6

It's the end of the year, and we're all getting a little bit reflective by now, surely.

Obviously can't post this on the main site, but (as we're all by nature movie/tv fans) was wondering if people would be willing to share their best films of the year, and possibly a little bit about them; Particularly if they're little known. There's a lot of people with wildly different tastes on the site, not to mention exposed to films of different languages, and it'd be interesting to see if anyone saw any gems that might have slipped through our collective nets.

All three of my movie choices are, by total co-incidence, films in which we follow people. Hunting, questing, or seeking redemption.

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. - Albert Camus

MOVIES

  1. Under the Skin

This has to be my film of the year, and in a year full of Kubrick Karaoke this is the closest contender to the real deal (Johansson actually has two contenders for Kubrick Karaoke, as Lucy featured a protracted 2001 sequence undeniably indebted to A Space Odyssey). Very little is explained, but it doesn't matter one iota when we're trailing the captivating Johansson through the murky concrete of Glasgow, waiting for her to pick another victim. It's not only beautiful, its violently arresting and horrifying in parts. If you've not seen it, I can't recommend it enough.

  1. Blue Ruin

A mini-budget indie punching far, far above it's weight, featuring a debut acting role from it's leading man who is just incredible. This is a tight little thriller that teases out its plot over the length of the movie, so you never truly understand anyone's motivations until its too late... it also features perhaps the best "Obligatory Scene" execution I've seen in a long while, but that's spoiler waters we're wading into. This slipped in and out of theaters with almost no fanfare or marketing whatsoever, but anyone who caught it raved about it for weeks.

  1. Calvary

The McDonagh brothers (John Michael and Martin) are crafting some of the best films to come out of Ireland, and they're each as successful as they are different. In Bruges was poorly mis-marketed, The Guard barely received any attention for what became a comic Gem and Seven Psychopaths became overbloated by its sprawling cast, but featured a dream cast of comedic talents. Calvary is very funny in parts, but it marks a change of direction in respect to the poignancy of its tone. A Murder Mystery, in which the protagonist knows the identity of his would be murderer from the start (but vitally, the audience is denied this), the film is truly a puzzle film in which we must piece together the facts to solve the murder before it happens... a novel concept, but it takes a back seat very quickly as we meander through the landscapes of Sligo with Father James Levelle, and immerse ourselves in its charm. This is a film that stayed with me long after I'd left the auditorium, flanked by tearful patrons.


TV

  1. True Detective

It has to be, doesn't it? I'm the first to hold my hands up and say I didn't think it would work, despite having a fondness for both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (although I still maintain the latter only ever plays himself). I think it took me about until the end of the credits to 180 and change my mind. True Detective was like nothing I've ever seen on TV, and the Character of Rust Cohle is the most believable depiction of nihilistic, self destructive functional depression I think I'd be comfortable tolerating. The Scriptwriting was impeccable and flawless, it was shot with a bravery and risk (the Raid!!) never attempted on TV, and it mixed southern gothic and Lovecraftian mysticism with a satisfaction I'd never thought possible. I can't wait to see what they come up with for the next season.

  1. Utopia

Soon to be adapted by David Fincher in the states, this was a British show that caused controversy wherever it went... not just for its brutality and disregard to causing offence, but for its pairing of this attitude with a darkened humour too murky to be described as 'Black'. The second season raised as many questions as it answered, but the prologue episode (in which we realize the implications of what Carvel has to answer for) was quietly menacing, building up turbulence that grows for the rest of the season. I'm incredibly sorry to hear that there will be no Season 3, but apparently this was one of the stipulations of selling the Show to the States. Let's hope they don't f**k it up.. or, on the flipside, lets hope they do... so Denis Kelly can come back and complete the story. I'm interested to see how Fincher handles this subject material, and (given the inevitable relocation to the States) I'm somewhat reticent to imagine they'll be keeping some of the more "High School Massacre-y" scenes in the plot...

  1. BroadChurch

Another British feature that experienced a migration to the states (although, as of today, its adaptation Gracepoint has been canned after the first season) this was an unflinching discussion of how small communities can be united and torn apart by tragedy, grief and suspicion. Another who-dunnit, but handled deftly... and by ITV of all people, a Channel known in the UK for producing crappy mindless entertainment and pageantry. It was a risk for everyone involved, with a plot that prodded the subject of pedophilia hot on the Heels of the Jimmy Saville Scandal (if you're not familiar with it, don't Google it... the world is better off forgetting). David Tennant makes a clean break from his Dr Who image, and excels in a somewhat typical role of tormented detective, bringing fresh charm and credibility... but it's Olivia Colman, rightly mobbed by awards, that holds the piece together as the somewhat naive, good-intentioned deputy. The finale is heartbreaking, but outstanding.


Honorable Mention

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

I have a soft spot for Marvel, but this program began as utter shite, and was painful to watch. I gritted my teeth and sat through it week after week, hoping it would get canned and Marvel would learn their lesson, bringing something fresher to the table for me to sink my teeth into... but then half-way through season one. WOW. What a bait-n-switch. I went from clockwatching to see when the episode would finish to the edge of my seat. You got me, Marvel. Hook, Line and Sinker. They knew what they were doing all along. I've since rewatched the first season, and (when you know what's coming, and that its worth your attention) it's actually quite rewarding. Just goes to show what a little perspective, and patience, can achieve.

  • 2
    @downvoter Any explanation for why this question is a bad idea? I agree that even on meta such a query might technically not really be on-topic at all. But I think with the current meta activity we can bear such a little outlier for the fun of it. – Napoleon Wilson Dec 17 '14 at 14:36
  • 1
    Haters gonna hate don't worry about it, there's a least one person on this forum who downvotes any question I post as a matter of principal... thanks for your contribution, I've added the Dark Valley to my watchlist – John Smith Optional Dec 17 '14 at 14:44
  • Hmm. Conspicuous absence of Game of Thrones. Valar Morghulis you all – KharoBangdo Dec 30 '14 at 6:53
  • @KharoBangdo Because it's, uh, not from 2014? Otherwise I'd have listed it definitely, together with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Breaking Bad, Arrow, Miami Vice, and millions of other things. – Napoleon Wilson Dec 30 '14 at 19:21
  • Wait. Did I not see GoT season this April. I think I did. – KharoBangdo Dec 31 '14 at 1:44
5

First of all, I might not have the best memory and there is no guarantee that those are really the best movies of 2014 even to my opinion. Neither is there any guarantee that the following list is in any way ordered. I also don't think any of those movies are really hidden gems rather than movies many people have seen (and hopefully liked), afterall I'd surmise that my taste isn't too different from that of the masses anyway. I'll also limit it to movies actually released this year and not include stuff I just watched this year for the first time. But enough the meta talk:

Movies:

  • Interstellar

    This has to be on the top of the list, and not only due to a natural bias towards the end of the year from too short an attention span (a problem the Academy certainly knows, too). While I never really realized how much I like Christopher Nolan, in retrospect I have yet to wait for a movie by him that does not amaze me. And while Interstellar might not be his best movie and might in its very unambiguous and straight-to-the-point nature also not have provided answers to any deeper philosophical questions, let alone ask them at all, as many might have expected (especially from comparison to 2001), it still somehow stuck with me. It doesn't happen often that I am still engaged so much to a movie more than 2 weeks after watching it the 2nd time, let alone visit the cinema 2 times at all (something I only ever did twice before, interestingly both for Nolan movies). And while I usually enjoy Hans Zimmer's stuff, he can tend to repeat himself a bit. But Interstellar is definitely one of his best and most original works, and probably replacing the Dark Knight trilogy as my favourite Zimmer work, I still can't stop listening to it.

    And to drive this meta discussion at least a bit into meta territory, I think this site also did a great job in furthering this engagement with the movie, as it garnered lots of questions that motivated to delve further into the matter, be it by reading interviews, short stories or pop-science books. And afterall that's what the whole fuss about "contributing to the appreciation of the movie" in the site's manifesto is all about. The only complaint I would have is that my fascination with Interstellar overshadowed another long awaited movie a bit, so I couldn't fully concentrate on that one:

  • Nightcrawler

    As a result I can't say much to this movie other than that it definitely didn't disappoint my hopes. It portraited an absolutely enthralling character on an atmospheric and thrilling way to personal success by any means possible and without the slightest bit of remorse. No matter if media criticism or capitalism parable, it was just entertaining and gripping to watch Lou Bloom manipulate his way up the ladder. And the uncompromising ending was the great topping on this story. But speaking of great character portrayals:

  • All Is Lost

    Technically released in 2013, it didn't arrive here until January 2014, and it was a hard waiting time. I had high hopes for this movie and they didn't get disappointed. I won't bother to speculate about any philosophical implications of this movie at all, I didn't see none. Was it an existentialist tale about social alientation? A parable on globalization? A statement about our dependence on technology? I don't know and I don't care! It was an extremely gripping, entertaining and realistic ride with just a single man in an interesting situation (no matter if professional sailors agree with me about the realism), trying to survive and stay as calm as possible, nothing more and nothing less. The minimalism of this whole movie made it just the more haunting and I'd always follow Our Man on his odyssey again (it's one of the few DVDs, and the only new release, I bought this year). And of course the missing Oscar nominations, first and foremost Best Actor, are just a shame.

  • Godzilla

    I think we had many great summer blockbusters this year, from The Winter Soldier, over Days of Future Past to Edge of Tomorrow and the surprising Guardians of the Galaxy. But among those I'd pick Godzilla as a personal favourite and representative thereof. I know many people complained that it didn't feature enough Godzilla footage, but you know what, I don't want a 2-hour monster porn, we already had Pacific Rim to satisfy the little boys in us (and that did its job quite well). As much as the human drama might have seemed forced or clichéd in that movie, it still provided us with a great bottom-up perspective of the whole monster mess (something I also loved about Spielberg/Cruise's take on War of the Worlds). And even when rewatching it recently I still found interesting shots where I thought "man, that's a great way to show the action right in the middle from the helpless humans' perspective", not to speak of the mind-blowing halo jump scene. Overall the whole movie just had an absolutely amazing atmosphere all the way through (and I for myself am always eager to pay some plot-consistency for a bit more atmosphere in what ultimately is an audiovisual medium).

  • The Dark Valley (orig.: Das finstere Tal)

    Speaking of atmosphere -- and to have at least a single non-US movie on the list1, even if clearly inspired therefrom -- I'll pick this excellent Austrian snow western. From its very beginning, opened with a great minimalistic interpretation of the classic "Sinnerman", upto its ending, closed by an equally interesting different interpretation of that song, this story was just gripping, even if the classic stranger on a revenge quest story is by far not the most original. And as a bit of a Spaghetti Western fan it was interesting to see yet another European take on the Western genre, giving the classic Heimatfilm a very dark twist.

    1) Though, it's interesting that from this whole list this German language movie was the only one I stumbled across by utter coincidence, not having heard anything about it during its release.


TV:

With TV, we're usually a little bit behind here anyway, often upto a year, at least on FreeTV. There weren't really so many absolute highlights from this year I saw. I mostly catched up on important stuff released way earlier even here (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, ...). Other new things I liked but wouldn't really call them best of the year (Bates Motel, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Top of the Lake, ...), and other great things I simply continued from last year (House of Cards, Arrow, ...). But there are a few new things I really remember with much fondness:

  • True Detective

    While I wouldn't go as far with my praise as my previous speaker, I certainly have to agree that this was really an atmospheric and gripping show and one of modern TV's definite highlights. I always had a sweet spot for Southern Gothic anyway. And once that opening sequence starts, you know you're up for something great.

  • Penny Dreadful

    If there's any setting as great as the southern US, it would be Victorian London. While taking a bunch of characters from different works and throwing them together might not always be the best idea, I think they did quite a good job here to fit all those famous characters into a coherent storyline and this was really an entertaining and atmospheric show (yeah, I love atmosphere, and Eva Green, of course).

  • Tatort: Kopfgeld

    I'm admittedly not an avid Tatort viewer, but after the amazing Aus der Tiefe der Zeit last year I'm at least becoming more and more interested in the ocasional highlights. And this second installment in the new Alvart-directed Hamburg series was a really good crime action thriller and definitely an enrichment for the whole series, contributing to its broadening genre diversification. Especially Fahri Yardim as Schweiger's partner gives a very likeable character, but even down to supporting roles with Herforth as disillusioned extremely cynical cop this was just fun to watch and I can't wait for another installment in what hopefully becomes an established series (if Schweiger isn't too busy, I guess, but afterall you could as well replace him as long as you keep Yardim).

4

My list is long, and I can pare it down if people feel I should, but I just couldn't help making it this long. 2014 has been one of the best years for those who love movies and television, so I simply had to mention a number of my favorites. This is actually a pared down list, as I removed 4 smaller mentions that I can add back in if anyone feels it appropriate.

Movies

  • The Lego Movie:

    Simply astounding from start to finish. I was very apprehensive going in because it's a product movie, based on a toy with no real interconnecting theme among playsets, but it went for something that had completey escaped me: the interconnecting theme of sharing something across generations. The movie pulls you in with a very well done opening, bolstered by Pratt's excellent comedic chops, and then makes a story by connecting different playsets in some kind of unseen war for their freedom, and finally it pulls a twist on you and reveales there's actually a very human aspect behind all of it. Lego proves that you don't ever really have to grow up, that not everything has to be an "adult thing". The slight twist at the end with the human characters manages to be incredibly endearing, pulling at your heart strings even though the human element is the shortest aspect of the film. This is Toy Story 3 level greatness.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel:

    I'm a huge sucker for Wes Anderson, who's generally regarded as a director for "film snobs", but I don't care because he makes some of the most insanely watchable films of any director out there. I particularly like that this film marks a sort of change in his usual style. There were several choices in presenting the story and characters that I'd not seen in a Wes Anderson film, which is saying a lot considering he has one of the most instantly recognizable and yet almost impossible to reproduce methods of film making out there. He's changing, he's adapting, but at the same time he still remains one of the greatest directors in existence. This movie was so much of a joy I completely forgot about the box of candy I came in with, as I was too engrossed in the film.

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier / X-Men: Days of Future Past / Guardians of the Galaxy:

    I'm combining these into one entry to save space, but GOOD LORD Marvel has had their best year ever. Three films, three slam dunks, basically setting the bar for what superhero films can and should be, and I'm saying this as a massive DC fanboy. Winter Soldier is simply phenomenal and the best of the three, filled with intrigue and suspense and not full of the usual second round, "I have some regrets/reservations," bullplops you usually get with second installments. Days of Future past does what few films manage to do successfully: set up a new generation of actors to continue a franchise, while mending the mistakes of the past and setting things up for an even brighter future. After the travesty that was Kick-Ass 2, I felt Matthew Vaughn could be a tough act to follow, and that Synger would be hard to fill his shoes given how bad Superman Returns was; boy was I wrong. Lastly, Guardians of the Galaxy is simply so much fun to watch. It's rare that I get to see a comic book movie with characters I'd honestly never even heard of, and now I simply want more of them. Damn Marvel for making me wait until 2017, and damn them for having a film soundtrack I can't stop listening to. Come and get your love.

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

    This is basically a modern day Empire Strikes Back. How Fox managed to let the first film get to theaters in as good a shape as it was is beyond me, but how they managed to let it happen again is baffling. The movie doesn't just rehash the first one, and does what it's basically set out to do: establish the world of Planet of the Apes prior to everything completely collapsing for humanity. In a world that's seemingly gone mad with prequels, the Planet of the Apes series seems to at least be doing it right.

  • Gone Girl:

    Simply engrossing from start to finish. The twist in the middle is fun, and watching the rest of the events play out afterwards is a roller coaster of story driven excitement you don't get with many films nowadays. You absolutely hate the antagonist, but you don't want to see them get their comeuppances. Further, it's a brilliant commentary on the 24-hour, social media driven, "Give 'em a narrative," news reporting many Americans have become addicted to. Also, whenever people tell me Ben Affleck can't act, I'll be directing them to this movie from now on as my response to such accusations.

  • John Wick:

    Who knew Keanu Reeves could be in good movies again? He's had a few small successes here and there since The Matrix, but John Wick finally puts him back in the action star element he's truly born to play after more than a decade. The motivations are simple, but the ensuing action and revenge story is one of the slickest you'll ever see. They sow the seeds of a seedy criminal underworld that's just begging to be explored, and I sincerely hope they do with Reeves in tow.

  • Interstellar:

    Not the best of Nolan's films, but still one of the finest cinematic experiences you'll have this year. Practical effects, shooting on location, and actors who actually fit the roles they're given? Who knew the "old ways" were stil the "good ways"? Oh, that's right, Nolan does. The story could have used a bit of work, and the characters could have used a bit more of an emotional connection for the audience, but overall it's simply a spectacle of film making. I've heard some elitists calling Nolan, "The smart man's Michael Bay," but I feel that's too much of a compliment to Michael Bay.

TV Shows

  • Silicon Valley:

    This is The Big Bang Theory if it were actually good. Insanely smart, insanely funny, it's the kind of show that only Mike Judge can truly deliver. I'm glad it's on HBO, a channel that actually likes smart shows, because if this were on any other network the adult humor as well as the level of smart humor would have to be dialed way back, and it's doubtful the show would have received a second season. Making Game of Thrones, a huge nerd show, lead into it was brilliant placement on the part of HBO, who should seriously have a world class comedy on their hands. You'd think a season finale joke in which they actually discuss and build algorithms for the amount of guys they'd have to jerk off, and how efficient they'd have to be, to have a decent showing at a competition would be low brow, but it's so expertly done and is a discussion I can honestly say fellow nerds would engage in that I couldn't help but laugh my ass off the whole time.

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

    Another Daily Show alum gets his own show, and wow, it may actually be better than The Daily Show. Only airing once a week, and the last half is devoted entirely to a single subject, but man oh MAN do John and his writers absolutely rip into whatever they've decided to target that week. The hyporicy of Miss America pageeant scholarships, the absurdity of states derriving revenue from lotteries and gambling, immigration reform in the US, incarceration in the US, the absurdity within the global warming "controversey". Seriously some of the best written comedic news reporting on television. Can he just replace Bill Mahr already?

  • Gotham / The Flash:

    Marvel kills it with the movies, but DC is king when it comes to TV shows, and always has been. Gotham is a great crime drama that works almost too well without the series' biggest character. The Flash is simply everything a comic book TV show should be, as it appeases both fans and casual viewers with slick visuals, engrossing stories, and for the fans there's tons of name drops and allusions to future events, it's hard for me to get through an episode without pulling out my phone to look up something on Wikipedia 10 times.

  • The Leftovers

    Basically this seems to have been a year for HBO. True Blood came to an end, as is Boardwalk Empire, so they needed to spin up some new shows to fill the gaps. The commercials for The Leftovers intrigued me, and as with most HBO shows, 4 episodes in I was hooked. I honestly feel this show could shape up to be better than LOST, as it's full of lots of questions that you really want to know the answers to. Things seemingly happen out of nowhere, and you really get engrossed in the lives of the characters. The late season episode detailing everyone's final 24 hours before the "Sudden Departure" is one of the most gripping things I've seen all year. Seriously, this is another show that you simply have to watch if you haven't already.

1

I must say, this year i missed many film (still in my list). Watched more bouncers then hit but few are still made it in my list :-

Movies:

  1. Haider:

    Vishal Bhardwaj's adaptation of William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', completing his trilogy of Shakespeare's unrelated plays. Its have very little to do with actual play like its predecessor but still good. Depicting Kashmir conflict but from one side of view (little incorrect in depiction) but here i am more concern about quality the accuracy to real events. It made it in my list in no 1, not because being from my own country but by its direction and amazing acting by Shahid Kapoor and Tabu.

  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

    To me its the best entry in Marvel Cinematic Universe till date. Its game changer for the story arc of the chronology and even affected realted Tv series too. I never liked Captain america and black widow before in movie verse till this movie came. Fast paced story with good execution. To me story nd direction was the hero.

  3. The Fault in Our Stars:

    I don't like emotional film much but after watching My Sister's Keeper this is the one which i am not going to forget soon. Emotional angle is rightly captured with bit of comedy by Nat Wolff which was not over at all. Lead couple done the good job.

TV Shows:

After getting disappointed with shows like Dexter last year, I tried to join new shows this year. Left few in middle and few even after 2-3 episode but few which stick to me till end are :-

  1. Gotham:

    Just started it out of curiosity but never expected it to be good without batman and Joker. But Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin was the icing on cake. Lead James Gordon's character even got overshadowed by this tons of character but in the end its a good start. Pilot was full of characters but episode by episode i started liking each character. Fish Mooney's character is good addition to Batman universe and i think she will surely going to come in New 52 someday. Other character are also doing good and i like the setup. Curious to know hat going to happened next.

  2. Constantine:

    Don't call me DC fanboy but another new started show from DC is also great. I like the setting, better then movie. I like his accent and all and use of spells. Its also in mid-season break and need to prove itself but till now its good going.

Note: Hey i know i missed few and Interstellar is intentionally not in my list but can be my Honorable Mention for sure with 2-3 more films.

  • I really wish DC would drop their New 52 marketing. It's been over 3 years since they rebooted (almsot) everything. I'd hardly call it new anymore. Makes it look like they can't come up with any new ideas after 3 years, and it doesn't help that The New 52 alienated a lot of readers, causing some like me to simply stop reading DC for a while. – MattD Dec 30 '14 at 14:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .