Ten films that will get you talking

8 Comments

It's December, and film writers everywhere are putting together their lists of the best films of 2014. But best-of lists are so subjective, so here's our take: ten films from 2014 that are guaranteed to get you thinking, and talking!

Interstellar (M). Director: Christopher Nolan. 169 minutes

If Christopher 'The Dark Knight' Nolan's reputation was already stellar, it is now officially galaxies-wide as he delivers another visually stunning, mind-blowing blockbuster grounded in strong characters and story. Matthew McConaughey stars as a NASA pilot who leads an intergalactic quest to find a new home for humankind when it is threatened with ecological annihilation. Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne served as an executive producer and contributed some of his own data to help the filmmakers with their modelling of the film's famous black hole.

Not previously reviewed by Eureka Street

 

Gone Girl (MA). Director: David Fincher. 149 minutes

Fincher's excellent adaptation of Gillian Flynn's controversial 2012 novel documents the violent outcomes of a marriage that has decayed in the clammy clutches of mutual narcissism. When smug, philandering out-of-work writer Nick (Ben Affleck) finds himself suspected of murdering his self-centred yet enigmatic wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), a media circus ensues. But did he really do it? Captivating and full of twists, Gone Girl is a guaranteed conversation starter about the various shapes and implications of domestic violence and misogyny.

Full review

 

Whiplash (MA). Director: Damien Chazelle. 107 minutes

Miles Teller is a revelation as jazz drummer Andrew, who is singled out for tutelage and torment by a revered but brutal professor (J. K. Simmons) at a prestigious New York music school. As the film unfolds the bully Fletcher's antagonism begets a kind of symbiotic transformation in Andrew, who in literally bleeding for his art emerges as a kindred spirit to his equally obsessive teacher. This gripping, sinister depiction of a young man's obsessive pursuit of artistic greatness is fired by some fantastic music, notably the Hank Levy tune from which the film takes its title.

Not previously reviewed by Eureka Street

 

Under the Skin (MA). Director: Jonathan Glazer. 115 minutes

Glazer's eerie adaptation of Michael Faber's 2000 novel features Scarlett Johansson as an alien who dons the skin of an attractive young woman and tempts men with the unspoken promise of sex, luring them to her lair in order to harvest their flesh. A chance encounter with a man with congenital facial deformities introduces her to the concepts of compassion and mercy, and later the femaleness that she had wielded as a weapon proves also to mark her out as a victim. The film is a disturbing meditation on gender, identity and humanity, dressed in a science fiction skin.

Full review

 

Nightcrawler (MA). Director: Dan Gilroy. 117 minutes

The desire to objectively document reality in order to hold a mirror up to society is a vital function of news media, that ought to be guided by robust personal and institutional ethics. Gilroy's jet-black satire examines what happens when those ethics are stripped away, and replaced by the bottom line. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a morally bankrupt social climber who becomes a 'nightcrawler', a cameraman who shoots the a cameraman who specialises in shooting the aftermath of road accidents and violent crimes, and selling the footage to news networks.

Full review

 

Calvary (MA). Director: John Michael McDonagh. 100 minutes

Ensconced in the anonymity of the confessional, a man informs Fr James Lavelle (Brendon Gleeson) that he plans to kill him. During the week leading up to the deadline set by his would-be killer, the 'good priest' Lavelle goes about his pastoral duties within his windswept seaside parish. As he does so the film canvasses a raft of issues (mortality, sexuality, wealth) in the context of an abuse crisis that has greatly diminished the moral authority of the Church. Features a tour-de-force performance by Gleeson as the flawed but basically decent Lavelle.

Full review

 

In a World (MA). Director: Lake Bell. 93 minutes

Writer, director and star Bell's film is set in the world of film-trailer voiceover artists. Her character Carol is a talented up-and-comer in a male-dominated industry: literally, she is fighting to have her voice heard. Her greatest rivals in this are her father, veteran voiceover artist Sam (Fred Melamed), and Sam's smarmy protégé, Gustav (Ken Marino). Bell has delivered an extremely touching film, fun and thoughtful and bulging at the seams with perfectly honed and delivered gags, and with a gently administered dose of social satire and feminist critique.

Full review

 

Nymphomaniac Volumes I and II (R). Director: Lars Von Trier. 231 minutes

The antithesis to In A World ... in tone and content, but perhaps not in substance, Danish provocateur Von Trier's Nymphomanic offers an utterly bleak commentary on gender and power as experienced by a sex-addicted young woman, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stacy Martin). Often explicit and thoroughly unpleasant, Volume I is also disarmingly humane. Things get much uglier in Volume II and Von Trier arguably pushes the envelope too far at times in his theatre of cruelty. But the implications of its shocking climax will sit with you for a long time.

Full review

 

Still Life (M). Director: Uberto Pasolini. 92 minutes

For an individual to die alone at home amid the crowd of suburbia is one of the sadder, and sadly common, scenarios of modern Western existence. Italian-born British filmmaker Pasolini explores this phenomenon in this sweet and thoughtful examination of alienation and loneliness. Eddie Marsan, a wonderful character actor, who appears in a rare leading role as contented loner John, a council worker who studiously and tenderly cares for the posthumous needs of the estranged and unloved ones who die alone in their homes.

Full review

 

Frank (M). Director: Lenny Abrahamson. 95 minutes

At the centre of this offbeat comedy by Irish filmmaker Abrahamson is Frank (Michael Fassbender), an avant-garde musician who spends his entire life with his face concealed inside a comically oversized head. The film milks the slapstick potential of this inherently absurd affectation, but does not shy away from the fact that Frank is seriously mentally ill. The endlessly talented Fassbender is all slouched shoulders and shuffling feet, as he conjoins crippling neuroses to on-stage charisma, all from within the confines of the character's inscrutable prosthetic visage.

Full review


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is assistant editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Scarlett Johansson, Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway


 

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Existing comments

How about ILO ILO
Charlie Meagher | 18 December 2014


What about including 'Pride', a fantastic film based on a true story. A small group of gays and lesbians used to constantly dealing with prejudice and rejection, decide to raise money for the striking miners in Maggie Thatcher's Britain as they believe that the miners are being persecuted, too, and they want to stand in solidarity with them. Themes of discrimination and prejudice versus generosity openness and tolerance. Uplifting!
Sandra Houghton | 18 December 2014


How about Nebraska?
Mary Manning | 18 December 2014


Thank you for another year of thoughtful and interesting reviews.
P Russell | 18 December 2014


Curious that "Ida", one of the finest films that I have ever seen. isn't on this list yet space is found for something about "aliens". As ever, there's no accounting for taste.
Dr John CARMODY | 18 December 2014


Glad to see the very controversial "Nymphomaniac" is on Tim's list. Can't imagine the Catholic Weekly even mentioning the name, except perhaps to condemn it outright. Proof, yet again, that Tim's film reviews are just about the most thoughtful anywhere and another reason to keep reading Eureka Street.
Keith Carlon | 19 December 2014


Tim , we have seen most of the movies you have recommended. Agree with most of your choices, except for interstellar. Matthew McCo naughty leaves me cold and tends to impede my objectivity. What about "Two days and one night " starring Marion Cottilliard. Thought it was an excellent French film. Your articles are eagerly awaited and appreciated . Please keep adding to the enjoyment we get from "the prophets of today " the film makers. Happy Christmas and have a good rest .
Celia | 19 December 2014


I guess a list of 10 isn't a list of 20, but Winter Sleep could replace one or two in your list - and still set you thinking! Perhaps the next 10 could start with Ida and Winter Sleep
Ann Long | 20 December 2014


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