The Best Films Of...

The 100 Best Films of 2014 | #30 – #21

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FilmOnTrial‘s The 100 Best Films of 2014 continues with entries #30 to #21. What made the list? What didn’t? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and check out the previous part (#40 – #31) here.


 

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30_1

Life Itself

A film about a film critic? While that sounds almost cannibalistic, Life Itself comes from the highly talented hands of Steve James, whose own documentary Hoop Dreams was championed by Roger Ebert back in 1994. 20 years later, he gets to somewhat return the favour; Life Itself takes its excellent subject, and looks at how he affected the world of cinema through not just his words, but his actions. It’s rare that a documentary understands its central figure so well, that Ebert’s personality actually becomes its themes; the film’s tone mirrors that of Ebert’s own singularly beautiful perspective of life. There are not enough thumbs.

‘He’s a nice guy, but he’s not that nice.’

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29_1

20 Feet From Stardom

When you next go see your favourite musician, give a little thought to the people standing behind them. 20 Feet From Stardom is a peek behind the curtains of the lesser-known side of the music industry, spinning the tales of the some of the most gifted singers of all time, and yet who have never known fame. Hanging in the shadows must be tough; knowing that you’re actually better than the one in the limelight must be even tougher, and this Oscar-winning documentary shows their plight in a way that will, hopefully, get us to notice them and their monumental contribution to music history.

‘It’s a bit of a walk. That walk to the front… is complicated.’ 

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The Double

Richard Ayoade continues to prove he is more than just the loveable fuzz-haired geek from The IT Crowd. His hard-hitting, deeply philosophical movie takes a Dostoyevsky novel and through it, delivers possibly the most stylised film of the year. Career-best performances from Jesse Eisenberg (twice) and Mia Wasikowska make sure that the art direction is in cahoots with a beating heart; The Double is cerebral fare that never forgets to make you laugh and cry along the way.

‘You don’t exist anymore.’

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Next Goal Wins

If you’re not a fan of football, have no fear; Next Goal Wins will, for 90 minutes, turn you into the loudest member of the crowd. This is an absolutely marvellous story about American Samoa, the worst football team in the world (and there are statistics to prove that), who embark on a mission with a new coach to become better than they ever dreamed. What they achieve (and don’t) will be up for you to discover – you may find yourself with a tear in your eye, for the first time, at the sight of a ball hitting the back of a net.

‘You brought me here to put a winning team on the field.’
‘Yes -‘
‘Then don’t interfere.’

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer returned to the Marvel universe he created a decade ago, and fully delivered. With X-Men: Days of Future Past, we are given a bonkers time-travel story that assembles (ahem) the cast of both the original movies and First Class, a premise that was so exciting in itself, it was guaranteed huge box office success anyway. Luckily, Simon Kinberg’s screenplay weaved in potentially confusing time-travel tropes with a moral compass, and gave us an extremely satisfying conflict that involved a floating football stadium, skin-changing robots, and slow-motion food-tasting (see image above). Here’s to X-Men: Apocalypse.

‘They told me you can control metal. You know, my mom once knew a guy who could do that.’

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Gone Girl

David Fincher infiltrates the family home with Gone Girl. This is one the director’s best movies, one that takes all his best traits and takes them in surprising new turns (unless you’ve read the book, of course). The relationship between Ben Affleck (never better) and Rosamund Pike (astonishing) is akin to a rollercoaster – one where you can see that the tracks ahead have disappeared, yet you still barrel along at full speed regardless. Sinister, insidious, and a bit snarky – it even turns into black comedy toward the end – Gone Girl is a rare thing; a watercooler film with personality. Just not a particularly nice one.

‘I’m the cunt you married.’

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Leviathan (Leviafan)

Religion, politics, society and family all collide in Leviathan, an epic of huge emotional proportions. The luxurious opening shots of the largely empty landscape instil a sense of hugeness that engulfs the film’s characters. That whale skeleton? It has been there for a very long time, and will be there long after the people here act out their petty games – no matter how important they seem to us at the time.

‘All power comes from God. As long as it suits Him, fear not.’

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The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street was made by a man in his seventies. Proving that he can still kick it with the youngest of them, Martin Scorsese has made an offensive, cocaine-drizzled party that shows no sign of stopping (represented by the movie’s colossal three-hour run time). Leonardo DiCaprio may be the best he’s ever been here, while the supporting cast of Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill are vessels for the manic heart of this wall street waltz – although a heart that’s fit to burst from overconsumption of quaaludes.

‘On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens for a month.’

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22_1

Guardians of the Galaxy

Marel Studios had a good hunch when they hired James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first truly authored film, this is Star Wars meets Firefly meets Saturday Night Live; these intergalactic Avengers perfectly enjoy a perfectly balanced tone of humour and heart, and their antagonistic chemistry will ensure that the Guardians take flight for a long time to come. Oh, and that leg joke? Priceless.

‘Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast… I would catch it.’

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Frank

If you don’t die from laughter, then Frank has failed you. But if you like your humour nuanced and not kitschy, writing that’s more insightful than gimmicky (the guy has a papier mâché head, for crying out loud), then Frank is most certainly for you; Domhnall Gleeson anchors this often brilliant, always tender portrait of ‘making it’ as a band, and never ridicules its riduclous characters – even when director Lenny Abrahamson is getting a laugh out of every note struck not just from the music, but the relationships of this troubled, amazing troupe of musicians.

‘You play C, F, and G?’
‘Yeah.’
‘You’re in.’

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< Previous: #40 – #31 | Next: #20 – #11 >

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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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  1. Pingback: The 100 Best Films of 2014 | #40 – #31 | FilmOnTrial - December 31, 2014

  2. Pingback: The 100 Best Films of 2014 | #20 – #11 | FilmOnTrial - January 2, 2015

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