Hi there, this is Drew (Fisti) from A Fistful of Films talking about my ten favorite cinematic discoveries of 2014. Now, I’m really slow when it comes to movie watching. I don’t always get the chance to make it to the theater, and so I won’t be seeing all the films of importance until mid-2015 (like, I haven’t even seen Birdman yet!) but there were so many awesome discoveries for me so far this year that I felt this list (while sure to be amended later) was worth putting together.
So, this is a list of discoveries, in that these names are all names I had not heard of before 2014. Some of them have been working longer than others, some are brand new, but until this past year I had no idea who they were.
Now I’m in love.
So, while 2014 confirmed my love of Tye Sheridan and Steven Pierce, they’re not on the list. Neither is Nick Urata, who composed the most incredible score for Paddington, mostly because I still don’t know if Paddington is a 2014 or a 2015 film.
Here we go!
Until Guardians of the Galaxy became that surprise smash hit of the summer, James Gunn was the guy behind two failed genre pics (I actually kind of liked Slither, to be honest), and if you didn’t know his name, no one would look at you funny. I mean, I saw Slither, and I still had no idea who James Gunn was. Now, I’m flirting with giving him a Best Director nomination in my own personal awards (The Fistis). I can’t wait to see more from this guy, because in one film he showed such incredible range and understanding of tone. Superhero films are a dime a dozen, and Marvel films in particular have always walked this thin line of awesome and cheesy, but Gunn’s tonal direction was a perfect balance. Guardians of the Galaxy was the perfect summer blockbuster, and I personally want more, more, more!
Who is this chick? I love it when an artist comes out of nowhere and just becomes this new voice. Apparently she’s got two albums under her belt, but until you saw Shailene Woodley bawl her eyes out while "Not About Angels" played in the background, did you have any idea who she was? I didn’t, but now I want more. She’s all over the The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack, with three great tracks, including "Tee Shirt," which is probably the best ‘young love’ song I’ve heard in a long time. I’m all about singer/songwriter indie folk music, and Birdy fits that bill to a T. More please!
I remember tweeting shortly after watching Begin Again that I was in love with James Corden and one of my Twitter followers told me that he wasn’t very popular overseas. Well, I had no idea who this guy was, and I haven’t seen anything else he’s in, but he won me over with his bearishly tender BFF performance in that beautiful movie, and I’m not ready to let him go. Like, I would want to have his babies if I could actually have babies; he’s that lovable to me. Perfect comedic timing, natural delivery and a huggable face have me more than ready for more Corden in my life.
I should have known this name, right? I mean, he’s married to my favorite actress of all time (yeah, Marion has officially reached that status) and he’s been one of those foreign staples for years and yet the name (I didn’t sort of recognize the face) meant nothing to me until I saw Blood Ties earlier this year. Now his name means a lot. I know that not everyone adored this like I did, but Blood Ties was such a perfectly constructed story. That’s what I took away from it the most; Canet knows how to tell a story. He weaves his actors and characters into the fabric of the story, the atmosphere rich with this authenticity, and he uses everything at his disposal to fill in the details. For me, that is the best trait a director can possess. I want him to tell me another story, soon!
Some performances come along and just feel almost too honest. For me, this year, that was Jenny Slate. I think that comedy is taken for granted to such an extreme these days that splendid comedians are only really ever taken seriously if they make their comedy painful, but what is so incredible about Slate in Obvious Child is that she plays both sides of that coin. She’s just plain funny for the whole first half…and then she makes it painful, she makes it stick. And MY LORD did she feel so real. The scene, across the street, with the coffee, the staring, the moment she sees her ex and his new love…you can’t fake that. I didn’t know who she was before now, but now I know and now I want more!
Nobody knew who Mica Levi was until this past year, but now everyone knows who she is, and if you aren’t in love with her work then you’re crazy. What she does with atmosphere in her scoring of Under the Skin is just out of this world (literally). She took so many risks with her score, but they made for one of the most entrancing pieces of art I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching and listening to, and without her tremendous contribution to the film, it wouldn’t have hit the right notes; pun intended. I hope and pray that she gets swooped up and is given the chance to really develop her sound and her skills. She has the opportunity to become one of those edgy, artistic and unique composers who constantly raises her game and remains a notch above all those supposed greats who recycle their past successes.
Sticking with the Under the Skin theme, how gorgeous is this movie!?!?! OMG, it just shimmers with such rich atmosphere. It’s stunning. There is not one movie this year that has produced as many singular shots of greatness as Under the Skin, and so because of that I now know the name Daniel Landin. Is it surprising that he’s best known for shooting music videos? Not really, especially when you look down the list of his resume and see that the artists he worked with include Bjork, The Cure and Sneaker Pimps. I want him to frame more movies, like NOW.
Yes, Shailene Woodley got all the attention for her tragic turn in The Fault in Our Stars, but for me it was a perfect pair of performances that would not have worked had both actors not been completely committed, and of the two, I think I prefer what Ansel Elgort (a name I did not know, and a face I did not recognize) brought to the table. Such a natural charm he possesses, and while I know he’s being swooped up by the teenagers and he’s stuck in that awful Divergent franchise, but this guy has what it takes to be something special, and I really hope he gets the chance to do that. I, honestly, could see him becoming the next Leonardo DiCaprio; no joke.
I feel like everyone but me knew this name, and knew it well, but honestly, I didn’t know the name of the author of that book everyone was reading until I saw it at the theater, on the big screen, and I went “I better remember that one”. I’m telling you, Gone Girl is one of the sharpest, most brutally honest portraits of the modern American marriage, and it hits so many points that most writers/directors/films in general would be afraid to hit. Flynn is fearless, and we need that spirit working steadily on the big screen. I’m not even going to discuss how her Oscar snub is disgusting; but let’s hope it doesn’t discourage her from writing another screenplay.
When compiling this list, ranking everything from #2-#10 was difficult and really just a stroke of my current mood, but ranking #1 was the easiest decision, because there is nothing about 2014 that has impressed me more than the one-two punch of Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Yes, her diverse work in Belle and Beyond the Lights show an actress on the top of her game; and what game she possesses! The regal authenticity and honest recoil of internalized frustrations that came brimming to the surface in Belle, contrasted with her masked agony and overt sexuality in Beyond the Lights make for one of the most impressive breakthroughs I’ve ever seen; ever. What she did in Beyond the Lights alone is remarkable; essentially playing two characters (an actress playing a broken woman playing the part of a rising starlet), she handles both with unflinching realism. I want her to star in every movie ever made from this moment forward.