Rating movies at the finish of their respective years is all the time a difficult activity. Director Paul Thomas Anderson is now beloved amongst cinephiles first such hits as There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread, but one of his most underseen and most deliciously inscrutable movies is 2012’s The Grasp. Set in the aftermath of WWII, the movie follows army vet Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) as he drifts into the lifetime of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic chief of a cult like religious movement. What sets apart The Grasp from the remainder of PTA’s work is the dreamlike ambiance and cinematography, giving the movie an ethereal feel. Phoenix has by no means been higher as Quell, an individual seemingly continuously contorting in on himself every moment, and Hoffman offers one in all his most exceptional performances as the vain, secretly insecure Dodd. Throw in supporting performances from Amy Adams and Laura Dern and also you get the strangely satisfying cinematic journey that’s The Master.
Boyhood is, logistically speaking, a bit of a miracle. With a purpose to tell a narrative about rising up, Richard Linklater sporadically filmed a young Ellar Coltrane yearly for 12 years, from ages 6 to 18. His character, Mason, lived between his divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) in Texas. The mission flirted with potential movie-ending pitfalls: For one, what if a teenage Coltrane strayed from appearing? But Linklater delivered his finest ever film. It won BAFTAs, Golden Globes and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Arquette in 2014. Yet some still really feel a bit salty about Boyhood’s award season. Boyhood misplaced the Greatest Image Oscar to Birdman, a colder, familiarly healthful story, extra a technical and existential tour de force. On this event, the folks have spoken.
You might remember seeing the first couple of the series of The Final Kingdom – which is predicated on the Saxon Tales novels by Sharpe creator Bernard Cornwell – on the BBC, but the present switched hands to Netflix for series three.
With its restrained dialogue, monster violence and discombobulated timeline, the collection typically feels extra like a mashup of video game cutscenes than a cohesive dramatic narrative – but it works. The Witcher’s actual success is in seeming to recognise that viewers don’t necessarily need their ridiculous fantasy shows to be too high-brow or pretentious, and are mainly right here to see some cool magic results and sexy Geralt in the bathtub (shocking exactly no one, there’s loads of gratuitous feminine nudity too).
One among Netflix’s early blockbusters, the sprawling soap opera updates Dallas to modern day southern Florida. Against the sting-of-civilisation backdrop of the Florida Keys, Kyle Chandler plays the native detective and favourite son of a well-to-do household. Their idyllic lives are thrown into chaos with the return of the clan’s black sheep (an unnervingly intense Ben Mendelsohn). The story is spectacularly hokey but searing performances by Chandler and Mendelsohn, and by Sissy Spacek and the late Sam Shepard as their imperious dad and mom, make Bloodline compelling – a responsible pleasure that, actually, you should not feel all that responsible about.