Best of 2014

Bad Timing (Nic Roeg 1980)
This could be the year I gave up the arthouse ghost. I'm wondering if this falling for more mainstream, populist fair will also afflict my musical tastes at some point. Not sure about that actually. It's a certain kind of cinema that I feel reflects an escape from reality that I'm after, and yes, my favourite music probably takes me out of the here and now too. Perhaps entertainment is what I want from my film, but that is too simplistic. Maybe I like things in space, extreme violence and things blowing up. A good Superhero fist fight always gets my heart pumping, and scary aliens always work too. Wow, what a simpleton I've become. What I have missed this year is re-watching a few movies I'd promised myself: Jeff Bridges in Starman, Bertolucci's The Conformist, Delon in Le Samourai and that weird but excellent Nic Roeg picture Bad Timing (all you need to know, Art Garfunkel and necrophilia).
Starman (John Carpenter 1984)

2014 was the year of the Netflix movie for me, I feasted nightly on some atrociousness. Loved Liam Neeson in those Taken films, was disappointed by Iron Man 3, and for some strange reason watched the really mediocre, super smug and very dated Ocean's trilogy. Really enjoyed some Vin Diesel pot boilers (XXX, Riddick and the best of them Babylon AD). John Carter was brilliant fun and the much despised but much enjoyed by me Cowboys and Aliens was almost too good to be true. I watched a lot of Nicolas Cage movies this year and realised just how great he is, even if the film is terrible. The Wicker Man remake was poor, Frozen Ground weak, as was a rewatching of 8MM. But Cage was excellent in Herzog's reworking of Bad Lieutenant. Another remake, Spike Lee's Oldboy was passable fair. Finally got round to watching David O'Russell's slutty The Fighter with a great Christian Bale performance. Ed Wood didn't quite sparkle as much as I remembered, but that other Johnny Depp vehicle The Lone Ranger seemed a deeply flawed yet wonderful film.

Christian Bale in The Fighter

Nicholas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans
TV gave me many a thrill this year: True Detective, the very underrated Battlestar Galactica reboot. I watched the whole of Twin Peaks in a week. Gillian Anderson was intense and sexy in The Fall. Back to film, Wes Anderson gave his high standards a bigger ceiling with the wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel. Christopher Nolan's Interstellar shone and moved in equal measure. The Godzilla comeback from Aaron Edwards was fun and respected the whole Godzilla history. The first three installments of the X Men franchise made me re-think something I'd carelessly dismissed.  Caught up with both Captain America pictures (yes!), the beyond awful it's sooo good White House Down delivered my Roland Emmerich fix and Avengers Assembled gave me the kind of thrills a proper Superhero franchise should. Rewatched Peckinpah's disturbing Straw Dogs, Polanski's devine Chinatown, Walter Hill's game changer The Driver and Cronenberg's unhinged A Dangerous Method. All in all, 2014 has been a great year for cinema on small screen and large. At the least, cinema felt relative, exciting and alive.

Twin Peaks
Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs
Nick's Top 10 for 2014:
1. Chinatown ( Roman Polanski 1974)
2. The Driver (Walter Hill 1978)
3. The Grande Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson 2014)
4. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan  2014)
5. Battlestar Galactica (TV Series 2004-2009)
6.True Detective (TV Series 2014)
7.Twin Peaks (TV Series 1990-91)
8. Shame (Steve McQueen 2011)
9. Avengers Assembled (Joss Whedon 2012)
10. Hoop Dreams (Steve James 1994)

For me this was the year of solo watching and of getting into TV series big time. I loved Nashville and adored True Detective. I was left cold by Orange Is the New Black and feel embarrassed to admit how I enjoyed Offspring so much. But really, this year was so strange and awful that I have already actively forgotten what I experienced. This means that I have forgotten most of the films I saw.
Nina Proudman – always in boho clothes and knee-high boots

I did watch a lot of stuff, because lying in bed it was often the only thing I had energy to do. My favorite actor of the year must be Matthew McConaughey. He was golden in True Detective and great in Interstellar. I have a vague recollection of seeing 12 Years A Slave at the beginning of the year and really being shaken by it – in a good way. Mostly though I went through streaming services full of rom-coms from the 1990s and teary dramas with Julia Roberts or some other big Hollywood star (with lots of beautiful hair). Movies and TV was a get-away and a consolation.
Rayna and Juliette – the slick country superstars
But lets zoom in on a couple of these TV series that I liked. Nashville aired its third season this fall and I was able to watch all three seasons in a swift week or two. There are a couple of major reasons why I was so interested in Nashville: it's the first ever TV series (to my knowledge) that concentrates on the music business. Rayna James and Juliette Barnes are the strong leading women characters, who happen to be country music stars. There are also budding careers being introduced and even an effort to convey something of the studio recording process. Not only does the series deal with the business though, every episode features long performance parts – without noticing I learned some of the 'hits' of the fictional stars. The juiciness of it all comes from the characters' private lives though, it's a mess as usual and it sucked me in. I'm a fan of Hayden Panettiere now – waiting for the fourth season already.

Earlier in the fall I got hooked on an Australian soap called Offspring. My viewing began from the middle of the last ever season, but then I got into it so much I started from the earlier seasons (might have been 4 and 5). Offspring follows the life of an obstetrician Nina Proudman as she deals with her ticks, awkward ways, work life and family life. The Australian background and accent somehow added to the charm. I'm happy to find myself at an age of the leading ladies – you know, when the stories I love are about people my age.


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