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FROM boyhood TO THE LEGO MO VIE AND DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, 2014 WAS A YEAR WITH SOME TRU LY MEMORABLE MOVIE MOMENTS

Well, another 12 months in the dark is over and 2014 certainly gave us several memorable movie moments as well as the usual nonsense. Blockbuster season was as predictable as ever, with the latest entry in the Transformers franchise not even trying to hide its over-riding commercial concerns.

Honestly, at one point Stanley Tucci actually held up a product to the camera just in case we were missing the point. Mind you, there was one ray of light in the summer season with Guardians of the Galaxy, a comic adaptation which I'd never heard of and featured a talking raccoon and a walking tree voiced by Vin Diesel and it was a gem - witty, smart and absolutely great fun.

On a local level Lenny Abrahamson's Frank was rather misleadingly touted as a quirky Indie comedy when, in fact, it was a quite dark rumination on mental illness and how that can be indulged in the music industry.

Dohmnall Gleeson was great as an innocent young musician while Michael Fassbender gave a terrific performance from beneath a giant papier mache head.

Domhnall's father Brendan was easily the best thing about Calvary, playing a priest under a death threat while all around him stock caricatures of Irish life had to deal with some of the hammiest, badly-written dialogue heard in years.

Young English actor Jack O'Connell had a fabulous year, with breakout roles as a violent prisoner in Starred Up and a squaddie lost in Belfast during the Troubles in '71 while music fans got to learn of the lot of backing singers in the deservedly Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom - a marvellous, heart-warming film.

Elsewhere we had the vim and zest of American Hustle, Jake Gyllenhaal was wonderful as an ambulance-chasing newshound in Nightcrawler, a lovely Indian film for foodies with The Lunchbox, David Fincher's hugely successful adaptaion of Gillian Flynn's best-seller Gone Girl and Tom Hardy's one-man tour de force in Locke. But, without further ado, here are my Top 10 for 2014.

Lucas Moodysson's utterly charming movie is set in Stockholm in the early 80s and tells the story of how two young teenage girls bond over a love of punk music and decide to form a band. It's as much a film about friendship and the knocks that can affect those ties as anything else but it had a huge heart, was genuinely funny and the scene when the girls finally get to play in some hick town miles away from the capital was one of the year's highlights.

Russia's entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the upcoming Oscars paints a picture, right, of life as a grim struggle against both the elements and incipient corruption. Set by the shores of the Barents Sea, Leviathan is partly inspired by the Book of Job and tells the story of a man about to lose his family home to a land deal put through by an unscrupulous town mayor. On top of that his partner is unfaithful with his best friend, his teenage son hates him and life is barely bearable only through the consumption of industrial amounts of vodka. I rather enjoyed this.

Steve McQueen's adaptation of the memoir of Solomon Northup wasn't exactly the cheeriest of fare either, recounting how a free black musician (Chiewetel Ejiofor) was drugged and sold into slavery in Washington in the 1840s, spending more than a decade suffering unimaginable cruelty. Michael Fassbender gave a towering performance as a psychotically cruel plantation owner while Lupita N'yongo deservedly bagged an Oscar for her supporting role as a put-upon slave girl.

Both male acting Oscars went the way of this true-life drama, with Matthew McConaughey playing a hard-living electrician and rodeo rider who's shocked to discover that he's contracted AIDS but sets up a scheme whereby he and fellow sufferers can avail of drugs which haven't been approved by the US government. Jared Leto also caught the eye as a cross-dresser with whom McConaughey's character forges an unlikely partnership in a film which was strong and pointed but mercifully did the job without being patronising.

Marion Cotillard gave arguably the performance of her life in this incisive social drama from the Dardennes brothers. Her character has been laid-off from her job after a period of illness but her boss gives her a weekend to try to persuade her colleagues top give up a €1,000 bonus or let her keep her job. It's a thoroughly believable premise and Cotillard invests the central character with plenty of shade, meaning that you're never quite sure to root for her or leave her to her fate. Plenty to think about in this one.

Probably the best and most original horror film in years, The Babadook from Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent features a fabulous turn from Essie Davis as a widowed nurse who's driven to distraction by her hyperactive young son. When the boy finds a mysterious book about a creature called the Babadook he pictures the character coming into their house and lives while his mother begins to feel that she's losing her mind. There are layers and layers of depth and subtlety to be pondered over here and, unlike most contemporary horror tales, the film reaches a satisfying, wonderfully smart conclusion.

Wes Andserson's most successful film to date is a wonderful romp which manages to be artful without at any point lurching into the pretentious. Set in a fictional Middle Europe which recalls the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, the story is a right shaggy dog tale involving a valuable painting and a boy recalling his education at the hands of a charming but rogueish concierge, played with magnificent comic elan by Ralph Fiennes. Saoirse Ronan turns up alongside Anderson regulars Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe and the whole thing is as flimsy and insubstantial but enjoyable as an elaborate confection.

If you'd told me this time last year that the funniest film of 2014 would be an animated romp centring around children's building blocks I'd have said you were mad but The Lego Movie knocked spots off any other attempt at comedy over the past 12 months. An ordinary worker drone is mistaken for a prophesised leader against a tyrannical and various daft adventures ensue, encompassing characters as diverse as Batman, Gandalf and figures from Star Wars. Oh, and for good measure the film also contains the most memorable/irritating song of the year. Everything is, indeed, awesome.

Pawel Pawlikowski's gorgeus-looking monochrome movie is set in Poland in the early 1960s and concerns a young girl about to take her vows as a nun. Before she does so her Mother Superior suggests that she contact her aunt in order to discover the truth about her past and, as a result, we're guided into a story which encompasses themes of religion, faith, post-war guilt and anti-Semitism. All this is handled with great tact and sensitivity and, coming in at a trim 82 minutes, Ida is remarkable in its economy. A wonderful film.

Shot using the core cast over a 12-year period, Richard Linklater's film even manages to top the achievements of his Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight trilogy by simply telling the story of a boy (Ellar Coltrane) growing up with his mother (Patricia Arquette) while his father (Linklater regular Ethan Hawke) drifts in and out of his life. You could carp that nothing particularly profound happens over the course of almost three hours but that would be to severely underestimate the power of the performances and the central idea that simply living and getting by is profound in itself. A truly magnificent piece of work which should be well-rewarded come Oscar time.


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