Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top Ten Movies of 2014 - Part Two

Part one of this list is right the ef here.

7. Interstellar
I really do have a hard time ranking Interstellar out of 2014's movies. On the one hand, this is a deeply flawed movie that left me feeling unsatisfied. On the other hand, it tackled some big issues and tried some daring things with subject matter. I feel like I would much rather see a movie ask a big question and come up with a bad answer than watch a movie ask a simple question and give an easy answer.

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
I try not to let stories about how a movie was made or the background of its production influence my decision on whether or not the movie was good, but sometimes, it can't be helped. The fact that this movie attempted to repair the damage done by some awful, awful films and rest the universe with crazy-go-nuts time travel plots and succeeds...Well, fucking well done.

Not only does DOFP bridge the narrative gap between the "past" X-Men and "present" X-Men, it is a fun movie that focuses largely on the relationships between three characters. (Four if you count Beast, who was fighting for screentime in this film and deserved more, considering his importance to Raven, the character whose actions determine the success or failure of the events in the film.) I can't overstate how important it is to keep your movie focused on character development while maintaining a certain level of fun. It's a hard line to walk between Raven's desire to kill Trask to avenge the death of her friends and chuckling at Quicksilver giving a guy a wedgie, but this film walks it and walks it well.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Alright, top five. Now we're really getting into it.

The Winter Soldier was a good movie. Like, a really good movie. As I sit here at this moment, I konw that it was amazing, but I can't quite bring myself to move it up any higher than number five on my list. Honestly, I can't think of any flaws that precludes it from being higher up on the list, but it's just that #4-1 were better than this one.

Why were they better? Out of all the movies in the top five, I was engaged in The Winter Soldier the least. That's not to say that I wasn't engaged, because I was very fucking engaged in this film (all three times I saw it in the theaters). I was very pleased that they veered away from the "get the infinity stone" type of plotline, and that they focused on something important like the issue of security versus freedom.

I think my only problem with the film is that it makes it easy to choose the "freedom" side of the argument. Initially, you have a government-run program spying on its citizens and being prepared to take out threats preemptively, without a trial and with extreme prejudice. That's a huge fucking deal to put that in a movie and have its characters examine that issue. In fact, I can't think of anything else that was willing to even come close to tackling these sorts of themes.

The problem though, is that we later find out that the warship is being controlled by Hydra, a group of Nazis. Any semblance of examining this issue goes out the window when one side is Nazis. (The Dark Knight had the balls to have our protagonist doing the spying on civilians, and that movie came out years ago. Why didn't The Winter Soldier have Captain America struggling against his own government instead of an easy target like Nazis?) Following that, the climax of the film comes between Captain America and his best friend Bucky. Not that this wasn't a compelling aspect of the story, but it was not the most compelling aspect, and so to have it be the climax of the film makes it feel like the ending fell flat.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy
Again, I have to talk a little bit about the production of this movie.

The Guardians of the Galaxy was such an awful idea on paper. Born of hubris, Marvel basically created a brand new superhero team and pushed it as hard as they could in the comics to build up support for this movies. As a comic-reader, I fucking hate the Guardians of the Galaxy. They have a tendency to pop up in stories and derail whatever else is going on, even when there's absolutely no reason for them to be anywhere. It's really frustrating for both the reader and probably the writer too, to have corporate demand that Rocket Racoon just absolutely has to be in this issue of the Hulk. All of this for the sake of selling movie tickets.

But I'll damned if the movie wasn't almost perfect. From the moment the title card lit up in the screen to the tune of "Come and Get Your Love" comes up, I was convinced this was something special. Similar to DOFP, Guardians is able to skirt the line between touching and irreverent. Hell, the opening scene with Chris Pratt's mother dying is immediately followed by him singing into a lizard. Remarkably, both scenes work. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Starlord hangs a lampshade on the quest to find the infinity stone by calling it the Maltese Falcon and then outright calling it a MacGuffin. This is the films entire attitude about itself. "This shit isn't very serious. You're watching a movie. Let's have a good time. Here's a racoon."

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