I saw 11 movies in 2014. Here are 10 of them:
1. Captain America: Winter Soldier
This film is as good as a filmic version of a comic book’s take on shadow governments can get. It’s entertaining enough, if you’re still on board with comic book movies saturating the subculture-audience market. The ending culminates with a flying battleship collapsing in the middle of D.C., for which no one takes responsibility since everyone who would be responsible goes into hiding (also, I don’t know if destroying D.C. is some sort of Marvel-vs.-DC inside joke). I still don’t know what to make of that fucking ending.
Richard Linklater’s epic that covers segments of a young boy’s life over twelve years, from age 6 to 18, and sometimes Ethan Hawke shows up to take him bowling or something. I dunno; It’s a Linklater film with an unique concept, so you’ll either praise it as a masterpiece or deride it as some novelty. My main gripe is that the music selection is horrible, and if you don’t believe me, then please try to sit through the title sequence without groaning.
Reese Witherspoon’s character has lost her mother, so she spends a year-and-a-half mourning the loss by introducing herself to heroin, fucking a bunch of exploitative, Patrick-Batemen-looking strangers in alleys and hotel rooms, and insulting her accessible mental health professional for not having a chaise lounge like the therapists on TV. When she finds herself pregnant and decides to get an abortion, it is then when she decides to turn her life around by hiking northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail over three months. I guess it’s possible that we all are capable of dealing with grief in this or a similarly self-destructive and then later self-explorative way, but — I don’t know how to finish this thought without coming off as a judgmental asshole, so I’ll just leave it as a gorgeously shot and uplifting story, which I’m sure was the goal. If anything, I hope this movie’s messages about self-determination to get clean and its encouragement to enjoy nature are of interest to viewers.
4. Lego Movie
“It’s a movie-length commercial for Legos” is how every dullard dismissed this bright and refreshing film. Lego Movie is pop art at it’s finest: it is self-aware while glowing. It makes jokes at the fact that the entire design of this feature length movie is about a goddamn toy line, and yes, after the story is told and the messages about creativity, individuality, and cooperation are delivered, you indeed have paid for and watched an hour-and-a-half of product placement, you fucking ninny, so pat yourself on the back for knowing a feature length advertisement when you see it, but shame on you if that’s all you got from this gorgeously animated gem.
5. Grand Budapest Hotel
It’s a Wes Anderson movie, so expect doll-house loads of whimsy. The film utilizes a couple of Anderson’s growing tool box of tricks, from setting the story in a fictional place and time that is somehow familiar to our universe to mixing new wave cinema sensibilities with unexpected uses of animation as well as cartoonish characters. Basically, this film feels like a children’s book at times, and if you don’t believe me, then check out at Adrian Brodie’s character’s fucking eccentric look and provide a better explanation of what they modeled it after. This director also did a heartfelt film adaptation of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, for fuck’s sake, so it’s not like you should expect The Bourne Identity.
6. Only Lovers Left Alive
It’s a Jim Jarmusch film, so I’m going to guess that you’ll think it’s as pretentious as art-house films get or you’ll find the cringe-inducing-ly hip dialog among the centuries-old vampires featured herein to be a critique on scene-culture and name-dropping. Imagine that prick who keeps one-upping your anecdotes, and now imagine that person as having lived generations: “Oh, you only read Dostoyevsky…yeah, his work made more sense when I asked him a few thoughtful questions about it. We’ll never have another one like him, and I got to talk to him, and you didn’t. Isn’t that interesting?” I might have the wrong interpretation here, but Only Lovers Left Alive does for hipsters what Goodfellas does for mobsters. Unfortunately, and much like Goodfellas, many people are going to see these characters and probably think they should mimic them rather than criticize society’s cultural fascination with them.
7. Palo Alto
If you don’t think James Franco is creepy yet, imagine that he wrote a book that features not only teenagers running trains on other teenagers, but also some statutory rape between a young athlete and a sad-dad coach, and then Franco plays said coach in the movie adaptation. The overarching thing we’re supposed to take away about the lead teenage boy and teenage girl whose interactions bookend the film like trains passing in the night is that salvation in love might be the person you ditch a party with for one sweet night of adolescent innocence and not that shitty psychopath you call a friend or the gross dude in his 40s who tries to bang all of the babysitters he hires.
8. A Most Wanted Man
This film is totally forgettable except for the fact that its Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last non-YA-fiction-adaptation film. RIP in peace, you magnificent bastard.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
The ending of this film looks almost exactly like Captain America: Winter Soldier, except it’s a floating battleship falling into an alien planet instead of D.C. Also like Winter Solider, this may be only for those who are still into comic book movies. However, it definitely is visually unique and funny. There are a lot of aliens in this summer blockbuster, plus an A.M. Gold soundtrack, so maybe those turn you on. I’m not sure to whom I’m writing this review, since I’m 99% sure everyone on the planet saw this fucking thing.
(Editor's Note: Beware the Wicked "Gone Girl" spoilers. You've been warned.)
10. Gone Girl
I like a lot of this film, except for the cold-blooded, psychopathic woman cliché. I guess the aloof husband with infidelity tendencies was also cliché (and I’m pretty sure his sister even has dialog saying as much, which I am still not sure whether that was self-awareness or just happenstance). The overall message about the damning psychological prison that commitment to another person (forced, otherwise, or a little of both at different point over the course of the relationship) in a life-long relationship or partnership can sometimes result seems interesting, but the story is explicit that she’s a psychopath long before the marriage, and I’m still not sure if there’s a particular reason for her psychopathy. So I guess the message of the film is that some people will cheat on their spouses, and those same people might marry a psychopath, and that psychopath will fake a bunch of shit, fool the entire planet into believing she was a victim, and then she’ll force a family to save face or some other bullshit reason. It doesn’t really matter, because she’s crazy, so let’s just stop there and pretend that’s enough, since it’s worked so far. Also, I’m thrilled that the book’s author, Gillian Flynn, wrote the screenplay. Hopefully, this will become a more frequent opportunity for other willing authors like her.
I don’t know what to suggest, gang. I was watching Monsters Vs. Aliens for the first time while writing this. It’s an animated film that came out five years ago, and I think it beats out most of this list. I didn’t see a lot of great films in 2014, but that’s probably the least sad thing about 2014. Happy New Year, everyone!