2014 was certainly a banner year for film. Unlikely properties pulled in record numbers at the box office while Hollywood again learned the hard way that rehashes of established brands, and unnecessary sequels, are not what people want.
To be honest, the movies that failed to pull in favorable ticket sales have only themselves to blame. Many were derivative, or poorly written and executed, but one thing was for sure – originality reigned supreme in 2014.
One-of-a-kind films, like Boyhood, Birdman, Interstellar, even Nightcrawler and Locke, stuck with movie goers and kept discussions and buzz going weeks, even months later. Risk was definitely rewarded but also, more importantly, these were solid and well-crafted films.
Looking back over the past year ususally finds the good outweighing the bad. And anything that still leaves a bad taste in our mouth, as we are on the cusp of a new year, deserves to be lambasted.
We at Go See Talk have gotten away from lists in the past years. Why? Well they are fun, quick and they do start a conversation, but they are anything but definitive. Really, lists are just subjective opinions, so when it comes to our year end wrap we think it comes down to more than just “best” and “worst”. We comment on specific things that moved us, insulted us, surprised us and either bored us to tears, or made us want to watch it again.
And so, in the words of the late Casey Kasem, on with the countdown (click any picture to read our review of the film)…
Favorite Film: DOM HEMINGWAY
Granted, this may not win awards anywhere else but we got a huge kick out of Dom Hemingway. There’s a level of irreverent fun that Richard Shepard brings to all his films and he has topped them all with this doozy of a British gangster flick. If you’ve seen The Matador and The Hunting Party, you know how far Shepard can stretch legitimately serious actors like Pierce Brosnan and Richard Gere. Dom Hemingway was the role of a lifetime for Jude Law and it’s a crime the film didn’t get more attention. Not perfect, but lots of fun and we just loved it.
Runner Up: Birdman
Sleeper Hit: THE BABADOOK
This gem of a horror movie, from director Jennifer Kent, is an exercise in hair-raising. Pure nightmare fuel, this unnerving bedtime story gone wrong is one of the best horror films in recent years; it’s also a pretty damn good movie in its own right. Criticism of the ending left people little flat, but for most of those 93 nail-biting minutes – watching the mother and son be terrified by a phantasmal tormentor – you’ll wish you had bed sheets to pull over your face while watching it.
More Fun Than It Should Be: The LEGO Movie
This shouldn’t be a surprise as LEGOs, by design, are fun, but who would have anticipated the endless delight in such a wacky CG film? It breathed life into the inanimate and the result was a fully fleshed out, hysterical, and heartfelt story. Indeed, everything is awesome!
Runner Up: Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Most Disappointing: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Sometimes it hurts to be a fan. We were so optimistic about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (really) that when it fell flat on its face, both a nonsensical mess and uninspired origin story, it was like someone let the wind out of our childhood. Brian Tyler, as we are huge score fans at the site, did his part with his rousing music, but that couldn’t breathe enough life into what should have been the most fun movie, kids or otherwise, at the cinema this year. There was already a built in audience and the production team had 25 years of material to draw from. But Liebesman and co really dropped the ball.
Runner Up: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Long in the Tooth: THE HIVE
People probably indulge in bashing Michael Bay, but there was something a little less lengthy but a little more meandering this year than Transformers: Age of Extinction that should have ended a lot sooner. A Fantastic Fest entry called The Hive really let a lot of prole down. We’re not going to waste time beating it up, but if you’re interested in how something should have wrapped up a lot quicker (and been a lot better), take a look at our capsule review from the Fest.
Runner Up: Under the Skin
Replay Award: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Probably the biggest gamble at the box office this year, aside from maybe the dozen years Richard Linklater sunk into his film Boyhood, was Guardians of the Galaxy. With equal levels of self-aware, irreverent fun and action, topped off with a surprisingly endearing and emotional storyline, the ragtag bunch of a-holes from the other side of the galaxy won the hearts of movie fans the world over. And the trip just gets better every time you put the sucker in your Blu-ray player. Also, in case you’ve been under a rock all year, this features an excellent soundtrack too (both the ‘Awesome Mix’ and Tyler Bates’ score).
Best Performance: Michael Keaton in BIRDMAN
Tom Hardy, as he does in nearly everything he does, really made people take notice of Steven Knight’s Locke. But we expect him to be teeming with greatness. On the other hand, this year’s acting tour de force comes from an unexpected place. We at GST love Micheal Keaton, and were so impressed to see a career revival from one of our very favorite actors that it, barely, trumps Hardy’s work. In the film, Keaton’s character reveals that he has held on to a seemingly insignificant, but none-the-less meaningful, note which a young fan gave him years earlier – it thanks him for an honest performance. Well Mr. Keaton, we wish we could similarly give you such a heartfelt note on a cocktail napkin. But really, at the very least, you deserve an Oscar nod.
Runners Up: Tom Hardy in Locke, and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
Best Animated Film: THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA
This category is always going to be a no brainer whenever Studio Ghibli puts out a film, but in this case, it’s justified by the quality of Isao Takahata’s touching story. Lots of audiences loved How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Book of Life, as well as Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Song of the Sea, but it’s this lovely tale about a mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her that really has the most detail, depth and charm in the animated arena.
Runner Up: Big Hero 6
Best Film: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
here’s a big difference between what is personal taste and what is arguably a masterpiece of film making. Wes Anderson has grown on us considerably since The Fantastic Mr. Fox. So because this list can’t quite offer as much glowing praise as our initial review we’ll let you take a look at that by clicking here.
Finally, big news at GoSeeTalk HQ – my wife and I are having our first child next May! We’re extremely excited, so between preparing for that, lots of deadlines at work and other personal joys, I have missed a lot of films this year. Most of what is topping “best of” lists and getting awards consideration are not featured here because I just haven’t seen them. Le sigh.
So Foxcatcher, Selma, The Theory of Everything and the like are great (from what the Dallas critic crowd keep telling me) but rest assured that is my New Year’s resolution…to play catch up before awards season kicks up.
What do you think were the highs and lows of 2014? What are your thoughts on this list?