Thursday, November 27, 2014

2014: Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I've always admired how its core principles are positive in nature, and I was raised by my parents to show gratitude and appreciation for the people, opportunities and possessions I've been given in my life. Therefore, this Thanksgiving I've decided to outline some of the great cinematic offerings throughout 2014 for which movie lovers should be thankful.

#5. A Successful Summer Blockbuster Season

You're going to find plenty of summer flops every year, it's inevitable. Thankfully, 2014's long list of blockbuster duds happened to be overshadowed by a pair of big winners. The Marvel addition, Guardians of the Galaxy, proved that superhero films don't need to be drowned in flashy long-winded action sequences. And then there was Matt Reeves' Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. An even better and more daring installment than its franchise rebooting predecessor, Dawn tied together an intriguing story and a stellar cast of performers.

#4. A Long List of Memorable Performances

While many of these roles occur in movies that fall short of the year's best, I spent 2014 enjoying a wide range of committed performances. Oscar hopefuls Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones have burst onto the scene with impressive turns in the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything. J.K. Simmons and his onscreen counterpart, Miles Teller, were unforgettable in the tense music drama, Whiplash. Although Teller has surprisingly been omitted from most Oscar conversations, Simmons has the inside edge in the Best Supporting Actor race. 

Other exceptional performances from Reese Witherspoon in Jean-Marc Vallee's Wild and Benedict Cumberbatch in Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game are well deserving roles believed to be major players in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Despite the rare chance of either of these turns landing in the Best Actor top 5, I was captivated by Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb in Kill the Messenger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the crime-thriller Nightcrawler

#3. Daring Filmmakers

Following in the footsteps of Gravity auteur, Alfonso Cuaron, director Alejandro G. Inarritu, constructed a transcending piece of work with his 2014 critical darling, Birdman. It's the type of film that cinema lovers need to see. Furthermore, the often Oscar-snubbed filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, continued to push boundaries this year with his wild sci-fi adventure, Interstellar. Nolan managed to bend both space and time in this well-crafted epic tale.

#2. Fantastic Indie Efforts

Richard Linklater, a groundbreaking filmmaker who could have also been mentioned above, reminded the general public of the powers of independent cinema with his coming-of-age story, Boyhood. By now it's widely known that Linklater filmed his masterpiece in bits and pieces over the span of 12 long years, but nothing can prepare you for just how fantastic of an experience Boyhood really is. Also, Jon Favreau returned to his indie roots with the wonderful father-son film, Chef. I wasn't a huge fan of its convenient ending, but the road-trip journey is an absolute pleasure to witness.

#1. Dark and Entertaining Dramas

It's no secret that the Academy Awards typically fawns over period pieces and hearty dramas, but two of 2014's finest films center on darker and more complex themes. Bennett Miller's enormously anticipated true-crime drama, Foxcatcher, dives deep into the human psyche and examines many complex individuals and their various obsessions. Channing Tatum and Steve Carell match extraordinary performances in one of the year's best films, period! Furthermore, David Fincher continues his trend of remarkably entertaining thrillers with the adapted tale, Gone Girl. Packing a hefty amount of twists and surprises, this missing-wife drama helped confirm that 2014's most notable films are of the dark-themed variety and there's no shame in that!


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