Building a case for the most slept on movies of the year, from Ida to Tracks
Court is in session. Today's case? 2014's most criminally overlooked films. As in, the ones you may have missed because they weren't Interstellar'ed into your subconscious. We're here for justice, here to rehash the myriad reasons you should seek these out. Whether or not these performed well at the box office, became critical darlings or made their way into multiplexes the world over isn't the only proof we offer to make our case. We're also using journalistic pathos, mainlining our deepest cinematic emotions, urging you to give these – the most slept on films in the UK this year – a second chance.
WE ARE THE BEST!
If punk is a spirit rather than a sound – a delirious flutter of anarchy expressed through music and fashion and attitude – then it is surely embodied by We Are The Best! Based on Coco Moodysson's graphic novel detailing her adolescent experiences, the warm, deeply humane film follows a trio of 13-year-old girls in early 80s Stockholm as they start a punk band. As he has throughout his career, director Lukas Moodysson doggedly eschews artificial movie conflicts: boys, family troubles, and arguments come and go, but the girls' friendship takes precedence over everything else. Disappointingly, the film's deliberate lightness and small scale meant it was unjustly overlooked critically, despite being the most exuberant cinematic experience of the year.
Read our interview with Lukas Moodysson here
Text by Jason Ward
There is a film out next year where a drug-addled Reese Witherspoon goes on a backpacking trip to face her demons called Wild. It's a true story already bloated with Oscar clout. Earlier this year, a film of a similar sort was released – minus the drugs – and did it better. Tracks is the real-life story of Robyn Davidson's 1,800 mile journey from Alice Springs, Australia, to the Indian Ocean. Along the way she racks up an entourage of four camels, a dog, and a mosquito companion (played all too well by the ever-annoying Adam Driver). It's a slow-burner for sure (I mean, she walks across the desert), but the languid pace is revved into overdrive with its Instagram visuals of Oz. The journey at the box office was just as slow, as it only took in $21k stateside in its opening weekend. Mia Wasikowska's portrayal of Robyn Davidson is one of such subdued strength, it could very easily be her career best.
Read our interview with Robyn Davidson here
Text by Trey Taylor
After winning Best Film award at London Film Festival 2013, it was remarkable how Ida hovered on the periphery of public consciousness as it approached release, leaving potential audiences sleepwalking into cinema foyers weeks beyond its theatrical run “…is there a film…Ida??” Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, (My Summer of Love), explores the relationship between two women with starkly contrasting existences. Raised by nuns in 1960s Poland, Ida is on the verge of taking her vows, but the transition is suddenly postponed by a break with her long-lost aunt; a hard-drinking judge gripped by a traumatic past within which Ida shares roots. The pair navigate the bleak landscape and its hardened inhabitants in searing monochrome, while facing the weight of human history under obliterating layers of white snow.
Read our interview with Pawel Pawlikowski here
Text by Sophie Brown
Gillian Robespierre's feature debut, "abortion comedy" Obvious Child, is not your typical Sundance rom-com. Jenny Slate stars as comedienne Donna Stern, whose drunken one-night stand with businessman Max leads to an unwanted pregnancy, yet as her feelings for Max grow she is forced into a difficult decision. Abortion is still a tricky issue in mainstream cinema, let alone in comedies, so it's not hard to see why so few people saw Obvious Child. But those who did found a refreshingly honest and incredibly funny film that takes its subject seriously while still having fun with it – and how many films can claim to do that?
Text by Matt Mansfield
Oculus is about a mirror. A mirror that controls people’s minds. So that they go crazy and kill themsleves and/or kill and/or torture others. Okay, so that might not appeal to some, but to those of you still reading: Oculus is greatly disturbing, a successfully claustrophobic supernatural terrorizer that combines the delusions of Shutter Island with the “haunted object” trope of, say, the VHS tape in Ringu. Oculus is filmed in a way that will make you think you’ve been gassed with some weird disorienting mist, and the stunted dialog and plot holes actually add to the eerie vibe. It’s not as “smart” as critics have claimed – hell, it’s a flick about a killer mirror – but never does the film devolve into unjustified gore, which makes it, along with The Babadook, the most tense movie of the year.
Text by Maxwell Williams
Cheap Thrills is a face-achingly hilarious black comedy which won several awards at international film festivals (including SXSW) throughout 2013 but failed to make an impact when released here in June. The film tells the story of a wealthy couple who wheedle two financially struggling friends into carrying out a series of dares for cash, upping the stakes as the tasks get more dangerous and bizarre. Mocking materialism and the global financial crisis, Cheap Thrills is a gnarly, controversial comedy that was overlooked in UK cinemas due to its limited ten screen release, taking a mere £738 from the box office in its opening weekend.
Text by Daniel Goodwin
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (RE-RELEASE)
Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation used the original 1954 Technicolor dye-transfer blueprint as reference to painstakingly restore this iconic classic. The fact that the re-release sunk silently without a trace is criminal, for as Godard declared, “cinema is Nicholas Ray.” Scorsese attended the Berlinale in February to personally introduce the premiere and discuss how Ray connected with young audiences with this film, illuminating their angst, confusion, fear and rage, with an implicit, secret language. The visual quality of this restoration eradicates the haze of time with a clarity that gives it a startling sense of presence; James Dean’s red jacket, the chicken race, the planetarium… for Scorsese, Rebel Without a Cause is the ultimate teen movie.
Text by Sophie Brown
THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Nira, an Israeli teacher, is obsessed with her 5-year-old student and his astonishing gift for poetry. In a “narcissistic and hyper-materialistic society”, she feels the urgency to protect this spontaneous burst of beauty, no matter the price. The idea that poetry – and, more generally, art – can fill every void and reconnect lost souls to their sensitivity isn’t new, but Lapid gave it a striking thickness and the intensity displayed in his defense of creativity could easily be prophetic. Such an ambitious case requested the shrewdest visual choices, and so did Lapid, with impressive performances by Sarit Larry and Avi Shnaidman (the teacher and her protégé), and a prodigious cinematography by Shai Goldman. Shown to acclaim at Cannes and the London Film Festival but missing out on wider exposure here, The Kindergarten Teacher is not only a 2014 hit. It’s one of the mightiest cinematic odes to art of the decade.
Text by Pamela Pianezza
By the time Sundance favourite Fruitvale Station arrived over here, it elicited nothing more than an apathetic shrug at the box office. Shame as it's a remarkable debut by Ryan Coogler, who turns the real-life story of Oscar Grant – an unarmed 22-year-old African-American shot dead by a transport cop in Oakland, California – into a gut-wrenching tribute featuring a magnetic turn from relative newcomer Michael B. Jordan. With the controversy over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner still raging on, its poignant message that the lives of black men in the US continue to be corroded by racism and are tragically devalued is as urgent as ever.
Read our interview with Ryan Coogler here
Text by Ann Lee
THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
The Possibilities Are Endless, a documentary portrait of Edwyn Collins in the years following his devastating brain haemorrhage, drew admiring but polite reviews earlier this year. It should have met with riotous, braying acclaim. To me, the film daringly rejigs the terms of the documentary form, conjuring a series of brilliant images and sounds to evoke the man it is depicting. Expressionistic, rapturous, fragmentary, tender and brittle, The Possibilities Are Endless closely mirrors its subject – or shadows him, rather, unflinchingly and then warmly revealing all his suffering and all his triumphant hope.
Read our interview with directors Edward Lovelace and James Hall here
Text by Caspar Salmon