Sunday, February 15, 2015

Best of 2014, Part 1: Top 20, Zen Awards

I have to admit something. It's a dirty secret, but I trust all of you, so here goes--but don't tell anyone. Ready? Here it is:

I love movies.

Like, a lot.

Whew. Glad that's off my chest.

In all honesty though, one of the purest, wackiest, elegant and profuse sources of joy in my life is to crawl into a dark theater, force myself through seeing the trailer for Insidious 3 for the 10th time, and then take a roller-coaster ride with a group of strangers. It's basically what I'm here for--that moment of transcendence, of being so completely and wholly transported and transformed by the experience of seeing light on a screen that I forget where I am, what I'm doing--I forget everything. I fly. And I think that's what we all do when in the presence of great movies--we fly. We giddily give the finger to the spindly little ropes tethering us to reality and fly off to find something better. And that's gorgeous. And important. And it's just impossible to believe that all of that can come from watching some light projected onto a screen that shows a story that was probably written in a cocaine-addled fever dream. But here we are. It's something that happens. And if that's not groovy, I don't know what is.

I know that I normally start these kinds of posts off with a ominously large helping of snark--and there is plenty of snark to come, I promise you--but I needed to spend a little serious-time paying love to my favorite medium. This past year of my life has been an interesting one, and full of changes. And I can't deny that some of it has been amazing and eye-opening and exciting and all that, but I also can't deny that some of it has been a bit of a slog. So how does all this connect? Well, the movies I'm about to spend entirely too much time describing helped to fill my life with joy. And that's something everyone needs.

So in interest of attempting to toss just a bit of that joy your direction, I'm here to share with you the experiences that made me giddy with weightlessness. I'll start off by doing write-ups on my top 20, and then I'll segue into my traditional Zen awards--if you've a better name, by all means please let me know. So if you can manage to drag yourself through 20 instances of me gushing over a movie you probably haven't seen, you'll be rewarded with me gushing about the strangest and silliest moments of the cinematic year that I can remember. Oh happy day! Check it all out after the jump.

Now, this year's a bit of a bummer, in that I've only seen 60 movies from the 2014 calendar year. I can hear you now--"60? How is that a bummer? I haven't seen 60 movies my whole life--and I agree that 60 is just an insane number for the average moviegoer. But I'm not an average moviegoer--I'm a scary, obsessive one whom all of the theater employees know. Which means that normally at this time of year I'm nearing 90 movies. I can only explain the 30-film shortfall by saying Grad School. It kinda screws with your free time. (Which means that if you're one of my students and you're reading this, all of this is your fault.) (Except it isn't.) (Really I love my students.) (For real.) (I promise I'm being serious.)

In interest of transparency, here's a list of what I've seen. If there's a movie you love that doesn't show up on my list, see if it's here--if it is, then chances are I just didn't love that movie. Sorry.

22 Jump Street, All Cheerleaders Die, American Sniper, The Babadook, Begin Again, Big Hero 6, Birdman, Blood Glacier, The Boxtrolls, Boyhood, Calvary, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Congress, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault in Our Stars, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, Fury, Godzilla, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Guest, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1, Ida, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, Into the Woods, The LEGO Movie, Lilting, Love is Strange, Maleficent, The Maze Runner, Muppets Most Wanted, Neighbors, Nightcrawler, Noah, Nymphomaniac, Obvious Child, Only Lovers Left Alive, Pompeii Pride, Selma, Snowpiercer, Still Alice, Stranger by the Lake, Starred Up, The Theory of Everything, Two Days, One Night, Unbroken, Under the Skin, We are the Best!, Whiplash, Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Wild, X-Men: Days of Future Past

And then it's worth noting the big films I haven't seen--there are plenty of them this year, and I'm sure some of them would feature on my list had I gotten to them. And of course, almost all the good ones are foreign, and that's not the kind of movie we get in the middle of the country. So sorry to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Leviathan, Timbuktu, Tangarines, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Winter Sleep, The Way He Looks, Song of the Sea, etc. I also didn't see notorious bombs like Amazing Spider Man 2, Transformers 4, etc., because life is too short and my free time is too damn precious.

So here goes! Now, because my free time is so precious, I'm going to try and limit myself to writing no more than two sentences about anything. And I imagine I'm going to fail at that, but I'll try my best at brevity (a feat at which I've already failed spectacularly). This was a great, great year for movies, and I am primed and ready to gush all over this website.

Honorable Mentions: Although they didn't make my top 20, I'm thankful for the utterly insane, over the top shenanigans of Why Don't You Play in Hell?, the Machiavellian prison scheming of Starred Up, and the utterly bonkers dystopian vision of Snowpiercer.

The Best Films of 2014

20. The LEGO Movie (dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)
Sure, it may be a commercial for LEGO, but what a glorious, inventive commercial it is. Inventive, wildly entertaining, and with a cleverer noggin than most 'serious' movies out there, Lego had me grinning from beginning to end.

19. Force Majeure (dir. Ruben Ostlund)
I don't even know how to describe this Swedish black comedy in two sentences, so I'm not going to try. If you want to see European patriarchs ruthlessly stripped of their manliness while wearing ski-pants, then this is the film for you.

18. Two Days, One Night (dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes)
The Dardennes take a deceptively simple premise--a woman takes a weekend to beg co-workers to help her get her job back--and infuse it with a brittle vitality and side-eyed awareness. Marion Cotillard is luminous, as usual, dragging the whole enterprise into a realm of greatness befitting her performance.

17. Lilting (dir. Hong Khaou)
Sure to win the "most likely to send my readers to google" award for Indie Obscurity, Lilting nevertheless proves that the British Indie scene does LGBT films better than anyone these days. This tale about a man trying to find a way to communicate with his dead boyfriend's elderly Chinese mother is, well, lilting; it's delicate, finely observed, and cuts like a shard of glass.

16. Wild (dir. Jean-Marc Valée)
Understands that a journey is like a joke with a punchline--if you haven't gotten to the important stuff by the end, then you never will. Wild's primary thesis--'what if I forgive myself?' seems like a relatively minor one, but is lent a disarming strength by the conviction of its performances and the quality of its craftsmanship.

15. Whiplash (dir. Damien Chazelle)
Who hasn't secretly wanted a teacher willing to throw cymbals at their head while cussing them out? The sheer agony of wanting to achieve greatness lives under Whiplash's skin, driving it from the inside like a flesh-eating virus. What makes it truly noteworthy is how unwilling it is to condemn a truly psychotic teacher--sure, he's violent and cruel, but he creates greatness, and who's to say it's not worth it?

(Dammit it's only #15 and I already failed my 2-sentence goal. Someone should come over here and hit me with their car.)

14. Only Lovers Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch)
The only sane response to hearing that Jim Jarmusch has made a vampire movie is to sit, slack-jawed, for a moment or two before rushing to the nearest theater. And this is exactly the kind of vampire movie we need--no violence, no stupid leather pants, just two very old, very bored creatures trying to inject their lives with some kind of kinetic energy.

13. Gone Girl (dir. David Fincher)
What glorious trash Mr. Fincher has created. He takes a pretty grungy (albeit eminently readable) book and turns it into a ridiculously enjoyable take on the state of modern marriage and America's obsession with celebrity, which somehow manages to be both dour-faced and kind of silly at the same time. If you didn't giggle at least a little bit at Rosamund Pike Ice Queen-cum-Terminator romping around Missouri with a determinedly stupid Ben Affleck chasing after her like a stoned puppy, then you're doing it wrong.

Full disclosure: I have 12 films left, but I really can't leave any of them out of my top 10. I don't even know which ones I'm going to leave out yet. So know that even though I've provided some arbitrary ranking of the next 12 films, every single one of them is essential viewing. So get on that.

12. Selma (dir. Ava DuVernay)
It may be totally gross and inappropriate of me to paraphrase the most infamous pull-quote about Birth of a Nation here, but Selma is like writing history with lightning. Like Lincoln a few years ago, Selma takes a man lionized to the point of myth and manages to dispel that myth without damaging the man carefully encased within. Its best scenes are completely electrifying--that attack on the bridge, that meeting with the old man in the morgue. Selma is, tragically, a film for our times--it's angry, it's raw, and above all, it's ready to be seen.

11. Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)
Maybe some people are born to lead lives of great importance, but most are constrained to accepting that life is just little strings connecting to other little strings, placidly winding themselves together until we shrug and call it a day. Boyhood doesn't just get this--it celebrates it, it weaves a tapestry of the seemingly mundane, creating images of pure emotion simply by the way they add together. As the years slowly pile on, we can almost lay our hands on the overarching threads pulling this little boy from milestone to milestone--simply, surely, unstoppably. Mason and his family become the sum of their moments--moments that everyone has had, and will continue to have. All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again, and Linklater has filmed it in real time.

10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: (dir. Anthony and Joe Russo)
Here is the movie that American Sniper *wanted* to be: a surprisingly intelligent thriller that maintains its sense of patriotism while still taking issue with its country's more questionable actions. It's a film that functions as a crazy entertaining action movie, an honest exploration of the effects of war on the men in the trenches (seriously, there are more scenes about veterans re-integrating into society in the first 15 minutes than in the entirety of American Sniper), and it manages to both pass the Bechdel test and and incorporate a diverse cast. It's fun, it's smart, it's silly, it's thrilling--it's one of the best superhero movies ever made.

9. The Guest (dir. Adam Wingard)
You know the critics who buried this damn masterpiece in terrible review and killed it for generations to come? Screw them. The Guest is like Evil Dead 2: every choice made by the filmmakers is so gloriously, zanily, inevitably wrong and bizarre that it had to have been done on purpose. A soundtrack that's a mix of bad electro and an 80s porn soundtrack, extras who can't even be bothered to stop giggling when attacked by a maniac, and cinematography that can only be described as sarcastic (seriously I didn't even know that was possible and yet here I stand)--these are the things that dreams are made of. This film is absolute damn perfection, and one of the best comedies of the year, or any year. Just roll with its ridiculous, wildly telegraphed punches, and you'll be in for one hell of a ride.

8. Ida (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
Here's The Guest's total opposite--an immaculately controlled, perfectly concise Swiss watch of a movie, ticking quietly along until its last, inevitable frame. This Polish tale of a young nun-to-be discovering her Jewish heritage--and the world around her--may be grim, but is shot through with such moments of emotional excess (both positive and negative) that it's just about impossible to respond. The beauty of this movie--its ideas and images--still slays me. A trio of nuns carrying a statue across the snow, a woman drinking by a window, a saxophonist playing on long after the party has stopped--out of context they may not be much, but in the movie they just slay you.

7. Stranger by the Lake (dir. Alain Guiraudie)
The soul-sister to Ida's monochromatic blushes, Stranger by the Lake is an equally tightly controlled tale about the people on the other end of the spectrum. Taking place entirely at a lake-cum-cruising spot, Stranger by the Lake is light on action (and clothing) but heavy with style. The film paints a seemingly disinterested and detached picture of how entice a prospect it is to dispel loneliness with violence. In this world, we can all pretend that evil doesn't exist simply because it's charismatic as hell. Stranger by the Lake speaks to the uncomfortable desire that everyone harbors to be led into the woods by a murderer with a smile on his face.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson)
It took me a little while, but I've fallen head-over heels for Wes Anderson's delicate little pastry of a movie. Anchored by the all-out best performance of the year (thanks, Ralph Fiennes), Grand Budapest switches effortlessly between madcap caper, comedy of manners, and a surprisingly perceptive, melancholy little meditation on the way we try to preserve worlds that once were. This film is a tinkly little harpsichord plinking determinedly away while the world around it drifts out to sea. It's a slightly tipsy romantic of a film with a tear in its eye and a hankie in its pocket--you may not see it cry, but you'll realize later that it wanted to.

5. The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent)
Now, I'm not trying to brag or sound arrogant, but I watch a lot of horror movies. It takes quite a bit to get under my skin. And yet about 15 minutes into this little Aussie movie I paused so that I could turn the lights back on. Like all good horror, The Babadook founds the supernatural in the sort of everyday fears we all experience: being afraid of death, being afraid of letting go of loved ones, being afraid that the people you love maybe don't love you that much after all. It compresses all of these little things into one wild-eyed and screaming banshee of a film, stretched to the point of exhaustion and ready to explode. Sure, the movie is pretty legitimately terrifying, but all that would be for naught if it weren't also a great film. The fact that the movie approaches its characters' inner lives with such a steady hand, it tricks you into thinking that maybe it's not a horror movie after all--right before dropping viewers in the deep end and proceeding to scare the living shit out of them.
(Seriously, just go watch the trailer and freak yourself out a bit.)

4. Nightcrawler (dir. Dan Gilroy)
One character in this film, describing her morning broadcast show, perfectly describes this movie: "Think of our broadcast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut." That's this movie in a nutshell--shrill, violent, and hideous, but fascinating. Jake Gyllenhaal has never been slimier as a videographer willing to do anything to get the kind of grim footage he can sell. A cutting satire on news culture, a violence-obsessed media, and the way news is used to shape how we see the world, Nightcrawler is as intelligent as it is intense. I'm not sure I breathed for this entire movie; I don't think I had time to. Nightcrawler is a woozy acid trip thrill-ride whose images want to tape themselves to the inside of your eyelids.

3. Pride (dir. Matthew Warchus)
Ugh, I'm embarrassed how weepy this movie gets me. Sure, this movie is kind of an updated version of the inspirational British tearjerkers that were a fad in the 90s, but Pride surpasses its old-lady-crying-in-the-theater-on-a-Tuesday origins with an impeccably crafted screenplay and one hell of a good story to tell. Chronicling the true story of a group--Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners--that raised money during the Miners Strikes of the 80s, Pride compiles an elaborate mosaic of characters; it's the best ensemble of the year, and everyone is firing on all cylinders. Pride is big-hearted, full of prickly intelligence, and nimble in the way it plucks the heartstrings without you realizing that they're being plucked. It's a lovely, deeply wrought piece of work, and it's a shame that no one saw it.

2. Birdman (dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu)
Should Birdman even be able to move at all under the sheer weight of its utter insanity and watermelon-sized ballsiness? Nope. But it doesn't just move--it flies, it sprints, it floats, it screeches through the streets like a lunatic drunkenly piloting a jetpack. If someone imbued a well-used DSM with the combined spirits of Hunter S. Thompson, Stan Lee, and a pissed off water buffalo, its dreams might look something like Birdman. Sure, not every note the film hits is a perfect success, but who cares when its high-wire act is so breathtaking? Exquisitely crafted (edited to look like a single continuous shot), stuffed with great performances (we've all heard praise for Keaton/Norton/Stone, but what about Naomi Watts? Andrea Riseborough? Everyone is just through the roof here), Birdman shows us what happens when everyone involves giddily throws themselves over the line of prudence and good taste and does a merry little jig off the cliff's edge. It's a wacky time.

1. Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)
I feel obliged to say that this is not everyone's kind of movie, but if you can stomach its deliberate obtuseness and smirking refusal to give its audience anything at all, you're in for the most memorable cinematic experience of the year. Under the Skin is one of the only films I've ever seen in which nothing that is said is actually important--it's a narrative told entirely through visuals, and that's really damn impressive. What's more impressive is that Under the Skin says far more than most films out there (despite the fact that it doesn't really talk at all)--it plays with the exquisite joys of learning how to be a human, as well as the exquisite agonies that go along with it. Its playful in its violence and grim in its pleasures. It's a mind-boggling balancing act, creating both a beautifully observed portrait of humanity in all its forms and a legitimately unsettling depiction of casual violence (seriously, that shit with the family on the beach? That'll stick with me for a while). Under the Skin writhes and it burns and it freezes and it eats cake and then throws it right back up. It's unwilling to settle for anything, and unable to stop moving. It's a quietly screaming little ball of perpetual motion, creeping its way across the Scottish highlands, seducing strangers, and quietly submerging them in their own haunted realities. I saw this film for the first time almost a year ago, and I have yet to shake it. It's nothing less than a masterpiece--and that's not a word I throw around lightly.

Well, there's that. Unfortunately, only three of my top 20 (Stranger by the Lake, Ida, and Lilting) are on Netflix instant, but plenty of these are still in theaters, so get out there!

Boy, I really failed with brevity, didn't I? Oh well. I'm going to take a breather, and then we'll jump back in with the Zen awards!

Best Scenes of the Year
(Note: this was awfully tough to narrow down. My first draft of this list had 32 scenes. Oops.)

10. The Hanging Tree-The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1
When this series is at its best, it breathes life into the things that Suzanne Collins' books only implied. Such is the case here: we here plenty about Katniss' potential as symbol of the rebellion, but we rarely see it in the books. This scene, which intercuts Katniss singing a song with what becomes a violent rebel action (suicide bombing?). The music and the text, married with the overt violence enacted by both the Capitol and the rebels underlines just what it means to use Katniss as a symbol--her actions cause bloodshed, whether she likes it or not.

(Note: this isn't the scene, per se, but it's a montage set to the song from the movie, with clips from the third movie and the scene in question starting about two minutes in.)

9. Tunnel Fight-Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer is stuffed to bursting with surreal, wacky images, but this fight in particular stuck with me--it starts with some kind of bizarre fish ritual, progresses with slaughter in the dark, and ends with celebrating the new Year. Weird stuff.
(not on Youtube, sorry.)

8. Elevator Fight-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Yet another action scene! This one just sings, though. It takes a simple premise (Cappie vs. bad guys), puts it in a tiny space (an elevator), adds some wacky tech (magnet handcuffs!) and then lets it all go in a wacky blender of bone-breaking.

7. Meeting in the Morgue-Selma
(Spoilers for Selma ahead!)

Martin Luther King meets with a father who's just watched his son be murdered by police in cold blood, and it's pretty damn heartbreaking. The tiny old man looks like he could break in half as he divulges that his son told him that he'd be the first in his family to vote, and MLK hardly holds it together. I hardly did too, honestly.
(also not on Youtube)

6. Ending Rally-Pride
(minor spoilers, but hey, it's history)
Pride begins and ends with two gay pride rallies--the first as main-ish character Joe tentatively dips his toes into the LGBT community, and the second after a long year of love, politics, and everything in between. But when bus after bus full of supportive miners pulls up, full of the people we've come to care about as they show their support for their friends, everyone in the theater turned into a hot blubbering mess.
(also not on Youtube. Rejoice! But seriously, just see this movie. You can rent it on Amazon Instant Video. It's totally worth it.)

5. Tough Decisions-The Imitation Game
(More mild spoilers! Yay!)

I'm not the biggest fan of The Imitation Game (although I did like it), but I can't deny the power of one of its central scenes. Right after finding out they've cracked the code, our intrepid gang of cryptographers realizes that they can't let anyone know that they can decode Nazi messages--even if it means letting people die to cover the secret. Even if the people dying are people they love. Sure, it's a little manipulative and almost definitely fictional, but this game of moral chess played with the team's family members is awfully moving stuff.
(Also not on Youtube. Running theme here.)

4. Bar Fight-The Guest
Ugh, this scene is just perfect. It wrings every possible drop of suspense out of a relatively simple set-up (bullied kid + bullies + unstable killer + alcohol = good times). The music, the lighting, the acting--all perfectly ridiculous. Keep an eye on the girls who run out of the bar when the fight begins. They can't even be bothered to stop laughing.
(It's a long-ish clip, but the whole point of this scene is the suspense/build-up, so there's no reason to just watch the last two minutes where everyone gets punched.)

3. In Search of Lost Time-Interstellar
Now, I'm really, really, really not a fan of this movie, but when it works, it works. After being down on a planet with a warped sense of time (whatever), space explorer Matthew McConaughey sits down to check his video messages, sees years and years of unanswered communications from his children, and just loses it. I didn't like this movie, and I hate McConaughey, but this scene was just about perfect.
(Jeez, nothing I picked this year is on Youtube. Sad times.)

2. Jumping into San Francisco-Godzilla
You have to hand it to Gareth Edwards--he sure knows how to set up some pretty pictures. Any shot from this epic (and I really don't toss that word around very often) descent into hell feels like it should be hanging on my wall. It's painterly, surreal, and evocative of the titular lizard's massive size. The whole scene evokes awe--all too rare a phenomenon in contemporary blockbusters.

1. Family Beach Vacation Fun-Under the Skin
This, like so much of this movie, is the stuff that nightmares are made of. There's no fanfare, or big fuss made--we, like the main character, just watch from a distance as a few people drown. And then someone quickly and quietly commits murder, and drags the body past a screaming toddler, and that's that. It's quick, it's gritty, and mundane, and it's as disturbing as all get-out. This scene stuck in my head for months, and I imagine it'll be in there quite a while longer.

New Image Awards-for movies that show us something original and unique.
Basically the ones that make my eyes turn into little hearts for a bit.
-Under the Skin-Yes, I know, you'll be reading quite a lot about this movie in the posts to come. But its minimalist horror really hit home. And how could I forget this film's black vats filled with human skin that lead to hellish assembly lines? Wacky stuff.
-The Congress-Sure, the movie itself was pretty awful, but its last third--when the characters enter a futuristic dream world where everyone sees what they want to see and is seen how they want to be seen is a dizzy technicolor fever dream come to ghastly, unnatural life.

Best Inanimate Object in a Movie
The mix tape from the Guest-because even serial killers like being given 80s mixes with little hearts drawn on them. There's nothing cuter than watching Dan Stevens threatening to kill a girl's family and then busting out a big ol' grin because he gets to listen to his moody electronica.
The fish from Snowpiercer-So, uh, why does a fish get gutted in this movie? As a warning? Is this some future fight ritual we're not aware of? Do future people just hate fish? So many questions.
The Babadook book from The Babadook-Fun fact--you can actually buy this book. But don't do it, because if it's in a word or in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook. Which is another way of saying DON'T DO IT BECAUSE A FREAKY-ASS BUG MONSTER WILL HAUNT YOU FOREVER.

The "You're Not This Gay, But Dammit, You're Trying" Award for Excellence in Homoeroticism
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 22 Jump Street--once again proving how stupid the idea of 'bromance' is, these two cherish each other, and it's adorable. Points for C-Tats taking a Womens' Studies class and becoming newly enlightened. "Don't listen to him, he took one Womens' Studies class and now he thinks he's Harvey Milk."

The "Oh, You Actually Are This Gay" Award
Because good lord there was just a plethora of solid LGBT films this year. Not just the crappy romances (let's not talk about the Eating Out series), but actual good cinema. So here's to Pride and Lilting and Stranger by the Lake and Love is Strange and The Way He Looks and The Tribe and, hell, even The Imitation Game for proving once again that queer cinema doesn't have to be something that's relegated to special arthouse weekends or lonely Netflix binges.

Best Delightful, Feature-Length Orgy of Violence
Why Don't You Play in Hell? is a Japanese pseudo-send-up of kung fu action films, and man does it go there. The second half of the film is one long, totally bonkers action sequence, in which every possible cliché is tossed into the meat grinder, resulting in strings and strings of increasingly far-fetched and silly kills. There's enough fake blood to sink a battleship.

Best Use of the Phrase "Whoring Bed"
Uma Thurman-Nymphomaniac. I wasn't a huge fan of Lars Von Trier's latest, so thank goodness Uma Thurman was on hand to camp it up, chewing the scenery with giddy abandon, spitting out her lines like pepper spray.

Best Running Gag
Big Hero 6-Trying to teach Baymax how to fist bump is the most adorable thing I've seen since....ever, probably.

Second-Best Running Gag
SPACESHIP!-The Lego Movie. Because SPACESHIP:

Hey, Serious Question
Why did rock monsters fight off armies in Noah like a rejected scene from Lord of the Rings? I mean, I love me some Darren Aronofsky, but, uh, wut.

Most Charming Scene That Has Ever Happened to Anyone Ever
Obvious Child--ok, so maybe that's a bit of a hyperbole, but this guy's awkward boxer-clad dancing melted my heart. If that had been me, the awkward dance is when I would have known that I was a goner.
Shame I can't find this clip on Youtube, because it's just about the sweetest hookup I've seen in movies in a while, but :56-1:04 in the trailer gives you a taste:

And Hey, I know I mentioned it Before, But...
Snowpiercer is so, so weird. It's delightful. It makes no sense. It probably looks like Oompa Loompa dreams. I just want to crawl inside it like a Tauntaun.

Seriously. Stop it. (Sorry for the dubbed version. Or maybe I'm not.)

And finally....

The Worst Films of the Year!

Sure, just about all movies give me joy--but some of them do that by giving me something to rip to shreds. Y'know, for funsies.

5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Remember when Peter Jackson was a fresh, exciting director, and a welcome voice in the theater? Well neither does he. Here's three years of accumulated poop jokes, silly side-plots, and gross excess, all mashed together in a whirling dervish of cinematic stupidity.

4.  Blood Glacier
What a tragic, tragic disappointment. It's a movie about Austrian scientists getting attacked by giant mutants created by a blood glacier in the Alps--how could it possibly have been so boring? It did, however, give us that banana scene, so I guess we have to give it some credit.

3. The Maze Runner
Eventually this craze of adapting every shitty young adult novel out there into an even shittier movie has to stop, right? The books themselves are rather flavorless, but the movie pushes flavorless to a whole new level--it wouldn't surprise me if this movie had been assembled in Microsoft Paint by a team of underfed slave dwarves.

2. Pompeii
I just...can't with this movie. I want to hit it while its down, to call it out on its terrible writing, its community theater-style acting, its gumby little visual effects, and its utterly perplexing plot, but I just can't. This movie is too stupid to criticize. At least the camera never fell off the tripod (I think).

1. American Sniper
Aaaaaaaand here's where I court a ton of controversy (or I would, if anyone other than my friends and a whole mess of Polish people read this blog. Big shout-out to my large Eastern European fan-block.). But I honestly think that the best comparison for this movie is Triumph of the Will--a well made propaganda piece whose moral implications are disheartening (to say the least). I don't want to downplay the role of our soldiers overseas, who are forced to act like heroes in horrible situation, and I'm not here to talk about whether or not Chris Kyle was a hero or not, and I'm not here to talk about the rights and wrongs of the whole Iraq clusterfuck. I am, however, here to say that any movie that approaches that topic and presents itself as the truth does need to at least consider these things. And if it doesn't, it's morally reprehensible. It's downright cowardly, in fact. To make a movie about this subject matter in which it's simple good guys vs. bad guys, and every death should be celebrated, and PTSD is something that can be shrugged off simply by pushing your own feelings down and going out to the shooting range. And that's what this movie did. And people took their kids and laughed at the violence and all nodded along vigorously as a never-ending line of Iraqis was fed to the meat grinder. I'm not here to make the claim that Iraq wasn't a conflict, and that there weren't evil people involved, and that the world isn't better now they're gone. But it's telling that a recent study found that hate speech toward Muslims increased three-fold on social media after this movie was released, and it's telling that the American Muslim Anti-Defamation Committee called to the film-makers to release a statement saying that their film didn't mean to imply that all Muslims are evil--and the film-makers didn't respond. And it's telling that three Muslim students were murdered in North Carolina, and yet there's no memorializing and there's no "We Are Charlie Hebdo" campaign for them. What there is is people on Fox News trying to say it's ok to kill people if they took your parking space. If the races were swapped around, if three Muslims killed three white students over a parking space, we'd be in the middle of a national rampage. But it wasn't--and so we as a nation are pretty ok with it. Because we've learned that Muslim lives don't really matter, because look how evil they are! Whether it meant to or not, American Sniper perpetuates this--more than that, it enjoys making this claim. And that's filthy. And that's shameful. Regardless of whether Chris Kyle is a hero, regardless of whether every one of the 160 people he shot deserved to be killed without question. We don't need a movie that revels in violence, that makes sweeping generalizations, and then brands itself as the unadulterated truth. That's not something we need.

Wow. Big ol' wall of text. Sorry about that. I have lots of feelings, apparently.

Also, so much for brevity! Sorry about that. This whole post got me carried away a bit. If any of you are still around (and probably took the last three hours to read this), kudos to you! Your dedication is...kind of freaky, honestly. Stop encouraging my sick habit!

We'll be back tomorrow (and by tomorrow I mean today, since this took longer to write than anticipated) to tackle something that will hopefully end on a lighter note than this post--the best performances of the year! Until then, regale me with your own top 10 lists, berate me for my choices, whatever--just have a movie chat with me!

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