas.
3. 'NIGHTCRAWLER'
‘Nighcrawler’ is this year’s ‘Drive’. A modern cult classic anchored by a sensational turn by Jake Gyllenhaal as driven, oddball outsider Lou Bloom. He haunts the film like a starved coyote, giving a magnetic performance that is as emotionally tense as it is physically captivating. Bug-like eyes practically pop out of Gyllenhaal’s head as he stalks a beautifully captured nocturnal LA for a fresh scenes of carnage to make a buck. ’Nightcrawler’ has the ability to jump between the camp and the quality without losing any of its power.
2. 'THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL'
A charming romp from start to finish and a true Wes Anderson great. Boasting a towering performance from Ralph Fiennes and the rest of the perfectly assembled ensemble cast, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is bursting with heart, pathos and a tender yearning. Anderson manages to be funny and tragic within a single frame, of which he makes every single moment count. There’s a lot of anger bubbling alongside the love in this picture as the legendary Gustave H. undertakes an extraordinary journey with the aid of his cherished lobby boy Zero. Delightful filmmaking from an eccentric loveable auteur.
1. 'WHIPLASH'
Experiencing ‘Whiplash’ is about as stressful as watching ‘Gravity’, but with triple the charisma. Huge performances from duelists Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, as drummer and abrasive bandleader respectively, chew the scenery around a simple plot that is executed to absolute perfection. Blood, sweat, tears fly freely, coating faces and drum kits in a definitive examination of artistic perfection, drive and determination. The acting is top notch and the film magnificently paced as a whole. ‘Whiplash’ is incredibly physical and we feel every beat and bead of sweat from the first tap of the skins to the final crescendo. An essential cinematic experience.
Brent DavidsonBrent
5. 'GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY'
It's surprising that this is one of the only big action movies in my list this year... but it wouldn't be one of my lists without one. Fun was the name of the game and with a lead like Chris Pratt, who could have had anything but a good time watching this. Gun battles in space, explosions and silly jokes (not to mention Lee Pace) and you've got all the ingredients for another brilliant Marvel film - not to mention a wonderful retro soundtrack.
4. 'WE ARE THE BEST!'
I've not felt so good walking out of a movie in a long time. Finding yourself through punk rock music and a delightfully Swedish everything. This film assembled the flat pack of my soul in the best of ways!
3. 'THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL'
How much fun would it have been to make this movie! Wes Anderson stepped up his game to make this modern adventure classic. Wickedly funny and brilliantly performed by Ralph Finnes, it was hard to go past the charm of this one!
2. 'BIG HERO 6'
I know this is cheating because it hasn't been released yet, but wow. This is a Disney packing its biggest punch. The characters are well developed and the story is (maybe a little too) heartbreaking. All in all, it's a triumph that will probably move its adult viewers more directly than its child ones!
1. 'HER'
So simple a story yet so compelling. The beautiful cinematography and performances made this film all too real. I could easily imagine a situation where I fell in love with my computer... Or maybe I already have...
Jess FentonJess
5. '22 JUMP STREET'
I have a sense of humour - shoot me. I loved the first one, I LOVED the second and I’m going to love the third, fourth, fifth, sixth...
4. 'THE LITTLE DEATH'
It’s Australian and it’s by a first time feature writer/director, who also happens to be an actor. ‘The Little Death’ is the little sex comedy that could - and it did. Funny, naughty, thought-provoking and most importantly beautiful, it’s outstanding across the board and I can’t wait to see more behind-the-camera work from Josh Lawson.
3. 'BIG HERO 6'
In recent years we’ve seen Disney Animations Studios return to form starting with ‘Tangled’, ‘Frozen’ (you may have heard of it) - and now ‘Big Hero 6’. Achieving the impossible; creating an animated feature out of a barely known (even to Marvel themselves) comic book series. And they’ve done it with heart, humour and an inflatable health care worker. I loved every second of this movie. *Fist bump*
2. 'NIGHTCRAWLER'
I don’t care much for horror films, but this one is on a whole other level. Taking a dirty mirror and holding it up to society and television news consumers (so, pretty much everyone), this hard-to-watch “behind the curtain” of news media is the car crash you can’t tear your eyes from. Punctuated with yet another haunting Jake Gyllenhaal performance, its power is uneasy in the most brilliant way.
1. 'BOYHOOD'
You have never seen a film like this before, nor will you ever again. This 13 year labour of love is so full of heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears, it’s mesmerising. Earlier in the year I described this film as special and I’m sticking with it, I’m also calling writer/director Richard Linklater a genius and true filmmaker.
Charlie David PageCharlie
5. 'DALLAS BUYERS CLUB'
I first saw this film in a week full of morose films, and yet this one stood out to me for having the most vehemency. Matthew McConaughey is utterly unstoppable at the moment, and makes up for the other flaws of this film (even if the rest of the world preferred Jared Leto's still very impressive performance). In a cinematic landscape where "based on a true story" films are a dime a dozen, 'Dallas Buyers Club' brings to life not only a very unlikely tale, but an incredibly important one.
4. 'PRIDE'
This film gets a place in my top five for the audacity of what it set out to achieve, and inevitably managed to. Take a little-known story about gay rights activists and striking miners in the UK during the 1980s, fill the cast largely with unknowns, and it doesn't sound like a promising watch. Yet 'Pride' sparkles on screen, with ample humour, emotion and passion - and managing defy Hollywood's rulebook for making a film while its at it.
3. 'THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL'
It's important to note here that I'm an absolute sucker for Wes Anderson's films. His degree of surrealism and unique style win me over every time. Yet this is inarguably one of his best films in years - his extraordinary ability to pull together a quality cast has reaped a laundry list of the world's best actors, who have jumped aboard a non-stop train of bizarre circumstance, unbridled flamboyance and utter revelry. It's a twisted tale, as convoluted and layered as ever, but if you go the distance, you're guaranteed to be richly rewarded by this dose of insanity.
2. 'HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2'
For pure, unadulterated fun, this was the true winner of 2014. Following up the 'Dragon' franchise with a film that, in my opinion, surpasses the original, it drags you into the irresistible world of Berk with their peculiar pets. It's also not afraid to send us on a emotional ride, with some truly heartfelt moments. Be drawn in by the spectacular imagery, stay for the one-of-a-kind youthful boldness.
1. 'GONE GIRL'
If the measure of a good film is going in with high expectations, and having them exceeded, then 'Gone Girl' takes the cake. I read the book early on, and was utterly transfixed by the complexity of the story. David Fincher has brought the mystery to the big screen with a dark, gritty realism, and Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike have encapsulated these characters flawlessly. Yet the real star here is Gillian Flynn; her ability to take her own labyrinthine tale and adapt it to a format comprehensible in filmic form is quite an achievement. It has shock factor, it has controversy, it has great talent both on and off screen - it had everything you could ask for.
Kate SmithKate
5. 'GONE GIRL'
Terribly disturbing but beautifully executed, 'Gone Girl' will mess with you. Rosamund Pike shocks us all with her unexpectedly brilliant performance as the title character. You may see the twist coming, but you’ll still be surprised by just how evil people can be.
4. 'THE LEGO MOVIE'
It’s awesome. Just like 'Paddington', it’ll keep young and old entertained and enjoying themselves. The production of this film is mind-blowing; even the water is made of Lego! The best kids movie in years.
3. 'WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS'
Vampires. In New Zealand. Share-housing. Face-breakingly funny.
2. 'PADDINGTON'
This is the perfect school holiday movie. Unexpectedly hilarious, absolutely adorable, and with a very high production value, it will keep kids and adults fully engrossed for the entire 90 minutes.
1. 'GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY'
This movie has everything for Marvel fans, and is the perfect hook to get non-fans into the Marvel universe. It’s fun, it’s got fantastic effects, and the best soundtrack of the year. And Chris Pratt. Yes.

Did we get it right? Are we missing something? Leave us a comment on your thoughts for the best film of 2014.

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