FILM BIZARRO'S BEST OF 2014
(Posted: 28 December 2014)


Man, what an exciting year it has been! Well, not really. It has been the same boring shit like always except that we are all now that much closer to death than we were last year. However, as far as movies go, it actually has been an exciting year. After all, I think we all will remember where we were when the "Jurassic World" trailer dropped. And the trailers for "Star Wars", "Terminator: Genisys" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" too. We'll remember these dates for their importance, and not because trailers, and big announcements in general, are given their own release dates these days. Or that trailers receive their own teaser trailers in order to create hype for said trailers that create hype for movies that aren't coming out for another year...It's probably a safe assumption next year, only trailers are going to be released. 

Of course this year also helped remind us that everyone still hates high frame rates, yet they love seeing Tom Cruise die, repeatedly, for almost two hours. Even with those exciting and life changing events, we composed ourselves long enough to sit down and hammer out our annual Best of the Year list. I mean sure, Christopher Nolan, Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson released movies this year and we all know their movies are the greatest, even without having seen them. Even so, we still managed to find 30 exceptional movies that came out this year and we also put together a few special awards to help celebrate another memorable year in cinema.

Enough snarky cynicism and chit-chat, let's get to our BEST OF 2014 picks!


#30


THE BEAUTY STRIP
Director: Ginnetta Correli

Ginnetta Correli surprised me with her experimental art-erotica that is "The Beauty Strip", in that it felt significantly different from the previous endevours. She has kept her cinéma vérité-style, but has also used in a much more effective way. "The Beauty Strip" gives us a look into the sexual lives of a few women, but what's actually offered is not just erotica but views on the ideals of beauty and sexuality that doesn't feel like weak agendas, but something genuine and worth taking in.

#29


DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
Director: Patrick Ryan

This is something as intriguing as a modern tragedy that takes inspiration from the classic westerns - but not in the way that someone like Tarantino would do it. This isn't genre-masturbation, but rather taking small cues from the western genre to give this independent film a fresh style. When the story is rather straight-forward and simple, this is just the right method to make it unique and memorable. This is a slow and clever little cookie that is worth more to the independent genre than the majority that's being spit out from today's independent scene.

#28


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Director: James Gunn

Everyone is burnt out on the "tent-pole" comic book movies but "Guardians of the Galaxy" brought something interesting to the table. Not just because it was directed by James Gunn -- a man who cut his filmmaking teeth in the trenches of Troma -- who has a unique voice for these kind of movies, but because the movie offered something that the others seemed to be missing: entertainment. "Guardians of the Galaxy" transcends what is now the cliché comic book movie and offered fun and entertainment in the form of a grandiose space adventure. And for the James Gunn fans, it was enjoyable to see the familiar faces of Gunn's crew in a blockbuster movie.

#27


POINT B
Director: Conor Long

Science-fiction movies seem to work as well as they do because of their concepts, and "Point B" has a great concept about a group of friends inventing a teleportation device, but it was the characters that made the movie. "Point B" succeeds because of the dynamic that exists between the actors. Their portrayal of these characters who are caught up in their accidental scientific discovery not only helps make the story function, but the comedy of "Point B" as well.

#26


BIRDMAN
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

The movie about an aging and forgotten actor of a superhero film franchise is rather fitting in regards to modern cinema trends. Impressive from a technical standpoint due its "one take" style, "Birdman" is an interesting movie because it feels theatric, rather than cinematic, in the performances of the characters and how the movie plays out. While it is a comedic film, it seemed rather poignant because of how much of the movie's concept appeared to reflect Michael Keaton's own career. A man who really gave it his all -- as well as the rest of the cast -- in the movie.

#25


TIME LAPSE
Director: Bradley King

Time travel seems to be the go-to story for anything relating to science-fiction, but "Time Lapse" found a way to make it a bit more unique by having three friends discover that pictures from a camera exposes their future. The concept and story are handled with competence as the movie focuses on the relationships of the characters, instead of paradoxes. Even with limited locations, there are enough twists and turns to the story that "Time Lapse" actively keeps you hooked.

#24

CALVARY
Director: John Michael McDonagh

While "Calvary" is technically a commercial film for Ireland compared to what we usually cover, the movie maintains the quality that we've come to enjoy and appreciate from the Irish New Wave. While being little more than a character piece, the darkly humored film has a level of honesty in the cynicism expressed by the characters about life and faith. With the emotionally devastating ending, "Calvary" has the ability to stick with you after it's over.

#23


BORGMAN
Director: Alex van Warmerdam

The abstract take on the home-invasion movie from Alex van Warmerdam is a bizarre and, at times, unsettling little film. It remained engaging throughout with its ambiguous and constantly twisting story about a stranger seducing and destroying an entire household. It's a movie that challenges the viewer but never talks down them while continuously remaining interesting, and oddly entertaining, with its persistent dark humor.

#22


COHERENCE
Director: James Ward Byrkit

If you like mindbenders like "Primer", then this might be up your alley. It's a psychological thriller that takes place in one house with a group of friends, and what becomes of their calm, nice night with good food is a puzzle that has the audience scratching their heads. While there are holes and perhaps some comfortable choices made to tell the story, this movie was still enjoyable as hell since it really pulls you in to help solve the puzzle they find themselves in.

#21


GREATFUL DEAD
Director: Eiji Uchida

Japanese cinema can be wonderfully demented in a way that no other country in the world can compare to. "Greatful Dead" is not their most extreme example of that, but there is no way to expect what's about to go down. It starts out as a funny, quirky movie about a woman who spends her days spying on eccentric outsiders, but slowly turns into a woman's descent to madness as she gets completely obsessed in one specific person. So much so that she will kill anyone who interupts her plan. The great mixing of genres makes it both entertaining and effective, which is an important trait for "Greatful Dead" to stand out against competition.

#20


RUN RUN IT'S HIM!
Director: Matthew Pollack

If you were a man with a porn addiction so strong that it could ruin relationships, what would you do? If your answer is that you would make a documentary about it, then you are most likely the person behind "Run Run It's Him!". This is a wonderful little creation that highlights a subject that most people would want to keep to themselves. It might be a little sad at times, but Matthew Pollack is just a funny, sweet man and the way he lets us hear about his dirty little secret is far from perverted or discriminating. It's just him opening up entirely and accepting that he has a problem, and dealing with it however makes sense to him.

#19


LET'S MAKE A... HORROR MOVIE
Director: Michael Todd Schneider

Michael Todd Schneider knows a lot about being an oddball independent filmmaker, and this is his movie about filmmaking. With certain aspects taken from real life (it's about making the movie "...And Then I Helped", which we had on a previous Best of list), and some horrific twists of fiction (such as the ending), this shows us more about Michael than a documentary would have. If you need something truly unique to watch this year, then this might be up there with the oddest.

#18


THE CANAL
Director: Ivan Kavanagh

Odds are that while people have been talking about "The Babadook" or "Annabelle", you have also heard festival reviews about an Irish movie called "The Canal". From the director of a previous year's favorite, "Tin Can Man", this is an entirely different style but equally well directed. This is a supernatural horror movie that goes into the psyche of its lead and despite having a few predictable turns it ends in a very exciting and creepy finale that leaves all the small holes far behind it. If you didn't take note of Ivan Kavanagh after "Tin Can Man", you surely will after "The Canal".

#17


MOEBIUS
Director: Kim Ki-duk

If we had an award for the most fucked up movie on the list this year, this is it. Kim Ki-duk is not a stranger to brutality, perversities, strangeness and controversy, and "Moebius" has it all. It's a movie entirely without dialogue, which can feel a bit odd at times when you have scenes where people are fighting but all you hear is their grunts. But this is also part of what makes "Moebius" stand out. That and all the twisted violence and perverse stories within one fucked up family, of course. I don't think you will forget about this movie.

#16


UNDER THE SKIN
Director: Jonathan Glazer

It's surprising to think that an experimental movie like "Under the Skin" received such wide distribution. It's a fascinating minimalist piece that blends a cinéma vérité-style with a science-fiction story that has surreal-like elements to it. The low-key beginning can be a shock to the system if ill prepared, yet the quiet nature of the movie creates a rather haunting atmosphere that keeps you invested up until the tragic ending.

#15


LATE PHASES
Director: Adrián García Bogliano

At least half of the Film Bizarro staff (1 out of 2!) has had an obsession with werewolf movies. Or rather, with good werewolf movies - which is the minority of them. Having grown up on the genre from the very first horror movie I saw, I have recently been looking hard to find titles that successfully portray the beast. Adrián García Bogliano has made both bad and good movies, but "Late Phases" is definitely his best work so far. Not only that, it is probably the best werewolf movies since the "Ginger Snaps" trilogy ended. There are a lot of great twists to the genre that makes it a fun watch, and the practical effects on the werewolves are a delight.

#14


MAPS TO THE STARS
Director: David Cronenberg

In Cronenberg's career that spans over 40-years, "Maps to the Stars" might be the strangest thing he's done yet. Well, probably not, but it's a hard film to describe and an even harder film to understand how you should feel about it. A satirical take on the Hollywood system and those who latch onto it like a parasite; "Maps to the Stars" is a movie that manages to feel both absurd and genuine. The further it goes, the stranger and darker it becomes, yet remaining humorous in the skewering of the elite while exposing the hideous underbelly of those considered to be glamorous.

#13


STOMPING GROUND
Director: Dan Riesser

There have been numerous Sasquatch films over the years but "Stomping Ground" was exceptional because it wasn't about Sasquatch. Not entirely anyway. The movie created more of a connection with audience because it chose to focus on the characters, and creating a tense atmosphere stemming from paranoia and insecurities. It allowed for a more effective creature-feature since there was something more interesting and engaging to the movie instead of being pure monster schlock.

#12


OK, GOOD
Director: Daniel Martinico

This movie is not just about the struggle of an actor, it's about struggling with yourself. Getting over your bumps in life is necessary, but what happens when you simply can't push through and you just snap? What makes this movie extraordinary is that when our lead (played by Hugo Armstrong) snaps, he doesn't turn into William Foster of "Falling Down" or Jack Torrance of "The Shining" - this movie is far less spectacular. And that's exactly why this is a great movie. It displays something real, which put into the context of another movie wouldn't have worked, but within the realistic rules that "OK, Good" play by, this truly hits the right keys.

#11


HOUSEBOUND
Director: Gerard Johnstone

New Zealand's horror-comedy film, "Housebound", was a surprisingly hilarious movie to watch. The film's greatest achievement is defying expectations of what kind of movie you think it will be. Taking the story and the characters in a more unique direction with a wicked sense of humor and a mix of different comedy styles. Part of the reason the movie's humor worked so well was because Morgana O'Reilly had perfect comedic timing in delivering the material.

#10


WORM
Director: Doug Mallette

It's been a great year for science-fiction movies but "Worm" became a stand-out feature of the bunch because of the direction in social examination that it took. It features an interesting concept about a world where people are no longer able to dream, and blends together comedy and drama to tell an emotionally effective story.

#9


BUZZARD
Director: Joel Potrykus

I fucking loved "Ape". And "Ape" lead me to love the duo of Joel Potrykus and Joshua Burge. Their follow-up and last part of the animal trilogy (which started with the short film "Coyote") didn't dissapoint, and it's a movie that spoke to my own horror geekiness and slacker..ness. It's not scared to go nowhere, and it manages to be both funny and intense while it does it. Joshua Burge perfectly portrays a deceitful character you don't mind loving to hate and hating to love - mostly because that seems to be how he feels himself.

#8


NYMPHOMANIAC
Director: Lars von Trier

I am sure you have your opinion on Lars von Trier. I am also sure that the opinion you have is a strong one. If you do like his work, then "Nymphomaniac" is a fantastic movie to watch. Not only does it have an intriguing, fantastical story that spans over decades and is told in 4 hours (5h 30min if you watch the director's cut, which might be to prefer), it has a ton of references to his old work, graphic sex, violence, quirky comedy, crime, psychological drama, art, Stellan, you name it. This is a great piece of work, even though it's not among his very best.

#7


REDLANDS
Director: John Brian King

Somewhere between arthouse, exploitation and erotica, we have a quiet little movie called "Redlands". It's an utterly uncomfortable experience that has some disturbing moments without ever going too far. It's a long movie, but the pacing is important for the movie to grow on you and once you hit the ending it's not an easy watch. And let's not ignore that Nicole Fox is both a great actress and absolutely stunning.

#6


CHEAP THRILLS
Director: E.L. Katz

When you look at the movie's title and the fact that it was co-written by Trent Haaga -- a man whose work we love around here -- it should tell you everything you need to know about "Cheap Thrills". This aggressive, blunt and all around disgusting movie will reach in and touch the darkest part of your soul while you laugh as two friends go to extreme lengths to earn some extra money. The unapologetic gross-out nature of the film makes you feel wrong for finding it as funny and entertaining as you do.

#5


LIMP
Directors: Shaun Ryan

The concept of a man having a relationship with the corpse of a woman may sound like shock-film fodder, but Shaun Ryan created a much more interesting story about loneliness. What can occur to a person who is isolated from their own world and desperately wants to find a connection to something, or someone. The performance from Eoin Quinn is nothing short of phenomenal as he perfectly portrays a man hiding within himself, and creates a false reality in an attempt to remove that loneliness that plagues his existence.

#4


FELT
Director: Jason Banker

"Toad Road" hit the scene and made itself heard quite fast, and lived up to it. That doesn't mean that the next movie of Jason Banker's would be as good - but it was. Thanks to the performance of Amy Everson, this movie has you hooked. It's a movie that plays off like a quirky drama but it has a lot of dark layers behind it, that slowly creep out. Behind some genuine touching moments and a few immature laughs, we're taking a look into the mind of someone unstable and broken.

#3


STRESS POSITION
Director: A.J. Bond

The debut feature from A.J. Bond is an emotionally and mentally intense (and draining) movie that dissolves the line that separates film from reality. Even though you know you are watching a movie, it often felt like what you were actually watching was an unethical experiment in psychology that spirals out of control. As two friends push each other to the limits through psychological terror, and are forced to face themselves, the viewer goes through a similar journey as the movie drags you in.

#2


WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL?
Director: Sion Sono

Sion Sono is a masterful director, but this movie is not what you have come to expect from him if you've seen movies like "Suicide Club" and "Cold Fish". Instead we get an over-the-top silly, but incredibly funny and endearing splatter comedy. There are funny movies, and then there are rare movies like this one - that actually make you laugh out loud. It's hard to be prepared for this insanity.



You realize that there is only one title left on the list, right? Do you have ANY idea what #1 will be?


#1


LOVE ETERNAL
Director: Brendan Muldowney

There are only a few movies every year that manage to get to you emotionally, and this is one was the strongest this year. It's an incredibly dark but beautiful story that is so well crafted that there's not a bad thing to say about it. I don't think a lot of people have found this movie yet, but I can only hope that someone gives it a shot and finds it just as powerful as we did. A lot of credit goes to the amazing performances, but honestly, every little piece fell into the right place to make this the best movie of 2014.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Little needs to be said about the honorable mentions, but just let it be known that this year was harder than most when deciding what deserved to be on the actual list and what should be honorable mentions. We finally managed to make a list we were happy with, and these are some of the titles that almost made it:
Tusk, Starry Eyes, Ida, Big Bad Wolves, Willow Creek, Snowpiercer, The Double, Return to Nuke 'Em High volume 1, Old Man, Mourning Has Broken, Blue Ruin, Having Fun Up There, The Midnight Swim

 

LET'S GO TO THE AWARDS!


THE SINNER
Director: Philippe Chabot & Olivier Descamps Jr.
Philippe Chabot and Olivier Descamps Jr. directed this extremely intense short film inspired by the likes of "The Exorcist III". It manages to be nearly as excellent as the movies that inspired it, mainly because it keeps it simple and successfully speaks to those with or without religion in their life.




PROMOSCUITIES
Director: Jonathan Leder
This graphic psycho-sexual short film could easily have became mindless smut in different hands, but the team behind this made sure to bring out some great points, performances and aethetics with just the perfect amount of experimentation to still make it a narrative. It's completely different from the other short film on our list, which is why it was hard to only pick one.

 





(Click image for larger)

THE DOUBLE
Unfortunately, this illustrated poster for "The Double" from creative agency Empire Design was only used as a teaser for Richard Ayoade's film and was eventually replaced with bland, generic poster art. What makes it unfortunate is that this artwork not only tells you a story, but it also represents the tone and theme of "The Double" very well.



The selection of worst posters this year have a few problems that extend past the usual issues for awful artwork. "Lucy" suffering from awkward spacing brought on by a terrible choice in typeface size and placement. Studio S decided that for their release of "Dracula" that Argento's name needed to be as big as the movie's title (and is all around awful in general). Then there's "Whiplash", which is completely masturbatory, and "Feed the Gods" is nothing but a shameless rip-off of the cover art for "Toad Road".


From the left: Lucy, Dario Argento's Dracula, Whiplash, Feed the Gods

 






BEST ACTRESS:
AMY EVERSON ("Felt")

Amy Everson's awkward, offbeat performance in "Felt" made the movie stand out even more than it would have. Jason Banker is definitely a great director, but it's the performance that we will remember for a long time after the movie ended, and it's an actress I hope to see more of. It's a roller coaster of a role and she nailed every moment of it.

Honorable mention: Morgana O'Reilly ("Housebound")



BEST ACTOR:
JOSHUA BURGE ("Buzzard")

This isn't the first time that he gets a mention, but this time he actually won! Going from an honorable mention to a win on our site might not be a big deal, but it certainly shows the impact his performances have had on us and probably on other people too. That and we have watched a ton of solid male performances this year (you can just look at the honorable mention), but he beat them all with his role in "Buzzard".

Honorable mention: Eoin Quinn ("Limp")




MAKING A MOVIE OUT OF A PODCAST
(KEVIN SMITH/TUSK)

The movie itself had flaws, and only one of us actually liked the movie. But you can't deny the fantastic initiative to not only make such a fucked up movie, but to base it on a discussion from a podcast (which in itself was spawned from reading an ad), is just fantastic. It's exactly the kind of thing that sums up modern technology, since podcasts is one of the most popular mediums right now. Hate Kevin Smith's bizarre and sillywalrus movie if you like, but the road up to distribution was incredibly inspiring.

MAKING A MOVIE BASED ON YOUR OWN PORN ADDICTION
(MATTHEW POLLACK/RUN RUN IT'S HIM!)

Sharing the award with Kevin Smith's "Tusk", is Matthew Pollack's documentary about his own porn addiction. Why? Because that is just a fantastic idea. Not only for us to see something interesting and sort of funny, but because it actually works as a way to get through the addiction. Sharing it means you're seeing it (the problem), and ultimately will serve to help. Matthew Pollack's choice was a bold and inspiring one.




LOUIS C.K.
TOMORROW NIGHT - FIRST EVER RELEASE, $5 DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

The movie was made in 1998, but almost no one saw it until this year, thanks to Louis C.K. releasing it for $5 as a digital download on his website. This is the second time Louis C.K. gets an award from us, but you can't deny that what he is doing is something we need to see more of. I hope that more lost/ignored/forgotten movies will come out of the darkness because the filmmakers behind them decide to make them available on the cheap. This isn't just a great movie, but a release that everyone should support.




MONDO VISION - POSSESSION (LIMITED BLUE VELVET BOXSET)

2014 wasn't just a great year for new movies, it was also a great year for releases overall. Because of this we decided to add an award for it. It seems like there has been a new motivation to put out solid, unique releases with blu-ray, something that has been missing for physical media in a couple of years (with a few exceptions). While this year was extraordinary (see the honorable mentions), we can't help but love that Mondo Vision finally got to put out their dream-release of Andrzej Żuławski's "Possession", and the release is just as great as we always hoped it would be.

Honorable mentions:
Arrow Video - Withnail & I (Special Edition)
Grindhouse Releasing - Cannibal Holocaust
Third Window Films - New Directors From Japan

 

SPACE COP - RedLetterMedia made a funny and entertaining love letter to rubber-puppet monster movies with "Feeding Frenzy". They've spent the last 5 years honing their humor and craft with numerous projects, so "Space Cop" should prove to be something great.

LET US PREY - Looks like it will be a brutal flick with some nice stylization to it.

FIRES ON THE PLAIN - Last year we mentioned a movie by Shinya Tsukamoto that we could only guess the title of. This is most likely that movie, and we have to see it!

LAKE NOWHERE - Most retro-wannabe movies look terrible, but this one actually seems like it will deliver on everything other movies have tried.

THROWBACK - It's bigfoot horror!

YOGA HOSERS - "Tusk" was fucked up, so we want to see what the next movie in line will deliver.

GRAVY - The comedy-horror feature film debut of James Roday. The man responsible for writing and directing the best episodes of the television series "Psych" (most of which were horror themed).

HALIBUT POINT - Ron DeCaro makes another feature, so we are obviously excited!


Since this was a surprisingly good year for movies, we hope that you spend the beginning of 2015 just catching up on titles from the list above. Unless you are amazing and have seen everything on this list!






 

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Special Feature Archives



 
 
TOP 10 OF LAST YEAR:
1. Fires on the Plain
2. What We Do in the Shadows
3. We Are Still Here
4. Spring
5. Makeup Room
6. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
7. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
8. Shadow Zombie
9. Honeymoon
10. Nina Forever
Taken from Best of 2015



CURRENT FAVORITE
DISTRIBUTORS:
- Mondo Vision
BFI
- Second Run DVD