Paul Thomas

Best Films of 2014

Jan 9, 2015 | Strange Days Indeed

“ Best of ” lists are a silly season staple.

You may think it’s just a matter of listing the ten best books or films or TV shows of the recently concluded year; if so, you couldn’t be more wrong.

There’s no fun in compiling such lists if they simply recycle conventional wisdom. The trick is to turn conventional wisdom on its head while engaging in unashamed intellectual snobbery by stacking your list with books/films/tv shows that most people have either never heard of or failed to appreciate.

In that spirit of pretentiousness and upmanship, we present this column’s ten best films of 2014:

10: Dropkicks

I have seen the future of the movies and his name is Clevon Dill.

The 18 year old Paraparaumu prodigy shot this definitive example of guerrilla filmmaking entirely on his iPhone and on a budget of less than $500, most of which was spent at McDonald’s.

The amateur cast are pitch perfect in their portrayal of the disaffected kids who haunt Kapiti’s shopping malls and skater parks. Dill, an Orson Welles for the social media age, is changing the way we think about and respond to the cinematic experience.

9: Fade to Blue

According to those who simply didn’t get it – you know who you are - pornography with laugh out loud gags is still porn.

Aldo Frothheimer’s fusion of screwball comedy and hard-core sex achieves at a stroke what our culture has been inching towards for decades: the convergence of mainstream entertainment and pornography. By rubbing our faces in carefully barbered body parts, Frothheimer forces us to ponder why Hollywood prides itself on ultra-realistic depictions of violence but recoils from going all the way when it comes to intimacy.

The year’s most confronting film.

8: In the Footsteps of the Khans

This Chinese documentary captures a year in the life of Urt, a yak herder in the remote Mongolian province of Khovd, a solitary figure in an unforgiving landscape. Despite minimal commentary, this stark and poetic documentary makes a profound statement about man’s relationship with the universe.

And yaks.

7: Ca Va, Connard? (How’s it going, Asshole?)

Writer-Director Serge Profiterole’s bittersweet tale of teenage elopement harks back to the halcyon days of the French new wave, specifically Jean-Luc Godard’s 1959 masterpiece, Breathless. Simultaneously thwarted and rejected by their parents and the system, the young lovers symbolise a generation of European youth sacrificed on the altar of economic orthodoxy while their mad dash for freedom becomes an inspirational protest against pretty much everything that’s wrong with the world today.

6: A Fistful of Thimbles

A lovingly restored version of Soviet filmmaker Sergei Jakoffsky’s criminally neglected 1937 revisionist western about a mysterious stranger who rides into a small, lawless frontier town and opens a haberdashery store.

Tragically, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, a fan of westerns, completely missed the subtle allegory: he denounced the film as capitalist propaganda and sent Jakoffsky to a Siberian labour camp from which he never returned.

5: Tally Ho!

Damien Poltroon, scion of the Poltroon theatrical dynasty – his great-uncle Sir Peregrine wrote the definitive post-war kitchen sink drama Where’s My Supper, You Slag? – announces himself in stunning fashion with this searing indictment of the English class system centred on a self-made Anglo-Pakistani millionaire’s dogged quest to become Master of Foxhounds at his local hunt.

4: Dead as Disco

Who said Kiwis can’t make world-class crime movies?

Plenty of people, if the truth be told, but they’ve been well and truly put in their place by first-time director Natalie Tripod, previously best known for her Briscoes TV ads. Grittiness and intrigue abound as wheelchair-bound Maori transvestite private eye Sheila Guy rolls down the mean streets of Havelock North.

3: Last Exit to Tokmok

Igor Uulu’s stately but riveting portrayal of the effects of westernisation on his native Kyrgyzstan follows the progress of a Harvard Business School graduate who returns to the former Soviet republic to oversee the transition to a free market economy only to find himself increasingly distracted by comely tractor drive and staunch communist, Benoka.

2: Revenge of the Morons

Kick-ass special effects extravaganza from veteran special effects extravaganza maestro Butch Rampage about two high school dropout brothers who accidentally construct a doomsday machine while fooling around in their father’s basement workshop and wipe out the entire human race. I can’t wait for the sequel.

1: Blow Hard

Celebrated Scottish documentary maker Angus McGonagall goes inside the self-contained, whisky-sodden world of professional, competitive bagpiping. The film charts the progress of perennial strugglers the Pipes of Muckhart in their do or die bid to make the lucrative finals of the Clackmannanshire League. Think real life Dodgeball.