I'm done arguing with the quibblers on this one - at this point, you're either with us or against us. Ambition is something I generally respect in filmmakers regardless of the outcome, but to reach as far as this film does and then actually live up to that ambition is truly one of the great feats of modern cinema.
That a film so earnestly open-hearted, forward-looking and conceptually bold also resonates so deeply on an emotional level is nothing short of remarkable. Interstellar is also totally kick-ass in a visceral sense, and twelve kinds of awesome as a space thriller. My mouth was pretty much agape in stunned awe for all of this. Agape! Christopher Nolan should take a bow - epic cinema is never going to be the same again.
2. It Follows
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this American indie creep fest since I caught it at this year's Auckland International Film Festival. Smaller horror efforts tend not to get cinematically released in this country, so I'm seizing this opportunity to put it on a Best Of list. Fusing the mundane with the dreamlike in a manner that recalls David Lynch and early John Carpenter, the deliciously unnerving film is as confident a vision of horror as I have ever experienced.
It Follows has received a decent amount of festival love over the last year, but its chances of breaking out at the box office will likely be defined by its reception at January's Sundance Film Festival.
Spike Jonze re-asserted himself as one of the major American auteurs with this penetrating love story surrounded by a uniquely mellow vision of the future. Concerning itself with ideas that would've undoubtedly become insufferably coy in anyone else's hands, Her's metaphorical simplicity (man loves computer) gives way to a whole universe of hard-fought emotional resonance.
4. Gone Girl
Even though I was resigned to not enjoying this film as much as I could've if I hadn't read the book, I still found Gone Girl a hugely entertaining watch. The slowly dawning shock of the ending is arguably more impactful on the big screen, where the break with convention is that much more jarring. This is David Fincher doing what he does best - revealing the dark heart inside all of us.
2014 was a year of unprecedented awesomeness in Kiwi cinema, and in my eyes, Housebound stood taller than all the other local triumphs - it was the only one that didn't rest on its New Zealandness, yet remained New Zealand-y to the core. The razor-sharp genre filmmaking acumen displayed by writer/director Gerard Johnstone bodes very well for the future. Still the most exciting Kiwi movie in decades.
The effortless artistry of Richard Linklater reached some sort of apex with this ambitious masterwork, which feels like all his best movies rolled into one, yet is also absolutely its own thing.
7. Big Hero 6
I'd been waiting more than 10 years for a movie to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Brad Bird's The Incredibles. I wait no longer.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel Studios solidified their status as modern cinema's finest purveyors of quality popcorn with this ridiculously entertaining space romp that shamed mainstream studio filmmaking with its casual awesomeness.
Down and dirty and unafraid to follow-through on its questionable intentions, Tony Gilroy's dark character study harkens back to the halcyon days of auteur studio filmmaking - the early 1970s - and bears the comparison.
10. Edge of Tomorrow
A decent argument for the both the endless possibilities of sci-fi action cinema and Tom Cruise's willingness to play off his usual archetype, this was one of the most surprisingly kick-ass films of the year. Pity about the crummy title.
Just for good measure, here are my next 10 faves:
11. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Sweet sweet symmetry!)
12. What We Do In The Shadows (Instant comedy classic!)
13. The Deadlands (Finally! A credible New Zealand action movie!)
14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (You will believe an ape can emote!)
15. Obvious Child (In cinemas this week!)
16. Let's Be Cops (Don't believe the haters! It rules!)
17. Godzilla (More Godzilla in the sequel though please!)
18. The Raid 2 (A bone-crunching delight!)
19. The Lego Movie (Everything really is awesome!)
20. The Two Faces of January (This 1960s-set thriller based on a Patricia Highsmith novel is a must for fans of The Talented Mr Ripley)
* How much do you disagree with the above, if at all? Comment below!