10. Paddington (Paul King)
Best... internet meme. Just google "creepy Paddington".
After Postman Pat and Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, almost no one expected Paddington's first big-screen outing to be any good, which makes the film's success as sweet as a delicious marmalade sandwich. It made me laugh, cry and reminded me why I fell in love with Great-Britain all those years ago. Family entertainment doesn't come much better than this.
9. Pride (Matthew Warchus)
Best... scene of Imelda Staunton waving a dildo around.
Pride is part of the alternative heritage genre within British cinema alongside classics such as Brassed Off, The Full Monty, Billy Elliott or Made in Dagenham. Matthew Warchus' film doesn't have to hide from its predecessors. It has all it needs: an amazing true story, an important cause and a brilliant ensemble cast consisting of veterans (Nighy! Staunton! Considine!) and newcomers.
8. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
Best... title to say out loud.
At a time when most horror films rely on jump scares and splashes of bodily fluids, The Babadook provides a breath of fresh air from Down Under. First-time director Jennifer Kent sensitively explores grief and its consequences through the generic tropes of a ghost story. It is also creepy as hell (the first new film to genuinely scare me since The Impossible in 2012).
7. Stranger by the Lake/L'Inconnu du Lac (Alain Guiraudie)
Best... use of a single location.
As many critics pointed out when it was released, Stranger by the Lake puts the "cock" in "Hitchcockian". Set around a gay cruising spot in the south of France, this sexually explicit thriller lives off its brooding, menacing atmosphere and fantastic performances. The very best film of 2013 according to Cahiers du cinéma.
6. The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
Best... and most annoying earworm.
With their one-two of The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street, Lord and Miller have had an amazing year. The pair are probably the funniest people working in movies today. They throw an almost overwhelming number of jokes, puns and references at the audience with an astonishing success rate. LEGO furthermore provides a surprisingly mature message: wild creativity is great, but sometimes you also need to follow the instructions.
5. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)
Best... beard. Just admire at its orange-white glory.
If Timothy Spall is my performance of the year, Brendan Gleeson is a close second. He brings such gravitas and serenity to his role as father James Lavelle. John Michael McDonagh's second feature is more thoughtful, but almost as funny as his debut The Guard (also starring Gleeson). The radical tonal shifts will sit uneasy with some people, but Calvary is a beast of a fillum.
4. 20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard)
Best... depiction of wonderful Brighton town.
On one level, 20,000 Days on Earth is a documentary about the sensational Australian musician Nick Cave and his hometown Brighton. You get a real sense of Cave, his a fascinating character and his many, many inspirational ideas. On another level, it's a film about its own artifice. The directors put their subject in a number of pre-planned situations without scripted dialogue in order to find some form of "truth".
Best... drunken wittering.
This year's winner of the palme d'or at Cannes is a true behemoth of cinema. Ceylan evokes Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare and Voltaire in a film which mostly features people discussing a variety of big subjects in dark rooms (but also features a exhilarating Anatolian landscapes). At the end of the 196 minutes, we understand the absurdity of most of the discussions you've heard.
2. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
After last year's Before Midnight, the prolific director Richard Linklater once again finds himself at the runner-up position on cine-jambalaya's best-of list. After seeing Boyhood, which charts the life of a boy over a shooting period of twelve years, for the first time I was completely stunned. I can't think of a more truthful film about the experience of growing up in my generation (as long as you are a middle-class, white male at least).
1. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
Best... hidden cameras.
Describing Under the Skin with words is not an easy task, but it definitely lives up to its title and gets beneath the audience's membrane. Scarlett Johansson drives around Glasgow in a white van and gives the performance of her career until now as an unnamed being from a foreign world. Her attempts to understand the strangeness of human behaviour give us a rare opportunity to look at ourselves with the eyes of an outsider.