My Top Ten Movies of 2014 List Lacking Original Title

I confess, I did a slight cheat for this list.  I caught two movies over Friday and Saturday from 2014 that I am going to let slip in.  Otherwise these are 2014 movies that I saw in the 2014 year.

10. Tusk // Kevin Smith
Tusk is an odd animal.  Not quite straight comedy horror, but full of absurdities.  It is a full on body horror story.  And yet, it has a strangely absurd premise that challenges the ability to buy it as a horror film.  Justin Long plays a rather snide podcaster who travels around finding stuff on the internet to mock.  He goes to Canada to meet with a kid who found internet fame via humiliation (think Star Wars kid with a worse outcome in the video).  He gets derailed by a lure of grand stories by a strange recluse Howard Howe (Played by Michael Parks).  Howe regales Long’s Wallace with fantastic tales, coming to a story of how he was saved by a walrus.  And that is where the film takes a dark turn.  Howe is a Annie Wilkes style psycho.  He is determined to regain his lost friend, the Walrus Mr. Tusk.  And he plans to convert Long into a Walrus.  The film is just bizarre, but I thought the performances were compelling.

9.the Babadook // Jennifer Kent
Exploring themes of loss and the struggles of parenting, Kent gives us a real visual feast.  Amelia has tried to raise her son, but is overwhelmed with grief over the death of her husband several years prior.  Her son is obsessed with fighting monsters, and gets in trouble in school.  One day, they receive a book titled the Babadook.  It is the creepiest pop up book you will ever see.  From there on, their lives seem to fall apart as they are terrorized by the Babadook.  There have been claims that this was the scariest movie of the year.  I am not sure it really lives up to this, but it most certainly has the best creepy visuals.  It is a well made and well crafted story.

8. The Sacrament // Ti West
Ti West does good slow burn horror, as witnessed with the Innkeepers and House of the Devil.  The Sacrament tells of a couple journalists given access to a cult community in South America.  Everything appears “normal” until the journalists are passed a note asking for help.  And then it all hits the fan.  It is the ultimate “episode of Vice goes wrong” story.

7.Captain America: The Winter Soldier // Anthony and Joe Russo
This was a solid sequel, the addition of Anthony Mackie as the Falcon kept things from dragging.  He was not a side kick, but rather a partner and teammate.  It was a good story, and interesting to see how they approached their source material, such as the re-emergence of Hydra.  And again, Evans makes a great Cap.

6.Godzilla // Gareth Edwards
Edwards drew a lot of praise for his film Monsters, which I found had solid moments but did not work fully for me.  Godzilla is a stronger effort, though the lack of truly compelling characters outside of Cranston hurts the film as does the rather dull monsters Godzilla fights.  Overall, I enjoyed this big monster-fest.

5.Grand Budapest Hotel // Wes Anderson
Predictably odd and at times slow, Wes Anderson charms me once again.  I found the characters delightful in a quirky way and the murder mystery surrounding the tale-all leading to the simple explanation of “how did the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel become the owner?

4.Big Hero 6 // Don Hall & Chris Williams
This was a fun movie filled with likable characters.  It is a superhero film for kids and adults alike, coming close to the Incredibles.  Just see it.

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes // Matt Reeves
Who are the real animals could be the basic ongoing theme here.  Picking up ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes we find Ape Society is thriving, while humanity (largely wiped out due to the “Simian Virus”) is struggling.  In fact, at the start, Caesar and Maurice even question if there are any humans left.  Caesar tries to lead the apes in the ways of peace, but when humans re-enter the picture, peace becomes slippery.  Both man and ape are mistrustful.  While Caesar and some humans try working together, there are those that see the destruction of man or ape as the only good outcome.  This is a really well done film, one that proves how good genre films can be. (and yes, Babadook is an anagram of Bad Book)

2.The Guardians of the Galaxy // James Gunn
Best. Marvel. Movie.  Period.  Good luck, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

1.Chef // Jon Favreau
I genuinely love this movie.  It starts out feeling kind of aimless, but about 30 minutes in, it finds it’s footing and charms the viewer all the way to the end.  I suspect the somewhat “lost” feeling in those early 30 minutes is intentional, showing us Chef Karl’s own conflicts.  He wants to be passionate about his work, yet is in a job where he is simply going with the waves.  When it all falls apart, he finds a new center for his life, bringing him closer to his friends and family.


Honorable Mention:

Deliver Us From Evil // Scott Derrickson
While I really liked Sinister more, Deliver Us from Evil was an oddball blend of gritty cop thriller and possession movie.  Not the first time Derrickson has done this (The Exorcism of Emily Rose was a blend of court room drama and exorcism flick).  It had interesting characters (and a serious Joel McHale of Community and E’s the Soup) and a fairly compelling story line.  Like the Conjuring, the claims of “being inspired by actual events” feels kind of like a stretch…but it is a decent genre mash-up.

Search and Destroy

This week, discussions I was a part of collided. Over in political land, it was a discussion about the Website Jezebel.  In case you were unaware, after Obama was re-elected, Twitter and Facebook lit up with dis-satisfied voters who thought the best response to the news was racism and hate.  Some of these people were teenagers doing that thing teens do so well…say stupid things.  Jezebel was understandably put off by these comments.  Their response was to compile a list of these folks…their names, their schools, their extra-curricular activities, what sports they play, etc.  The idea is, apparently, to really hit these kids by ruining their chances at college and so on.

In comic world, the other day, someone found a website post Director James Gunn did two years back (possibly closer to three).  It was a list of the 35 comic book characters folks want to have sex with.  So, it was a mature list.  I was actually familiar with the list…and the less controversial list (one with none of the commentary that bothered people) has comments by me.  I used to be pretty active at Gunn’s site.  He was very interactive, and in spite of random moments that made me cringe, seemed pretty open minded.  The list I commented on, Gunn and I had an exchange about our shock that the only Watchman character to make the list?  Comedian.  Seriously.  The rapist.  The list was compiled by a vote, and on one version of the list, Gunn made commentary that was a bit…uncomfortable.  Rachel Edidin addresses it nicely.

Some have stated it was satire of Misogyny.  Maybe.  But it failed because it did not lampoon the outdated attitudes…it seemed more to lampoon it’s subjects.  But the point is, people wanted to do something about it.  And this is where stuff collided.  People seemed to want to destroy Gunn.

I am not crazy at all over the idea that the right answer when someone offends us is to try and get them fired.  People have the right to express the most heinous of ideas.  I have every right to decide whether I want to give them my money.  I have every right to express how wrong I think they are.  I have every right to take to twitter and express that.  Or Facebook.  It is important to have that outlet of protest.  But when we take it the step ahead and force destruction to rain on their heads, we start to lose our righteous ground.  Especially, I am concerned because these are tactics that were used on the left for decades.  Threat to out gay people, petitions to get people with unpopular opinions fired, etc.  Look at the pro-life movement.  There were some within the movement that publicized the names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions.  As some doctors were shot and killed, they were crossed off the lists in blood.

Do we want to have a legacy like that?  Where we start keeping a list of people who “think correctly” and those who fail to meet our standards are not allowed to move on in life?  Do we really think it is different when we do it to them?  It’s somehow different to try and get someone fired because they are homophobic than to get someone fired because they are gay?  Should something you said years ago be held in higher regard than where you are now?  The person I was long ago held very different opinions on issues than the person writing this post.  There was a time in my life that I saw homosexuality as evil.  I was vehemently pro-life.  Do the views I evolved to mean less than the ones I held when I was decades younger?  I cannot comfortably agree that punishing kids as Jezebel seeks to do is wise or good.  It is not the right step forward.  Especially hurting their ability to get into schools.  Yes, lets try and keep them teens from going to the place that often results in a personal re-evaluation of one’s beliefs.

Gunn, btw, apologized. And hey, he avoids the “sorry you were offended”…he takes credit for the failure on his own.  Considering that other recent offenders took the “Stop being offended route? (including defenders of Gunn) it was kind of refreshing.