As the year comes to an end, movie buffs every year are tempted to come out with their different best movie lists and we are no different. Every year we publish a couple of such posts written by individual authors which talk about some of the best films from India and globally, leading to several intense and passionate debates, discussions and arguments among fellow movie buffs.
But this year we decided to do something different. We asked some of our authors to individually list down English films they enjoyed watching this year.
While Boyhood and Gone Girl seem to be the universal favourites with Nightcrawler coming a close second, there are quite a few interesting recommendations by our authors that deserve to be seen by all and warrant a debate.
So which are the English films our authors enjoyed watching this year the most? Scroll down to know more.
Who knew a super hero movie could be such fun? Irreverent and not once taking itself seriously, this was a delight, both in terms of story-telling and the visuals. It also was one of the best Imax experiences this year. Taking us back to the 80’s school of sci-fi, the film, especially the character of Groot, was a hoot.
I am a sucker for horror films and this year nothing came close to this wonderful piece in spooking the day lights out of me. Two time periods seamlessly blended in confusing the mind and playing games with your sense of reality. The innovative screenplay managed to elevate an otherwise tepid story to a new plane altogether.
In one of the few good moments of “Happy Ending” directed by Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru, Govinda’s character tells Saif’s character “300 rupaye mein logo ko jeena mat sikha” [In just 300 rupees, don’t teach someone the lesson of Life]. Richard Linklater of the much loved “Before Trilogy” had no such qualms as he makes a life-altering film in his 12 year magnum opus “Boyhood”. Linklater chronicles the lives of the members of a broken family comprising of divorced parents and a brother-sister duo. The master-stroke is that you actually see the characters transform over the period of the dozen years – with the focal point being Mason Jr (played sublimely by Ellar Coltrane) as he grows from a 5 year old kid to an 18 year old adult. Here’s life in its banal splendour, which can be a bit tedious in the beginning, but it slowly gets into your system, and by the time the movie is done, you’re a changed person. The strife of the family to stay connected, the monetary issues bugging the spendthrift American middle-class, Mason’s introverted demeanour and searching for his own truth, and the eventual realization of moving on with life – everything makes a strong impact and lingers on days after the movie is over. Among the abundant wonderful scenes, I remember the one in which the mother (portrayed exquisitely by Patricia Arquette) grieves that her life has been simplified into a series of milestones with the latest one being her son’s departure to college, and the next one being possibly her own funeral. I remembered my parents’ grief when I left home to settle in Bombay, and I wept profusely. For a film lasting beyond 2 hour 40 minutes, it still made me curious to watch and witness Mason’s life unfold further.
Nothing I watched this year can beat Boyhood, but this independent film featuring the highly underrated Jake Gyllenhaal, had me sitting on the edge of my seat for the last thirty minutes of its running time. An amoral news videographer finds himself lured into the world of crime journalism, and soon starts staging crimes to get more eyeballs. In his career best performance, Gyllenhall physically transforms himself into a lanky man with protruding cheek-bones and a ghostly smile, and plays his Louis Bloom with such impassivity that you start guessing his intentions and fear whether what you see is really true or all contrived. There may have been better films than this, but Gyllenhaal’s re-invention of himself in a film not backed by a studio and the sheer audacity of producing it himself just won my heart. This should be a big lesson for our stars and their increasing proclivity to make banal films, who are jumping on the make-a-south-movie-remake bandwagon, purely for monetary purpose.
It is not the best film of the year, not even close, and I was in a dilemma of choosing among Gone Girl, Interstellar and this. But I chose The Theory of Everything primarily because of its heart rending honesty and Eddie Redmayne’s extraordinary performance as the disabled genius Stephen Hawking, which would surely get him an Oscar nomination. For a relative newcomer, it can be very intimidating to accept the challenge of not only portraying a man revered globally but also presenting his disability with such disarming conviction. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones give us Stephen and Jane Hawking, as we try to fathom the unthinkable tribulation they go through as a couple – his relegation from a fit teenager to a paraplegic and her continued patience in dealing with his shortcomings. It is not about how Hawking came up with his theory on singularity, briefly so at most, but it is about the personal life crisis of a man who was predicted to live for only two years but went on to survive decades relying on the science that he loved, and blessed by the God he refused to accept.
The best big film of the year for me, D.O.T.P.O.A is a spellbinding exercise in craftsmanship by director Matt Reeves. Most of such movies are not supposed to boast of a good story or a slickly different script, but this one is doled out with a lot more effort, where even the humans and their interests take a backseat, it is the characterization of the apes that stays with you. Andy Serkis spins a genius with Caesar, the main ape, and the film finds it easy to even surpass its 2011 prequel, which was pretty spiffy in itself. DOTPOA engages and enthralls you in a rare way, much unlike the films of its genre.
A Normal Heart
Mark Ruffalo is a God-level actor and one has to watch Ryan Murphy’s television drama film to agree with me. The film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City (among gay people) between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, played by Ruffalo. The film spans a long real time but neatly ties around all expects of the struggle, both external and internal within the community. A hard-hitting film, A Normal Heart is equally beautifully told and impacts you on various levels of filmmaking.
One would wish that this made it to theaters.
What does one say about Christopher Nolan? How much so ever you may criticize or find faults in his way of writing and making films, Interstellar is something out of this world, and I cannot imagine any other filmmaker being able to attempt such a feat and execute it half as decently. He gives you frames to drool over, he gives you moments to moisten over and he shows you a fantasy that awes you. But then, he does not cheat you to give you shock instead of a script, instead, he weaves emotion so deep into his narrative that while you are amazed, you also empathize. A rare gem, Interstellar is definitely Nolan’s best since The Dark Knight.
When a film has the Wes Anderson tag on top of it, you know you are in for a treat. This is, as every one noticed, a pastry movie, yet, it is a commentary on history, a satire of world war, a murder mystery, and, like every Wes Anderson movie, a beautiful puppet show telling a story of sadness through joy and love and care, and loads of color and flavor. This is also a movie with the best production design this year, a great, grand ensemble feat. (my favorite) Ralph Fiennes, a host of Anderson Regulars, and a great, great original background score by Alexandre Desplat. Lovely!
This could be a bit of a strange entry in this list, but I want to talk about the best big film this year. While many could slide on to Captain America: Winter Soldier, some (like me, otherwise) would say Guardians of the Galaxy, or the easy choice would be Chris Nolan’s Interstellar (the big movie that makes us think), I’d rather choose Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla amongst all of the movies listed here, cause I think this is the movie that doesn’t try to do anything rather than be a delightfully good monster movie by keeping the principal monster behind the stage, and lifting the curtain from it only when the stakes are high enough. This is, before anything else, a damn solid thriller building mood and tension before blowing all the trumpets. Awesome!
I love films drenched in mystery. And I love David Fincher. This guy gets relentless when he sees characters twisted and bizarre, and unleashes his crispy craftsmanship on a material that almost pulled the carpet below my feet. This film got nastier as it progressed, and ended on an all time high. Not a masterpiece, though, but this is the material, coming from screenwriter Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the source novel of the same name) gives us a really nasty thriller; unveiling disturbingly violent realities concealed in such a terrific performances by a Rosamund Pike, that every time you see her on screen, you just can’t look away from the screen, without feeling your insides colliding, falling apart. Delicious!
I don’t watch a whole lot of documentaries, though few of them catch my attention. A film based on my beloved film critic, a teacher (or, like Werner Herzog would say, a soldier of cinema) who pointed me to great cinema, probably the best of cinema, needed a viewing, and I feel it is essential viewing for all of us. The kindness Roger Ebert bestowed upon young film makers, and us film lovers world-wide, through his reviews, made me feel like saluting and paying tribute to an almost professor on films, who passed into the ages last year, by watching him through his last days, and the days he lived as a young journalist. This love letter of a movie gives us a lot more about life itself to us, through the man telling us about the movies we watch, and how we do that. Good-bye, sir. We miss you every day.
Revenge films usually let the audience root for the protagonist as they set out to exact their revenge by all possible means. Blue Ruin is a revenge fare which talks about the futility of the same and how the emotion of taking revenge blinds our rationality and makes us indifferent to all kinds of emotions. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Blue Ruin is one of the best Independent films of this year with a brilliant performance by Macon Blair. It also reaffirms your faith in the power of Independent cinema and certainly make us yearn for more of such films.
Much hue and cry was raised when a movie adaptation based on the Lego Toys was announced. But this wonderful movie put all those doubts to rest. Staying true to the world of Lego Toys , each and everything in the movie was wonderfully recreated as it would be in the Lego universe, including our favourite characters such as Batman, Superman and Gandalf. Without doubt, this was the most enjoyable viewing experience I had this year at the cinemas. With an equally entertaining 22 Jump Street, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 and The Lego Movie, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller proved that they are indeed a name to reckon with their films that are very much mainstream yet are entertaining and boast of their distinct style.
Every year we come across a movie that springs out of nowhere and surprises us pleasantly. This year it was the film Cold In July. Cold In July which starts out as s standard revenge fare is a terrific dark thriller replete with unexpected double crosses, shocking twists and many other surprises in store. Featuring terrific performances by Michael C Hall (best known for his titular role in Dexter) and Don Johnson (best known for his roles in Django Unchained and Machete), this gem of an Indie film is one you shouldn’t miss and it also has made curious to dig out other films of director Jim Mickle.
Veteran English filmmaker Ken Loach’s latest film Jimmy’s Hall talks about the life and times of Jimmy Gralton, a 1930s Irish political activist. Jimmy and his friends re-open a dance hall which also acts as a community centre for the youth. Unfortunately the establishment and the Church see the hall & Jimmy Gralton as an Anti National communist and thus it becomes difficult for both Jimmy and the hall to survive. A true life story, the film virtually transports us to Ireland in the 1930’s as we see a plethora of fine performances, lovely visuals and strong moments in the film. Despite such a serious theme the proceedings never get grim and that speaks volumes about how interesting the film is. In many ways the tale is still relevant in many parts of the World including India, watch the film and you will hopefully understand the point I am trying to make.
Yann Demange’s film is set in Ireland of 1971 and focuses on a young British soldier who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.This is quite an engaging action-thriller with a realistic edge thanks to the premise, the characters and the art direction. It takes some time to get hooked but then once you are hooked its a thrilling ride all the way as we end up eager to be seeing which way the tale progresses.We are literally transported to Belfast in 1971 in the midst of the film and that’s a victory for the director who has made a smooth transition from T.V to Cinema.
Written,produced and directed by Jon Favreau,the film even has him in the main lead but believe me he couldn’t have picked a better actor to do the lead honours. Considering the film has a stellar supporting cast which includes names like Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr, and you’ll probably understand what I’m saying. Favreau plays a professional chef Carl Casper who, after a public altercation with a food critic, quits his job at a popular L.A restaurant and returns to his home town of Miami to fix up a food truck. In the process he reconnects with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and invites their young son to join him in driving the truck back to L.A. while selling Cubanos in various cities along the way.Funny yet intelligent, the film is a feast for food lovers and also for those who are not. Chef is also a wonderful example of getting a rundown of how social media tools are interlinked to our daily lives now, as the film demonstrates use of some of these tools in great fashion. Not surprisingly Chef has gone on to be a big hit both with critics and audiences Worldwide.
What’s so special about a sci-fi futuristic film featuring Tom Cruise in the lead, as he’s done quite a few of these of late, you might ask. Well Doug Liman’s film based on a Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka is probably one of the best ever films in this space, period. The film takes place in a future where Earth is invaded by an alien race. Major William Cage (Cruise), an army P.R.O inexperienced in combat, is forced by his superiors to join a landing operation against the aliens. Though Cage is killed in combat, he finds himself in a time loop that sends him back to the day preceding the battle every time he dies. Cage teams up with Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to improve his fighting skills through the repeated days, seeking a way to defeat the extraterrestrial invaders.Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt share great chemistry, the time loop sequences work wonderfully and the action is just what we’d love to watch. If its a big studio film then this is the kind of output which would make me happy any day.
John Carney who shot to fame with the now celebrated indie film Once (2007), comes back with another film which in many ways is a follow up act of sorts. From Dublin to New York and from having musicians (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) play the lead to A list Hollywood stars like Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, the setting is definitely grander with Begin Again. But never once do you feel that in the process of doing a Hollywood film has John Carney compromised in the bargain in any manner. Begin Again is a film high on music and talks about 2 contrasting individuals, Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) a music producer whose days of glory are long gone, while Gretta James (Keira Knightley) a song writer who’s just had a breakup with her singer boyfriend and music collaborator. Dan and Gretta come together to work and in the process both of them undergo a change themselves. Begin Again for me is what I call an ideal film for any season. Not seen it yet?What are you waiting for?
Based on a true story the film is set in 1984 in Britain during the famous miners strike. A motley group of LGBT activists decided to raise funds for the miners and show their support for them. But with the National Union of Mineworkers being reluctant to accept the supportt, the group joins hands with miners of a small Welsh village Onllwyn,setting up the base for what would become popular as the “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners Campaign”. The writer-director combination of Stephen Beresford and Matthew Warchus create magic by bringing this terrific plot on screen in such a fashion which enlightens us and also entertains us in a unique way. This is definitely one of the best films to be made against the LGBT background so far.