Under The Skin is one of the very best films of 2014. Fronted by an amazing central performance from Scarlett Johansson, it's a masterfully shot picture by Daniel Landin, whose cinematography works in tandem with the expressive and stark visual effects. There are some images in this film which will be indelibly etched upon my memory, soldered together with seamless grace by editor Paul Watts, whose opening sequence sets the mood for the film. If Watts sets the mood, while Mica Levi's experimental, avant-garde score maintains it. All of this is presided over by Jonathan Glazer, acting as a sower planting seeds, tending his garden and letting them grow of their own accord into something majestic. This is a dark and rather poignant fairy-tale that moved me, to the point of tears, in fact, and is a thought-provoking and stimulating piece of work.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.2/10
Runner-Up: Nightcrawler - A very close runner-up. Between Jake Gyllenhaal's extraordinary lead role, Dan Gilroy's multi-faceted and textured script, the work of his collaborators, cinematographer Robert Elswit, editor John Gilroy and composer James Newton Howard, Dan Gilroy's confident, assured directorial debut is the most consistent movie of those I've seen from 2014 so far.
(1) Birdman - The best ensemble cast of 2014, especially Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton, marvellously executed one-take concept by Emmanuel Lubezki, and Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, as both writer and director, exemplifies both control and artistic ambition with this Beckett-esque absurd meta-modernist comedy.
(2) The Lego Movie - One of the most deliriously entertaining films of 2014. Phil Lord and Chris Miller have created something truly bizarre, a capitalist movie that is somehow anti-capitalist. The Lego Movie also boasts a barmy soundtrack and score from Mark Mothersbaugh, Animal Logic's animation is a great piece of craftsmanship and there's a fine voice cast on board.
(3) Interstellar - Characterisation and plot is noticeably weak, and in another movie this would have taken away greatly from the overall piece. However, even with flaws, Christopher Nolan's monolith reaches heights with it's ambition and drive that most fail to conceive much less accomplish. Not perfect by any stretch, but a nevertheless remarkable work.
Dishonourable Mention: The Grand Budapest Hotel - It's a decent movie with things to admire, but I feel that given the amount of awards recognition and acclaim it has received, an example must be made out of this. Wes Anderson's picture is stylistically overwhelming, self-indulgent and akin to the crime most normally associated with the acronym GBH. One of the worst nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture to come along for some time (probably since The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button).
Second-Most Deadly Disease: Walk Of Shame - Everyone's been pulling the old "I felt like I made a walk of shame buying a ticket to this movie" quip, but that doesn't reflect my sentiments. Lord knows I like Elizabeth Banks, but this is a terribly unfunny movie based on a stupid premise which basically asks us to buy into the humour of a middle-class Caucasian being terrified of working-class black and hispanic people.
Avoid Like The Plague: The Pyramid - It might from Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, both of whom have made films I like, but this is a movie which, while not truly disastrous, lacks absolutely any passion whatsoever in order for it to end up that way. There's so much potential for a great horror movie to come out of Ancient Egyptian mythology, and instead we get a movie that is along the lines of what Randy in Scream was lampooning, and Scream is near twenty years old! I'd be shocked if anyone could make an argument as to why they liked this film.