I kept thinking that there would be some way to see all the films I was interested in seeing that were released in 2014. Because I was broke-ass and feeling especially socially avoidant, I didn’t go to Bafici, Buenos Aires’ big film festival. So everything I saw was torrented, except for Age of Ultron, which I saw on half-price day with a bunch of backpackers.
I do try to watch everything in good quality now that I have a more or less reliable connection, but I only watch them on my MacBook. That makes a difference and you should keep that in mind. Often this gives me the opportunity of watching something interesting or affecting twice or sometimes thrice, and also to back up and watch favorite or misunderstood sequences. Sometimes I just backed up because I just couldn’t believe what I’d just seen. You can’t do that in a theater.
But just as often watching on a laptop doesn’t allow me to appreciate, or not appreciate, sweep and scale. (That didn’t really matter with Age of Ultron, because I suspect I would have liked it and disliked it for the same reasons even on a small screen.) No doubt it will take a couple years to see everything I wanted to see. So, like all honest lists, this one is incomplete and contingent.
I don’t know whether it’s my age or mood or what, but I didn’t come close to loving my favorite movies last year as strongly as I hated the worst ones. So I’ll start with them first, and put my favs in another post. The one thing in common they all had when I watched them was my tendency to fast-forward, probably the technological advancement I’m the most grateful for in my everyday life. Used to be the mute button.
I fast-forwarded through a lot of this because I was bored by the narcissism, which is, thanks to social media, now a character trait to strive for above all others. Few movies prove that, and drag it the fuck out, more convincingly, so congrats on that. And sorry, fanboys, there is nothing, NOTHING, avant-garde or daring or experimental about the film’s style and technique. Handheld long takes on Broadway? David Letterman was there first, and come to think of it, Stupid Human Tricks is a pretty good antidote to this piece of execrable Hollywood self-regard.
Guardians of the Galaxy
I suppose it’s not fair to judge a film that I was unable to finish watching, twice, but that says something, right? I mean, I happily watch the silliest sci-fi TV imaginable (OK, in a corner of my screen) and still couldn’t make it through this. Few movies required so much money to turn out something so dumb.
Except for this one, which is not so much dumb as just soulless and boring:
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Excruciating and drama-free. Sad that I’m glad Tolkien’s not alive to see this.
I cannot figure out what perfectly intelligent people saw in this dull retread with lots of stylistic filligree or how they watched it all the way through. Silly, predictable designer “horror.”
The Lego Movie
Begs the question: Why hasn’t everything already disappeared?
Ugly as fuck. Great theme song, though: Irony that eats itself.
Wow, there were a lot of shitty big-budget movies in 2014, almost all of them fantasy/sci-fi. This is funnier and more wry than I think it’s given credit for, but it’s still awful.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
By far the worst Spike Lee joint I’ve seen, watching the first hour — because an hour was all I could take — of this stilted, pretentious and empty remake of a pretty interesting experimental art-film, concerning ancient African blood diseases, class differences, the nouveau riche and sex, called Ganja & Hess, directed by Bill Gunn, felt like sitting through The Canyons, Maps to the Stars, Gone Girl and fucking Birdman in some sort of compressed, dehydrated infinitely harder-to-swallow form. Turns out attending a garden party full of dull rich artsy-fartsy black people is just as boring, stultifying and unedifying as attending a garden party full of dull rich artsy-fartsy white people.
A Most Wanted Man
Photographer Anton Corbijn doesn’t seem so much out of his depth here in adapting John le Carré’s 9/11-era spy “novel,” which I haven’t read and I’m not likely to, as he seems to either not give a shit or to be content with the confused and confusing results. He doesn’t care about the performances or the accents, not about the politics, certainly not about the believability of anything that happens and unfortunately for us, not about the pacing or even shot-to-shot composition and matching.
But everyone involved seems to be floundering or miscast, Willem Dafoe the former and Robin Wright the latter. (That dye-job!) But Philip Seymour Hoffman’s caricature of….someone…isn’t much better. I only made it to the 1:24:19 mark and just didn’t want to perform any more bored eye-rolls.
Read my take here.
The Theory of Everything
There are micromomentary flashes of filmmaking intelligence and sincerity in this bathetic but oddly half-hearted biopic, mostly in the film’s first 30 minutes (but nothing’s more honest here than the TV-sci-fi-inspired jaunt through the universe shown during the film’s end credits), but every beat seemed designed to produce cynical groans from all but the most emotionally gullible. Redmayne has “Gosh, I hope I win a Oscar!” all over his face as soon his character loses control of his, and OK, good for him. That’s what movies like these are for.
This film also has had the unfortunate effect of making me suspicious of every word the real Stephen Hawking ever said or wrote.
Maps to the Stars
Several of the films I hated last year have one thing in common: They take rich people and celebrities too seriously. A satire of Hollywood privilege is not interesting to me since the only way to truly make these horrible people get what they deserve is to ignore them. I’d think David Cronenberg was smart enough to know that, and he probably he is, which makes this his first sell-out. Before Spider, my least favorite feature of his.
I think David Fincher and his fans, plus his marketers, which seems to include most critics, should just get a room. By which I mean, a private screening room, so none of the rest of us will ever be tempted to watch any of his movies ever again.
I love Kim Dickens and Carrie Coon. Ben Affleck plays vapid very well. Rosamund Pike does exactly what she’s supposed to do, and hey, great accent! But I was warned beforehand how funny this is, and sure, I can see it’s supposed to be funny and I guess satirical but the only moment that got an out-loud laugh from me was when Amy shook out the blood from her hair after slitting her ex-lover’s throat. Seductive cuts and fades in that scene, too. Otherwise, I grinned a couple of times and checked my watch a lot.
I have never gotten the sense that Fincher’s movies have any real moral core, as they seem to vacillate between empty sentiment and minimalist but glossy satire. He can’t seem to decide whether he wants to remake L’argent or Mr Smith Goes to Washington. But i think his movies don’t speak to me because they’re coming from a particular unexamined class privilege that, even if not repellent, still exhausts me. Rich people making fun of other rich people. How fucking gauche.
The Duke of Burgundy
This is as much about dom/sub relationships as Whiplash is about jazz, but once you get beyond that, you might enjoy the satire, if that’s what it is. I really have no idea what it is, other than a mostly boring and conservative reversal.
Silly. So very silly.
PS: And what was that almost-an-homage to Mothlight? No clue.
PSS: This should have been scored by Danny Elfman.
Other bad movies to avoid:
The Maze Runner
The Atticus Institute
The Quiet Ones
Halfway through 2015 is not too late, is it?
I’ve seen exactly one of these–Birdman–and it does indeed suck. Emma Stone yelling at Michael Keaton about his disparaging of Twitter probably my the low-point of my movie-watching year.
Look forward to reading your thoughts on better films…
Thanks! I think I’ll finish a longer review first — of El Tercero, which will be on my Film Favs 2014.