The Best Films Of...

The 100 Best Films of 2014 | #20 – #11

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FilmOnTrial‘s The 100 Best Films of 2014 continues with entries #20 to #11. What made the list? What didn’t? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and check out the previous part (#30 – #21) here.


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20_1

The Internet’s Own Boy

This is documentary-making at its most incisive, incendiary and straight-forward; leaving formal frills at the door, this exquisitely balanced look at Reddit founder and human rights campaigner Aaron Swartz blows the door wide open on the debacle of the US government versus the people’s right to privacy. Freedom, or or off the internet, is something that Swartz fought for; watch this enraging call to action, and you may leave your seat feeling more powerful than ever.

‘It’s easy sometimes to feel like you’re powerless. When you come out in the streets, and you march and you yell, but nobody hears you. But I’m here to tell you today that you are powerful.’

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19_1

Edge of Tomorrow

All You Need is Kill. Edge of Tomorrow. Live. Die. Repeat. Whatever name changes this challenging blockbuster has gone through, it was the year’s most cerebral big-budget movie, and thanks to direction from Doug Liman that didn’t undermine the audience’s attention span but actually involved it, a brilliantly judged performance from Tom Cruise (slimy-to-hero in one hour fifty-three minutes) and Emily Blunt – where is her Oscar already? – Edge of Tomorrow will grow and grow in the DVD players of the world, and with a bit of luck, become the phenomenon it should’ve been at the box office.

‘On your feet, maggot!’

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18_1

Cold in July

Twisting like a sidewinder through the cold American desert, Cold in July will keep you guessing and most importantly, hooked, until the credits finally put an end to the endless river of paranoia and blood. Following Stake Land and We Are What We Are, Jim Mickle finally gets to crack his knuckles and delve into the truly dark, twisted territory he’s been building up to so far; this is genre pushed to breaking point, and in no small part to Michael C. Hall (needs to do more good movies), Sam Shepard (is in plenty of good movies), and Don Johnson (welcome back to good movies!), Cold in July may very well keep you up at night – and when you do finally sleep, your dreams will be scored with pulsing, terrifying electronica.

‘How far do you wanna take this?’

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The Missing Picture (L’image manquante)

For the first time, you may find yourself crying over clay dolls. The Missing Picture is also the missing link – for director Rithy Panh, at least – between history and memory, the past and the present, and grief and possible reconciliation. Atrocities such as those that occurred in Cambodia between 1975 and ’79 should never happen again; The Missing Picture ensures we arrive, through nothing but figurines who act them out in lieu of actual historical document, at the human heart of such acts, while single-handedly proving that cinema is entirely capable of aspiring to – and reaching – such lofty heights.

‘What I give you today is neither the picture nor the search for a unique image, but the picture of a quest: the quest that cinema allows.’

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Dinosaur 13

Native American laws, mysterious land owners and the US government all stand in the way of a man and his dinosaur. The largest T-Rex fossil ever was discovered by a group of palaeontologists in 1990, but it only stayed with them a short while before the question of ownership get decidedly more complex. The muddled politics are mingled with a heartbreaking narrative, but when even the freedom of these scientists is threatened, nothing stops them from doing what is right – it’s the best true story that Spielberg never adapted.

‘It was our dinosaur. It was our lives that had been torn to pieces.’

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15_1

Calvary

What Calvary says about the role of religion in modern day society isn’t dogmatic, neither is it confrontational. What is does say about a nation of people who have lost their way, however, is multifaceted; Brendan Gleeson plays a priest of a small village, whose life is threatened by an anonymous source. Gleeson is a force for good in our world; Calvary shows that elegantly, and thanks to a Donnie Darko-esque montage, the point is profoundly nailed home.

‘That’s certainly a startling opening line.’

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14_1

12 Years a Slave

There’s a moment in Steve McQueen’s brutal, beautiful, and vital work of art 12 Years a Slave in which the fourth wall, although somewhat ambiguously, is broken. Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in perhaps the year’s greatest performance, stares flatly at the camera, or just past it; either way, Solomon’s bleary eyes feel as if they’re crying out to us for help. Or are they damning us? No matter what the meaning of this scene really is, it’s hard to meet Solomon’s gaze. So, more importantly, what does that mean for us?

‘I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!’

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The Babadook

A horror film that has broken the top 20 of FilmOnTrial’s annual end-of-year list means very good things for genre fans, and for fans of just plain great cinema alike. The Babadook‘s greatest achievement is never letting its horror diverge from its emotion; why are Rosemary’s BabyDon’t Look Now and The Orphanage all great scary flicks? Because the evil always comes from a very human place, and this Aussie chiller is no different. In lending metaphor to depression and grief, The Babadook transcends its contemporaries (although there was never much competition anyway) while also giving us a genuinely new beastie whose silhouette will comfortably sit next to those of Freddy Kreuger, the Xenomorph and Leatherface. The Babadook, in the creepiest way imaginable, reminds us that we all have our own basements to tend to.

‘You can bring me the boy.’

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Nightcrawler

Many have cited Nightcrawler as a rather silly film with an outstanding performance at its centre. But while Jake Gylenhaal’s greasy moral vacuum Louis Bloom, who oozes business-speak, does anchor the movie, Nightcrawler is still an incredible black comedy-cum-tragedy that constantly switches the bait for the viewer, while never settling awkwardly somewhere between commentary on the media and detailed character study.

‘I’d like to think if you’re seeing me, you’re having the worst day of your life.’

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11_1

Fruitvale Station

The last 24 hours of an innocent man’s life, before he is wrongfully killed by a police officer, is captured poetically by director Ryan Coogler and, in recent months, has sadly become even more potent. Michael B. Jordan may have already given his greatest performance as the doomed Oscar, as he’s sure to be swallowed up by blockbusters and bad rom-coms from now on – but here, he gives true soul to a story that may end knowingly in death, but still brims with vibrant life at every given moment. Knowing a character’s fate rarely keeps you on your toes, and Fruitvale Station achieves that.

‘I told him to take the train.’

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< Previous: #30 – #21 | Next: #10 – #1 >

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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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  1. Pingback: The 100 Best Films of 2014 | #30 – #21 | FilmOnTrial - January 2, 2015

  2. Pingback: The 100 Best Films of 2014 | #10 – #1 | FilmOnTrial - January 9, 2015

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