Best Movies of 2014

Ryan Gosling in Drive with Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year

Happy 2015 and happy Golden Globes Sunday! It’s that time for everyone to come up with pointless lists that reflect on the year in film. So here’s mine!

Last year I saw a total of 34 movies – a little less than in previous years, but I like to think I avoided the worst ones this year. Here were my favorites:

1. A Most Violent YearThe Lego MovieThe Imitation Game
Three very different movies, but hands down my favorite three movies of the year. A Most Violent Year showcases one of the most tense final scenes of the year, and Jessica Chastain is crazy good. The Lego Movie is just flat-out the most clever and one of the most inventive movies in a while (which is insane considering it’s based on a toy line). The Imitation Game has one of the best screenplays of the past few years. And Keira Knightley’s still got it!

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2. Boyhood
A movie truly deserving of its own spot on this list. The kitchen scene at the end of the movie with Patricia Arquette is definitely my favorite scene of this past year. A pure 165 mins of nostalgia and one-of-a-kind moviemaking.

3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 / Big Hero 6
Two of the best blockbusters of the year. Though some people may disagree, I think Mockingjay benefited from being split in two and allowed the story to breathe. Big Hero 6 is a movie I wish was around when I was a kid. I want to get lost in San Franyoko.

4. Birdman Gone Girl
Both movies weren’t afraid to make bold choices, ones that I think paid off in the end. Emma Stone and Carrie Coon are standouts, respectively.

5. SnowpiercerNeighbors
I can see both movies becoming cult classics in the very near future.

That’s all.

Still haven’t seen: Selma, Inherent Vice, The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I may never see), Under the Skin, Pride, The Guest, Big Eyes or The Skeleton Twins.

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Giving Thanks

Ryan Gosling in Gangster Squad with Josh Brolin
Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men with Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

In the spirit of Thanksgiving (whoops I’m a little late), here are just a few things that I’m thankful for this week:

Mockingjay Part 1
Mockingjay is a slow movie. And that’s a good thing. Every actor shines here, and that’s because the movie gives each character one great showcase moment. Jennifer Lawrence is at her best, and I think she gives a better performance here than in American Hustle. Some critics grumbled when Mockingjay was split into two parts, but I think it was for the better.

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Netflix
What is a holiday break without a little Netflix? I used my time off to start watching The Wonder Years, and I’m so glad I did. I’m now two seasons in, and I’m relieved to finally be binging a show that doesn’t make me depressed or keep me up til 3AM every night (the episodes are about 22 mins each).

We Came to Bang – 3LAU
If you’re looking for a song to add to your workout playlist, look no further. We Came to Bang by upcoming DJ/producer 3LAU combines modern the sounds of electro house with vocals by Luciana that sound like something from Jock Jams in the 90s. And that’s a good thing.

That’s all.

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Help!

Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love. with Emma Stone
Emma Stone in The Help with Viola Davis
Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder

Here are just a few things that are helping me get through this week:

How to Get Away with Murder
Other than Jane the Virgin, #HTGAWM is probably the best new broadcast show of the fall. Clearing my schedule this Thursday night for the winter finale to find out #WhoKilledSam. Also, Connor.

Big Hero 6
This movie came out of nowhere for me but somehow still managed to punch me in the gut. One of the most fun and inventive animated movies I’ve seen in a few years. I really wish Big Hero 6 existed when I was a kid.

Taylor Swift’s 1989 (except Welcome to New York)
I am addicted to 1989. When I’m not listening to it on repeat, I’m thinking about listening to it on repeat. Please help (but really don’t).

That’s all.

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He’s Back, I’m Back

Ryan Gosling’s back! He hasn’t appeared in a movie since last year’s Only God Forgives (which I still haven’t seen), but now that he’s a dad, Ryan seems a little more relevant again!

I’ve been gone from this blog for a while too, but Ryan has inspired me to write again. Plus I paid to renew this domain name, so why not? I feel like my post-grad self needs to write every now and then, so here I am! Hoping my brain won’t turn to mush.

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Coming soon: I watch some movies, binge on some TV and listen to some music as I anxiously await the release of Ryan’s next movie.

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This Is the Purge

1. Ryan Gosling in Drive (2011) with Carey Mulligan
2. Carey Mulligan in Shame (2011) with Michael Fassbender
3. Michael Fassbender in 300 (2006) with Lena Headey, who stars in The Purge
4. Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) with Busy Philipps
5. Busy Philipps in Freaks and Geeks (1999) with Seth Rogen and James Franco and Jason Segel and David Krumholtz
6. Seth Rogen and James Franco and Jason Segel and David Krumholtz in This Is the End

Playing double duty today.

The Purge this-is-the-end-banner-726x248

A few weekends ago I watched and unlikely double feature: Blumhouse Productions’ The Purge and the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg‘s directorial debut This Is the End. One movie is about the end of society; the other movie is about the end of the world. The movies fit together better than I thought, but I did leave the theater feeling a little depressed.

First up was The Purge. Though it didn’t take full advantage of its premise, like many critics have stated, I was pleasantly surprised in the directions that it went. In fact, sometimes the places it went were so different that entire storylines were completely abandoned (some for the better). I would’ve liked to see the world a little more fleshed out, but I’m still disturbed by the last few scenes of the movie where (***spoilers***) characters are just simply sitting in a room. I only wish the rest of the movie was that evocative.

Now, the second half of my double feature: This Is the End. Though most of the movie’s big gags had already been spoiled for me my the Internets, I still found myself chuckling to the movie’s throwaway jokes and banter. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have really mastered the balance between dick jokes and heartfelt stories of male friendship, and that formula is on full display here. The movie’s best scenes are between Rogen and Jay Baruchel, former BFFs (conveniently) reunited on the eve of the apocalypse. Most people will talk about demon penises and cameos when they talk about the movie, but the strongest element here is the friendship. Though Superbad still showcases their best writing, I can’t wait to see what this team does next.

Go celebrate society’s downfall! Check out these movies before they leave theaters… FOREVER.

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Oz the Great and Fake

1. Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine (2010) with Michelle Williams
2. Michelle Williams in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

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First, I would like to apologize to Sam Raimi and the entire state of Kansas (holla) for what I’m about to say about Oz the Great and Powerful. This prequel isn’t an awful movie: there are some truly amazing visuals going on here. But in all honesty, I don’t know if I would call this a movie all. It’s just one big set up after set up after set up with no real story arc or point at all.

It doesn’t start off that bad. I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so, which is shot all in black and white. It was simple and charming and actually interesting. By the time James Franco, who seems checked out and dead-eyed in this movie as Oz, makes it to Oz (can it be called Oz if he just arrived in Oz?), everything seems so rushed and inauthentic that I just didn’t care anymore.

Oz immediately meets Theodora the witch (played by Mila Kunis) and spend one minute around a campfire together before, apparently, they fall madly in love with each other, or at least her with him. The whole movie hinges on this romance and the (SPOILER ALERT) fallout from this romance, but never bought. Maybe I would have if Franco had the effervescent personality that Oz supposedly has.

Now about those visuals. Yes, some of the landscapes of Oz look amazing in 3D. But Raimi seems so set on using CGI for every landscape possible that, after a while, everything seems insincere and fake. This becomes clear during an absurd chase sequence that involves flying baboons, cliffs that are straight out of a Dr. Seuss story and magical bubbles. Some of Raimi‘s trademark dark humor and horror elements briefly make an appearance, but he seems so obsessed with 3D CGI visuals here that it gets lost, leaving no real layers or complexity at all. The movie left me longing for the still amazing sets of the 1939 original.

The one person who seems 100 percent committed here is Michelle Williams, playing the angelic Glinda. She really is wonderful and you can’t help but smile when she’s on screen.

In an age when there’s Wicked: The Novel, Wicked: The Musical, Wicked: The Movie (in development), The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and Dorothy of Oz, the biggest question I had when leaving this movie was “why?”

I’m all for a fun fantasy adventure set in the land of Oz, but not when it’s handled like this. I think I’m going to go watch Drag Me to Hell now.

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The House of Cards Experiment

1. Ryan Gosling in The United State of Leland (2003) with Kevin Spacey
2. Kevin Spacey in House of Cards (2013)

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Well, that was easy!

When the first trailer for Netflix’s House of Cards arrived around three months ago, I was surprised to find myself… bored. Maybe it’s because the tone of a series is hard to capture in a 2.5-minute trailer, but the preview really lowered my expectations for this David Fincher-produced series. I knew because of Fincher‘s involvement that I was going to get a great-looking series, but I didn’t want to be bored out of my mind for 13 episodes. Luckily, my gut was wrong. House of Cards is far from perfect “television” (what are we supposed to call this?), but I was definitely not bored by it.

If you have any desire at all to check out the series, please do not click on its IMDb page, which I’ve already linked to three times (whoops). The pleasure from this series comes from the slow unravel of Francis Underwood’s “revenge” plan after he fails to secure a nomination for Secretary of State, and the description on the IMDb page reveals a little too much.

Speaking of Underwood, one of the main talking points of many critics is Kevin Spacey‘s performance. Though he’s had several lazy performances in the past couple of years (i.e. that mess 21), you can’t say that he’s not *on* here. The question is whether or not it works for you (or whether or not you hate him). I thought that Spacey effectively walked the fine line of hamming it up and showing restraint in quieter moments. Will Spacey get awards attention for this role? How does that even work? I’m excited to see how this plays out.

But the real breakout role of the series is Peter Russo, played here by Corey Stoll (previously known for playing Hemingway in Midnight in Paris). It’s hard for me to imagine anyone else in the part, and he hits it out of the park. In fact, I’d rather Stoll get awards attention than Spacey.

So should you devour all 13 episodes of House of Cards in one sitting (like Frank Underwood eats his ribs)? Obviously that’s the model that Netflix is encouraging. If the show was on HBO or another premium network and I had to watch the show week-by-week, I would’ve found the experience a little less rewarding. I wouldn’t mind being able to binge watch more shows as soon as they came out. I might actually find myself enjoying certain shows more (Once Upon a Time and The Following come to mind). Though the last few minutes had me rolling my eyes, I’m curious to see where season 2 of House of Cards goes.

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