2014: Badass girls, mess-you-up thrillers and Hobbits
Unless you’re entertainment challenged, you have likely read an article or two about the under-performance of certain high expectation films in 2014.
Actually, the market has altered as viewers demonstrate they want more films with curve balls built within, for instance, the stable franchises.
As a result, the traditional boy-meets-girl once-upon-a-time romantic comedy has nearly disappeared, replaced by flawed and dysfunctional individuals taking up housekeeping for a temporary happy climax.
Patterned loosely around the faux family of “Meet the Millers,” relationship comedic and dramatic struggles contain twists. “Neighbors” had the “raunch” element but mixed an unexpected fish out of water circumstance – fraternity moves in next to couple who just had baby. “St Vincent” flies with grumpy, lazy, hurting Bill Murray surrounded by a newly divorced overworked single mom, her bullied elementary school son, and Murray’s (politely) former exotic dancer sometime housekeeper. For “resolution,” these incompatible personalities bend and blend.
A “work family” and crushing external forces place “The Grand Budapest Hotel” on Joe Murphy’s list. He’s president of Huntington’s Tribecca Productions and called it “a highly stylized, thoughtful and visually stunning Wes Anderson film.”
On a limited release, independent actress/producer Dani Englander suggested “The One I Love,” a clever and well-acted little movie about “a struggling couple experiencing a parallel universe” when their rehabilitative weekend getaway opens surreal revelations.
Some 2014 tentpole extravaganzas did not quite reach as far into the stratosphere as predicted. Other than a reliable franchise, a risky introduction pairing diverse would-be heroes (“Guardians of the Galaxy”). Blistering space visuals integrate so awesomely there’s not an English language word capable of adequately bestowing credit for artistry majesty, which prevails whether its starship battles, delicious glimpses of galaxies far, far away, or the cubed prison maze.
A sinking hero, “Birdman” (Michael Keaton), challenges reality and illusion through a play within a movie premise that weaves strong ambiguities of reality and fantasy too.
Katmiss (Jennifer Lawrence) represents the evolving female role model. She’s brave, incisive, self-sustaining and retains family loyalty, pines for a long distant apparent soulmate, and sheds tears for both a cat and those suffering war injuries.
Lawrence crosses yet another barrier for women. She’s having nightmares from the hunting and killing becoming a gesture toward females suffering from battle induced emotional trauma. The scene stops short of implying PTSD and derives too much from homefront “warfare,” such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and terrifying accidents.
“Mockingjay: Part One” provocatively and symbolically substitutes a hunt for humanity among the populace instead of stalking at random young innocents.
DRAMAS: GONE GIRL, FURY, NONSTOP
Ben Affleck faces stereotypical victimization in “Gone Girl” when his beautiful, buzz-friendly wife (played by Rosamund Pike) disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. It’s one of 2014’s best thrillers and, for a bonus, convolutes male and female relationships (and ensuring stereotypes). Director David Fincher (“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Zodiac”) has put his own stamp on what would otherwise be Hitchcock worthy for comparison.
You could have forgotten “Nonstop,” since it came out early in the year. Liam Neeson’s renegade air marshal and a helping of neurotic passengers blend with terrorism and hijacking and are all stuffed inside a jet in flight.
George R. Snider III, the creator and producer of the interactive Murder & Merriment quasi-dinner theater productions, tosses two more from 2014: “‘The Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies’ would barely nudge out ‘Fury’ because it perfectly lured me in to wait a year for the final conclusion which is due next month – great storytelling!”
MUSIC AND INSPIRATION
Musically, Clint Eastwood took honors with “Jersey Boys,” which relates the rise to stardom of Frankie Vali and the 4 Seasons.
Inspiration fueled by faith took multiple swings at the mainstream marketplace. “If I Stay” (called a teen “Ghost”) and “Heaven is for Real,” which recounts child’s near death experience, were the best from that genre.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” brought proven blast and defense against the villains, adding more intimacy (knowledge of character and their past baggage) affecting their crusades to save the world. It takes the 2014 crown over the reboot of Spider-Man and the new X Men flick.
BEST 2014 LINE: “My water just broke, find a plumber.” (from “St. Vincent”)
HONORABLE MENTIONS: “Interstellar”; “The Fault in Our Stars”; “Maze Runner”.
Of course, due to deadline, this list does not contain films released in December. Those anticipated to be “best” contenders are: “The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies Part Two” and “Unbroken.”
And for 2015 and beyond, no less than 20 superhero films have been slated for production, continuing to fuel quests for nostalgia paired with escapism. But will the genre deteriorate as the kryptonite of challenged imaginations intervene in attempts to provide a safe bankable blockbuster?