It was the best of times, it was the worst of times could best describe this year in cinema. The last time films were this uneven was 2007 when I was a professional film reviewer and every week was hit or miss, especially can't suck but did Harry Potter and Simpsons movies. The Oscars that year mirrors this one when art films (and white people) dominated every category. It was the year that Juno inexplicably won for best screenplay and I expect another repeat this year for the truly awful Grand Budapest Hotel. The awards for 2007 were actually worse than this year somehow so there is that.
American Sniper somehow got six awards even though the reviews for it have been iffy at best, demonstrating again that war themed films get preference above all others like the excruciating Zero Dark Thirty last year. Unbroken got shut out, as did the Lego Movie, Jennifer Aniston and almost everything dealing with science fiction, civil rights or Hollywood in general. Almost every major award is going to a low budget, independent project with only Clint Eastwood's American Sniper winning out. While I do not question 90% of the choices (Marion Collard in "Two Days, One Night," really? 12 people have even heard of that film let alone seen it), the fact that we seem to focus on great performances over great films seems stupid and misguided. Every year the Oscars pick a best picture and then most of us never see it and if we do, it's a one time and out thing. How does that make it the best film? My best picks are ones I will watch and re-watch until the disc melts. Here's a quick rundown of what I think will win for the major categories
Best Picture-Boyhood. 12 years to film any movie is impressive and this film certainly was.
Best Actor-Eddie Redmayne
Best Director-Richard Linklater for Boyhood. I will vomit blood if Wes Anderson wins.
Best Actress- Julianne Moore
Best Supporting Actress- Patricia Arquette
Best Supporting Actor- JK Simmons
Best Adapted Screenplay-The Theory of Everything
Best Screenplay- Grand Budapest Hotel. Ugh.
Best Animated Feature- Lego Movie. What do you mean that wasn't nominated? Then Big Hero 6 I guess.
Enjoy what will be just as long and as boring a show as the Golden Globes were this year. Let's see what was actually great movies this year shall we?
BEST FILMS OF 2014
First off let me say I have not seen The Interview, Birdman, American Sniper, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, Selma, The Imitation Game, Wild, Whiplash, Still Alice, Nightcrawler or Force Majeure which may or may not have appeared on this list had I seen them. But as I live in a very small town with no art house theaters within a hundred miles of me, I have to wait for DVD for a lot of these. So, for what I have seen, here are my favorite pictures for 2014.
10)Kids Films- Overall, this was not a great year for kids films. Way too many at once and then a drought. Space them out better next time guys. But there were four that I saw that I loved. Big Hero 6 was another hit from Disney and Marvel. How To Train Your Dragon 2 was cute, funny and had an unusual message that sometimes you can't escape from a violent confrontation. Muppets Most Wanted made me a kid again. But the best by and far was The Lego Movie which I still don't see how was not nominated for best animated feature. Subversive and laugh out loud funny is an unusual mix but damn if they didn't pull it off.
9)Comedies- This was NOT a good year for comedies. A lot of stuff fell flat, The Interview failed to play after theater owners acted like giant babies (and resulted in the loss of millions in profits), and some, like Tammy, were more horror movie than funny. Two stood out and oddly, one is on a lot of worst of the year list and is up for a few Razzies: A Million Ways to Die In the West. How is that the worst movie of the year? I found it funny as did my mom and she is hardly the target audience for Family Guy humor. Yes, a few scenes went too far, like seeing NPH's poo filled hat, but most of it was very meta, and very funny. The best comedy however was 22 Jump Street which had me laughing from start to finish even if the previews kind of ruined it like the do every picture. Channing Tatum is funny somehow and Jonah Hill continues to impress.
8)Cooking Movies- I love cooking shows, especially contest ones like Masterchef. This year we had two food oriented ones that were snubbed by the Academy even though they were fantastic pictures. The first, Chef, is Jon Favreau's return to small cinema with this charming tale of a chef and his son buying a food truck and getting back to the basic's of cooking. The sequel Trip to Italy with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon was hysterical, revisiting their dueling Michael Caine impressions while dissecting the last Batman movie all the while seeing fantastic Italian scenery and eating great looking food. My only compliant was that the DVD didn't have a featurette about the food they ate like the first one did, but you can't have everything.
7)Contracted- The lone horror movie on my list in a really weak year of scary pictures. Tusk almost made it but the ending was so stupid I couldn't put it on here. Contracted is a love it or hate film that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief as a young woman has a one night stand that she thinks gives her a STD but is actually far, far worse. Yes, some of the decision making in the film is questionable at best but somehow works in this movie as people do sometimes ignore what is right in front of them. Not for the squeamish, this low budget horror flick has some impressive gore and the plot stayed with me all year. See it with the lights on.
6)Draft Day- The lone sports movie on here with Kevin Costner had WAY too many worthless subplots in it, but the main story about a NFL draft is riveting. My fiancée doesn't like football, or sports in general, and knows nothing about statistics and she loved this movie. Technically not that different from Moneyball, it's is definitely worth a look, especially if you like sports.
5)Prestige Pictures- Boyhood/The Theory of Everything- I am not a huge Richard Linklater fan. 90% of his films, especially the insufferable Before Sunrise films that everyone but me loves, are terrible. But every now and then, unlike Wes Anderson, he does something impressive like School of Rock, Dazed and Confused or A Scanner Darkly. This is one of those films. Shot over 12 years it is nothing more than the story of a boy growing up over that time period. The shooting took one week a year but required some real patience from a producer who wouldn't see a profit for more than a decade. Kudos for a brave movie. The Theory Of Everything was brilliant. I am one of the few people who not only bought Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time but actually read and understood it. To crow about myself for a moment, I also understood that Hawking was wrong about black holes and the Big Bang in it (which he later admitted) but found his concept of string theory fascinating. Tis film shows how he had to deal with being one of the smartest men alive whose body was falling apart at the same time. A love story, a science lesson and a fascinating look at one of the smartest people ever.
4)Spectacle films- Of all genres, these films suffered the greatest. Summer was down 20% from last year and while many are saying ticket prices are the culprit, in actuality it was the shitty pictures they put out this summer. I have never in my life seen worse movies come out over a summer, and that includes 2007, which was beyond dreadful. Few flicks crossed the 100 million mark and with good reason: they sucked. But two stood out. The first was Godzilla and the only Big Budget, non super hero movie to open this summer that I actually saw and liked. Garth Edwards nailed the old Godzilla movies and for once, the trailers actually kept a lot of it under wraps, including the fact that Godzilla wasn't the bad guy in it, which I loved because Godzilla should be the hero. The other was the last Hobbit movie which is the only dragged out spectacle that didn't feel dragged out (Hunger Games I am looking at you). The 45 minute epic battle was awesome and I really am beginning to like the high speed frame rate that Peter Jackson filmed this in. Great ending to a fabulous trilogy.
3)Action Movies- These are always my favorite movies and ones I watch over and over. Expendables 3 was better than many made it out to be with the fantastic return of Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford actually having fun in a movie and the rest of a creaky cast still kicking butt. Plus the new girl was super hot and super deadly. Raid 2 continued to demonstrate why the rest of the world continues to have better action movies than we do. But the best overall, and one of my absolute favorites of the year was the intense John Wick, bringing back Keanu Reeves to butt kicking glory. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, kill John Wick's puppy and steal his car. No good can come from it. I cannot wait to see this a dozen times or more.
2)Sci-fi movies- Why Interstellar was shut out for best picture really makes me mad as this was hands down the best film to see in a theater this year. I guess the idiot right didn't like the idea of climate change ruining our planet or something. The scene on the water planet with the 500 foot waves was one of the greatest cinematic moments ever and for it not to be recognized is disheartening. Edge of Tomorrow suffered from a terrible title but proved to be one the better science fiction movies of the year, plus it was kid of funny watching Tom Cruise die a lot in this movie. But the best movie is one that played in all of 8 theaters because Harvey Weinstein is kind of a dick and cut off his nose to spite his face. Snowpiercer was a brilliant piece of work by Korean director Joon-ho Bong about a train that contains what was left of humans after a climate change fix goes horribly wrong driving temperatures into sub zero levels. Funny, thought provoking, this is the kind of film, like Interstellar, that should have been up for Oscars.
1)Super hero movies- A great year for Marvel who had three of the best movies of the year and surprise, surprise, zero Oscar nods beyond technical ones. X-Men: Days Of Future Past combined casts of past and present incarnations to excellent effect with Hugh Jackman once again proving to be far more interesting as Wolverine in these movies than in his stand alone features. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was as thought provoking as it was action packed asking us hard questions about the surveillance state. The plot throws acid on future Marvel story lines which shook up everything from TV's Marvel Agent's of SHIELD to the upcoming Avengers movie. But the best, most surprising film of the year had to be Guardians of The Galaxy. They took a beyond obscure comic, hired actors not well known outside of Zoe Saldana, used a director who had never had a huge budget before, and contained a talking tree and raccoon. It made a gazillion dollars and was my favorite picture of the year. Groot rocks and I could watch this film a hundred times and see something new everytime. That is a watchable film and why it was my favorite film of 2014.