2014 has been truly hit-and-miss. I could well have copied this paragraph from last year with a quick find-and-replace. But just as we were marching into the middle of the decade thinking “Oh Christ, here we go – more Michael Bay, more Ice Cube, more nah nah nah…” along come at least two films that really did make me rethink my stance on the movie industry today (See my #1 and ‘3 on the best list). It’s not been a terrible year for movies. It’s been very good, on the whole – and I sincerely hope 2015 can fill these big boots!
5: The Came Together
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler prove that former SNL players continue to suck at satire, as They Came Together aim for all the right targets and continually miss them. It’s akin to watching a small child with learning difficulties throw balls at a coconut shy, and standing back and feigning a smile at how well they had done – despite throwing the ball 180 degrees in the opposite direction and accidentally scoring an own goal. An insufferable, turgid and most unfunny piece of rancid shite.
Sticking with the learning difficulty angle, Melissa McCarthy turned up as Tammy; an overweight, unpleasant and charmless oaf who manages to drag Susan Sarandon under her tyres for one of the year’s cosmic laugh-free zones. There’s nothing funny about someone who’s clearly one of society’s beat-upon plumpsters having the piss taken out of her for nearly 100 minutes. It’s soul-crushingly hateful stuff, and not in a good way, either.
3: The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
Angriest man? I can see the poor sod who played him spinning in his grave. It’s a well known fact that Robin Williams took on roles simply to pay the rent. I guess one could argue that Williams’ response mid way through the year was perhaps a bit harsh, but if I’d viewed my performance in The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, then I’d empathise to a point. The bleedin’ obvious aside, this movie stinks to high heaven anyway – and it’s nothing to do with Robin Williams (it’s merely a shame) and/or Mila Kunis (again, merely a blip). It’s shittingly bad and, once again, less funnier than Cold in July.
It’s no coincidence that the bottom five of 2014 are mostly all comedies, is it? Comedy is hard to get right. Comedy and horror, even more so. The beavers look like puppets, and the characters have about as much depth as puppets, too. I know, I know – that’s sort of the point. And yes, I am a Troma fan. Zombeavers sits awkwardly in a sort of dole office of being too good to be bad, and too bad to be anything other than second in my top ten worst list for 2014. They couldn’t even get the “hot jock” boyfriends hot-o-meter correct. I suppose there’s no saving grace about Zombeavers; if guys these fugly can get chicks those cute – well, maybe there’s hope for us all.
Fuck Kevin Smith.
5: Wolf of Wall Street
Originally getting a 7 out of 10 in my review from January, I did make the prediction that Wolf could be a stayer and rank among Scorsese’s best. It’s now nearly one year later, and I think I was right. I was right, also, to award it a seven; it’s not a perfect movie by any stretch; but what it is, though, is a shit-load of fun and as absorbing a story as the characters are impervious to humanity. A thoroughly loathsome bunch of feral, money-hunting wankers that would put The Riot Club to shame. As far as overindulgence and excess goes, we will all use Wolf of Wall Street as the barometer; both for the characters and storyline, and for Scorsese’s “have it all and eat it, too” barbarism.
4: Dallas Buyers Club
For a long, long stretch was sitting at my number one spot in the top ten until, of course, those films in my top three came about. An award-winning performance from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (the latter being performance of the year, probably) and about a story that would help shape our attitude toward the AIDS epidemic. An absolutely wonderful film, rich in detail and disciplined in narrative and length, it is truly one of the best dramas in recent memory.
3: The Babadook
Jennifer Kent writes and directs her way in to what I had long since regarded as a genre that is impossible to win me over; horror. Seriously, after so much watered-down PG-13 ghost/doll/clanking doorway shite, I’d pretty much all but abandoned this pithy, lifeless genre. I suppose it’s no surprise to learn that if anyone was going to buck the trend it’d be an independent Aussie filmmaker. But there you go. Fundamentally, The Babadook is a semi-realistic drama about a woman who grows evermore scared of her weird son. The fact that it has a bad guy and some whacked-out, truly innovative elements in the third act all contribute to one of the best – and most unsettling – surprises of the year. The Babadook never puts a foot wrong, and manages to do so with the minimum of fuss. I love The Babadook.
2: John Wick
Is Keanu Reeves back? YEAH. I’m thinking he’s back. Well stone me if John Wick isn’t the baddest-est ass, action-packed, violent, kill-happy revenge thriller of the year. Perhaps even the decade. It’s the usual sort of stuff, but directed and played with such freneticism that you simply have to drop to your knees and worship at the Wick alter. Even if you’re not a fan of action, you’ll love this movie. I can’t wait to see it again – and it’s unlike me to espouse the awesomeness of a silly action film. So I’m just as shocked as you. Check out the soundtrack, too. It’s terrific.
1: Life Itself
Roger Ebert has played a huge part in my life as both a film critic and film maker. I often step back and think “what would Roger Ebert award my movie, out of four stars?”. Life Itself is the equivalent (for me) of a film maker making a documentary about someone you personally admire and love. In a sense, it feels as if the documentary was made for you. I’ve never cried at a film – ever – in my entire life; that’s still true today, but God damn it if Steve James’ masterful documentary Life Itself did not come close. It’s a film about life as Roger Ebert expertly and humorously clings on to his own; a film about love, as his wife Chaz makes his twilight months comfortable and keeps up a brave face, even past the inevitable – and then, it’s a film about friendship, as we delve in to his hate/love relationship with Gene Siskel, who died fifteen years earlier. Ebert awarded director Steve James’ Hoop Dreams (1994) the accolade of Best Film of the 1990s. He remarked that real-life throws plot points at you that you could never see coming, and that a truly gifted documentarian would seize on any opportunity that came their way. Siskel dying alone and unannounced really affected Ebert (one of the handful of facts I did not know till seeing Life Itself) and seeing Ebert doing precisely the opposite seals the friendship and, by virtue, the love(s) of his life. In so many ways Life Itself is the best film of the millennium, and a more-than-fitting closing chapter in the life of a man I so admired.
Author: Andrew Mackay