January 2, 2015 Commentary
2014: A Year at the Movies
In horse racing terms, last year was an also ran; not terrible, but certainly not offering the abundance of terrific films that graced movie screens in 2013. The year before last gave us 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Gravity and Mud, as well as compelling but dark foreign films like The Past and Amour. Any year can produce nearly a “must see” movie a month deserves high praise.
So if 2014 wasn’t an awful year for film, it clearly doesn’t rank anywhere near the year before; while Birdman’s cast and script both had lots of pop, sizzle and acidic commentary on our culture’s lust for celebrity, American audiences were once again reminded that The British Isles produce a disproportionate percentage of highly talented English speaking actors: (Benedict Cumberbatch in The ImitationGame, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Brendan Gleeson in Calvary, Tom Hardy in Locke) while Hollywood continues to deliver competent but far less compelling fare like Gone, Girl. Interstellar and Monuments Men. Even the highly touted foreign films failed to impress last year; despite the critical praise heaped on Force Majeure & The Immigrant, American audiences were thoroughly unimpressed - - as well they should have been.
That meant moviegoers had to kiss a lots of toads (Wolf of Wall Street, Jersey Boys, The 100 Foot Journey) before meeting the rare cinematic handsome prince. In the latter category, I’d put (in no particular order) Locke, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Birdman. “Honorable mention goes to St Vincent for luring Bill Murray back to a delicious big screen appearance, The Homesman for providing yet another impeccable performance by Hilary Swank and The Drop which gave Tom Hardy a second opportunity last year demonstrate his outstanding skills.
If 2014 is memorable for anything, it may mark the year in which dramatic televisions series (especially those on premium cable services like Apple and Netflix) delivered vastly superior quality in both original programming and by importing so much first rate material from Europe. From Peeky Blinders to The Paradise to Spiral to Happy Valley, it’s hard to argue that you could have spent as much quality time in front of the big screen in your local movie theater last year than you can encounter any day of the week on your television set.
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