As I look back on the year that’s passed, I remember 2014 as the year that got away. Maybe a year that never truly arrived. A year typified if not consumed by betrayal and treason and murder in the nights and days of our discontent(s). A year of modest beginnings, false starts, and the hollow hopes of misinformed adventure. A year of paralysis and failure in direct spite of foolish hopes and inexplicable dreams. A year best left forgotten.
But then… that’s usually how I remember every year.
From a cultural perspective — by which I mean movies, not like, art or symphonies or anything like that — 2014 marked several turning points, including possibly the two best Marvel Studios movies of all time, hopefully the final Peter-Jackson-helmed piece of Tolkien lore, the first time America got Godzilla anywhere near right, and the triumphant return of the X-Men to theatres, in between bouts of profundity (Interstellar), pain (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), achievement (Boyhood) and intense malaise (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
And none of it met my expectations.
I didn’t think that 2014 would see the release of not only my favourite Marvel movie of all time, but my favourite superhero movie of all time; I didn’t think I’d watch movies about virtual relationships or jazz music that would affect me so deeply; I didn’t expect to feel such a thorough, penetrating sense of despair, let alone outright betrayal from our friendly neighbourhood webslinger; and honestly, I wasn’t expecting the latest Transformers movie to be that truly… wretchedly… incomprehensibly… irrefutably… bone-chillingly bad.
The only thing that really landed right where I expected this year — other than another amazing (and heavily truncated) series of Bob’s Burgers – was David Fincher giving us yet another revelatory work that really couldn’t have been done by anyone else. Even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got a lot better.
A year best left forgotten? Maybe. On the other hand, it’s not like it was a year where The Great Gatsby made it into my top five. So at least one thing got better.
Top 5 Movies of the Year
5. Gone Girl
I could give this movie platitudes like “a masterpiece” or “leaves you breathless”, but I think the greatest thing I can say about Gone Girl is that it verges on unbelievably good while possibly making us worse as people after having seen it. Read the review >>
A testament to the power of restraint and respect for its source material, Gareth Evans’ Godzilla proved to be a shockingly good movie on every level other than its fairly clichéd and slightly disaffected main cast. Still, giant monsters, the fury of atomically mutated nature, Bryan Cranston, and the immortal words of Ken Watanabe — LET THEM FIGHT — you can’t ask for more. I also love how pissed off you guys would get when we finally got a glimpse of Godzilla only for the movie to immediately switch to another scene. Read the review >>
I love J.K. Simmons, I love psychological abuse (at least as portrayed in fictional works and not as experienced by me), and I love pitch-perfect storytelling. A movie so strong it made me care about jazz music, however temporary that feeling may have been. Read the review >>
Intellectually, The Dark Knight is a much better movie, but The Winter Soldier works on so many levels of superheroics, intrigue, and espionage that I have to crown it as my new favourite superhero movie of all time. Traditional without being tired, patriotic without being overblown, fun but not lacking sophistication, and the best debut of a Marvel character yet with Anthony Mackie’s the Falcon. It just kicked ass where and when it needed to, plus Abed! In the house! Read the review >>
Sure, it may have debuted in late 2013 and been an Oscar contender (and winner) last year, but it wasn’t widely released until last January, so it’s a 2014 movie.
It’s rare when I can watch a movie about relationships and feel kinship and understanding, and profound meaning to me personally. Even rarer that that movie is about disembodied artificial intelligences and the culture that falls in love with them. I called it as my early favourite movie of the year way back in February, and through thick and thin, that’s where it stayed. Read the review >>
Honourable Mention: Interstellar
For being a perfect 2/3’s of a movie.
Top Show of the Year — Rick and Morty
In a year where Community failed to return to form despite the return of its spiritual father, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s Rick and Morty served as a perfect diversion from anything ordinary and a big f*ck you to anyone who holds anything to be holy. One of the funniest things I’ve seen all year, and something that I’ve bought, pirated, backed up to hard drives and the cloud, and carry copies of in my phone to watch whenever the mood may strike. Better than The Venture Bros., maybe even better than Bob’s Burgers.
Honourable Mention: True Detective
For being awesome enough to not actually have any deeper meaning despite all evidence to the contrary.
Edge of Tomorrow
Read the review >>
I think the ending left a sour enough taste in my mouth that I let it taint the overall experience. It’s still a little too shallow to make it all the way up to a 9+ rating, but I’d give it an extra half point if I was reviewing it again.
New Score (unofficial): 8
Read the review >>
I thought well of the movie after initially watching it, but like Pacific Rim the year before, the more I thought about Godzilla, the more the goofy, stupid, normally deliberately withheld grin on my face would grow. Godzilla’s a movie that’s so totally down my alley that despite any critical thoughta to the contrary, I have to give it another point on re-evaluation.
New Score (unofficial): 9.5
Read the review >>
A 7.5 rating, a hateful third act, and an honourable mention for movie of the year? Yeah, it all fits. I stand by my review and by the number I ultimately gave it, but I have to give Interstellar credit for being something I continue to think about and remember fondly.
New Score (unofficial): 7.5 (no change)
Biggest Surprise of 2014 — The Flash
The all-new Flash show on the CW definitely still suffers from most of the foibles of typical network superhero shows (freak-of-the-weak episodes, inorganic storytelling, characters bent more to the will of the plot than acting in any realistic manner) and it definitely wreaks of the same WB-esque studio processes that gave us Smallville, but there’s something at the core of the show, something strong and resilient enough to elevate the show into something unusually special. Somehow, despite the sometimes heavy-handed and occassionally ham-fisted storytelling, the light of heroism shines through, the themes ring true, and the relationships (usually) don’t feel forced. Even if they chose the wrong Flash (I still miss Wally West).
Biggest Disappointment of 2014 — Gotham
Painful, painful stuff, and just utter garbage on almost every level. The showrunners can’t (or won’t) decide on what kind of show they’re trying to make or what kind of story they’re trying to tell. Unlike many critics, I do think there’s a story to tell in the pre-Batman Gotham City because Jim Gordon is an interesting character, but this is definitely not it. You can’t fall back on Bruce Wayne every week — he’s still a little kid, ten to fifteen years out from becoming the hero the city deserves or needs. When he shows up, it should be impactful, meaningful, he can’t just be the guy who got in wacky adventures when he was a kid. You can’t telegraph your villains so inelegantly. We need nuance, we need refinement. You can’t set every procedural scene against a tone-deaf rock song. It doesn’t fit. And you can’t forget the foundations of Gotham City. This is supposed to be a real place with real people and real stakes, even if we kind off know how everything turns out. The comicbook handle shouldn’t be a crutch for willfully stupid characters and ridiculous setups and cartoony portrayals of our favourite superhero mythos, or else the producers might as well just admit they’re making a bad show.
Honourable Mention: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
For being so damn hard to see, for having one of the worst release schedules I’ve ever seen, and for only running at tiny arthouse theatres.
Thom’s Favourite Thing of the Year — Garfunkel & Oates’ “Loser”
Garfunkel & Oates aren’t my favourite musicians, comedians, or performers. They’re not even my favourite folk rock comedy band with a television show, but this song was surprisingly touching, this video was beautifully animated, and the whole thing served as a remarkably strong coda to their show’s first season.
Though none of the above necessarily paints a picture as doomy or gloomy as I’ve outlined and intimated, little of it was really what we were asking for. It’s not like we just watched our way through a year with a new Star Wars, a new James Bond, a new Avengers, a new Jurassic Park, a new Terminator, a new Mad Max, a new Mission: Impossible, the final Hunger Games, a new Quentin Tarantino movie, a new Brad Bird movie; even a third Taken — this time, nobody gets taken.
No, no… that’s all coming this year. So at least there’s something to hang around for.
Also, is it just me, or is it weird that Grace didn’t review The Fault in Our Stars? Tear-jerking relationship movie? YA fiction? Shailene Woodley? Shouldn’t she have been all over that?