Now that’s out of the way, at ease, soldier! Let the Listomania begin! And at the top of the heap is:
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
Here’s something that doesn't happen very often: There was one scene in Under the Skin (that I’m not going to spoil here) that was so oppressively tense that I think I may have held my breath a couple of times. Another thing that doesn't happen very often: Once the film had ended, I remained rooted to my seat, all the way through the closing credits and beyond to the illumination of the house lights, just sort of staring both past the screen and right through it. Just extraordinary.
Sliding into second is:
Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)
Brooding, dark, funny, uplifting, hopeful and nihilistic, all held together by Brendan Gleeson and those eyes.
The rest of my Top Ten, in no particular order:
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
I've always been something of a Wes Anderson sceptic, but with The Grand Budapest Hotel he finally got me with his lovely, labyrinthine, laudatory lament to stories and the people who tell them. It was surprisingly affecting once the artifice crumbled.
Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen)
I never know what kind of Coen Brothers movie I’m going to get. There are the ones that I love unreservedly (Blood Simple; The Big Lebowksi; No Country For Old Men; Raising Arizona; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and then there are the ones that leave me cold (Fargo; Burn After Reading; Miller’s Crossing; Barton Fink; The Man Who Wasn't There). I had a hunch that Inside Llewyn Davis would fall into the latter category as soon as I heard that this would be about folk music and featured a cat in a prominent role. Man, was I wrong! I still catch myself singing Please Mr. Kennedy at inopportune moments...
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
Only Lovers Left Alive (or "The Unbearable Darkness of Being") did nothing to alleviate my ongoing crush on Tilda Swinton as it reveled in the gothic in more ways than one.
The Purge: Anarchy (James DeMonaco)
Note for Purge virgins (Purgins?): You don’t have to have seen the first film to enjoy this superior sequel.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
Scorsese's trilogy chronicling a History of True American Crime is now complete. From Goodfellas and Casino to the amoral white-collar recidivists of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort may well be the biggest monster of them all...
Under those ten, in the category of Close But No Cigar:
The Guest (Adam Wingard) and It Follows (David Robert Mitchell) - That’s a stunning Carpenter-inflected Maika Monroe-starring double-bill right there. Prediction: It Follows may well graduate to my Best of 2015 list next year after another viewing...
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
Oculus (Mike Flanagan)
Pasolini (Abel Ferrara)
Pride (Matthew Warchus);
Honorary Mention: All Is Lost (J. C. Chandor)
I’m counting this one for this year even though it got a UK release date of Boxing Day 2013, because that week between Christmas and the New Year is a ghost week that comfortably straddles both sides of the temporal firework whizbang we divide our calendars with. There are coincidental glimpses of Life of Pi, Captain Phillips and Gravity here, and All Is Lost is better than all three of them put together. On the strength of this and the terrific Margin Call, Chandor’s forthcoming A Most Violent Year shoots to the top of my most anticipated films of 2015.
Cut. Print. Ask me tomorrow, and you'd get a different list. Maybe.
(Please don't ask me tomorrow).