Reducing Obvious Child down to ‘the abortion romantic comedy’ does it a disservice. Few rom-coms have this much warmth and honesty about romance. Jenny Slate shows range previously untapped. Not only is she hilarious in the film’s standup scenes, she will also break your heart as she talks to friends, family, and doctors about the big life decision in front of her.
So much could have gone wrong over the 12 years it took Richard Linklater to film what is probably his finest and most ambitious work yet. What if the lead Ellar Coltrane wanted to back out after a few years, or worse, what if he was just a bad actor? Following him as young Mason for twelve years as he becomes a man is a journey unlike any you’ve ever seen on film. At times, you forget you’re watching a scripted story and not just acting as a voyeur into a real adolescent’s life. You grow with Mason. As he discovers his first fears, passions and loves, you can’t help but remember your own. Few films in 2014 were this relatable, beautifully familiar, and yet highly unique.
Some have accused Christopher Nolan’s film of having too much hokum about ‘love’. However, for some, there is nothing better than a big budgeted sci-fi film that dares to ask big questions. Interstellar confronts us with ideas about where we’ve come from and where, as a human race, we are going. To simply dismiss talk of love denies not just the grounds of the film but, in reality, life itself. After all, love is what pushes us to reach for the stars in the first place. Toss in some of the most impressive space visuals this side of 2001 and you have yourself the finest studio film of the year.
How far is too far to push someone who has genuine potential? Whiplash is a film about striving to reach perfection at all costs. Miles Teller gives a fiery star-making performance as a drummer in a Juilliard-type school, who wants to be the greatest jazz drummer of all time. His conductor is a monstrous, abusive J.K. Simmons, who is thought to win an Oscar for his work. With each chair he throws and insult he screams, you wonder, is it all worth it?
Snowpiercer is the rare film that has it all. Smart social satire about income inequality? Check. Gorgeously filmed action, including a badass axe fight? Check. Tilda Swinton giving bizarre speeches about how the poor must behave like shoes? That too. After an attempt to fix global warming that triggers an ice age, the only survivors left on earth live on a train called the Snowpiercer. Chris Evans plays a man leading the poor in a revolution, and he is determined to make it all the way to the engine. As the characters move from car to car, each set boasts a stunning new design that keeps the journey fresh. Few films have such an international feel. The cast includes Americans, Brits, Germans, and Koreans in prominent roles. No other film this year gave provided more originality in story and production than Snowpiercer.
By Will Link