Evangelism

The Half Dozen: 6 Most Interesting Looking Trailers For April 2015

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April’s here, and thankfully the first of the month has been and gone without me falling for too many April Fool jokes. I would like to say I didn’t fall for any, but I am sweet and naive and I cannot tell a lie. That said, if anyone does want to assemble a fake trailer for something for next year, it would be greatly appreciated, as I need anything I can to hook me into the barrage of trailers I’m faced with every month.

I do try to watch as many trailers as possible, but with 65 films scheduled for release in UK cinemas in some form this month and 64 less Movie Evangelists to watch all those trailers, some pruning has to take place before I even fire up the YouTube. This month I took in a total of 28 trailers, and in each one I’m looking for the hook, that indefinable quality which will keep the trailer in my mind once I’ve watched so many that I’m struggling to remember my own name.

So this month, I present my half dozen trailers (plus a buy one, get one free special) with what made the film stand out before I watched the trailer, and then the hook which helped this make the list once I’d seen the respective promo. Not a fast (and furious) car, an Action Keanu or a horde of Avengers in sight, but I’m sure they’ll all be good too.

The Indian-Produced Mexican Film: Broken Horses

Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director of India’s biggest ever box office sensation 3 Idiots as well as a number of critically acclaimed Hindi films, has turned his hand to something completely different, a Western set on the Mexican-US border. Most of the promotional material online is from the Indian wing of Fox’s distribution, and it’s taken some unexpected angles.

You had me at: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. James Cameron. But of course.

Broken Horses is on limited release from Friday 10th April.

The Not Quite Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominee: Force Majeure

The Oscars are a curious beast, and few awards are more curious than Best Foreign Language Film. Putting aside the fact that four of this year’s nominees that I’ve seen (Ida, Leviathan, Wild Tales, Timbuktu) are a country mile better than half of the actual Best Picture nominations (The Imitation Game, American Sniper, Birdman, The Theory Of Everything), you have to jump through a remarkable number of hoops even to get into the top five.

First, each country must choose one and only film and submit it, leaving the likes of Goodbye To Language and We Are The Best! falling short. The 83 films submitted then get reviewed by a committee who narrow it down to nine, and who this year ruled out Two Days, One Night, Mommy, Winter Sleep and Norte, The End Of History. (Funnily enough, they’re all better than the four Best Pictures nominees I listed as well.) And then, for reasons best known to themselves, they publish the list of nine a week before the full nominations before then cutting it down to five a week later. This year Corn Island, Accused, The Liberator and Force Majeure were the four to face last minute heartbreak.

I dream of a day when awards ceremonies just give prizes to the best films, rather than performing their current bizarre language segregation, but I also know it’s just a dream.

You had me at: Avalanche!

Force Majeure will be in art house cinemas and online at Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 10th April.

The Danish Western Set In Patagonia: Jauja

It’s got Viggo Mortensen and a brief synopsis which reads: “A father and daughter journey from Denmark to an unknown desert that exists in a realm beyond the confines of civilization.” If you’re not sold on that, maybe we shouldn’t be friends any more. No, wait, come back, only kidding! Of course we can watch Transformers again. (Sigh.)

You had me at: You’ve rounded the corners! Just like an old-timey photograph. Crazy.

Jauja is on limited release from Friday 10th April. 

Buy One, Get One Free Special On Danish Westerns: The Salvation

Quite often I’ll make a snap judgement on whether or not a film’s worth a watch based on the quality of its cast. Aside from the Casino Royale reunion of Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green you’ve also got Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce and the bloke who was Beorn in The Hobbit. That would do me even before…

You had me at: Eric Cantona. I know he’s been in films before, and I’m a Liverpool supporter so shouldn’t like him, but come on, he gets his name in the credits!

The Salvation is on limited release from Friday 17th April.

The Ryan Gosling Film You Wondered If You’d Ever See In A Cinema: Lost River

Another amazing cast list (Saiorse Ronan, Ben Mendelsohn, Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, the geeky bloke from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.), but the big name here was always going to be the director. Sadly Ryan Gosling’s behind-the-camera debut has picked up poor to middling reviews, but most of them claim it to be at least an interesting failure.

You had me at: So that’s what you were keeping under the fez, Doctor. (Yes, I will watch anything with a former Doctor Who in it, what of it?)

Lost River is on limited release from Friday 10th April.

The Thickest Accent In The World Competition: Child 44

Oh, so it’s who’s got the best cast time, is it? Well, I see your Mads Mikkelsen and your Saoirse Ronan and I raise you Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Charles Dance, Vincent Cassel, Jason Clarke, Tara Fitzgerald and Paddy Considine! I believe that’s a full house.

You had me at: The last time I think I heard Russian accents that thick was probably in Muppets Most Wanted.

Child 44 is on general release from Friday 17th April.

In Any Other Month This Would Seem Strange: A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence

If you want me to be all “ooh, Iron Man fighting the Hulk, and lots of other giant fighty robots”, then you’ve come to the wrong place. This trilogy capper from the man that brought you Songs From The Second Floor and You, The Living is what’s getting me most excited come the end of the month. If you’ve never seen either of those films, then go and rectify that now.

You had me at: IN THE NAME OF SANITY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THAT MONKEY?!?!

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence is probably the only thing you’ll find in cinemas that isn’t Avengers 2 from Friday 24th April.

The Half Dozen: 6 Most Interesting Looking Trailers For January 2015

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2015 is a year that I fear for having to hunt harder than ever for the true gems of cinema amid the overly scripted neon morass of increasingly formulaic blockbusters that will clog up cinemas of all sizes more than ever before this year. With major film shunting themselves into next year to avoid the crush, it’ll be harder than ever for the smaller films to find sufficient two hour slots in cinemas to be seen before they must disappear, and I fear for quality getting trampled in the rush.

However, we shouldn’t be too disheartened: if January is anything to go by, quality film making is far from a thing of the past, it’s just going to have to work a teensy bit harder to be seen this year than ever before. Based on my first look at the two minute promos for January – for I do try to watch trailers for every single film being released before settling on six each month – then 2015 should at least be a good year for the art form of the trailer, and it’s good to see those involved in promotion stepping up their game to get behind films looking to wrestle their way into cinemas near you.

Here for the first time this year are the six trailers that, for better or worse, caught my eye this month.

National Gallery

As a regular in London for the cinema, and particularly my frequent visits to Leicester Square, I am often conscious that I overlook some of London’s greater treasures in favour of more time at the cinema. Thankfully, documentarian Frederick Wiseman has come up with a way for me to do both. Just a shame that I couldn’t make a preview screening offered in the gallery itself, as watching a film about a place being showing as a film in the place is just delightfully perverse.

National Gallery is on limited release from 9th January.

American Sniper

Normally trailers are just a compilation of often spoiler filled clips from the film, but American Sniper has taken a different route. You might call this a clip rather than a trailer if you were being pedantic – and if you were, I’d of course applaud you – but it would seem to encapsulate enough about the film to help your decision on whether or not to buy a ticket without having to see another second of footage.

American Sniper is on wide release from 16th January. 

Whiplash

You wait ages for a film with massive amounts of drumming and then two come along at once. I hope my Birdman fatigue, some of which related to the incessant jazz drum score which underpinned the film and occasionally broke through the fourth wall, doesn’t diminish my enjoyment this time. I also hope that Miles Teller can redeem himself a little, for despite being one of the better things in last year’s That Awkward Moment, it was still one of 2014’s lowlights for me. The only way is up.

Whiplash is on wide release from 16th January. 

Beyond Clueless

When I started blogging, I tried to read as many other blogs as I could, and three in particular became regular reading. As well as Your Turn Heather and The Incredible Suit, Charlie Lyne’s Ultra Culture became required reading for his style, forthrightness and absolute willingness to pursue his own particular predilections, such as his fondness for the film Eurotrip. He’s now channelled his broader fascination with teen movies into a documentary and the trailer is as distinctive as the voice of his blog (seemingly now retired, at least for the time being, as he’s crossed over into film making).

Beyond Clueless is touring the country before its release on 23rd January.

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers

One of the first things I did this year was to book tickets to see one of my two favourite bands play their most iconic album in full, with the Manic Street Preachers playing The Holy Bible at Cardiff Castle. (Oddly, One Direction are playing at the Millennium Stadium the same night, so Cardiff will be a strange place to be that weekend.) I’ve not only booked my hotel as well as my ticket, but true to form I’ve already checked the release schedule for that weekend, so I may also sample Insidious Chapter 3, Spy or Electric Boogaloo while I’m down, having last been to the cinema in Cardiff nineteen years ago as a student.

No Manifesto will receive some limited cinema screenings from January 30th before being released on DVD in February.

Pelo Malo (Bad Hair)

This is my list of interesting trailers. This trailer looked interesting. Sadly my waffle about it isn’t turning out that way, but you can’t win them all. Look, a puppy! *points in the other direction* *runs away*

Pelo Malo is released in most of the UK on 30th January and in Scotland on 6th February, presumably to give Scotland chance to get over Burns Night the week before or something.

Review Of 2014: The Top 40 Movies Of 2014

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Few notes here. If you want to cut straight to the list then skip to the jump.

Here we are again. After dissecting the year from every angle I could think of, my biggest ever review of the year comes to an end with my fifth annual top 40 films of the year. A reminder if you’ve not yet got around to reading any of my previous top 40s (links at the bottom if you’ve got the stamina after this one), but I do top 40s for two reasons: as a reminder of the excitement of listening to the chart countdown at Christmas when I was but a wee nipper, and because I see enough films in a year that anything in the top 40 is a recommendation as I have scored it 8/10 or higher. This year, only the top six were worthy of the full 10/10, the joint lowest since I started this blog.

First up, the rest of the usual stats. This year, I saw 180 films for the first time in a cinema this year, of which 28 were re-releases or festival films not released for the first time this year. Total pedants such as myself would probably be keen to know that I count Nymphomaniac as two films for these purposes. I also saw Back To The Future in a cinema, which is not only an old film but I also saw it in 2010 on its last re-release. That leaves 152 brand spanking new’uns I saw in the cinema, and this year I set a new record of also seeing 15 new releases at home, for a grand total of 167 films. Consequently, what you see here is about the top quartile of what I’ve watched in 2014. (I also used Netflix to watch the first twenty minutes or so of another half a dozen, including Bastards and Venus In Fur, but as none of them suggested they’d crack this list on a brief viewing I will watch them to completion at my leisure in 2015.)

I agonised this year about whether or not to go for a top 50 rather than a top 40, given that I’d seen more films at around the four star mark than ever before. But, a tradition is a tradition, and so just for the record the unlucky ten to lose out, in alphabetical order, were ’71, Alleluia, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ilo Ilo, Kajaki: The True Story, Lilting, Omar, The Guest, Timbuktu and Tim’s Vermeer. I would still recommend any of these if you’ve not seen them, and hopefully if you’ve liked one or more of these then that should suggest it’s worth exploring my top 40 in more detail.

As always, despite seeing 167 films there were plenty I would have seen had the opportunity presented itself. At the top of that list would be The Overnighters, A Touch Of Sin, Obvious Child, Tony Benn: Will And Testament, Tom At The Farm, The Rocket, In Bloom, Still The Enemy Within and Goodbye To Language. For a full list of what I’d like to have seen if time and money had allowed, you’ll find one here. You might be expecting to see Citizenfour, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Leviathan, The Wind Rises, Pride, Two Days One Night, What We Do In The Shadows, Interstellar or Only Lovers Left Alive, and while I loved them all in part or in whole, just not quite enough to crack my top 50, and I’ll happily go into more detail on any omissions in the comments.

Finally in pre(r)amble I’d like to just add some thank yous. Thank you to both Toby and Bums On Seats and also to Rosy, Edd, Jim and the gang at Take One for allowing me to take part in what you’ve done this year, and hopefully you’ll have me back again. To the host of people who’ve stopped and chatted who I run into regularly, many of whom I listed at the end of the Cambridge Film Festival, thank you for making my year in darkened rooms that much more social. Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to the staff of every single cinema that I attended in seeing those 180 films, as I’ve not had a truly bad experience in any of them this year. In no particular order, that includes the Abbeygate Cinema, the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, Saffron Screen, Cinema City in Norwich, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the BFI Southbank, the Prince Charles Cinema, the Curzon Soho, Vue cinemas in Cambridge and the West End, and last but by no means least, Cineworlds in Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds, Huntingdon, Ipswich, Stevenage, St. Helens and Didsbury, as I pump my Unlimited Premium card for every last ounce of value.

Here then are the 40 that made the cut, my favourites of the year. Click on the link in the title to discover what I wrote earlier in the year on any films where I did. I hope if you’ve not managed to catch all of these that something tempts your fancy in what follows. Bear in mind that this list is the same as every other list you’ve read in the past month: a matter of opinion, not fact, so don’t tell me I’m wrong – there is no such thing, it’s all just a bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously – but do try to suggest films I might have missed.

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Review Of 2014: Man And Woman Of The Year 2014

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So for the past five years on this blog I’ve published a year end review, trying to take in as many positives of the previous twelve months as possible. For the last four of those five years, I’ve produced a run-down of what I considered the most memorable performances, but in an attempt to produce as balances an end of year review as possible, I’ve realised that one area normally overlooked by awards is those people who’ve made a consistent contribution to their craft over a number of films. So to try to redress the balance somewhat, I’m instituting two new awards this year, in the form of the Man and Woman Of The Year. I’ve gone with an actor and an actress this year for the main awards, but one of my honourable mentions in the male category isn’t an actor, and I’ll try to be open to all possibilities if this becomes a thing.

Given the enormous outpouring of bile after The Times newspaper somewhat controversially chose Nigel Farage as their Man Of The Year (and that’s a man that could be the member of Parliament for my home town by this time next year; God help us all), I realise I could be on a hiding to nothing, but you have to try these things at least once. Please bear in mind that these might be saints, or they might get their kicks shooting puppies in the park, but this is not a judgement on them as people, merely a recognition for their overall contribution to films I’ve seen in 2014. So in that spirit, please be upstanding – and be gentle – with my Man and Woman Of The Year.

Man Of The Year 2014 is Jack O’Connell

Jack O'Connell

It seems almost impossible that Jack O’Connell is only 24, as it feels like he’s been around for ever. Fittingly for someone born in Derby he made his debut in a film from another East Midlands stalwart, appearing in Shane Meadows’ This Is England as Pukey Nicholls. But the first role I can really remember him grabbing my attention in was the horror thriller which also starred Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly, Eden Lake in 2008. He takes what could be a rather clichéd role as the film’s eventual villain and manages menacing without ever feeling forced, and his eventual triumph is as compelling as it is repulsive. It then felt like he might get stuck in a rut of stock British thugs and bad guys, also appearing in the Michael Caine starrer Harry Brown as a gang member and appearing in 2012’s Tower Block with Sheridan Smith as another local estate thug, but that was another role where he had to play totally unsympathetic yet ultimately comes out on top.

After building up a solid body of stage and TV work, it feels like 2014 is the year he’s finally come into his own in film. His first major role of the year was in the British prison drama Starred Up, a tense and brutal affair that traded heavily on O’Connell’s ability to do distant but remain charismatic. Eric Love is a walking explosion of pent up rage waiting to happen, but an unexpected reunion in prison with his father gives O’Connell a huge amount to explore. This was his first real lead film role and he’s magnetic for the entire run-time in this unflinching look at life on the inside.

He also then took the lead role in one of the year’s most underrated and underseen films, the Yann Demange thriller ’71 set in the troubles in Northern Ireland. Here, although he’s got top billing once again it’s the supporting cast that get to deliver much of the theatrics, and O’Connell’s requirement is to be calm and level headed after he’s separated from his unit on the wrong side of the lines. Demange maintains tension throughout, and it’s to O’Connell’s credit that you care about his plight despite being little to go on in terms of backstory.

As a sign of things to come, O’Connell also appeared as Calisto in the bigger budget 300: Rise Of An Empire, but it’s at the end of the year where he’s really begun to make a name for himself in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Somehow, despite having a script with contributions from the Coen brothers and cinematography from Roger Deakins, Jolie has crafted something which renders a remarkable story somewhat ordinary, and it would have been a complete washout had it not been for O’Connell’s performance. As the stocky Italian-American Olympic runner who ends up in a Japanese POW camp, O’Connell proves he’s got what it takes to be an (admittedly unconventional) leading man, but he also delivers the film’s only real emotional beats in the last half hour.

Frankly, anyone who can get Angelina Jolie to deliver that classic East Midlands greeting of “ay up, me duck” in public deserves some form of recognition, but O’Connell looks to be a star in the making and 2014 is very much the year he’s arrived in earnest.

Man Of The Year Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Godzilla, The Monuments Men, The Imitation Game, Unbroken)

Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave, Frank, X-Men: Days Of Future Past)

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Interstellar)

Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up, Exodus: Gods And Kings, Black Sea)

Woman Of The Year 2014 is Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johnasson

I’ve always been very much someone who could take it or leave it as far as Scarlett Johansson’s concerned. She came into my cinematic consciousness from an unconventional angle, with that infamous opening shot of Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation in 2002. She’d been around for a while before that, both on TV and most notably in Ghost World from the previous year, but in the years that followed her success with roles was at best mixed. Despite working with the likes of Woody Allen (Match Point), Christopher Nolan (The Prestige) and, ahem, Michael Bay (The Island), her brushes with the acting awards categories had started to recede into the distance – as well as Match Point and Lost In Translation, she received Golden Globe nominations for A Love Song For Bobby Long and The Girl With The Pearl Earring, but all were prior to 2006 – and it’s only really been this year that she’s reminded people of just how good an actress she is.

Sure, she’s been appearing in Marvel films as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow since 2008’s Iron Man 2, but it was only in this year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier that she truly came into the role, appearing both an effective foil for Chris Evans’ previously uptight Captain American and also being able to stand her ground in the drama stakes, rather than being lost in the mêlée of The Avengers. She also proved she’s still got her action movie chops with the uneven Lucy from Luc Besson, yet for all the film’s issues believing in Johansson as a super-brained genius wasn’t one of them. And she proved that she’s got charisma to spare with a brief appearance in Jon Favreau’s food lovers’ delight Chef.

But of her two biggest successes this year, she wasn’t even on screen for one of them. Playing the voice of an AI in Her, she has a remarkable and totally convincing chemistry with her co-star Joaquim Phoenix, despite the two never being on screen together. Samantha Morton was originally cast in the role, but it was only when Steven Soderbergh was brought in to help manage the film down from a two and a half hour first cut that writer / director Spike Jonze began to realise that what he’d created with Morton didn’t work; spending four months working with Johansson provided what was missing for the role, and so a proportion of the film’s success has to be credited to her for coming in at that late stage and still making it work.

If that performance was memorable, it still wasn’t her best work of 2014; that came in Jonathan Glazer’s mindworm Under The Skin. Portraying a cold and distant alien might not seem like much of an acting challenge, but almost everything Johansson does in the film grabs your attention in the right way. Driving round Glasgow in a black wig with an English accent, she became unrecognisable to the real men she was picking up, and her performance is free of clutter or mannerisms and perfectly captures how an extraterrestrial visitor might struggle to comprehend the vagaries of our very human existence.

I’ve never been Johansson’s biggest fan, but her string of consistent, high quality performances this year has put me down firmly as a fan. Here’s hoping she can now find the roles to carry that momentum forward.

Woman Of The Year Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Amy Adams (American Hustle, Her, Big Eyes)

Keira Knightley (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Begin Again, Say When, The Imitation Game)

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Serena, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Mia Wasikowska (Only Lovers Left Alive, Tracks, The Double, Maps To The Stars)

Review Of 2014: Top 10 Old Films Of 2014

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When it comes to the time for end of year lists, there’s always contention and debate around exactly what should qualify for a list. Some people see films in London or at festivals which may not then get a release until the following year for those mere mortals watching films in the provinces like myself. I was on the verge of having to debate whether or not to include Birdman in this year’s list, but the decision was taken out of my hands at the weekend by horrendous traffic on the M11 and the Central line having ground to a complete halt. That’ll teach me to try to get into London anytime after Christmas.

What I did manage to see when I got there was the Back To The Future trilogy. It’s the first time I’d seen the sequels in the cinema, but I’d seen the original on its last reissue a couple of years ago. This year I’ve managed to see more classic films than ever before, as well as discovering a few unheralded gems. Attempting to put together a top ten list on a critic basis for these kind of films is fairly pointless – while most people are trying to catch the good films of the current year, there’s just too much that makes it back into cinemas to be able to claim to have seen all of the quality of older films – but I thought as a one off this list would highlight just what it’s possible to see in cinemas these days if you’re willing to look beyond current releases.

I’ve managed to watch a total of 28 films this year in cinemas that were released before 2011, from restored 3D classics like House Of Wax and Inferno to classic films with children such as Wrony and The White Balloon. I’ve continued to fill in my Hitchcock back catalogue with To Catch A Thief and seen historical curios such as Sexmission and Nekromantik. If you don’t already, I strongly suggest in 2015 you open yourself up to the possibilities of just what cinemas are showing these days, and here’s my ten favourites from days gone by. I had never seen any of these films in a single sitting before watching them in a cinema this year.

10. Ghost In The Shell

Seen at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse on re-release

Ghost In The Shell

What I learned: So that’s where the Wachowski brothers got most of their ideas! I’ve never really seen much anime, another area of film that I need to explore in greater detail in years to come.

9. Mad Max 2

Seen as part of the Mad Max double bill playing at Picturehouse cinemas

Mad Max 2

What I learned: That Mel Gibson’s probably better when he’s not saying much, Lethal Weapon films notwithstanding.

8. Down By Law

Seen at the Cambridge Film Festival ahead of a limited re-release

Down By Law

What I learned: That once upon a time, it was possible to enjoy Roberto Begnini in films without any baggage, and that Jim Jarmusch’s films from back in the day did both brooding and entertaining just as well as their modern counterparts (such as this year’s Only Lovers Left Alive).

7. Some Like It Hot

Seen as part of the classic Sundays season at Picturehouse cinemas

Some Like It Hot

What I learned: That I’d clearly left it far too long before seeing my first Billy Wilder film; I have another four sat on DVD at home waiting for me to get chance to watch them.

6. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari

Seen in restored form on re-release at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse

The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari

What I learned: That silent horror movies that are nearly a hundred years old can still retain a huge amount of power, especially if seen in a darkened cinema late on a Sunday night.

5. Bicycle Thieves

Seen as part of the classic Sundays season at Picturehouse cinemas

Bicycle Thieves

What I learned: Rome is one of my favourite cities that I’ve ever visited, and it’s still just as special even when it’s the setting for a post-war tragedy.

4. Play Time

Seen at the BFI Southbank ahead of a limited nationwide re-release

Play Time

What I learned: that it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s showing in London, as this was well worth a trip down. I could have walked back in and watched this again straight away thanks to the sheer level of detail that Jacques Tati crammed into every frame.

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Re-released as part of the BFI’s Sci-Fi: Days Of Fear And Wonder season

2001

What I learned: that this is a film you need to see on the big screen. I’d tried half a dozen times as a student and never gotten into it, but had no such issues when able to appreciate its full majesty in the cinema.

2. M

Seen at the Cambridge Film Festival prior to a limited re-release

M

What I learned: That Peter Lorre’s face might just be one of my favourite things in all of cinema.

1. Jules Et Jim

Seen on re-release at the Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St. Edmunds

Jules Et Jim

What I learned: That, through the films of the likes of Scorsese, Tarantino and Wes Anderson, I’ve been a huge fan of the French New Wave for years. This sows the seeds of so much that I’ve loved in the cinema, and it was all I could do not to sit and giggle with glee at Truffaut’s technique and verve. Even the deeply nihilistic ending was right up my street.

Previous “winners”:

2013: The General

2012: Lawrence Of Arabia

2011: Funny Games (original)

2010: The Shop Around The Corner

Review Of 2014: The Top 30 Scenes Of 2014

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Sometimes a film isn’t about the combination of script, director, actors, special effects and the host of other contributions, sometimes it’s about the alchemy of a particular moment that lives long in your memory. Other times it’s just about a cheap fart gag or a stupid dance. Either way, no Movie Evangelist Review Of The Year would be complete without me attempting to pick out the 30 best scenes of the year from a collection of legal and illegal clips made available via YouTube, then getting frustrated when I can’t find the clip I had in mind and discovering that half the ones I did find have disappeared within a couple of months. (When I put my top trailers together last week, one of them had been taken down before I even managed to publish the post. Grr.)

Yes, no review of the year of mine would be complete without this, except my review of 2010 because the first time I did this was in 2011. If I had done a list in 2010, the number one would either have been a bunch of monks having dinner (Of Gods And Men) or the audacious stadium chase where the camera seemingly zooms in from somewhere in the next country (The Secret In Their Eyes). Or possibly the end of Toy Story 3. Or Mary And Max. But now we’ll never know. Anyway, that’s the beauty of variety of these lists.

So after having been back to my countdowns of 2011 to 2013, and then reinstated all the clips that have disappeared since this time last year – this year a total of thirteen clips had disappeared from the last three years – I’ve now been through and assembled thirty of my favourite moments from this year’s finest.

WARNING: Viewer discretion advised. This blog post would be rated at least a 15 if I had to submit it to the BBFC, for several instances of strong language, strong violence, bloody injury detail, and dangerous bears. Well, dangerously cute bears, anyway.

30. Manakamana – Two old ladies eating ice cream

The latest film from the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard is really more of an art installation than it is a film – hence nine walkouts when I saw it in Cambridge – but if you allow yourself to be taken over by its precise rhythms there are many pleasures to be had. It consists of a series of cable car rides on a trip to and from a temple, and by the time you’ve seen half a dozen you have a rough idea of the duration. Watching two women attempt to finish their ice creams before they reach their destination becomes a surprising study in tension.

29. Starred Up – Cell invasion

The British prison drama has energy and anger to burn, and there’s no better example than this scene where Jack O’Connell greases up then arms himself ready for trouble.

28. Muppets Most Wanted – I’ll get you what you want

None of the songs in this sequel quite match the original, but this one probably comes closest. Not sure whether my favourite rhyming pair is second pillow / armadillo or diamond ring / thingy-thing.

27. Edge Of Tomorrow – Truck and roll

Edge Of Tomorrow, or Live. Die. Repeat. Or Groundhog Cruise, or whatever it’s calling itself now, had a lot of fun killing Tom Cruise, and this was as much fun as any of the deaths.

26. Lilting – Awkward introductions

You would think having to have almost every scene in the film translated would be a barrier to the drama, but as this early scene proves, it can actually add to the tension and layers of meaning.

25. Mood Indigo – The pianocktail

Very little this year – with the exception of The Grand Budapest Hotel – brought me as much joy from a single film as Mood Indigo, and I would see a pianocktail as being a fine addition to any room or deranged fantasy film.

24. Alleluia – Kitchen sink opera

Just the trailer here for Alleluia, the latest from Fabrice Du Welz, but this means the scene in the kitchen where Lola Dueñas breaks into song will remain resolutely unspoiled for when you see the film.

23. The Grandmaster – Platform altercation

Wong Kar Wei’s much delayed film had problems in the Weinstein-produced version I saw, and I’m not sure that the original cut would have fixed them, but the experience was worth it for scenes such as these.

22. What We Do In The Shadows – Werewolves not swearwolves

It’s all the little moments – like throwing the stick – that still make me think I may have harshly judged WWDITS when I reviewed it earlier in the year.

21. Kajaki: A True Story – Bomb dispersal

The trailer here gives you a flavour of the film, but most of the last hour or so is an exercise in ratcheting tension that had me gripping chunks out of the armrests. Thanks to a dedicated distribution deal with Vue, this wasn’t as widely seen as it might have been, but the scene where one character is leaping blindly across a valley of landmines was as nerve-shredding as anything seen this year.

20. The Babadook – Bedtime stories

So, you start reading a terrifying bedtime story book – at what point would you have stopped reading? Before this? Yeah, me too, probably.

19. 22 Jump Street – Who’s the daddy?

A collection here of the finest scenes, all featuring Ice Cube, from this summer’s meta-sequel that provided a lot of the year’s biggest laughs.

18. Fury – Sherman vs. German

This making of discusses the highlight of the film, a sequence where a German Tiger tank takes on four American tanks and comes off resolutely best.

17. Godzilla – HALO goodbye

You might recognise the music from this sequence if you saw the re-release of 2001 earlier this year, or if indeed you’re a fan of Lygeti’s Requiem (source of the music in question).

16. Blue Ruin – Headshot

Yep, so I didn’t see this coming when I saw it in the cinema. A film full of small, surprising moments and less conventional choices.

15. ’71 – Kicking off

The second appearance of a Jack O’Connell film in this year’s countdown, and the best moments in the film are when O’Connell is separated from the rest of his unit and forced to go on the run. For some reason this film was criminally underseen this year.

14. Night Moves – Dam busters

Couldn’t quite find the scene I wanted, which is the attempt by Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Saarsgard and Dakota Fanning to blow up a hydro-electric dam in a manner that goes about as smoothly as sandpaper covered in splinters. But this scene also shows how the lack of forward planning and Saarsgard’s laissez-faire attitude undermine the plan from the start.

13. The Guest – Brother from another mother

So this scene is when The Guest kicks into a higher gear, as Dan Stevens shows just how to deal with bullies. For my mother if she’s reading, a bonus scene with Dan Stevens. Apparently Downton hasn’t been the same since he was killed off. Can’t think why.

12. Stranger By The Lake – Ready for drowning

This making of discusses the pivotal scene at the heart of the film, which sees a crucial plot development take place in the far distance with the character watching unable to do anything except sit and be horrified.

11. Inside Llewyn Davis – Opening number

Many of these end of year lists feature Please Mr. Kennedy as their scene of choice, but I was hooked when Oscar Isaac was allowed to sing this in full. Despite not being a musical, having every song at its full length worked very much in the film’s favour.

10. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Tank whirl

Sadly the full clip showing the tank POV shot as the apes attack the human settlement isn’t on YouTube yet that I can find, so instead watch the Honest Trailer, which has bits of it it, but also made me feel ridiculous about even liking the film. They usually do that.

9. Under The Skin – Surface tension

A film that I originally rated 8/10 and thought would be lucky to break my top 40 this year. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about scenes like this for months.

8. Guardians Of The Galaxy – Prison break

Marvel’s blockbusters may have only been mildly revolutionary – although as it turns out Captain America: The Winter Soldier probably saved Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. from an early grave – but in terms of entertainment value, the raccoon and the tree are hard to beat.

7. The LEGO Movie – SPACESHIP!!!!

Hey, at least I didn’t play you the year’s biggest earworm, Everything Is Awesome. ‘Cos you’re thinking about it already, and I’ve only said the title, haven’t I? Anyway, this is how excited I got when I played with LEGO when I was seven. And also last week with my niece. For five hours. Awesome.

Oh, and that thing about not playing the earworm? I lied, sorry.

6. The Skeleton Twins – Starship troupers

This clip not only captures the special bond between brother and sister that persists well after childhood (it would likely be something from the original Now That’s What I Call Music album for my sister and I), but also the frustration that sometimes you have to just scream into a pillow. I might go sale shopping for some more pillows while I think about it.

5. Paddington – Meet and greet

Spending four years at university, trekking from east Kent to Bath every six weeks or so by train, meant that I spent more hours than I’d care to mention on those platforms. Yet now, I aspire to the middle class lifestyle that this short clip clearly represents. The Lost And Found sign over Paddington’s head is a delight.

4. X-Men: Days Of Future Past – Hi yo (Quick)silver

Remember, of course, that filming this at 200 frames per second means they actually had to do everything really quickly. Nice to see Bryan Singer back on the X-Men films.

3. The Raid 2: Car chase fight

This is just part of a longer sequence, but when you watch it, pay close attention to the part around the 4:23 mark. If you can’t work out how on earth they achieved that camera move, the solution in this video is both simpler and more amazing than you realise.

2. 12 Years A Slave – Hanging in the balance

From the year’s most uncomfortable film, a scene I still can’t watch without grasping at my own throat. Or soul, for that matter.

1. The Wolf Of Wall Street – Higher than an eagle

It’s maybe no surprise to see Martin Scorsese still at the height of his powers after forty years in film making, but Leonardo DiCaprio has continued to mature thanks to his partnership with Marty over the last ten of those. This clip has everything: visual style and trickery from Scorsese, the most hilariously inappropriate voiceover I can remember, and Leo showing a gift for physical comedy that probably no-one expected. Let’s hope the pair can continue to find projects to work on together if they’re as good as this.

Previous years:

The Top 30 Scenes Of 2013 – WINNER: Iron Man Three, the Mandarin reveal

The Top 30 Scenes Of 2012 – WINNER: The Muppets, Man Or Muppet

The Top 30 Scenes Of 2011 – WINNER: Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, Burj Khalifa

Review Of 2014: The Top 25 Performances Of 2014

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We have arrived at the breakdown of actors and actresses in my review of the year, and this year more than ever there seem to be great performances on this list that have been in the service of less than stellar films. When you look at the big award nominations, the acting awards and the best picture nominations aren’t normally too far removed from each other, but in my list this year at most fifteen of these performances will be in films that feature in the final top 40.

Of course, there’s no reason why good actors shouldn’t appear in average, or even bad, films but in most cases on this list it’s the actors being let down by their scripts. I can’t think of many instances of great scripts being played out by bad actors, so clearly it’s easier to get your film funded with a decent name or two attached than it is to get the script right first. There isn’t as much talk as there used to be about actors’ salaries these days, but few of the names on this list will be commanding top dollar anyway (although two at almost opposite ends of the list will be in Star Wars next year – what odds one of them reappearing for that in twelve months?).

Anyway, usual rules apply: all lengths of performance are considered equally and there is no distinction between actor and actress here. For the record, I have 14 men and 11 women on this year’s list, but in the top 10 it’s 6-4 the other way. And only one person per film; there are two or three instances where this rule has excluded great efforts, but I will endeavour to give them an honourable mention as I go. So here’s my fourth annual list of my favourite 25 performances of the year. In the end I couldn’t pick between Leo and Matthew in The Wolf Of Wall Street, but if this list ran to 26 one of them would probably have been on it. Them’s the breaks.

25. Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac

Part of what I love about Oscar Isaac is his chameleon-like ability to blend in completely with his surroundings. I wonder how many people would associate him with his role in Drive having seen this? He’s also shown his versatility in The Two Faces Of January in 2014, proving that he’s got charm to spare, but exasperation was his best mood this year. Not only does he fit in perfectly with the ranks of other downtrodden Coen leads, but his musical skills are also brought beautifully to the fore. Someone get this man a moody musical.

24. Uma Thurman – Nymphomaniac, Part 1

Uma Thurman

She may be on screen for only a few minutes, but Uma Thurman is the best thing in Lars Von Trier’s patience tester (although at least this was one four hour epic we got an interval in this year). I’m sure there’s some wish fulfilment of some embittered soul somewhere in that performance, but Thurman lights up the screen in a thoroughly entertaining cameo. Also, I don’t have awards for least best acting, but if I did a strong contender would be someone in this film whose name rhymes with Friar LeSmurf.

23. Haluk Bilginer – Winter Sleep

Haluk Bilginer

By contrast, this three hour and ten minute latest from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan is intermission free, and consists greatly of people talking calmly to each other in dark rooms. You need someone who’s going to keep your attention for that to work, and Bilginer’s sheer magnetism does just that, even allowing for his world-weariness that lays over the top. A mention must also go to his on-screen wife Melisa Sözen who has a couple of very powerful scenes in the last half hour.

22. Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Jennifer Lawrence

To think that there were the usual silly doubts when the Hunger Games franchise began that Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t right for Katniss; too old, dyeing her hair, wrong star sign, that sort of thing. While the casting is generally stellar this just wouldn’t have worked as a franchise without Lawrence, and to her credit she’s given the same level of committed performance in both her blockbuster roles this year that she has to her more serious endeavours. It’s great to see someone who, in behind the scenes footage, clearly has such a love for her craft and that passion is on screen for all to see.

21. Brendan Gleeson – Calvary

Brendan Gleeson

Gleeson has now teamed up twice with John Michael McDonogh and the results have been great both times. While Brendan Gleeson was sardonic and dismissive in The Guard, here he’s required to give a different level of performance and in both films Gleeson’s performance has crucially underpinned the overall tone. McDonogh isn’t afraid to deal with weighty themes and what humour there is happens to be dry as a bone and black as a starless night but, for all his sins and those of his church, you still find yourself rooting for this non-stereotypical priest. It would be remiss of me not to mention Kelly Reilly as his daughter who’s also putting in a performance as good as anything she’s done.

20. Pierre Deladonchamps – Stranger By The Lake

Pierre Deladonchamps

I could make cheap jokes about Deladonchamps’ performance being stripped bare – and if you want cheap jokes, you’ve normally come to the right place – but Stranger By The Lake pulls off the difficult balancing act of being both a taut Hitckcockian thriller and an honest assessment of male frailty and psychology. Leave your modesty at the door and you’ll be firmly gripped (stop it) by a performance which is one of the most unhindered of the year, regardless of the state of dress of many of the participants.

19. Jack O’Connell – Starred Up

Jack O'Connell as Eric in a film still from Starred Up

It’s been a great year for Jack O’Connell but his best role may also have been his first, the British prison drama which skipped around the clichés to feel fresh and relevant. O’Connell has a set of facial expressions well suited to defiance and a demeanour to match, but he’s shown in all of his performances this year that he can do subtle in spades and his fractious relationship with estranged father Ben Mendelssohn gives both actors plenty to work with. With two Hollywood roles under his belt this year already, expect O’Connell to be a star of the future.

18. Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Ethan Hawke

It’s difficult to pick a winner from the performance stakes in Boyhood, but possibly thanks to his experience in the Before trilogy it was Ethan Hawke that most caught my eye. Over the twelve year span of the film his character goes through as much of an evolution as anyone, from cocksure and unreliable to steady and dependable, but he does so in believable steps; that can have been no easy feat considering the nature of the filming process. The four leads are all great, so apologies to Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater and especially Patricia Arquette that I only pick one performance per film.

17. Berenice Bejo – The Past

Berenice Bejo

I’ve become a real fan of Asghar Farhadi’s work over the past few years, and while The Past didn’t quite hit the heights of A Separation or About Elly, it wasn’t far off at all. This was the first time he’s worked with such an international cast but this felt comfortably and with deep familiarity a Farhadi film, and Bejo proved that she’s not just a silent face with a performance the polar opposite of her appearance in The Artist. For some reason this film seemed to slip below the awards radar, but Bejo’s performance is up there with anything in Farhadi’s back catalogue.

16. Juliette Binoche – Camille Claudel 1915

Juliette Binoche

I struggled greatly with parts of this biopic of the troubled artist, but that shouldn’t take away from Juliette Binoche’s work as the titular artist. Many of my problems with the film relate to later stretches when the film becomes dry and airless while searching for resolution, but coincidentally this is also when Binoche happens to be off screen. It would be easy to overdo the theatricality of a role dealing with mental illness, but to Binoche’s great credit she’s far more astute than that. A shame, then, that the film isn’t quite the equal of what she brings to it.

15. Bill Murray – St. Vincent

Bill Murray

The biggest problem with St. Vincent as a film is that it doesn’t have any gear shifts: it has a consistent, level tone despite the extreme ups and downs endured by its characters when it would be better suited with an ability to swing more closely to the comedic and dramatic aspects of its script. That’s highlighted in Bill Murray’s performance, which defines irascible but also asks a lot of Murray with a huge back story and physical afflictions as the story progresses. It’s nice to see Melissa McCarthy dialling back her performance to something simple and honest, but everyone else is in Bill Murray’s shadow here.

14. Tom Hardy – Locke

Tom Hardy

While there was a certain amount of fun from playing guess the phone voice (I’d repeatedly convinced myself that Andrew Scott was actually Chris O’Dowd), Steven Knight’s film is little more than a conceit which doesn’t necessarily serve Tom Hardy’s performance as well as it might. I’m also prepared to overlook the fact that I wasn’t 100% sold by Hardy’s accent, which is generally reliable but no more, in light of how much emotion he generates with so little acting backlift. He was also the best thing in Dennis Lehane scripted drama The Drop later in the year, mildly memorable for being James Gandolfini’s last film.

13. Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Belle

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

I got into a debate on Bums On Seats, the community radio show I lend my voice to, about the merits of Belle; I turned out to be the lone positive voice. I’m not going to claim that it was a masterpiece but I stand by its merits, and one of its many was the performance of relative newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw (hitherto known only to me as Martha’s sister Tish from the third modern season of Doctor Who). There’s plenty of solid support around but Mbatha-Raw carries the dramatic weight of the film and deftly handles both period romance and the film’s dalliances with weightier issues.

12. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch

I think that The Imitation Game as a film has a lot of problems, but the acting isn’t one of them. The likes of Mark Strong and Charles Dance do what Mark Strong and Charles Dance generally do best, but the stand-outs are Keira Knightley – even if she is saddled with the poshest accent in acting history – and Benedict Cumberbatch. The man with the most mocked name in showbusiness puts yet another spin on his collection of damaged geniuses and without him, the film would have been a hollow shell. I just hope he manages to get the right balance of Hollywood and Britain moving forward, as both Star Trek and Marvel have already got their claws into him for big franchise roles.

11. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ralph Fiennes

Seriously, why did no one think to put Ralph Fiennes and Wes Anderson together earlier? Delivering some of the most delicious dialogue from any script this year, Fiennes spews out quotable lines with effortless elegance but his performance ranges through a variety of emotions. Ipswich’s finest export since Cardinal Wolsey has been meticulous and sharply calibrated in both his acting and directing for two decades, but he’s achieved most of his best work in dramatic roles. In Bruges might be the closest he’s come to anything like this before, and that’s still a mile off (and no-one who’s ever seen him opposite Uma Thurman in The Avengers will ever forget his discomfort), but he was such a total fit for the Anderson universe that we can but pray it’s not their only collaboration.

10. Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Rosamund Pike

There’s a myth about the curse of the Bond girl, when in reality for every woman who’s proven herself as a love interest opposite Bond but then gone onto anonymity there’s just as many for whom it’s been but a footnote on an impressive CV. Evidence would suggest Rosamund Pike is likely to fall into the latter category, but her role in Pierce Brosnan’s swansong may have come slightly too early in her career; she’s matured in smaller roles in the likes of Made In Dagenham and The World’s End, but I suspect her role as the object of Ben Affleck’s attention in David Fincher’s trashy delight will one day be seen as career defining. Somehow, despite being cast in a role where she’s consigned to flashbacks before the main narrative has even started, she walks in and waltzes off with the whole film.

9. Ben Whishaw – Lilting

Ben Whishaw

Lilting is very much a film of actors and performances rather than strong direction, but I have a lot of time for any film prepared to cast Peter Bowles. Ben Whishaw has been quietly going around his business for a few years now, and having impressed greatly in Cloud Atlas and nabbed a role to pay the bills for a few years yet as Bond’s new Q he’s now started to find leading roles that show off his talents. Here he played the troubled man attempting to dealing with the grieving mother of his deceased parter beautifully, an understated role that still demanded Whishaw to have a lot going on just beneath the surface. He capped a good year with a voice turn as a positively perfect Paddington.

8. Kristen Wiig – The Skeleton Twins

Kristen Wiig

Here’s a trivia question for your next film quiz: what connects Morwenna Banks, Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Jimmy Fallon, Christopher Guest, Randy Quaid, Chris Rock and Pamela Stevenson? They’re all alumni of the American comedy institution Saturday Night Live, and while you might at first think of the likes of Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray or Eddie Murphy when you think of SNL, the latest generation are showing they are equally adept at both comedy and drama. The former SNL pairing of Wiig and Bill Hader are by turns heartbreaking and charismatic here, but it’s Wiig as the sister who seems stuck in a cycle of perpetually making poor life choices that makes the greatest impression.

7. Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Marion Cotillard

I’ve seen two Dardennes brothers films now and for some reason neither has quite gelled with me in the way they seem to have taken others. For reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, I find myself drawn to the deficiencies in their social realism, rather than being taken in by the performances and storytelling. Nonetheless, former Movie Evangelist Performance Of The Year winner and current Movie Evangelist ideal woman Marion Cotillard defies both any shortcomings in Two Days, One Night’s script and also rises above my slightly awkward attempts at stalkerish flattery with yet another winning performance that the rest of the film is constructed around.

6. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal

I have a lot of time for Jake Gyllenhaal, ever since he, Dennis Quaid and Emmy Rossum made The Day After Tomorrow far more watchable than it had any right to be. Why someone who has Donnie Darko, Zodiac, Source Code, Prisoners and Brokeback Mountain on his CV isn’t thought of as one of the best actors of his generation continues to mystify me, but with a mesmeric performance as the manipulative, greasy Leo Bloom Gyllenhaal is getting due attention for the first time since his partnership with Heath Ledger all those years ago. While he was slightly overshadowed even then, here Gyllenhaal dominates ever scene he’s in, which I think is just about all of them.

5. Joaquim Phoenix – Her

Joaquim Phoenix

I have a strange and unhealthy fascination with Space Camp, the Eighties Space Shuttle film that’s a reductive mix of Apollo 13 and The Goonies which features a young Phoenix alongside Steven Spielberg’s wife and Marty McFly’s mum. It’s as an adult that the former Leaf Phoenix has impressed, from Gladiator through Walk The Line to The Master, yet in Her it’s ironically a childlike innocence that makes his performance so heartfelt and convincing. Never for one moment do we as an audience doubt or question his commitment to Scarlett Johansson’s AI, all the more impressive an achievement given that Johansson recorded her performance after the fact (it was Samantha Morton on set playing opposite Phoenix). I’m already looking forward to Phoenix’s reunion with Paul Thomas Anderson next month in Inherent Vice.

4. Essie Davis – The Babadook

Essie Davis

The only woman who ever made a name for herself in a horror movie might have been Linda Blair. The director who drew out her most famous performance then this year rated The Babadook as the most terrifying film he’d ever seen, and that’s due large part to the anchoring performance given by Essie Davis in the lead role. Selling both the concept and her own gradual mental disintegration, Davis is as key to the success of The Babadook’s icy grip as the reedy-voiced monster. Up to now, the biggest credit Davis had received was probably in the two dire Matrix sequels, but hopefully her performance here will be a stepping stone to more lead roles.

3. Scarlett Johansson – Under The Skin

Scarlett Johansson

Easy to play an emotionless alien struggling to come to terms with the human condition? I’m sorry, I’ll have none of that. The contrast in the opening scenes where we see the original form taken over by Johansson show the contrast clearly, and I’ve been saving up the word fearless for this point in the countdown as Scarlett commits herself to the role with gusto. That’s even before that you consider she was actually out in a wig, cruising the streets of Glasgow with an impeccable English accent, and Under The Skin wouldn’t be featuring at the top of quite so many end of year lists without her. I’ve not always been a fan of Scarlett – The Prestige was my favourite film of the Noughties despite her rather than because of her – but consider me a convert off the back of this.

2. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave

Lupita N'Yongo

If you’re looking to hand out acting recognition for Steve McQueen’s devastating Best Picture winner, it’s difficult to know where to really start. But you should finish either with Michael Fassbender’s horrific plantation owner, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s dignified slave enduring a sort of reverse emancipation or Lupita Nyong’o’s gut-wrenching performance that earned her an Oscar, a job in Star Wars and a role as the Face Of Lancôme. In researching this list I watched two brief, thirty second clips of this Mexican-Kenyan actress’ performance and I was nearly in tears again, almost a full year after having last seen the film in full. I’m planning to watch the film again at some point this week, so will be off to bulk buy soft tissues shortly after completing this post.

1. Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner

Timothy Spall

But there was one performance this year that edged out all the others, a performance that bore the weight beautifully of the two and a half hour film constructed around it and one which will define the image of one of our nation’s greatest painters in the mind of a generation. I would absolutely love it if the award Spall picked up for this at Cannes turned out not to be the biggest prize that he’ll store in his trophy cabinet for this performance, but whatever the outcome of awards season Spall grabbed his chance in the limelight with both hands and created a character that felt as truly human as anyone we’ve seen on screen this year.

His Turner isn’t a misunderstood genius, merely an honest, humble man with an exceptional talent and an intolerance for family. Spall has long been a staple of both Mike Leigh films and British television and film in general, and his career as a character actor seemed in hindsight to be building to this moment. His characters aren’t always capturing huge amounts of screen time but so often it’s Spall’s performances that are the most memorable of the works he’s in. Given full rein to interpret Joseph Mallard William Turner his tics and mannerisms, his gutteral grunts and frustrated groanings might be what play out in the award season clips, but this is a full bodied performance that sees Spall at his very best and made Mr. Turner one of the best British films of the year. Timothy Spall, I salute you and am delighted to declare your performance my favourite of cinema in 2014.

Previous years:

The Top 25 Performances Of 2013 WINNER – Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln

The Top 25 Performances Of 2012 WINNER – Marion Cotillard, Rust And Bone

The Top 25 Performances Of 2011 WINNER – Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur