Friday, 2 January 2015

The Best and Worst of 2014

Well, it's that time of the year when everyone is doing their 'best and worst of' lists, so here is mine. I'm going to list the books and movies I read/watched in 2014 and then pick my favourites. This isn't restricted to what was new in 2014, but what I actually watched and read - some of these items might be very old indeed.


I read the following in 2014:

David Foster Wallace – Oblivion
Jack Finney – Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Conrad Williams – Blonde on a Stick
James Sallis – Drive
Cinema - The Archaeology of Film and The Memory of a Century – Jean-Luc Godard
Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (graphic novel) – Daytripper
Louis Aragon – Paris Peasant
Simon Bestwick – The Faceless
Barry Hines – A Kestrel For A Knave
Frank Burton – A History of Sarcasm
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
Kinky Friedman – Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola
Kim Laken-Smith – Tourniquet
David Peace – 1973
Georges Perec – Life A User’s Manual
Adam Nevill – House of Small Shadows
Thomas M Disch – The Genocides
Guy Adams – The Breath of God
Susanna Jones – The Earthquake Bird
Raymond Chandler – the Long Good-bye
Margaret Millar – Beast In View
Brian Azzarello – Filthy Rich
Yasunari Kawabata – Beauty and Sadness
Jonathan Carroll – A Child Across The Sky
Rhys Hughes – Mister Gum
Warren Ellis – Gun Machine
Budd Schulberg – On The Waterfront
Maj S Jowall & Per Wahloo – Roseanna
Simon Louvish – Laurel & Hardy
Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca
Adam Nevill – The Ritual
Stephen Vizinczey – In Praise Of Older Women
Jonathan Letham – Motherless Brooklyn
J G Ballard – Crash
Jean-Claude Carriere – Please, Mr Einstein
Neil Gaiman – American Gods
JG Ballard – Super-Cannes
Thomas Ligotti – Teatro Grotesco
Christopher Fowler – The Water Room
Gherasim Luca – The Passive Vampire
Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked This Way Comes
Randolph Stow – The Green Girl as Elderflower
Robert Desnos – Liberty or Love
Where The Heart Is – edited by Gary Fry
Michel Houellebecq – The Map and the Territory
Carole Johnstone – Cold Turkey
J K Huysmanns – La Bas
Alexi Sayle – Train To Hell
Tony Ballantyne – Dream London
Paul Auster – The Invention of Solitude
Strange Tales IV – edited by Rosalie Parker
Lauren Beukes – Moxyland

That's worked out at 52 books this year, one a week. Definitely the worst of the bunch was Margaret Miller's "Beast In View" which felt poorly written considering it was a crime masterworks title. I was similarly disenchanted by Neil Gaiman's "American Gods". Simon Bestwick's "The Faceless" deserves a special mention, as does Adam Nevill's "The Ritual" - the first half of which is exemplary for sustained terror. I also thoroughly enjoyed Daphne Du Maurier's "Rebecca".

From memory, I was expecting J G Ballard's "Crash" to make my final three - it was a life-changing book. But I've referred to my Goodreads ratings to supplement my memory and three titles alone got 5/5 from me.

In reverse order, these are my top three:

"Beauty and Sadness" by Yasunari Kawabata

A tentative, sometimes astonishing book, about tremors of memories of a past relationship: beautifully written.

"The Long Good-Bye" by Raymond Chandler

Chandler's prose never disappoints and I'm working through each of his books with sheer joy. I can't fault this novel: perfect hardboiled noir with a killer ending.

And the winner is:

"Life: A User's Manual" by Georges Perec

This richly detailed book is quite simply incredible. It's an easy read, full of brilliantly observed stories as well as puzzles, lists, quirks and humour. The ending is sublime. There is so much in this book to recommend it, but words themselves won't do it justice. Just read it.


I watched the following in 2014:

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Only God Forgives
The ABC's of Death
The Postman Only Rings Twice (1946)
Air Doll
Garden State
Spirited Away
Once Were Warriors
Take Shelter
Winters Bone
Dead Poets Society
Leaving Las Vegas
Alpha Papa
Grand Budapest Hotel
The Great Gatsby
Blue Jasmine
Seven Samurai
The War Zone
Unmade Beds
The Wolf of Wall Street
Lilo & Stitch
Kill Your Darlings
Conspirators of Pleasure
Dark City
Blue Velvet
The Starfish
We Own The Night
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Post Tenebras Lux
Cloud Atlas

Interesting to see the impact having a child has on movie watching. In 2012 it was 93 films, last year it was 53, and this year it's 47. She's now two and a half. Hopefully the figures will rise again! In addition to the movies we did manage to watch the first series of Twin Peaks and quite a lot of The Office: An American Workplace (genius!), and a season of Adventure Time.

As usual when picking my top three I'm discounting movies I've previously watched. So that knocks out "Dead Poets Society" which I enjoyed seeing again after 25 years, "Bambi" and "Blue Velvet" which I barely remembered. Biggest disappointment was probably "The Grand Budapest Hotel" which - technically brilliant - just seemed to be Wes-Anderson-by-numbers and emotionally bland. Coming close are Nymphomaniac (thoroughly enjoyed, very thoughtful, less keen on the ending), Love (solo space movie that hits the spot), Possession (kooky 1980's psychological horror or alternate-WTF experience!), Post Tenebras Lux (containing some moments of pure cinematic joy and others of extreme tedium), and Salo (my partner will be annoyed this didn't make my top three as it's one of her favourite films: Pasolini's beautifully shot scatological-infused political satire).

Again, in reverse order, my top three:

"Air Doll" - Hirokazu Koreeda

There was something weirdly poetic, Japanese-charming, and ultimately poignant about this movie where a blow-up doll comes to life. One of those movies where within a few minutes you just know you're going to cry at the end, and this was no exception. Delightfully quirky!

"Dogtooth" - Yorgos Lanthimos 

Psychologically bonkers! A family keep their three children ignorant of the outside world and deliberately subvert everyday knowledge. Planes flying overhead are claimed to be toys and toy planes are hidden in the garden to corroborate this. That's just one aspect of this audacious movie. Utterly compelling.

And the winner is...
"Tetsuo: The Iron Man" - Shinya Tsukamoto

This short movie is quite simply insane. A man is literally transformed into a machine after a car accident with a metal fetishist. It plays like a music video/arcade game with breathtaking intensity. Audacious and surreal I genuinely have never seen anything like it. For that reason alone it has to make the top spot.
Looking forward to reading and watching more in 2015!

No comments:

Post a Comment