EDITOR’S NOTE: Tiny had a really impressive movie watching year in 2014 and to commemorate it, he wrote a massive blog post about it. Here it is in all its glory. Of course, be sure to follow Tiny on Twitter @ObsessiveTiny and check out his side project podcast: The Secular Perspective. My 2014 Best & Worst Movies and Viewing Stats Mike’s Best […]
Tiny had a really impressive movie watching year in 2014 and to commemorate it, he wrote a massive blog post about it. Here it is in all its glory. Of course, be sure to follow Tiny on Twitter @ObsessiveTiny and check out his side project podcast: The Secular Perspective.
– Matt (@ObsessiveViewer)
I watched 366 movies this year. THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX! Whew! I wanted to watch one movie for every day of a year. This is a goal I’ve had for several years now, and late in 2013 I realized that 2014 was the time to finally do it. How many people can honestly say that for one year straight they watched a movie every single day? Very few, I’m sure.
Let me clarify that I did not watch 366 individual movies this year. Some of them were repeats. For example, I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier on three separate occasions. However, this does not detract from my stat of watching one movie for each day of the year. “365 Days, 366 Viewings” might be a better title for the project, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Also, I did not sit down every single day of 2014 and watch a movie. That, to me, is an unattainable goal for someone who is a contributing member of society. Things come up. I got sick once or twice, I have a job that sometimes commands a lot of time, I travel from time to time, I go out and do things with people I care about. In order to literally watch one movie every day would require sacrifices that would take the fun out of this project; so I hope you will forgive those technicalities.
There were many days this year where I watched 0 movies. I would make up for those missed days on lazy weekends and relaxing weeknights. For example, I watched four movies one Saturday this year. Despite all of these shortcomings and technicalities I watched 366 movies in 365 days. That’s good enough for me, and I’m very happy with it.
How about we break down some of the stats:
366 Total Viewings (Personal Record)
28 Theater Viewings (Personal Record)
252 First Viewings
49 DVD/Blu Ray Collection Viewings
For each month I have six categories that I place movies into. Best First Viewing, Worst First Viewing, Returning Champion, Biggest Letdown, Biggest Surprise, and Best Newcomer. Returning Champion is the best movie I watched that month that I’ve already seen before. Best Newcomer is an artist that I have never really seen before that really impressed me. This person does not have to be new to the industry, just new to me.
Lastly, I’d like to iterate that “Best First viewing of the Year” is not necessarily the best movie of the year. Sometimes this category is just the best time I had with a new movie that year. Objectively, there might be a better movie, but “Best First Viewing” is the best experience I had watching a new movie for the year. However, sometimes “Best First Viewing” and “Best of the Year” do coincide. The other categories are pretty self-explanatory. So, at the end of the year I take the 12 entries of each category and pick my favorite for the year, and here they are:
Best First Viewing of the Year
This movie didn’t quite make it to my number one for the year (it did come in second), but I think this was the most fun and best time I had with a movie for the year. Interstellar did the best at filling me with the cinematic emotion that all true movie buffs experience. It had everything I wanted. If you’re interested in further analysis of Interstellar click here to listen to our podcast episode about this movie.
Worst First Viewing of the Year
Why the hell is Hollywood taking archetypical horror characters and making them sexy? Frankenstein is a MONSTER! He’s a disgusting amalgamation of different body parts. He shouldn’t be getting laid and making ladies swoon. I digress, though. Aaron Eckhart’s hotness was only one of a plethora of issues with this travesty of a movie.
Returning Champion for the Year
It’s The Dark FREAKING Knight, folks!
Biggest Letdown of the Year
I had such high hopes for The Monument’s Men. I had seen a documentary called The Rape of Europa (available on Netflix Instant) that explored the tragedy of lost and destroyed art throughout WWII. It blew me away. I was enthralled and saddened. So of course I was incredibly excited to see that George Clooney was spear-heading a narrative film about this story. Needless to say, the movie missed the mark. The sentiment of destroyed culture was unfortunately sparse and unsatisfying. The sorrow and loss of this tragedy was never conveyed as well as it should have been, and worst of all, the movie was just plain boring. The brilliant comedic actors assembled for the cast were never allowed to appropriately stretch their acting legs. I was sorely disappointed.
Biggest Surprise of the Year
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had low expectations for Nightcrawler. The trailer did the film almost no justice at all. It looked like a crappy action movie to me. Needless to say, the movie ended up being an absolute thriller. Check my Top 10 breakdown for further thoughts on Nightcrawler.
Best Newcomer of the Year
Jeremy Saulnier: Blue Ruin (Writer, Director)
Jeremy Saulnier made his feature length debut in 2007, but I first discovered him this year through his sophomore endeavor called Blue Ruin. This movie came out in 2013, but I’m guessing most people didn’t see it till this year. It is an absolute cinematic feast. The story itself is wonderfully refreshing, but the way it’s presented is the real star of the show. The hyper-realistic storytelling was surprisingly simple and easily watchable. Blue Ruin was a massively impressive movie for a young man making only his second feature film. If I had seen this movie in 2013 it would have certainly made my Top 10. Either way, I am excited to see what Jeremy Saulnier does in the future.
Top 10 Best Movies of 2014
Like most movie buffs, I have a continually running idea of the best and favorite movies I’ve seen lately. My colleagues Matt and Mike are huge fans of writing those ideas down and forming them into lists, and I’m a big fan of reading them. However, I’m not crazy about making my own lists. I just have a hard time making up my mind. For me, watching a movie is so much about a single experience. Watching the same movie on multiple occasions doesn’t always have the same effect. Depending on certain factors I could have a better time with a mediocre movie than an Oscar winner. So I’ve always been hesitant to put numbers and rankings into my lists; but what’s the point of tracking stats if there’s no top 10 at the end of it all? So I reluctantly but carefully put together a top 10 at the end of every year.
Let me emphasize that my top 10 list is limited by certain things. Most importantly, I don’t have the resources to see everything that comes out in a calendar year. Some movies don’t get wide releases until January or February of the next year, and even if they’re big blockbusters I don’t always get a chance to see them. I would prefer to release a top 10 for the previous year in about March or April, but the list is too subject to timeliness to delay it that much. There are more than a handful of movies that I think might have made my top 10 this year that I haven’t gotten to see. Foxcatcher, American Sniper and Whiplash are a few that come to mind.
Also, I’m weird. Sometimes I will champion a movie like crazy, only to revisit it and feel I over-stated my opinion. Like I said, watching movies is based on individual experiences for me. Ideally, I would’ve seen all of these movies at least twice and had time to reflect, but that just isn’t realistic. So this is the best list that I can come up with at the moment. Think of this list as a snapshot in time as opposed to a concrete opinion that’s not subject to change.
Without further adieu…
A legitimate war documentary is a hard thing to come by. Typically, the general public experiences a war through clips and snippets on the news. A tank firing a round, a soldier taking cover, a battalion on march, etc. It’s all fairly intense, but it lacks insider authenticity and narrative structure. Korengal is the antidote to those issues.
The film is an exploration of what it’s actually like to deploy to a warzone. A camera crew joined an Army unit in the Korengal province of Afghanistan and followed the soldiers as they battled The Taliban, Afghanistan’s cruel nature and the general malaise of a stagnant war. The film is a follow-up to 2010’s Restrepo, which was filmed by the same crew and features the same men.
Without a doubt, Restrepo is the better film of the two. Witnessing the death of a soldier and his comrade’s reaction to that tragedy struck a nerve that is almost unparalleled in film. We typically hear about a soldier’s death, but we seldom witness it. However, Korengal brings us back to the scene of the crime and allows the audience to peal back further layers of the war in Afghanistan.
The best adjective to describe this movie is “raw.” The footage and testimonials are remarkably genuine. The camera crew is packed into these tiny, uncomfortable quarters and circumstances with some of the best warriors in the world. To access such a rare thing is a privilege. As a person who is interested by military history I’m so glad to see the hell of war so acutely documented. Can you imagine how incredible it would be to have a similar documentary from WWII or Vietnam? I tip my hat to Sebastian Junger for so skillfully capturing this moment history, so that it may never be forgotten.
*I fully expect Korengal to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary.
It seemed like This Is Where I Leave You was not afraid to admit that sometimes a whole family is flawed. There wasn’t just a crazy uncle who made the Altmans stand out. They all had a ton of issues. This movie reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine, only take away the children and the road trip, and then throw in some more craziness.
The performances and script especially stood out. The cast was basically perfect and had no weak links. Jason Bateman was terrific as the brother attempting to take on some of the patriarchal roles of his deceased father. I’m glad to see him not only succeed but excel as a leading actor. I’ve said before how much I love Adam Driver. He did not disappoint as the eccentric nutcase of the family. I was expecting some of the dialogue scenes to drag, but Jonathan Tropper penned a fluid script.
All of the cylinders were firing for This Is Where I Leave You. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people skipped it in the theater and some critics didn’t connect with it the way I did. Hopefully the movie finds the audience it deserves some day.
*I would like to see Jason Bateman, Tina Fay, Adam Driver and Jonathan Tropper nominated for Oscars; maybe Jane Fonda as well.
“What the heck is ‘Nightcrawler?’” I can’t be the only person to have said that line this year. I swear, this movie came out of nowhere. I saw the first trailer for it and then a week later it was in theaters. I heard its praises through word of mouth from reliable sources, so decided to see it.
Right off the bat, I was floored by Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. This film is so dependent on the lead actor turning in a near flawless performance. Portraying a genuine psychopath is such a delicate thing. It’s so easy to go over the top, or fall into ridiculous characteristics. Thankfully, Jake Gyllenhaal played the character like a violin. He hit every note beautifully, and turned in a career defining performance.
Not to say that the lead performance was the only good thing. The screenwriter and director (Dan Gilroy) crafted a narrative that struck an effectively morbid cord. The movie made a statement about the public’s desire for macabre stories in the news. Normally, video footage of a freshly murdered family would be taboo at best, but the characters in Nightcrawler see it as compelling and opportune. That’s such a twisted message. Dan Gilroy shined a light on this phenomenon, and did so skillfully.
*If Jake Gyllenhaal is not nominated for a lead actor Oscar, I will never forgive The Academy.
I wish I could find some flaws in this movie. Seriously, what should have been different? I mean, no movie is perfect, but sometimes I don’t see how it could get better. X-Men: Days of Future Past falls into that category for me.
Okay, I am biased. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are two of my favorite actors, but this movie had such high ambitions that those two actors were just a small part of the movie. Sometimes that much diversity leads to an imbalance, which hurts the overall quality of the film. However, Bryan Singer kept all of the variables pertinent. There isn’t much else to say. Time travel, sweet action, sentinels, timely comedic relief … that’s enough to put the latest X-Men movie into my top 10 for the year.
*I’m not sure if I see this movie getting any Oscar nominations.
This is another one of those movies that came out of nowhere. Word of mouth worked wonders for Snowpiercer, though. When we discussed this film in an episode of the podcast, Mike mentioned that there were a few times where it felt like we were watching a sci-fi movie for the first time. That’s an apt description. The sci-fi market is flush with post-apocalyptic stories at the moment. The trend is unfortunately stagnating, but Snowpiercer was a shot in the arm for the sub-genre.
Post-apocalyptic stories always involve a struggle to survive. What lengths are people willing to go to for survival? Snowpiercer took it a step further. The movie showed us the lengths necessary and then asked if its even worth it considering how horrendous those lengths are. That extra step is what set this movie apart from other post-apocalyptic films.
Fair warning, though; this movie is BLEAK. Sometimes bleak is good. You need to see how dark something is to truly understand it. Still, some people just can’t appreciate such a disturbing story, and I understand that. Hopefully they can set aside that sentiment because Snowpiercer is one of a kind.
*I’d be surprised if Snowpiercer received any Oscar nominations. I’m not sure it qualifies considering it’s not an American film.
Even though The Normal Heart was never seen in theaters, I think it still belongs on this list. The story is just so important, and not enough people have heard it. I know that alone is not a good enough reason to put a film on a top 10 list, but this remarkable story was lucky enough to be told by skilled artists.
Larry Kramer is the writer of the play that The Normal Heart is based on, and thankfully they got him to write this screenplay as well. The story involves an ensemble cast of characters and stretches over several years. It needed a talented writer to keep everything in order. The progression of the story and characters throughout The Normal Heart was perfectly structured by Kramer. The script had a smooth flow and idyllic pacing. The characters written by Kramer needed herculean performances from remarkable actors, and all of them delivered.
Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts were all particularly great. I was hoping that this would be the breakout performance from Taylor Kitsch that I’ve been looking for, but it just wasn’t there. I’m not sure we’ll ever see that performance. Taylor Kitsch might be destined to a career similar to a Keanu Reeves or Gerrard Butler.
The Normal Heart was another one of those incredible stories that could’ve drifted into obscurity if no one took the reigns and made it great. Thanks to Ryan Murphy and Larry Kramer, this story has become part of the conversation about the AIDs epidemic that still plagues the world today. We, as a society, can’t forget what oppression looks like, or we’re bound to do it again. I think The Normal Heart will stand as a lesson about equality and empathy.
*Again, The Normal Heart won’t get any Oscar nominations because it was a TV movie, but it is nominated for three Golden Globes.
I have had such a strange relationship with feel-good movies. They’re usually a little sappy and don’t have much to say other than “be happy!” Call me crazy, but I need a little more than that; especially if the movie wants to make top 10 lists. Chef is certainly a feel-good movie, but to say its limited to only that designation would be inaccurate.
It becomes clear relatively early in the movie that this is a very personal project for Jon Favreau. His personality oozes off the screen, most notably from the character he plays. There is an obvious allegory between the journey of Jon Favreau’s character and his filmmaking career in real life. Sometimes creative folks get lost in the chasm of industry. The art takes a back seat to what makes money, and I think it’s safe to say that Jon Favreau has fallen into that chasm from time to time.
Again, that’s not the only message in Chef. The audience is shown how a person can do what they truly love to do in their own way. They don’t have to sacrifice their artistic integrity to please an audience or make money. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I was so delighted by all the happiness displayed in Chef. I don’t want you to think I revel in movies depicting only despair and misery. It’s nice to feel good … and hungry.
*I have no illusion that any of this will happen, but I’d like to see Jon Favreau get a triple Oscar nomination for writing, acting and directing. A best picture nomination would also be nice, but is almost guaranteed to not happen.
Everything to be said about the quality of Captain America: The Winter Soldier has already been perfectly expressed by my colleague Mike. His knowledge and love of comic books, the characters in them and the adaptation of those into movies is exactly what you need to properly critique a movie like this. I echo everything he’s said. Check out this episode of the podcast for all of our opinions on how amazing this movie is.
I agree with Mike that The Dark Knight is the gold standard by which all other comic book movies shall henceforth be judged. If I’m being completely objective, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is pretty much on par with The Dark Knight. I think it actually does some things better.
The Russo brothers handled this project perfectly. The casting, the script, the dialogue, the character development, the advancement of the Marvel universe, etc., is all perfect. Since this is my list, where I get to voice my opinions, I will say that it is not my favorite comic book movie to date. I liked The Avengers slightly more, but I’m not as big of a comic book fan. I think Cap 2 spoke more to comic book geeks, where The Avengers was made for movie nerds.
Anyways, that may not have been the analysis you were looking for regarding this movie, but we have already discussed it quite a bit on our podcast. It deserved that much discussion because of its density and paramount quality. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was just amazing; simple as that.
*By all rights, this movie should be nominated for a best picture Oscar. Especially considering that category has ten nominees. I don’t have enough confidence in The Academy to do what’s right, though. Hopefully it gets the nomination.
If you listened to our episode of the podcast about Interstellar, you’ll know that it created quite the rift between us hosts. I think I (and maybe Mike and Robert, but I don’t want to speak for them) ganged up on Matt for having a contrary opinion that was so far from ours. I really feel bad about that because it hardly ever happens with us. I think I was out of line in that discussion. I apologize to Matt and the listeners for that lack of composure on my part.
Matt made good arguments that made sense and I only attempted to shoot them down. I didn’t fail to consider those arguments, but I should have taken a different approach than pure defense. The discussion suffered as a result. I do think the content of the discussion was good, though. So check that episode out for a full opinion on Interstellar.
I really loved this movie. It inspired me to tears. To think that human ingenuity could lead our species to such lengths is almost spiritual. The film does have faults, though. Some of the characters were under-developed. I could’ve forgiven sacrificing some of the scientific exposition to expand those characters a little. It was a choice to develop the science as a character instead of Wes Bently’s character or David Gyasi’s character. I think it was a better choice, but I can understand other people’s frustrations with it.
To make a space epic requires sacrificing some things that are important. There is too much world building and scientific exposition to cover everything. It’s just a highly complex genre. I don’t think a space epic has yet to be made that didn’t suffer for sacrificing some things (reference: Dune and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Sunshine might be an exception to this). I just feel like those shortcomings are necessary to complete the project. The areas in which Christopher Nolan sacrificed elevated the other areas. At least, that’s how I feel.
*I’d like to see Interstellar nominated for Oscars in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects categories.
After I left the theater where I saw Guardians of the Galaxy I knew I had a problem on my hands: was The Avengers a better team-building movie than Guardians of the Galaxy? I didn’t know how to answer it at the time, and I’m still not sure I can. However, there’s really nothing like a handful of really incredible characters coming together despite their differences. Guardians was a shining example of that device.
All five characters have something valuable to contribute to the team, and they all have their own redeeming qualities. Rocket Raccoon is a wildcard that can still follow orders. Drax didn’t know he needed a family so badly, and now that he has one he will do whatever it takes to defend them. Gamora was never showed affection or loved and when her teammates show her those emotions she realizes that she’s willing to die to preserve that. Groot is a fiercely loyal grease man with the capability to make remarkable sacrifices for his friends. Lastly, Peter Quill has felt destined all his life for great things, and realizes that leading this team against the evils of the galaxy is his destiny.
Now, that’s a formula we’ve seen before, but James Gunn made that formula so unique that it feels really fresh. It felt like I had never seen a team of heroes come together before. Of course that wears off, but the Guardians are so much fun that the effect lingers longer than it really should.
I have yet to hear a negative opinion of Guardians of the Galaxy. I wouldn’t want to read them even if they exist. I don’t know how someone could even feel that way about it. I had such an amazing time with the movie on both viewings. I think the franchise will become a linchpin of the Marvel universe and usher in some amazing storylines; but even if it doesn’t, it will stand alone as an amazing piece of heroic storytelling.
*I think this is another mainstream movie that is worthy of a nomination for the Best Picture Oscar.
Honorable Mentions: Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I Origins, Men, Women & Children, Print The Legend, The Lego Movie, Neighbors, The Theory of Everything
Well, that’s it for my 2014 in movies. I think the movies that came out in 2014 were pretty good as a whole. 2013 was definitely a little better, but I can think of substantially worse years for the art of filmmaking than 2014. I don’t know if any of these movies will make it into my personal top 20 of all time (which is an ongoing, inconclusive mess that doesn’t even really exist), but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t awesome flicks.
I had some other impressive achievements this year. One is a respectable number and the other borders on legendary (in my book). 28 theater viewings is respectable. It’s the most I’ve ever done, and I think it’s a solid number for a movie buff like me. Besides, this year was all about quantity and not quality, so my desire to see awesome movies in the theater took a backseat to just getting movies watched.
The borderline legendary number that I’m super proud of is the 81 documentaries I watched this year. It was an unintentional thing at first. Then one day in about May I realized that I had watched a ton of documentaries and should try to squeeze in as many as I can. Documentary is one of my favorite genres. I love to learn, but some of the traditional tools for learning don’t work as well for me. A 90 minute documentary can often teach me more than a 400 page book. I think documentaries are a wonderful tool for expanding human knowledge and I wish their box office numbers reflected that. Look for me to write at least one blog entry in the coming weeks about my year of documentaries.
For those of you wondering, I do not regret attempting to watch a movie every day. It was fun and a huge goal that I doubt a lot of people can claim. However, it wore me out. I had to make sacrifices in other areas of my life. So it’s not something I ever intend to do again. I am setting no goals for 2015. I had enough of that for one year. I do have some similar goals for the future, but I will not be attempting them in 2015. The only thing I’m sticking to is that I will be surprised if I watch more than 175 movies next year, and that I will focus more of my free time on television and reading.
I had an amazing, enjoyable, tiring and one of a kind year. I know that I will never have another cinematic year like it. That doesn’t make me sad because I accomplished something that really shouldn’t be done more than once. At least, not in my opinion. Thanks to everyone who tolerated my lack of attentiveness to other things going on in the world (some of you fans of the blog might have noticed that I literally wrote nothing all year). Farewell 2014, you were great.