2014 Film Review: The Surprises


Bubbling under our Top 50 films of the year we find a group of works that helped shaking our preconceptions off during the last twelve months. Some of them may have set new trends in the current world of cinema; some others took well established authors towards unexpected new directions.

Also surprising was the controversial return of the Biblical epic; queer cinema getting out of his niche and reaching a wider audience; the growing love for Nordic Noir; the return of the mockumentary; gorgeous travelogues; the celebration of an excellent year against all odds for Spanish movies and even a few good blockbusters which managed to defy Hollywood’s lack of interest for original ideas.

And the film surprises of 2014 were:

Alfred Molina, John Lithgow. photo by Jeong Park1- LOVE IS STRANGE (Ira Sachs)
A good example of gay cinema appeal to wider audiences, Ira Sachs' best film to date is a bittersweet reflection on the volatility of life. The story of a same sex couple tying the knot after decades of partnership, which leads to one of them losing their job, and in turn both losing their flat, having to ask friends and relatives for a place to stay. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina gave career best performances and it gets bonus points for bringing Marisa Tomei back to the big screen.

Released with nearly a two year delay, thanks in part to Harvey Weinstein’s stateside experiments with VOD, Wong Kar-Wai’s ambitious, if slightly flawed, Martial arts saga may have felt like a mind blowing puzzle only for the initiated to follow, but the Hong Kong master's habitual care for every craft involved, turned it in one of the most visually arresting cinematic experiences of the year.
What We Do in the Shadows, Sundance Film Festival 20143- WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi)
Witty. Inventive and truly hilarious; One of the most original comedies of the year, crafted by a half of comic duo Flight Of The Conchords with some other Kiwi comedians. This mockumentary about a contemporary vampire household and the troubles they find adapting to modern urban life in Auckland injected some renewed vitality and freshness in the overused and abused Gothic myth.
Despite its cultural industries being strangled by the government's austerity measures, Spanish cinema showed incredible resilience, not just by releasing its biggest box office hit ever with the comedy ‘Ocho Apellidos Vascos’ (Spanish Affair), but by the sheer diversity and quality of small budget films ranging from the social realism of ‘Carmina Y Amen’ to the historical horror metaphor of ‘Shrew’s Nest (Musarañas)’; the moving Basque drama ‘Loreak (Flowers)’ to the icily disturbing ‘Magical Girl’. Congratulations to all and may 2015 be even better!
'71_15- '71 (Yann Demange)

One of the best first features of the year, Yann Demange’s ’71 took us to the heart of the Ulster conflict in an exhilarating, paranoia infused thriller telling the quest for survival of a British soldier sent to the area in pacification mission and left behind in its dangerously hostile streets. It also provided another chance to witness Jack O’Connell growing into one of Today's most promising young stars.
Camille_Claudel_-_0016- CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 (Bruno Dumont)
To date, we have not been the biggest fans of Bruno Dumont's work, some of his films felt too oblique and intellectual on his religious preoccupation for evil presences among us. But this portrait Juliette Binoche crafted of Rodin’s pupil and lover, who ended in a mental institution for her alleged madness, was as daring and thought-provoking as controversial was the filming of real mentally disabled people as her accompanying cast.
TRACKS7- TRACKS (John Curran)

Robyn Davidson’s travelogue about her nine month solo journey crossing the Australian outback by Camel has inspired one of the most visually rewarding cinematic experiences of recent times, as well as another excellent acting showcase by the ever dependable Mia Wasikowska. Despite those charms, it sadly failed to get the recognition it deserved.
INORDEROF_The_Prize_idiot_plowman_photo_Paradox_Philip_リgaard8- IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (Hans Petter Moland)
Our growing fascination for anything ‘Scandinoir’ took a refreshingly comic turn in this deadpan thriller where the father of a mistakenly killed guy embarks on a mission to revenge his son, generating a deadly domino effect all the way to the upper echelons of Norway’s drug crime. Stellan Skarsgård led a cast full of popular European faces in an original film that also failed to find the audience it surely deserved.
unknown9- NOAH (Darren Aronofsky)

Darren Aronofsky’s brave take on the Biblical story of Noah’s ark, raised the red alert for intolerance when attacked by different religious groups who considered the holiness of the story was compromised, perhaps due to its visual depiction of the monsters and creatures mentioned being no different from those in any current fantasy movie. A fine cast and spectacular effects help Noah navigating the obstacles on his way to become a global success.
TRC0010_marketing_v002.107310-A FEW GOOD BLOCKBUSTERS
During a blockbuster season where sequels and reboots tested the patience of even the most dedicated fan, a few originals stood up from the largely disappointed crowd. The king among then, Marvel’s latest adaptation , the imaginative and cheekily funny ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’; the second part in the prequel trilogy of The Planet of the Apes was every bit as awe inspiring as its first installment, and not as successful, yet one of the few original ideas that managed to impress critics and audiences was Tom Cruise's Groundhog day meets Alien ‘Edge of Tomorrow’.