Best films of 2014: Haiku reviews

So here we go again. Will I never learn? As I did last year and the year before, here are my top films of the year in Haiku form. So, traditionally, that’s three lines. First with five syllables, then seven, then five. If you were convincing a studio to make your film, think of this as your elevator pitch.

It’s worth noting that, due to the tricky nature of these little things, they can occasionally head into spoiler territory.

Nightcrawler-Jake-Gyllenhaal-850x560Nightcrawler
An entrepreneur
with delusional issues
and a camcorder

The Wolf of Wall Street
After Wall Street crash
One guy rises to the top
Then loses it all

LIBRARY IMAGE OF GONE GIRLGone Girl
Amazing Amy
Frames her husband for murder
Gets away with it

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guy with a Walkman
Forms team of wacky heroes
to protect an orb

Herbensch
An oddball loner
Gets feelings for computer
She evolves, leaves him

Pride
Gays support miners
And build unlikely friendships
During strikes, AIDS, riotsTHE GUEST

The Imitation Game
Allies losing war
Turing cracks enigma code
Is gay and suffers

The Guest
Grieving family
welcome handsome stranger infilmz.ru
who then goes crazy

Interstellar
Earth almost ruined
Wormhole last chance to survive
Space and time confuse

Dallas Buyers Club
A cowboy gets AIDs
Sells drugs to fellow patients
A heartbreaking tale

Top 10 films of 2014

It’s starting to feel like these lists come round unsettlingly fast. Too darn often for my liking. However, it’s been a good year for those that love cinema. Some great stuff has hit the silver (or, increasingly, digital) screen over the last twelve months. Here’s my pick, from my top ten (you have to be ruthless) to ones on my ‘to watch’ list.

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THE TOP TEN
1. Nightcrawler
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Gone Girl
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Her
6. Pride
7. The Imitation Game
8. The Guest
9. Interstellar
10. Dallas Buyers Club

MY ‘TO WATCH’ LIST
Maps To The Stars
Two Faces of January
Chef
Cold In July
The Babadook
How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Raid 2
Starred Up
Only Lovers Left Alive
22 Jump Street
’71
Locke
12 Years a Slave
Under The Skin
Calvary
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
What We Do In The Shadows

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So there we have it.

What’s your favourite film of the year? And what’s on your ‘to watch’ list?

On my mind… Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy is the Godfather. Of what, I’m not sure. He probably is someone’s godfather thinking about it. Maybe he’s the Godfather of rather dry, distinctly witty and faintly amusing supporting roles in British comedies?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Salting the Battlefield

As some of you may or may not know, William Francis Nighy is one cool cat. And in the last few years or so he’s got even more Bill Nighy-like. Concentrated Nighy you might say. It’s always a delight when he pops up on screen, seemingly playing the same role no matter the film. Maybe he just plays himself? Maybe that’s his charm?

Whatever… his appeal is there, however elusive. And to pay our respects (I know he’s not dead, but we can still pay our respects) here’s my selection of his best performances.

Cameron Foster – State of Play (2003)
Brilliant writing with a great cast which included John Simm and James McAvoy, this TV miniseries introduced a lot of people to his work and probably launched him onto the A-list.

Billy Mack – Love Actually (2003)
With such a big cast in this film each was left with little screen time, Nighy made his count with some tender scenes as an aging rocker in this Richard Curtis love-in.

Philip – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It’s often hard to describe his style as an actor. So understated, almost like he’s barely doing anything – as demonstrated opposite Simon Pegg in this modern zom-com classic.

Davy Jones – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
No matter the actor, they all love a chance to play dress up and get big and silly. And if you’re going to be in a Pirates movie, go large. Nighy obliged bringing Davy Jones to life with aplomb.

Quentin – The Boat That Rocked (2009)
The sauve leader of a group of pirate radio DJs at sea, Nighy’s role is not a big one in this film, but he managed to steal all his scenes with a raised eyebrow or a twitch of a smile.

Dad – About Time (2013)
Apparently this film about family, friendship and making the most out of life was a wake-up call for Nighy. Whatever it was, it was another great collaboration with Richard Curtis.

Cliff – Pride (2014)
Playing a Welsh miner protesting the strikes in the ’80s, Nighy gave one of the most restrained performances in years and, in some ways, all the better for it. More of this please.

PRIDE

Pride: a heart-warming tale of pits and perverts

There’s a scene in Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise’s Jerry accuses Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Rod Tidwell of having no heart. He responds angrily with, ‘No heart? I’m all heart motherfucker!’ That’s what you get with Pride. It’s all heart. And it very much wears it on its big gay sleeve.

bensch

Although saying that, it’s not as flamboyant as you might think. In fact, given the ’80s working class setting and the fact that it’s split between London and a quiet mining town in Wales, there’s a very down-to-earth, British style humour on display and inevitable comparisons will be drawn with films like The Full Monty and Brassed Off. Also perhaps with films such as Cemetery Junction, as it’s half told as a coming-of-age tale from one of the younger character’s point of view.

The film starts with the group’s leader, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) watching police clash with miners in Wales on TV. Behind him what looks to be a one-night stand says he’ll leave his number and he’d like to see him again. Mark ignores him, completely focused on the TV as an idea forms. From the off, this tells us a lot about him as a leader, he’s thoroughly committed to the cause.

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His idea: his gay friends (and one lesbian, at least initially) should support the miners. In them he sees a group of kindred spirits. They’re being bullied and harassed in the same way the gay community has for years. And so he gets buy-in from his gang, L.G.S.M. (Lesbians and Gays Support Miners) is born and they head to Wales to support their new comrades.

Throwing together an exuberant bunch of gays and a rough and ready group of Welsh miners, you could go either way. Happily director Matthew Warchus (who’s recently succeeded Kevin Spacey as creative director at the Old Vic) opts for comedy over drama for the most part, but finds time for dramatic moments throughout. As a result these scenes stand out and give the film real depth and humanity.

Pride-Photo-Film-2014-2

When was the last time you heard the audience applaud at the end of a film?

It happened at the screening I attended. Ok, it was the Hackney Picturehouse, so you’re already playing to a fairly diverse bunch, but the point stands – this film makes you feel good. A lot is down to the characters. They’re interesting. You care about their plight and want to spend time in their presence.

Whether that’s quiet old-timer Cliff, fighting police on the picket lines (a dialled down Bill Nighy and all the more brilliant for it), flamboyant actor Jonathan (Dominic West on excellent form) disco dancing with the town’s ladies, or his quieter, more reflective partner Gethin (Andrew Scott), a local lad returning to Wales for the first time in years after being persecuted growing up – they’ve all got a fascinating story to tell and – thanks to Warchus’ direction – each make great use of the scenes they have.

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There’s a few scenes here and there which you feel Warchus cut short for the sake of keeping the story tight and focused. Probably more backstory and great character moments, but perhaps not needed if you’re being strict.

Overall the film’s message is clear and consistent throughout. It’s about sticking together, solidarity and friendship, particularly from places that you least expect when you need support the most. Oh, and (slight spoiler) you get to hear a little Welsh lady say ‘Where are my lesbians?’, which has to be worth your ticket price alone surely?