Monday 5 January 2015

Cinema Year in Review: 2014

In 2014 I saw 33 films in 7 different cinemas, not bad but a little below my previous record of 56 in 2009. Not being a professional film critic, I missed out on a few films which looked interesting, and a lot more which looked like utter dreck. Here is a personal review of what I saw at the cinema in 2014.

The marvellous Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge, venue for 18 of my 33 films in 2014.

Top 5 Films

  1. 12 Years A Slave: Searing, painful drama about slavery in the USA, which richly deserved its many awards. (Released in 2013, but I didn't see it until January 2014, so it makes this list.)
  2. The Imitation Game: A magnificent central performance, with Benedict Cumberbatch starring as Alan Turing. Not only was Turing a brilliant mathematician who defined the theoretical basis for all modern computers, he arguably did more than any other individual to end the Second World War in Europe, thus saving millions of lives. He should be celebrated as a hero, but instead is a little-known figure who was persecuted for his homosexuality. Hopefully, this film will make more people aware of his remarkable life. I didn't review it in full, but it deserves 5 stars.
  3. Interstellar: Awesomely ambitious science fiction from Christopher Nolan. Falls down in a few places, otherwise it could have been a great film instead of a very good one, but an impressive achievement all the same. (My review)
  4. Calvary: Another fine central performance from Brendan Gleeson, in this black comedy about a parish priest in rural Ireland confronted with his imminent death. (My review
  5. Gone Girl: Gripping psychological thriller, based on the novel of the same name and directed by David Fincher.

Wooden spoon

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For: I greatly enjoyed the first one, but the sequel was an awful, humourless mess. It tried to cover up its woeful lack of human interest with even more violence and nudity than the original, and failed miserably. (My review)

Honourable mention

Torn: This independent American film deserves a lot more attention; it is a gripping whodunnit which examines beliefs about the so-called war on terror, after a bombing in a small California town. It was released in the USA in 2013, I was lucky enough to catch it in the Cambridge Film Festival in August.

It's available from on DVD or on demand. I'm not aware of a UK cinema or DVD release date, but it's well worth watching if you get the chance.

Best guilty pleasure

Withnail & I: I saw it on re-release in the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, with a mixture of reverent fans and newcomers experiencing the joy of this great, downbeat comedy for the first time. Absolutely sublime. "We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!"

On blockbusters

There's a certain lack of blockbusters in my top five. The only one heavy on the visual effects is Interstellar, which for good or ill is a lot more cerebral than the usual popcorn-munching action flick.

Don't get me wrong, I really love blockbusters. My Top 5 is open to them in any year you care to name. There were some good ones this year, notably Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Mockingjay: Part One. My personal favourites are Edge and Apes, which narrowly missed the cut for the top five.

The big, showpiece event movies of the year were X-Men, Guardians, and The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies. The last of these I found very disappointing, as I'll explain in another post if time allows. The first two were enjoyable, with decent acting, good writing and stunning action sequences, but they really failed to move me on an emotional level.

X-Men and Guardians were big pretty spectacles with a few good laughs, and worth the price of admission, but that was all. For me, they didn't have quite the same heart and soul as, say, Avengers Assemble or even the Harry Potter films. They felt as if they had been configured for optimal entertainment by a highly sophisticated industrial process (which, of course, they have), but a little something was missing.

Forward to 2015

This exercise will be quite different next year; with a new baby in the house, a lot more of my film watching will be on television. Still, we shall see what the year brings.


  1. I watched WIthnail and I for the first time in about eighteen years in October and was struck by how much more melancholic it was than I remembered. Didn't see many films this year, but from the small number I did see, my top 5 would be:

    1. Boyhood
    2. Only Lovers Left Alive
    3. Interstellar
    4. Gone Girl
    5. The Unknown Known

    1. Yes, Withnail's (admittedly hilarious) self-destructive behaviour makes it pretty clear he's falling apart on the inside. OLLA was brilliant, also a contender for my top 5. Haven't seen Boyhood and Unknown Known but I'll see if I can catch them on demand.

    2. Of the two, Boyhood is far and away the better. The Unknown Known was a moderately diverting portrait of a glib man who uses a certain quickness of wit to hide the fact there's nothing underneath - just edged What We Do In The Shadows which, um, wasn't as good as the Guardian said it was. What comes of only seeing about 10 films at the cinema this year. Maybe I'll make this the year I get myself a Cineworld Pass and just see all the big releases...