Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movies of 2014

So, this is one of those posts where I started with an entirely different premise and in the midst of building that premise I realized I was simply incorrect.

I was going to say this was a meh year for movies, and it kinda was. (Here Time tries to avoid that conclusion, included because it spurred this post.)
But in reviewing this abbreviated list of the top 100 movies by box office (complete list here), there was some darn good stuff this year - movies that will have legs, in that someone who didn't see them yet will at some point in the future.  I've highlighted the ones I've heard general consensus around their being good. Of those I've seen, I found something in most of them to like or love a little.

22 Jumpstreet was a pretty cool sequel, with one of the best closing title sequences ever.  Interstellar was on a grand scale and I enjoyed it, but like the Disney movie The Black Hole, the fact that it glossed over the fact you would simply be crushed if you entered a black hole scotched my complete enjoyment of it.  The "auto destruct sequence initiated" joke almost made up for that, though. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was moving and epic, though Spoiler Alert: it's the Lion King/Bambi plot yet again.  Gone Girl was a nearly perfect adaptation of that wonderful novel; see it if you  decide to see anything on the list. Boyhood was of course great.  Still looking forward to Birdman and Wild

TLD:  [correction - Wild is not about the same woman who was the subject of Alice to Ocean.  My bad.]
Haven't had one of these in a while! I consigned Wild to a DVD because I know the story too well as it was the subject of one of the first multimedia CDs ever, Alice to Ocean, and given out by Apple with new Macs back in the 90s, which I devoured. It was supposed to be the next big thing, and everyone did them for a bit, but then the web came along it all moved to a server not near you. I even found a nude picture of the woman as they had not bothered to clean up some of the scratch files.  Someone had painted a dress on her, which was the one used in the presentation, but they forgot to remove the source photo from a buried folder. I guess they felt it would be too controversial to use, which was sorta too bad because the woman explains that she was often nude when not around anyone else, which to me is an interesting part of the story.
 The centerpiece scene in "X-Men" where Quicksilver saves everyone by zipping around the room more or less outside of time and prevents the cops from airing them out.  The use of Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" is inspired.  Spoiler Alert: Am I the only one to notice this had the exact same plot as J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot?

For some reason The LEGO Movie just didn't connect with me, which is odd because it's right in my wheelhouse, but I could barely force myself to finish it and only did because the younger daughter was watching it, too.  Her summary: "Kinda boring." 

My favorite of the year - Calvary - is not even on this list (though it's in the top 200), and I think it would have been widely embraced had it been given a larger release.  I suspect the reason it wasn't is twofold: 1) it's very Irish, which I bet some short-sighted Americans who determine distribution domestically thought might confound some, 2) it's a thoughtful exploration of belief and the sins and grace of the Roman Catholic Church. I've noticed a certain squeamishness in Hollywood about actual religion.  As proof I offer Noah and Exodus, both which deviated greatly from their biblical source material and did their best to remove or paganize God.  Sorta like starting out with a great story of a boxer, but hey let's change him to a skateboarder because that's what all the kids like, right? And none of us like boxing anyway. Kinda bloody. Ew. 

I watched Calvary with an atheist friend who particularly hates the Catholic Church and he was so livid after an hour, we had to stop watching. He ranted for about 20 minutes about how the church represents most of the evil done to mankind in the recent centuries.  I tried to make the case that his opinion was a bit of hyperbole, but he wasn't hearing it, so we moved on with some action flick with grim men and big explosions. 

I was glad we hadn't finished it together because it's one of the few movies ever that took me entirely by surprise and I actually shed some manly tears at the end.  (The other in memory being the scene in Terms of Endearment when the mom is saying goodbye to her sons and the little one tries to be brave - can't even watch that one now.)

On the strength of this movie, I looked for other movies by this team, and was freaking thrilled to discover this is the 2nd movie in a planned trilogy. I'm in the midst of the first one - The Guard - about an Irish detective (they call them "Guards") helping American Don Cheadle (!!!) sort out a mystery. So far it's as good. (Spoiler alert: if you've not seen these movies, don't do much research because the name of the trilogy gives a lot away.)

While researching stuff for this post, I found some intredasting trivia about This is the End - the end of the world movie with Seth Rogan and his Hollywood buddies playing "themselves":
- With its North American final gross of $101,470,202, This Is the End became the 33rd film of 2013 to pass the $100,000,000 milestone at the US box office, a record.
- A DVD copy was the last film rented by a Blockbuster Video in Hawaii before the video chain ceased rentals on November 9, 2013.
Oh, and I just looked over the Grammy winners - I haven't watched in years, but this year was the first year I found out after the fact they'd already occurred.  Of all the winners, I've heard only one of the albums (Jack White's Lazaretto) and one of the hits (the ubiquitous to those with kids "Happy"). Sad that the petulance of Kanye West is again the top story from the festivities; though Shirley Manson's open letter bitch-slap is a hoot.

Back to flicks for a sec, posted this, the Editor's Guild top 75 best edited films.  Usually most lists of best films ever include a lot of ones with historical significance that bore the everloving shite out of anyone who's not a film aficionado, with a couple spinach movies sprinkled in for fiber.  This one manages to have an interesting cross-section of movie history, and one that will I think have more footing with the younger set, probably because editing goes directly to the heart of a film's pace and presentation, which at point in time is crucial, given all the media kids these days consume.   Here's the expanded list with some fun backstories.



Whisky Prajer said...

I dunno, man. I'm not gonna say "never," but I think I'm pretty much done superhero movies. Guardians is the best one on that list, and even I was ready to step out for a smoke during the Big Showdown -- and I don't smoke. Actually, Big Hero 6 perfectly exemplifies the problem with genre: for a little longer than the first half, it's this marvelously tender exploration of a character trying to find his way through grief and adolescence. Then the Bad Guy starts breaking buildings, and everyone becomes a Team, and ... grab your jackets, kids: we're going home.

I liked Chef, btw. It's pure fantasy, but sometimes those can be fun. Favreau brings the right level of whimsy (and butter) to it.

Whisky Prajer said...

Haven't yet seen Calvary, but it's been on my list for a while. Keen to start at the first movie, now -- thanks for that.

Yahmdallah said...

I almost mentioned Chef, because I really liked it when I thought I wouldn't. John Leguizamo has become one of my new, if he's in it I'll see it, actors.

My 18 year old daughter works in a theater (the family tradition, bless her) and she warned me about Big Hero 6, which is why we're waiting for the DVD - and even then I'll watch it first. She (miss 18) and I previewed The Book of Life, and both agreed it was just too out there for an American kid. Maybe the culture of Mexico prepares their kids for the tropes, but it would scare the everloving shite out of my kid.

Hope you enjoy the Calvary trilogy.

Anonymous said...

OK, I had been planning to watch Calvary, but now I'll scratch it off my list. Thanks for the heads-up!

Joel (also an atheist)

Yahmdallah said...

Joel, actually, from your past comments, I suspect you'd like the story, even with the religious elements. My buddy didn't finish watching it, and if he had, he might have liked it.

If you do watch it, please report back.

Rock on.