The Year In Review: The Best and Worst of Film in 2014
The Bad Kool-Aid Award (goes to a film that critics liked but we did not)
Bob: Into The Woods (70% on Rotten Tomatoes)
Allie: X-Men: Days of Future Past (91% on Rotten Tomatoes) – I hate all movies like this
The UFO Award (goes to the film we’ll lose all our credibility for loving)
Bob: None. All the movies I thought would be bad were bad.
Allie: None, because the movies I liked this year were good movies
The Leftover Pizza in the Fridge Award (goes to the year’s most pleasant surprise)
Bob: Edge of Tomorrow. It seems like everyone in the world who saw the trailer for this film let out a collective groan. But against all odds, it was a surprisingly intelligent action film with a terrific lead performance by Tom Cruise.
Allie: The One I Love – this looked like a movie similar to Prince Avalanche—artsy, slow, not my cup of tea—but I was surprised that it captivated me
The Leftover-Pizza-in-the-Fridge-Has-Mold-On-It-Award (goes to the year’s biggest disappointment)
Bob: The Guest. Adam Wingard directed one of our favorite movies last year in You're Next, and with a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics seemed to love this one too. But while it lovingly references many cheesy action films from the 80's, it unfortunately never seems to rise above the low quality of its influences.
Allie: The Best of Me – Nicholas Sparks has not let me down until this year. Don’t worry, I’m still going to see The Longest Ride
The Iron Lady Award (goes to a film only redeemed by its terrific acting)
Bob: Into The Woods. I wouldn't say the movie is redeemed by it, because the movie was really really terrible, but if we played the "you have to say one nice thing" game, the acting would be it. But Johnny Depp does not get to collect this award, because he was a disaster.
Allie: Into the Woods – as Bob said in his review, I think the acting in this movie is one of the few good points (Emily Blunt in particular).
Ed. Note: Bob is wrong, Johnny Depp is great in everything he does.
The Daniel-Day-Lewis-Wasn’t-In-A-Film-This-Year-Award (goes to the film with the best acting performance)
Bob: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. It's hard to imagine anyone else in this role. He's a terrifying and unpredictable force on the screen more intimidating than most Bond villains.
Allie: Whiplash - J.K. Simmons beat out Ben Affleck in my book, and that's hard to do.
The Keanu Reeves Award (goes to the year’s worst acting performance)
Ed Note: We didn’t get to see any Keanu Reeves films released this year, so the winner’s accomplishment is considerably lessened.
Bob: Johnny Depp in Into The Woods
Allie: Endless Love, everyone in the cast—just embarrassing
The Ellen Page Award (goes to the film you already forgot came out in 2014)
Bob: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Allie: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones—I would comment, but I tried to block this horrible movie from my mind
The Gigli Award (goes to the worst film of 2014)
Bob: Into The Woods. I hated this movie. "Flames on the side of my face" hated this movie.
Allie: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones—the Paranormal franchise has continually let me down since the first one (which I loved)
ALLIE'S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014:
A word on the year in film:
I did not like many movies in 2014, but I expected to, which is why the year was such a let-down for me film-wise. One movie in particular that was critically and commercially praised (Into the Woods) disappointed me, but more than that, movies that were not critically acclaimed but that seemed up my alley did so as well (Endless Love, No Good Deed, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, The Best of Me). These movies clearly weren’t going to be Oscar-worthy films, but they held potential for me personally because I love chick flicks and horror movies. A movie about star-crossed lovers, a woman trapped in her house with a psycho, a movie in a franchise that hooked me from the first film, a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book—to describe them, they all seem right in line with movies like You’re Next or The Notebook, movies that I love. But the genres failed this year.
The year wasn’t a complete bust, though—Gone Girl was amazing and movies that I typically wouldn’t like, such as The One I Love and Boyhood, shone. And let’s face it, any year with an Affleck movie isn’t a complete failure of a year.
Film that would have been in my top 10 if it technically came out this year: Lone Survivor. I saw it right after we did our year-end feature last year, and it came out in 2013 so it couldn’t be on this list, but it would have been.
10) Into the Woods
A musical with boring songs? No dice.
9) No Good Deed
The premise of this movie seems like the perfect horror movie setup, complete with no-way-out and children-are-home, mixed with infidelity, mixed with a dark and stormy night. But this movie made the protagonist so incredibly stupid that I couldn’t even suspend my disbelief in the normal way horror movies ask you to.
8) Sex Tape
This falls somewhere in the middle of my list because Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel hold their own, but the movie went severely downhill after the first half hour. It suffers from a the-funniest-moments-are-in-the-trailer syndrome and that’s not a good thing for a relatively long comedy.
Seth Rogen is funny, and so is this movie. It pretty much grabbed the number seven spot on my list by default—other movies I found more annoying or much better than this one, and it kind of slid into the middle—but it held its own.
I fully expected to hate this movie, but it makes the middle of my list because I didn’t, and because Patricia Arquette and Lorelai Linklater are great. I really, really dislike that the movie got so much press for using something of a device (shooting over the actual course of 12 years)—to me that felt like when the writer uses a “the gun was pointed at me” moment at the beginning of the story and then makes the reader wait until the end, reading a bunch of flashbacks in between, to find out who is pointing the gun and why.
5) Veronica Mars
Mostly, Veronica Mars made my number five spot because I love the Veronica Mars series so much. The movie itself was nothing spectacular, and even was a bit disappointing, especially in relation to the show. But it won by the combination of the horrible movie selection this year and the recurring “our love story was epic, spanning years and continents” line. What can I say, some movie needed to fulfill the cheesy chick flick-romance quota for the year.
4) The One I Love
Crazy! This movie is crazy.
I’ve loved Reese Witherspoon since The Man in the Moon, and although her drunken debacle this year dragged her down a couple notches in my book, Wild shows that she deserves to be on the A-list anyway.
I had to add this in last minute because I had drafted this list not including Whiplash, figuring that I definitely wouldn’t like it at all. I was wrong and Bob was right—this movie is great. Maybe if Ben Affleck was the main character it would’ve made number one, but….
1) Gone Girl
No surprise here, especially if you know me. But this movie was more than just Ben Affleck being awesome—the novel was spectacular, not only for the writing but for the story itself. Any movie that can pull off that kind of adaptation, with that kind of twist, better be Oscar-nominated.
BOB'S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014:
A word on the year in film:
First, the bad: 2014 continued the disappointing trend of franchised films and remakes making up the majority of big releases. (2015 looks to be more of the same with a whopping 28 remakes or sequels already set for release in the summer alone.) Summer movie season can now be renamed "Super Hero Movie Season," which is a bummer as someone who is already burned out by superhero films. Transformers: Age of Extinction was one of the top grossing movies of the year which will ensure that another 500 of those are made, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 was as well, which will probably continue the ridiculously greedy trend of separating books into separate films when there is no non-monetary justification for it.
The good: the best movies that came out this year hold their own compared to the top movies of any recent year, and I still haven't seen several of the year's most acclaimed films. Boyhood reminded everyone what films are capable of accomplishing artistically and will probably be remembered for a long, long time. Some smart blockbusters (Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past) reminded me that big budget studio productions can sometimes get it right.
Films I wanted to see but missed: Inherent Vice, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, The Lego Movie, Under the Skin, Selma, Imitation Game
10) Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars is one of my favorite shows of all time and the film had high expectations to meet. The film didn’t quite live up to the thrilling highs the show achieved, but an okay slice of pizza is better than an expertly cooked plate of Brussels sprouts.
9) X-Men: Days of Future Past
I’m a sucker for movies about time travel, and even if this one had enough loopholes to make the world’s best Hot Wheels track, it still crafted a fun satisfying puzzle. Also, about half of Hollywood was in this film, so at the very least it will make you better at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.
More than just the “inspired by a true story” Oscar-bait it appears to be, Wild is one of the most thoughtful examinations of the choices you make in life. One of the rare movies billed as “life-affirming” and “powerful” that actually earns those declarations.
7) Gone Girl
Few genres have a worse ratio of good to terrible films than the thriller. It’s a tough task to surprise the audience without making them feel like they were cheated, while keeping tension high without breaking rules. With the help of great source material, Gone Girl delivers on all fronts.
6) Edge of Tomorrow
It took a lot of different people vouching for this movie before I could believe that it wasn’t terrible. And maybe you still aren’t convinced either. A big budget action movie featuring mech-suits and a 52-year old Tom Cruise that refuses to age gracefully? In 2013, that movie was Oblivion and it was terrible. But 2014 was kinder to Tom Cruise action fans, and this movie delivers an incredibly fun and stylish film that is a pleasure to watch unfold. More than a Groundhog Day rip-off, Liman finds a way to make watching the same day over and over again a truly enjoyable experience.
At the surface, Birdman appears to be saying a lot about art, ego, and the world. I’m pretty sure it’s full of shit, but it’s so entertaining and impressive on so many levels, it’s hard to hold that against it. The acting is incredible, the gags are funny, and the “single-shot” gimmick is a joy to watch. Truly accomplished filmmaking on every level.
Part unusual murder-mystery, part slice of life view of a quiet Irish countryside, Cavalry is both suspenseful and immensely thoughtful. One of the most pleasant surprises of the year.
3) The One I Love
One of my favorite storytelling techniques is when a film uses an inventive, absurd idea to explain something mundane and essential about human life. The One I Love uses a high-concept science fiction idea to explore something fundamental about relationships, and it remains fun and intriguing throughout.
Tenser than most thrillers, Whiplash is an absolute wrecking ball of a film. The two unpredictable and compelling characters at the center of the film provide an exciting battle of the wills that culminates in a wonderful, psychotic finale.
Richard Linklater has now directed my two favorite films of the last two years. Just about every film critic this year as hailed this as the year’s best and it’s easy to see why. A story filmed over 12 years that is more than just a filmmaking gimmick, Boyhood is a reminder that there is still room for innovation in the medium.