Directed by Alex Garland
I’m forever a fan of Oscar Isaac. For me, he remains the best thing about most, if not all of the productions he stars in. The production design of Ex Machina does a stellar job in translating the stark coldness of the film, but I have to admit that the film never elevated beyond it’s sleek, intellectual exterior. For a film to discuss what it means to be human, it feels like a disservice to have Domhnall Gleeson’s protagonist character remain practically one-dimensional for the entirety of the whole film. Ex Machina is essentially the cinematic equivalent of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz: shiny and impressive, but lacking any resemblance of a heart. At least it still has Oscar Isaac.
Directed by David & Nathan Zellner
How do our obsessions define us? If they, at any point, consume our thoughts, are they simply fleeting distractions or opportunities for greater purpose? Kumiko is a beautiful film which doesn’t answer this question, but displays it in full force. Is our heroine misguided, or does she have more direction than everyone else around her? What is worth fighting for, worth sacrificing, worth believing in? Are we more interested in the end result, or simply the adventure of the chase? Do we become obsessed as compensation for something missing inside of us? Fargo – and by association, Kumiko – may not be true stories after all, and they might not have anything really to say, but it’s really about being in that space – in-between the titles and the credits – in which we find the mystery, excitement, joy and tragedy that makes up the fibres of our lives.
Directed by Francis Lawrence
The newest instalment of the Hunger Games brings us probably exactly what we expected, which may or not be a good thing depending on who you are. The film offers great performances, production design and ramps up the stakes, but can’t escape feeling like the film “in-between” the things we really want to see.
Directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
It’s an admirable skill, being able to create tension and drama out of realistic and domestic situations, a craft the Dardenne brothers have continued to perfect with each film. The film doesn’t waste anytime setting up backstory or character: straight-away we’re launched into the dramatic situation of our protagonist (played brilliantly by Marion Cotillard), as she has to find the courage to fight for herself and her family. It’s a film that presents us with real, moral complexities: a film where everybody has something to lose. The Dardenne brothers have created something incredibly broad and complex out of something which would only seem to be a minor detail in the fabric of our lives. I hope they continue to do so.
Directed by Matthew Warcus
I always wonder how screenwriters go about turning a real-life story into a feature film: mostly in the difficulties deciding where to take liberty with the truth in order to strengthen narrative. A relatively by-the-numbers account of a true story, Pride still bolsters a keen eye for period detail, and a strong cast having a great time on screen. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite manage to elevate itself higher than delivering a story that we’ve seen before.
Directed by Richard Linklater
It’s taken me more than a month to properly digest Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s twelve-year project, and I think my mind is relatively clear enough to be as objective as possible with how I felt. But probably not. Because that would void all reason for even writing this in the first place. I watched Boyhood literally an hour after wrapping production of my most recent short film, and soaking in a strange mixture of relief and overwhelming fatigue, I sat in the front row of the sold-out theatre and disappeared for three hours. I became so engrossed in the film in a way that it was actively bringing back memories from my own childhood, at an alarming rate. In watching someone age rapidly in front of your eyes, you can’t help but feel nostalgia for what seemed like years, but was literally only 25 minutes ago. I wanted to stay in parts of Mason’s life, if only to try and hold on to memories of my own past that I felt had slipped away all too quickly. A film that can make you feel time as a tangible property, as something to cherish and despise at the same time, is a film that will remain in history for a very very long time. It’s not perfect, but shit, who even knows what perfect even looks like.
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Bong Joon-ho is one of the most dynamic and intelligent filmmakers currently working today. He just has complete control over cinema as a medium, and is always willing to go just an extra screw looser. Snowpiercer was a brilliant exercise in thrilling filmmaking with equal parts brain and muscle. It’s one of those films that you have no idea where it’ll go next but by god you just can’t wait to find out. The film continued to explore new territory both visually and tonally – and it’s fantastic to see that Bong’s sense of humour hasn’t been lost in his first English-language film. I’m so glad films like this exist.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
We Are The Best! is a wonderful film highlighting the ups and downs of being the person that you might not have expected to become: in other words, yourself. You don’t pick your genetics, you don’t pick who your parents are, and quite often, you don’t pick who your friends are. These things are all products of the inevitable nature of time, and this film looks at how these aren’t necessarily good or bad things: but it’s what you do with it all that really matters. The performances of the child actors were absolutely stellar: I have no idea how the director did it, but he has my utmost respect.
Directed by David Gordon Green
The return of Nicolas Cage is nigh! Joe is traditional storytelling done right. It never tries to be anything bigger than it is: a story about a less-than-perfect-man who becomes a father figure to a less-than-perfect-teenager: but it ticks all the boxes. Nic Cage hasn’t been so empathetic in a long time, and his performance is matched by every supporting character inhabiting his world, aside from the random creep with the scars on his face. But the score and the cinematography were absolutely perfect in helping create the wonderful tone of transparency and lightness of being throughout.
Directed by Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement
It’s hard not to love the work of Taika Waititi. You can tell by his films that his first priority as a filmmaker is to make people laugh. What We Do In the Shadows isn’t quite the cinematic heart-wrencher that Boy was, but it still succeeds in utilising the mockumentary format to great comedic effect. I hope more films like this are made: it has an energy that can only come as a result of friends making films with friends.