Hello! Here are my top 5 favourite films of the year so far.
5. Life Itself - Steve James
I’m not sure if this is because I have a huge soft spot for both Roger Ebert and Steve James. But regardless, I loved Life Itself.
This documentary shares and celebrates the life of legendary film critic, Roger Ebert with an enormous amount of respect and admiration, but never shies away from talking about the more unsavoury parts of Ebert’s life. From discovering and saving the life of Martin Scorcese, to Roger’s struggle with alcoholism. It’s all there. For a film about a film critic, huge emphasis on the art of film criticism isn’t really there. Don’t get me wrong! They talk plenty about Ebert’s talents as a writer and as a real appreciator of cinema, but the film realises and celebrates the fact that Roger was so much more than that. As Werner Herzog put it; 'he's the soldier of cinema'. And that’s the truth. He was a man who discovered so many talented young filmmakers whom without him, probably wouldn’t have careers. He made it possible for a wider demographic to appreciate film as the art form it is. And for close to ten years, he battled with cancer which took his away his capacity to speak, but continued to inspire and review movies just like he always did until the day he died.
This is an incredibly touching film with a lot of care put into it. It doesn’t quite capture Roger Ebert’s demeanour, but hey, he was a bit of jerk and i’m sure it wouldn’t have been super respectful if he was treated as such. They mention it, but overall he’s depicted as a real inspiring figure, that I believe he was (mostly). I really enjoyed this film and for anyone who’s interested in film criticism or even just film in general, i’d strongly recommend it. I’m just sad he’s gone and would’ve loved to hear his thoughts on one of my films.
4. Locke - Steven Knight
I didn’t expect to love Locke as much as I did. Locke takes place entirely in one car, with one man, travelling from Birmingham to London. Sounds exciting, right? You have no idea.
We spend the entirety of this film peering through the glass of Ivan Locke’s car as he speeds down the motorway. Throughout this real-time journey, Welsh concrete pourer Locke played masterfully by Tom Hardy, talks on the phone to his co-workers, his family and sometimes himself as his life crumbles and disintegrates before his very eyes. Joining Hardy, we have a number of great british actors coming out of the loud speaker in Locke’s car. Olivia Coleman plays Locke’s tragically desperate and broken mistress, Ruth Wilson plays Locke’s gentle but distraught wife and Andrew Scott plays Locke’s goofy co-worker. All with incredible brilliance. It’s one thing to perform both visually and vocally, but to simply perform vocally is something completely different and to be able to convey such well drawn character just with your voice is a huge feat. It’s the nuanced performances from the entire cast that pull you into the film and never let you go. It’s a real movie of the 21st century when it comes to the way in which performances are brought to the viewer.
The entire film is drenched in pure atmosphere. The orange street lamps passing the car, the freezing cold air and the red and blue lights of cars going in different directions fill the screen to give you a real sense of where our protagonist is. Locke’s life changes drastically throughout this one car journey, and the scrambling of his mind is conveyed beautifully by director Steven Knight who implements many beautiful and thoughtful visuals as he drives.
What really works about this film is just how gripping it is. Experiencing this journey in real-time makes us feel closer to the character and makes us really feel like we’re there, experiencing this turmoil. The film has a very different and flowing narrative that captures the viewer in an almost dream-like state all the way through. That is, if your dreams take place on the M25 and are full of tense phone calls with loved ones. If you like drama, i’m almost certain you’ll like this.
3. Under The Skin - Jonathan Glazer
This is an interesting one. On first viewing, I wasn’t sure what I thought of Under The Skin. On second viewing, I loved it.
I’m just gonna say this now. There’s a good chance you won’t like this film. It’s a film full of surreal imagery, heavy-handed symbolism and a very thin plot. It’s a real film of interpretation. If you’re someone who needs to have a clear plot structure, then you probably won’t like this. If you’re like me and you love thinking intensely throughout a film and reading into it, then you might just love Under The Skin. It’s a film that many could easily interpret as ‘pretentious’ but keep an open mind, because nothing’s pretentious as long there’s real meaning to what’s being presented to you.
Under The Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as what seems to be an extra terrestrial who’s recently arrived on our planet. Throughout the film we see this strange character travel through Scotland in a van, picking up hitchhikers and dealing with them in an incredibly surreal way. All while Johansson’s character begins to appreciate and experience humanity. That’s what I perceived the plot to be. That may not be the case for you. Which is one of the main reasons I loved this film. There aren’t many movies you can walk out of and say to your friend ‘What do you think the plot was?’ or ‘What do you think the message was?’. That’s really cool. The film challenges you to interpret it however you like and intern, becoming something completely different for each person. For me, an amazing film is one that transcends the screen. One that can seep into your being and your life. And intellectually, Under The Skin is just that. For days after watching, I still pondered the elements, piecing together the film I thought it was. That’s not too say the film’s just a montage of weird imagery. There’s a relatively clear narrative as we see Scarlett’s characters go from person to person and leading them to what appears to be their deaths. The film had just enough weight as a narrative but presented us with a lot to think about and come to a conclusion about ourselves.
The film is full of wonderful and bizarre imagery and Johansson fits right in. There’s something about seeing Hollywood star, Scarlett Johansson roaming the streets of Glasgow that just doesn’t seem right. And the film’s full of a lot of that. Uncomfortable and almost horrific imagery that you can’t quite wrap your brain around, at least while you’re watching.
Under The Skin certainly isn’t for everyone, but it definitely was for me. I was incredibly uncomfortable disturbed throughout the film, but in a good way.
2. The Lego Movie - Christopher Miller & Phil Lord
Don’t you just love it when a film about Lego surprises everyone and turns out to be one of the most hilarious and well-crafted films of the year? I sure do.
I loved The Lego Movie from start to finish. Not just because it was funny, not just because it was visually beautiful and not just because it was incredibly self aware, but because it was a film that really had heart. The market for animated kids movies has become increasingly saturated over the years and you rarely see one that genuinely makes you feel good about life. But here, in 2014, we have a film that can inspire as many adults as it can kids. The best kids movies are always the ones that can be enjoyed just as much by the parents. I left the cinema (all three times) with a lovely taste in my mouth. A sense that everything in life, big or small, is awesome in it’s own way. And I think that’s brilliant. The Lego Movie did perfectly exactly what a kids movie should do. Not forgetting the fact that as a film, I think it’s beautifully crafted with great pacing and a lovely sense of adventure. Also not forgetting that writer and directors Chris Miller & Phil Lord, two people whom i’m a huge fan of, craft wonderfully bizarre jokes that land on one level for kids and on another, for the parents. And finally forgetting the perfect performances from Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett. It’s the heart that got me the most with this wonderful film.
I straight up recommend this film to anyone. Whether you’re the biggest fan of Ingmar Bergman or Michael Bay, I reckon you’ll get something out of this film.
1. Boyhood - Richard Linklater
I saw this film a week ago and I still haven’t gotten over it. The film made me explode with emotion in the auditorium and i’m still carrying the blast shards on me today. In short, I think it’s a masterpiece.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood started shooting in 2002 with six year old Ellar Coltrane along with Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater. Over the course of 12 years, the crew rejoined the actors each year in order to create a seamless film in which we see a young boy called Mason grow into a adult before our very eyes. That alone is astonishing. But one of the things that’s so incredible about Boyhood is that, despite the incredibly interesting production of the film, it still stands as a fantastic piece of storytelling. Some would think that the 12 years thing would be a gimmick, but no. That aspect strengthens the film like nobody’s business and makes it something truly unique.
The film is almost three hours long, which with most movies, is a bit too long. But with this film, it just flies by. Witnessing Mason go from 6 to 18 in the span of three hours is one of the most seamless, immersive and beautiful things i’ve experienced in a cinema. We don’t just marvel as see a character change physically before our eyes. We marvel because we see a character change, grow, develop and become who he is before our eyes. The film captures childhood, being a teenager and approaching adulthood in such a real way, you can’t help but feel like it’s your life. Or at least, the life of someone you love. And that’s exactly how I felt. By the end, I cried. Not because I was sad, but because i’d witnessed a life. I’d witnessed the trials and tribulations of a normal kid and his family and now as I see 18 year old Mason speed down the highway into adulthood, I feel intensely happy and hopeful. I’ve never felt closer to a fictional character. The film captures the tone of every part of the early stages of one’s life perfectly. The naive perspective of the lives of your parents, the child-like thrill in collecting random objects, the sense of happiness when you’re with friends, when you fall in love for the first time and when you start to come to terms with who you are. Every stage is presented to you as it is, with simple but real cinematography and shots. Each song in the film corresponds to the time period in which the film is set, which only immerses you more. I loved the fact that in the early part of Mason’s life, the music played is often top 40 pop songs. But as he get’s older, that soundtrack is replaced by old classics. Which, for me at least, is certainly the case. The older you get, the more able you are to appreciate a variation of music. Not just what’s popular. There are so many little things like that that make the experience of Boyhood that much more incredible.
I’ve never watched a film and halfway through, began to feel nostalgic towards the beginning of it. The film captured a life and made you feel a part of it. Being the age I am, of course I could relate to it very easily, but I think anyone could. And I think EVERYONE should see this film. I’m pondering whether or not this film might be in my top ten of all time and something truly spectacular has to come around in order to knock it off my number 1 spot by the end of the year. I love this film so so much and i’m sure you will too.