Stuff N Such’s Best and Worst of 2014: Movies

I skipped out on doing a Best and Worst of List for music in 2014. Honestly, aside from albums by Iceage, Angel Olsen, D’Angelo, and the Raveonettes, there were few albums I was truly stoked on last year. If anyone was legitimately looking for albums to listen to, I suggest Buddyhead’s 2014 Best and Worst of List HERE; unlike most publications (and certain local ones….), they had the balls to say that Jack White’s new album sucked ass. Bravo.

So instead of a music list, I decided to branch out a bit cause change is good, right? But really, I found myself going to the movies more than concerts in 2014 so I feel like a movies list is more appropriate anyways. Maybe even more so since by some happy accident, I wind up with screeners and free tickets every once in a while. So I figured what the hell? I’ll spit out the top fifteen films I saw this year and for good measure, the ten worst films I saw and see how this all plays out. And of course, I’ll publish them just in time for the Oscars to give ya guys a list of do’s and don’t’s for when those things air this Sunday.

Finally, to answer the inevitable question: no, I’m not entirely done with music. I’m just not going to confine myself to something that I don’t feel 100 percent about at the moment. I started this site because I wanted to write about art I was passionate about and to slag off the shit I thought deserved to be slagged off. If my heart’s not in it, I’m not going to write about it. Besides, movies fall under the pretense of art, so they’re fair game. So without further bullshit, here’s my list.

The Best Films of 2014

15. Filth

Who would have thought that James McAvoy would be so good at playing such a bastard? Given that the dude has only taken what seem to be “good guy” roles in the past, what may have dragged him into this nasty (but fun) piece of business is Jon S. Baird’s interpretation of Irvine Welsh’s irreverent novel. With a great story in hand, McAvoy plays Bruce Roberston, a bipolar Scottish detective who smokes, drinks, snorts, and fucks his co-workers wives into oblivion all for the sake of getting a promotion; with such slimy charm, you can’t help but root for the deranged fuck during some of his best moments and reel from his worst. It’s debauchery done right and isn’t that when it’s at its best?

14. Top Five

While George Carlin will always be my favorite comedian, Chris Rock is definitely my favorite living comedian; he’s just as observant as Carlin and is able to turn brutal honesty into comedic gold. Also like Carlin, his brilliant stand up has never really transferred well into his films.
Top Five changes this. It’s one of the best movies about being a modern non-eccentric celebrity made in at least the past 10 years. Maybe it’s because it is like Rock’s stand-up in that he’s not thrown into a crazy situation like he was in Head of State or Down to Earth. Instead, the movie is mostly about him dictating his experiences to Rosario Dawson. In doing so, he touches on a wide variety of topics: the repercussions of becoming famous after growing up poor, the overblown nature of reality TV, and most importantly, the old cliche that an artist becoming sober means that said artist will lose their spark. At the age of 50, Rock uses his lifetime of wisdom to successfully intertwine all of these issues into a movie that marks a career high…..and prove that he is still one funny motherfucker.

13. The Babadook

How I wish this movie got more exposure. Why the fuck do we need Paranormal Activity Part 35 getting a wide release but a smart, horror thriller like the Babadook gets such a limited release? What makes the Babadook special is its commentary on mental illness and grief. The film opens up a constructive dialogue on how to deal with these problems that are widespread yet swept under the rug while still providing a story that is really fucking scary. There are no pop-out scenes in the movie; the true horror comes from the idea that this kind of stuff is pretty rampant. I hope I didn’t spoil too much of the film for you in this, but let’s just say that if the Babadook was playing in more theaters, I think the dialogue it tries to start would have more people joining in, which is needed. Sure, the kids who want The Woman in Black 2 would probably be bummed, but because the horror genre has been degenerated to serving the lowest common denominator, the Babadook getting a wide release could have helped start restoring the genre’s name once again.

12. Starred Up

This one is fucking GRITTY. Before Jack O’Connell went all Oscar-bait with Angelina Jolie in Unbroken, he shot this fucked-up number. Inspired by screenwriter Jonathan Asser’s own time working as a therapist with violent criminals, Starred Up follows Eric Love, a young criminal so volatile, he’s “starred up”, or transferred early from juvie to an adult prison. While in big boy jail, he reconnects with his estranged and equally violent prisoner father, Neville, played by the always charismatic Ben Mendelsohn.
What makes Starred Up so potent is that in an age where privatized prisons are gathering steam, the film shows how flawed the original rehabilitation plan of “locking up the bad guys with other bad guys” not just because of the prisoners, but because of their keepers mentality towards how hopeless their captive really are. Can someone who is viewed as un-helpable scum really be rehabilitated and do those in charge really care? As the young Love so magnificently puts it in one scene, if criminals really do become rehabilitated, then aren’t said keepers out of a job? Prison movies aren’t easy too pull off without being cliched, which makes Starred Up‘s success all the more riveting.

11. Under the Skin

One of my friends called this movie “pretentious bullshit.” I disagree with her. Between the shots that are reminiscent of Kubrick to the film’s permeating creepiness that is reminiscent of Lynch, I throughly enjoyed this one. Under the Skin is like Species with a brain and a whole lot to say about rape culture.

10. Boyhood

“Life doesn’t need to be hyperbolized” is a quote that I think came from Richard Linklater. Whether the dude said it or not, he definitely captures that perfectly. Shot over a period of 12 years, Boyhood isn’t loaded with the typical dramas that most coming-of-age stories have. Sure, there’s a few drunken asshole father figures, but the film doesn’t create linger on these assholes for too long. Rather, it lets life speak for itself.

9. Jodorowsky’s Dune

I was disappointed by the Dance of Reality. I know I shouldn’t have expected The Holy Mountain part 2, but having seen that film almost too many times, I feel like my mind had put those expectations in place anyways. Instead, what I found was that my favorite thing Jodorowsky did this year was about a film he didn’t make, Dune. His vision was staggeringly brilliant and he had the manic gusto that few people do to have it come true. Unfortunately, the tragedy of the situation hits at the half-way point of the film as you realize that this man, who had so much passion and vision for such a prestigious project, would never actually see it go through; and it wasn’t only his film that didn’t get realized, but also the full potential of his career. However, the silver-lining is this: Jodorowsky, now in his 80’s, is still high in energy and attempting to make films that matter to him, regardless of that pesky thing called money. In this, he’s inspiring because while most of the world thought he was too crazy to achieve, he still presses on for the only thing that matters: his art.

8.  20,000 Days on Earth

I thought Nick Cave was a genius before going into this one, and afterwards, that notion remains unchallenged. While some questioned the whole semi-documentary vibe the film has going for it, I found it to be perfect for Cave. Instead of making a show-all documentary, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard elected instead to make this puppy half-narrative with Cave helping write part of the script. The result is a really unique picture: while most music documentaries run the risk of destroying some of the mystique behind our favorite artists (Dig! comes to mind), the myth of Nick Cave being an outlaw writer isn’t shattered, but rather enhanced. Those who are seeing this film for some advice on how to make killer art won’t be disappointed, because that is one of Cave’s secrets that he divulges.

7. Gone Girl

Ben Affleck gets shit on a lot nowadays. If this was back in 2003, I’d completely understand. It was then that he did go through a period where he made dog shit and was considered by everyone as an absolute joke. Then something happened. Maybe it was the release of Gone Baby Gone that spurred some growth in him. The turning point for me was definitely his 2010 flick, the Town. Now, in 2014, he’s in Gone Girl, playing a dude who he can relate to: the most hated man in America. He’s played the role, albeit different circumstances, and he pulls it off here.
It’s Rosemund Pike steals the fucking show here, though. I’ve had a crush on her since last year’s The World’s End, but in this film…….I mean, my God! I can’t really go into it too much without revealing too much about the film, but if her performance doesn’t net her an Oscar win, then the Academy truly is as short sighted and paid off as I’ve always suspected. I don’t know if I’ll be able to look at her the same way again, but isn’t that what a good performance is supposed to do?
Also, David Fincher…….dude just knocks it out of the park yet again. I’ve been a fan since I saw Fight Club when I was 12, so it’s cool to see him add this suspenseful thriller to what has probably been his best decade of work so far.

5 & 6. Only Lovers Left AliveA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 11.55.57 AMYes, I’m grouping both of these together because their vampire films. Get over it.
In the past 7 years, vampire films have become a running joke thanks to their revival by tweens who read Twilight. Anyone who isn’t in love with shit movies has kind of distanced themselves and the genre was left to rot due to over-saturation.
But if any two films have brought some credibility back to the genre, it’s these two films. They aren’t the same film by any means: one is a western while the other is Jim Jarmusch’s love letter to being nocturnal. Yet, both have beautiful cinematography, killer soundtracks, and casts that make them enticing. They deal with the isolation that is inherent in the genre, but they don’t make it campy like Robert Patterson and the blank slate that is Kristin Stewart do. They’re simply great films that emphasis substance AND style.

4. A Most Violent Year

This film was the exact opposite of what I thought it’d be. Instead of being a cliche mob film, it was more of an anti-mob film. Watching Oscar Issac’s Abel try his best not to lose his shit and keep his family from going under should strike a chord with most Americans. He’s constantly being pushed to do things that most desperate family man would have no choice but to do. Even with his mobster wife Anna constantly luring him to the dark side (and how he resists selling his soul when the deal is being curated by Jessica Chastian is beyond me…all she’d need to do is show me where to sign), he is determined to do MOST things right and break that stereotype. I respect that and this film.
The fact that it has hardly won anything or even been nominated for Oscars is a travesty. Fuck the Grand Budapest Hotel; go see this instead.

3. Birdman

Michael Keaton recently called this critique lazy, but this might be the most meta performance of the year. I mean c’mon, Keaton playing a washed up actor who’s claim to fame/baggage is a superhero franchise? Yet, what follows is a tale of ego, dealing with one’s own relevance, and how botched self-sabotage becomes redemption, all beautifully directed by Aljeandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Speaking of direction, some critics of the film say that the camera one-shot is a gimmick that propels the movie towards acclaim. Not entirely true. After all, the movie wouldn’t be much without the great supporting cast that includes Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Niaomi Watts, and Zach Galifianakis. The film deserves all of the praise and acclaim that it gets. Get a good laugh at this one, because up next, Inarritu intends to have DiCaprio’s mug mauled by a bear for his upcoming film, the Reverent.

2. Interstellar

There are a few dorks out there who have poked a lot of holes in this one. Some will say it’s too long. Others will say it has too many plot holes and is not scientifically accurate (but if it’s good enough for Neil deGrasse Tyson, I think it’s good enough period). However, if movies were always 100% accurate on these issues, they wouldn’t be as exciting. So for story purposes, I understand that there has to be a few holes in this.
The rest of the movie is just so engrossing though. People talk a lot about how mesmerizing the visuals are (which is true), but it also happens to be Nolan’s most emotional film to date. The stakes are high in Interstellar so that may be why he was able to take it as far emotional as he did; but then again, the stakes always seem high in a Nolan movie, so how is this not an achievement.
Anyways, from Hans Zimmer’s pulsating score to the visuals to the story line itself, I’m convinced that this is Nolan’s best mind-fuck since Inception and another career high for Mr. “Alright Alright Alright.”

1. Whiplash

Few movies can capture the intensity of music. It’s not an easy task; while music can compliment a film, having a film compliment the music is a bit tougher. This is all the more reason that Damien Chazelle deserves acclaim as the motherfucker’s camera work and editing puts you inside the soul of the music. It’s just as much of a character as the lead actors themselves.
If that’s not enough for you, then the airtight story and excellent acting should suffice. I mean, JK Simmons….Jesus fucking Christ. Having known a lot of hard-ass mentors in my life, I gotta clap for Simmons: he pulls off the militant-to-the-point-of-sadistic Terence Fletcher very well. His insults are sharp, his temper is boiling, and though he might be one of the sickest teachers to emerge from the last decade of movies, sometimes you can’t help but laugh at how mean the fuck is. Miles Teller does well himself, expertly playing a character who shows how much one is willing to sacrifice in order to be great. It’s a great movie about struggling and proving yourself.
While some might say that the film is a bit too tortuous to be considered truly valid, I’m here to tell you that those people are pussies. Yes, this movie draws blood, but the overall message of perseverance makes it worthwhile, especially during the spellbinding conclusion that almost gave me a fucking panic attack. Whiplash probably won’t win the Oscar for Best Picture (though JK rightfully will for Best Supporting Actor), but it deserves to in my book.

Honorable Mentions: John Wick, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Dear White People

Worst Films of 2014

10. Wild 

Reese Witherspoon tries to win an Oscar by making a movie about walking. The Lord of the Rings already did this and much better. Pass!

9. The Gambler 

I had some hope for this one. I haven’t been a fan of Marky Mark or screenwriter William Monahan since the two worked on The Departed (which is in my top 5 favorites of Scorsese as it rightfully should), but I figured with their re-pairing for this film, it couldn’t be all bad, right?
Unfortunately, the only redeeming thing about this languorous film is the soundtrack, which features Rodriguez and Pulp for a few brief scenes. Otherwise, I was kind of rooting for Wahlberg to get his legs broken by Omar from the Wire or even John Goodman by the end of the film. He doesn’t though and you’re welcome for saving you 2 hours.

8. Fury 

I didn’t have high expectations for this. In fact, if I hadn’t gotten a free ticket to it, I probably would have just waited for it to come out on DVD. When it comes to war movies, the two I hold up on a pedestal are Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now. Given, those are quite tough to live up to, so I try to be generous and ease my expectations. However, it seems like the film itself didn’t have any expectations. Sure, there’s a few decent moments here and there, but overall, the whole thing is flimsy. The pacing is nonsensical and the idea of bullets in WWII being the same color as the lasers in Star Wars is just fucking stupid.

7. The Judge

After recently re-watching Natural Born Killers, I’ve come to the conclusion that I liked Robert Downey Jr. better when he was on drugs. I know that sounds cruel to say and that addiction is no laughing matter……….BUT at least then, he was actually acting. Now, it’s just like he gets high on his own ego. It would explain how he wore out his welcome in Iron Man after the second one and how everything he’s done since then has felt like this is Robert Downey Jr. playing Robert Downey Jr..  As for this movie, it’s trying so hard to be a classic “daddy issues” movie that it feels like a self-parody. What a waste of Robert Duvall.

4, 5, & 6 – God’s Not Dead/Heaven Is For Real/Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 11.53.31 AMI’m putting these three together because they’re basically the same movie. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I actually sat through them all, but I did watch 20 minutes of God’s Not Dead between sneaking in to movies for shits and gigs. Mostly for shits.
Obviously, if I’m going to knock these movies, I’m gonna have to knock their so-called source material. If 2014 showed us anything, it’s that there can never be a decent Christian movie. Why? Because unlike most stories, Christian movies will never be able to get outside the realm of possibility that doesn’t exist in the Bible; everything is already answered (or tip-toed around) and therefore, all that’s left is subpar acting and shitty editing.

3. The Monuments Men 

Fuck George Clooney. Aside from his shitty acting “skills,” fuck him for convincing Bill Murray to appear in this piece of shit with him.

2. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For 

Let me start off by saying that this one hurts a bit. I was 15 when the original came out and I loved the ever-loving shit out of it. It was my first introduction to neo-noir and I thought it was extremely well done. Even now that my tastes have sharpened, I still think the last one was executed very well.
On the other hand, this one is just a straight up execution and begs the question “how does the hack known as Robert Rodriguez keep getting work?” More importantly, how do you get $65 million to make a sequel and yet the whole film has dime store special effects that would almost be too shitty for the Sci-Fi Channel? It’s embarrassing to know that this is the result of a ten year wait and I’m surprised that this didn’t just go straight-to-DVD as most movies with Bruce Willis should nowadays.

1. A Million Ways to Die in the West 

I only saw this utter piece of shit because I got free tickets to it. I don’t hate MacFarlane like I’m supposed to – I actually thought Ted was funny and don’t mind the earlier seasons of Family Guy. But this? This is just painfully unfunny. I kept waiting for a laugh, but I started to get embarrassed that I dragged one of my friends to this and made her waste perfectly good weed on an absolutely dull film. The only funny parts in this movie are the cameos but do yourself a favor: YouTube those things and save the time.

Dishonorable MentionsListen Up Philip, The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, Addicted, Transcendence

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