Before getting to my Best of’s, a disclaimer for several films I unfortunately missed of 2014 that you won’t see me talk about here. Selma, Land Ho!, Nymphomaniac, Love Is Strange, Top Five, Mr. Turner, The Raid 2, Force Majeure, A Most Violent Year, Two Days One Night, Listen Up Phillip and probably many, many others. (more…)
Dawn of The Planet of The Apes
After the surprise hit of Rise of The Planet of The Apes the assumption only would be going down from there with the sequel. Yet Dawn not only succeeds from avoiding the sophomore jinx but surpasses it’s predecessor. This summer blockbuster is smarter than it has to be, with doing the wonderful job of fleshing out of its CGI and living characters. With a script that draws from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Richard III the film masterfully builds a case for none of it’s characters being the good or bad guy but instead sympathies with the reason they do things they do.
Best Doppelganger Film of 2014
(Spoiler alert, some films mentioned below, you may not realize they deal with doppelgangers until you see them)
Yes what a weird category, but how many films dealt with doppelganger scenarios this year would surprise you. Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal in duel roles, The Double, which explains it’s self with in its title, and the relationship dark comedy The One I Love as well. Yet the best doppelganger film was perhaps the lease known of the year. Coherence is a little film that takes place during the night of a dinner party of eight friends. While they chat and drink wine, strange goings on begin to happen causing miss trust between the group of friends, who begin to divulge they’re “real selves” as possible other versions of themselves begin to enter or exit the dinner party. It’s a fun watch in which I have to catch up again with to figure out what who was who.
Best Film Scene, That’s Not In Whiplash
Snowpiercer- A Short Pause At Yekaterina Bridge
It can be hard to find yourself surprised by much in actions films lately. The thematic beats are usually going to similar rhythm that we have come accustom to. In director Bong Joon-Ho film Snowpiercer, you never know what to expect in the next train car coming up. This is what makes it terrifying and the most alive action film of the year. There is no better moment in Snowpiercer than that of the Yekaterina Bridge fight/celebration scene. Things play out in familiar manner as most fight scenes involving several people would, until both sides of the battle take a 1 minute pause to acknowledge the New Year which is celebrated every time they cross the dangerous Yekaternina Bridge. The brake in the battle scene just shows Joon-Ho ability for humorous moments in the darkest of times. Pointing out how ridiculous this whole situation is for his characters and us the audience.
The Most Overrated Film That Will Get 10 Oscar Nominations
Foxcatcher and Birdman
A friend recently mention to me how much he enjoyed reading my reviews but was waiting for me to write a negative review on a movie. It was a fair point, everything I’ve written about either loved it or at lease thought was worth recommending you checking out. As I’ve said before I don’t get paid, especially to watch movies that are most likely not good. With that said I do still see occasionally bad or too highly praised movies that I wouldn’t mind talking about but with work and school work, I’d rather write about the movies that are worth your time. With that said I have to give a few words regarding Foxcatcher and Birdman, two movies that surely are going to be discussed in length on their “excellence”.
Bennett Miller (director of Foxcatcher) has no interest in the reason or possibilities in his characters motivations but just the end results of their decisions. Which just leaves you empty walking out of theatre. I’m not asking for Dr. Fred Richman to come at the end of the movie to explain to me why du Pont did what he did but I believe as audience we deserve some room for interpretation or speculation of events. Miller doesn’t allow for that, instead we are giving the “facts” of the situation and follow along in uninterested manner. With that said Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo successfully push passed Miller’s need to void the film of emotion by giving two terrific performances. While the performance (surely everyone will be in high praise of) by Steve Carell as John du Pont is perhaps the most over praised part of the film. Miller and Carell would have you believe that du Pont is a terrifying and creepy character, instead Carell’s performance is silly, in a way that makes the performance distracting not in a good way. I think most of the praise given to his performance should be given to the make up people. This is just another case of people giving to much credit to the “transformation” of the actor.
While Birdman is one of the more visually alive films of the year, the script couldn’t be more unimaginative. The heavy handiness of the story and finger wagging of the story never felt series enough nor satirical but instead shaming of everyone who doesn’t have the intelligence for art like co-writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams) makes. His need to constantly be telling and not showing, in speeches that point out everything that is wrong in popular art just drags the movie down from something that could’ve been beautiful to a tiresome soapbox film. Inarritu as been a director whose never interested me, with his no holds bar dramas where he seems to seek to emotionally torture his characters than by torturing us. Birdman seems to be his way of telling us, the audience “hey my art house movies matter and you dummies out there who only want to see comic book movies should take notice cause I’m actually say something.” But at the end of this film (and all of Inarritu films), nothing seems emptier than something with wonderful body but no real soul to make it really matter.
The Film I’m Most Surprised I Enjoyed
Edge of Tomorrow
It’s fair to say I’ve grown a little tired of the Tom Cruise action star career the past few years. At a certain point it’s just starts to get sad to see fifty-year old man trying to pretend he’s a twenty-something bad ass. But with so few potential “movie star” male leads to pass the torch to who else is more right to save the world over and over again than TC? With Edge of Tomorrow there’s a certain pleasure in seeing Cruise playing someone who doesn’t exactly have the stomach (for the first half of the movie at lease) to be an action hero. Cruise hasn’t been this fun to watch in years because no film as let him play less than TOM CRUISE. And yes there is a sick joy that comes from seeing the many ways the “hero” dies in this Groundhog Day from hell.
Honorable Mentions: Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Agata Kulesza (Ida), Tessa Thompson (Dear White People), Kang-ho Song (Snowpiercer), Scarlett Johansson (Under The Skin), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Hong Chau (Inherent Vice) and David Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy)
10. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
Ruffalo is often overshadowed by is counterparts in most of the films he’s in. He’s given underestimated performances with heavier hitters who are competing for screen times with him, Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Alright) Robert Downey Jr. and Hulk (The Avengers). Foxcatcher is no different, Ruffalo manages to hold is own and out shine the more showy (and not good) performance of Steve Carrel by doing what is asked of him in the part, simply being the character not a caricature.
9. Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer
You kind of get the since that Swinton lives for weird roles like Mason in Snowpiercer. Rarely does a female get a chance to be the villain in such a playful way as she does in this post-apocalyptic picture. Swinton takes every opportunity in the Snowpiercer to have fun with her rendition of Martha Thatcher.
8. Miles Teller – Whiplash
Understandably Teller’s performance as young jazz drummer Andrew as been overshadowed by his co-star J.K. Simmons showcase but Teller holds his own in every scene. Although he may seem like drab or uninteresting character (intentionally done by Teller) while outside of music school, he fully comes alive behind his drum set. His passion is real and the desire to be the best is shown every time he starts drumming. I have no idea how talented of a drummer Teller is (outside of the film) but he had me convinced he was the real deal. With out Teller’s terrific performance Simmons great performance would mean very little.
7. Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice
Phoenix is having one the great runs these past few years that most actors have to wait a lifetime for. Post I’m Still Here he has knocked it out of the park with three completely different performances The Master, Her and now Inherent Vice. Here as the pot smoking detective Doc Sportello he gets the chance to play with an interesting tone of comedy. As his character is constantly high it lends itself for comedic moments when it is necessary for Doc to play “straight” in the presents of the LAPD and clients who depend on answers from him. Many times he is asked to be a listener and observer of other characters, which allows Phoenix to perform with his eyes, something in which he has grown so well at doing this past few years. Even with an abundant of scene stealing characters (played by Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and several others) Phoenix always stays at the center of our attention, we want to never leave his character.
6. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a Gyllenhaal performance because he seems to never fit the part to me. He is unable at times to convince me that he cares about what he’s saying or the part he plays. That’s what makes his terrific turn as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler so surprising to me. In the film he is constantly convincing other people to believe in what he is doing. He pretty much is playing a ruthless sales man whose product is himself. Gyllenhaal understands his character, not playing him as a villain at all, but the hero in his own story. It’s a freighting and funny performance of a sociopath that makes me excited to see what Gyllenhaal does next.
5. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
It would be easy to call Redmayne role as Stephen Hawking an Oscar baiting performance in the physicality of acting, of course it naturally is going to be a nominated one. Yet Redmayne refuses or perhaps is incapable (due mostly because of Hawking who was incapable in real life) of giving the Oscar Clip Moment that you would expect from such dramatic situation. Instead with really only the use of his eyes he expresses the joy, sadness and love that this genius man feels locked in his failing body
4. Rosemund Pike – Gone Girl
(Excerpt from review of Gone Girl) I really don’t want to give much away on what her character does but just imagined Catherine Tramell and Keyser Soze had a kid, it would probably turn out be just like Amy Dunne. Pike’s performance as Amy is a sprawling one that asks her to be convincible victim terrified, darkly funny and a horrifying psychopath, at any given time. Not sure it’s the kind of performance that would get her an Oscar nomination but one that she should be getting praise for executing such a joggling act.
3. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel
For some actors, Wes Anderson’s dialogue comes naturally for them (Bill Murray and Edward Norton) and for others not so much (Bruce Willis and Danny Glover). It can be a freighting thing to jump in his unusual characters and idiosyncratic filmmaking in Anderson universe. With Fiennes first collaboration with Anderson it would almost appear as if the duo had been working together for several films. Comedy wasn’t foreign to this “series actor” prior to this film, although he is known for is villainous roles (Schindler’s List and Harry Potter series) Fiennes has held is own in small comedic parts (In Bruges). This role of M. Gustave redefines this already great actor, whose willingness to use the “serious British thespian” attributes for a wild and void of ego comedic performance.
2. Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
(Excerpt from my review of Boyhood in which I talk about Arquette’s performance of the often-single mother in the film) Never being the wet blanket, no nonsense tough mother, or free spirit guardian angel that often these types of films give us. Instead, she displays the flaws that come with having to run the parenthood gauntlet on your own sometimes. She makes her fair share of mistakes, with the unfortunate bad luck with men setting her back along the way. With Arquette’s heart breaking speech at the end of the film, she steals the movie for me (it made me want to call my mother immediately after getting out of theater just to tell her I love her).
1. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Simmons has been one of those actors I’ve always rooted for to get an opportunity like this (I have a soft spot for character actors). At an early age (perhaps too early) I encountered Simmons on the HBO television show Oz in which he played the despicable neo-Nazi and rapist Vernon Schillinger. Every since then I’ve been subconsciously afraid of him in every role his played in, even as the dad in Juno he was scary to me. So at last he gets the chance to use his ability to be terrifying in what is easily his best performance as the music instructor Fletcher who pushes his students often times to the limit. Simmons portrayal of Fletcher is not at all a romantic look at the teacher/student relationship but instead gives insight on the tightrope that great artist must play in order for the sack of great art. Fletcher believes he must push his students to the edge for them to reach there full potential, how fitting for an actor such as Simmons to finally reach is own full potential in such a great performance.