Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Was 2014 A Good Year For Film?
At the end of every year, I like to look back and ask myself whether the last twelve months were a good year for cinema? Did the art form advance further than it had in recent memory? What will people remember about this past year and what are the films that will stick with us for a long time?
As such, I'd like to take a quick look and see if 2014 was a good or bad year for cinema. My qualifications for how good a particular year of film may differ from other people, as I'm not sure if anyone else looks at something like that.
When it comes to determining how effective a year in film can be, I normally look at how many great and/or outstanding films were released in that time.
If less than three great films came out that year, then it was a bad year for cinema. A great example of this would be 2011, which only saw the release of one worthwhile film, "The Artist." For the longest time, my favorite film of that year was "Rango," which was a fun tribute to Westerns and loaded with lots of movie references that even the most seasoned film veteran could miss. That film came out in February of that year, and nothing topped it until December.
If three or four wonderful films were released, then it was a good year for film. For instance, 2013 saw four films that I look back upon and remember just how awe-inspiring they were, like "her" and "The Wolf Of Wall Street." There is a good amount of film in there that almost anyone would be satisfied, but nothing too extra-ordinary.
But if in the span of a year, there happens to be five or more outstanding films, then that is a great year for movies and a true testament to power of creative filmmaking. This does not happen often, but when it does, it makes going to the movies so exciting. Years like 1939 and 1994 are classic examples of this, as 1939 saw the release of "Gone With The Wind," "The Wizard Of Oz," "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," "The Rules Of The Game," and many others, while 1994 had "Pulp Fiction," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Forrest Gump," "Ed Wood" and "Hoop Dreams."
So what class does 2014 fall into?
For me, 2014 had several memorable and thought-provoking movies. These would include the creative and funny "The Lego Movie," the mysterious and thrilling "Gone Girl," the ambitous and respectable "Boyhood," the character piece that relies solely on Resse Witherspoon in "Wild," the biopic that tells us just as much about the director as its main character with "Big Eyes," and the two biggest achievements, "Birdman" and "Nightcrawler" for their character studies on fame and how the world cares very little about the single man.
This is one of the few years in recent cinema were I felt making a top ten list was appropriate.
If there is one thread that connects some of the better films in 2014, it would be having a similar type of character - one who is set in their ways, knows exactly what they want, will do whatever it takes to get it, and thinks very little of other people besides how to use them to achieve their goals. Louis Bloom from "Nightcrawler," Amy from "Gone Girl," Terence Fletcher from "Whiplash," and even Walter Keane from "Big Eyes." Yet, the thing about these terrible and disrespectful people, is that you cannot look away from them. They are so mischievous, clever and cynical that you want to know what they'll do next.
Let it be known that 2014 was the year that made the asshole character so fascinating.
On top of that, even the big summer blockbusters got a bit better (well, some any way, I'm looking at you "Maleficent"). We have certainly left the awkwardness of the 2000s, when CGI was in almost every big movie, but the people behind the computer had not quite perfected that skill. As the many Marvel movies and "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" showed us, massive scale computer effects may not look realistic, but that does not make them any less impressive and captivating.
Films like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians Of The Galaxy" came as a big surprise for me, as I did not expect these sequels and unknown hero stories to keep me interesting.
And of course, any year with a new Godzilla movie will be a great year in my book.
Overall, 2014 was a great year for cinema, and quite possibly one of the best in a while. At least six movies that I would not mind adding to my film collection, advancement of computer effects, dark yet compelling storytelling with characters that you want to follow and consistent reasons to keep going back to the theaters. I'd call that a victory for cinema.