Numbers 20 – 11 is where the first of my five star films emerges but before that point there are 8 other films from an Indie darling about self reliance, a film about a passionate lesbian love affair as well as the story of an elderly man not ready to give up his passion just yet. All in all it’s an odd bunch but full of films well worth your time. So here they are, numbers 20 – 11.
20. Blue Is The Warmest Colour – Most of the press surrounding Blue is The Warmest Colour is about the explicit sex scenes in the film and while they are graphic and overly extended, there the worst part of this wonderfully moving French film. Starring Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos as lovers Emma and Adele, this almost three hour epic follows the relationship between these two and the ever changing nature of love, sexuality and life. Exarchopoulos is a revelation and Seydoux is more than capable but the films graphic moments do have a tendency to disconnect you from the story. Ultimately though the film paints a very real portrait and its hard not to get wrapped up in it.
19. The First Time – Never released in cinemas, The First Time is the latest romantic comedy by In The Land of Women director Jon Kasdan and much like his directorial debut, The First Time is not what you might expect. The film follows Aubrey (Britt Robertson) and Dave (Dylan O’Brien) over a weekend as Dave approaches graduation and Aubrey continues down the same path. Kasdan writes two wonderfully original characters and ensures audiences will enjoy being around them. They are remarkably verbose for teenagers but their very personal struggles still flow through their psychobabble. Kasdan has proved himself a man who understands character and The First Time is full of it.
18. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller’s most personal film in years, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, while a remake of a 1940s film, is a vivid tale of life and adventure and how sometimes life is the adventure. The film follows Walter (Stiller) as he heads on an adventure to change his life, brought about by the very real possibility he might lose his job. Co-starring Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn, Stiller’s latest is a bold, bright and beautiful creation with some amazing visuals, a relatable tale and a lead who understands the nuances in the tale. Penn provides an interesting cameo on Walter’s journey but mostly this is Stiller’s show and he doesn’t let you down.
17. The Kings of Summer – This little seen American indie feature may be an odd choice, especially this high on a list of best films of the year but at its heart, The Kings of Summer is about doing the unexpected, making it on your own with your own decisions and the film is so lovingly crafted I fell for it hook line and sinker. The story follows Joe (Nick Robertson) who leaves home and lives in the woods with his friends for the summer, much to the chagrin of his father Frank (Nick Offerman). Weaving a tale of self control and growing up, Robertson manages to make his whimsical experiment seem epic, an adventure for the ages as he gives Joe a sense of purpose. Not only that but the film’s comic timing is excellent and with some excellent cameos by Megan Mullally and Mary Lynn Rajskub and a career high supporting role in Offerman. The whole film is full of laughs right from the beginning and the transition from comedy to drama is handled naturally making for a surprisingly effective little drama.
16. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – This documentary film follows Jiro Ono, the owner of a small Sushi restaurant in the Tokyo subway. The film shows his little operation and how chefs and critics all over the world have come to praise Jiro. It’s a film of marvels really, a tale of complete devotion to a job/ability that takes genuine talent and plenty of hard work. Jiro’s life is his food, his contribution to the world is how he changed and adapted the way Sushi is made and flavoured. The film treats the food as another one of the films many characters and shows a whole new side of the specialty. However Jiro Dreams of Sushi most of all is a tale of family, commitment and underestimating the people around you. By the end its easy to understand why Jiro’s restaurant is a 5 star restaurant but if you peek behind the curtain once more you may realise that Jiro isn’t really the hero of this piece.
15. Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino’s over the top western is equal parts outlandish and playful. The cast of Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio and others is outstanding as they enjoy the lengthy monologues and epic conversations conceived by Tarantino in his lifelike scripts. While his many eccentricities flood out in his direction, his script is a thing of beauty, filled with wondrous moments of extreme violence and softer, subtler moments that blow you away in other ways. However without Waltz and Dicaprio, Django would be a very different film and I for one am grateful for these two talented actors.
14. The Impossible – Directed by The Orphanage’s Juan Antonio Bayona, The Impossible is a thing of beauty and horror, each displayed in the same shot throughout a gut wrenching film of disaster and recovery. Following a family of five that visited Thailand just in time for the Boxing Day tsunami, this true story follows their quest to reconnect with each other in a country they know little about. Featuring one of Naomi Watts’ best performances, The Impossible is an acting and directing triumph, its emotionally gripping tale really feels harrowing, tense and destructive because of some skilled direction. The script on the other hand is another matter with some truly awful, clunky dialogue. However the film is remarkably dialogue light making it almost a non issue as you get consumed by the wave that takes this family on a devastating journey.
13. Saving Mr Banks – This Disney released film about the often contentious relationship between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and PL Travers (Emma Thompson), the writer of the Mary Poppins series, is a soft and jolly little film that is much more than a simple biopic, its a tale of fathers and their children and the ways we can hate and love something at the same time, even if we don’t realise we are doing it. Thompson brings out the best in Travers, a introverted yet outspoken woman and Hanks has a good handle on the duality of Disney, the fun entertainer and the risk taking businessman. However the best parts are the ones where the two play off each other and the film really comes into its own in the final moments as Director John Lee Hancock brings together his tale of fathers to a crescendo of disappointment and release in a way that doesn’t forgive the actions of these two troubled personalities but it does justify them.
12. All is Lost – All is Lost is an almost dialogue free film with only one character, a minimalist score and very little in terms of special effects or action. However it is a brilliant feature as it follows the life of a sailor (Robert Redford) on a solo sailing voyage who finds himself in a no win situation when his boat is hit by a floating shipping container, leaving him taking on water in the middle of the ocean. Redford keeps you interested as adds credence to this man’s often futile attempts at finding safe harbour and rescue. Directed by J. C Chandor, the same man behind 2011’s Margin Call, its surprising to hear little to any spoken words and still be as connected to the people on screen. Much like Upstream Color, All is Lost builds a feeling of loss that permeates every aspect of the film making All is Lost a depressing but inspirational picture.
11. Philomena – Judi Dench hasn’t won an Oscar since her supporting role in Shakespeare in Love but Philomena should put her back in the race as Philomena Lee, a real life Irish woman who went on a journey across the pond to find her long lost son with reporter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). Co-written by Coogan and directed by Stephen Frears, Philomena is the story of everlasting faith, be it in god or science, every version of belief is shown in this picture and Coogan has crafted a story that doesn’t pass judgement, it merely presents the facts and shows the power of a simple story. Coogan is impressive as Sixsmith but Dench makes Philomena the films touchstone, a character of constant guilt and regret whose devotion to her faith is impressive and memorable.
Now that we’re close to the top 10, what do you think deserves to be in it? Do any of the films on this list deserve to be higher or lower? Let me know in the comments below.