Fish and Cherries Productions

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Ronin’s Top 13 Movies of 2014

With 2014 behind us and 2015 just stepping out of its cradle, most of us tend to reflect on the year gone by. In doing so myself, I came to the realization that 2014 was a great year for movies. From mainstream to potential Oscar candidates, we had a slew of high quality flicks that made us laugh, feel, and think. And since this was the year that I really made my Reel Snippets a priority, I’m doing my first top movies of the year list. But since a Top Ten list is so common today, I’m breaking the mold by giving you Ronin’s Top 13 Movies of 2014.

First, a couple of ground rules. The first, obviously, is that I have to have seen the movie and done a Reel Snippet of it, so Foxcatcher and Unbroken will not make this list. Second, which is a little more obvious, it had to have come out this year, which is an important distinction because Reel Snippets aren’t restricted to movies that recently came out. Finally, don’t expect a Top 13 Worst Movies of 2014. I tended to avoid a lot of the stinkers this year like Dumb and Dumber To and Left Behind, so the list would basically be populated with movies that were just okay and the like. The worst movie I saw was A Million Ways to Die in the West, and I’ll admit that had some genuinely funny moments. With that said, let’s start the countdown.

13 (tied). The Grand Budapest Hotel

I feel bad putting this at the bottom of the list because Wes Anderson is an inspiration to me, what with his quirky writing and out of the box thinking. And those qualities are exactly what put the movie on this list. While I can’t quote it as much as other entries, I remember so many of the situations, characters, colors, and emotions that came through the film that I can’t help but include it. The few things that I do remember in precise detail still crack me up, so this is definitely a hotel I’ll be checking into regularly when it comes out on DVD.

13 (tied). A Brony Tale

Let me make something clear: my being in the fandom has nothing to do with the movie being on this list. While it’s nice for a subculture to be noticed (especially if you’re a part of it, that’s not why this is here. No, the reason it’s on this list is its effect on people outside the fandom. Those that I talked to thoroughly enjoyed it and were able to understand where bronies were coming from and empathize with them. In that respect, the documentary was a complete success. Also, in the age of uncovering dark truths in our system and proving how unhealthy or taken advantage of we are, it’s rare to find a documentary that actually makes me happy to be alive. That alone is enough to earn it a spot on this list.

12. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Want to know the quickest way to a fan’s heart? Writing all the poor decisions of the franchise out of continuity. But even beyond that, the latest X-Men film is a huge treat, combining both X-Men casts into a great story that anyone, fan or not, will get a great kick out of. The acting is great, the stakes bring you to the edge of your seat, and the effects make it look like the mutants truly are gods among men. I’ve gushed about it before and I’ll be gushing about it for a while now. The seven-year-old kid inside me that used to get up early every morning to watch X-Men: The Animated Series couldn’t be happier.

11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

What’s better than retconning the bugs out of your franchise? Turning it right on its head. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the most poignant entries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking one of its most sympathetic characters and tearing down everything he knows. Yet in spite of all these hardships, he is still able to rise up and persevere. That is the essence of what a superhero should be: an inspiration to everyone who watches him and a role model for overcoming one’s own challenges. Unlike a certain other American icon that got a big screen release recently (*COUGHMANOFSTEELCOUGH*). Everything else in the film just works, from the action to the side characters to the titular villain that made the internet explode. Until the next Avengers movie comes out, this is sure to be the benchmark for the MCU.

10. The Fault In Our Stars

We can talk all day about great action films and comedies, but 2014 was the year of the slice of life. The one that most people think of is the one that showed us life in the face of death. Augustus and Hazel feel so real in both their love and struggles that it’s hard not to feel for them. It’s got its share of detractors (particularly those unhappy that Fault beat out Edge of Tomorrow… or was it Live. Die. Repeat.? Gah, that title change was asinine…), but it’s hard for me to agree with them when so much of the characters and situations ring true. I’ve had friends pass away from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, so I’ve seen a lot of these scenes play out. That’s why it’s so good, because it feels real.

I’ve gone into quite a bit of why I like the movie in my Snippet, but there’s one thing that sticks with me that I haven’t touched on: Peter Van Houten. This character intrigues me so much, partly because there’s nothing else like him. He’s not just an old, jaded curmudgeon, there’s a real sense that he’s thinking on a higher level than other people, but he lacks the ability or the knowhow to say it. I honestly want to dissect everything he says to find out where he’s trying to say. I don’t think I’ll get any answer from John Green – author of the novel – because of his belief in the death of the author (referring to a state of mind where a story stops when the book does, a theory I have a love-hate relationship with), but the character, like the movie, will stick with me for a long time.

9. The Theory of Everything

Anyone who’s been following me closely will know that I absolutely despised the 2012 Les Miserables movie. Since I never wrote a Reel Snippet on it, I should probably state that one of my biggest gripes was with Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Whether he was in love, tormented, or under pressure, he always had the same almost-smile facial expression and it really irritated me. So the irony hits hard when the role that he acts well in forces him to emote through limited facial expressions and he completely knocks it out of the park. And really, that’s what makes this movie. If Redmayne was really the limited actor I thought he was, The Theory of Everything would have fallen flat. I have never been so happy at being wrong before.

8. Big Hero 6

For a time, I was worried that I had perhaps been too caught up in the hype of seeing something so visually breathtaking that I had perhaps been a little overly positive about this movie. Recently, I saw it again and… nope, still as amazing as when I first saw it. True, the side characters aren’t as developed as they could be, but Baymax and Hiro more than make up for their slack. Not much to say, other than that I still love it.

7. How To Train Your Dragon 2

But if I had to be honest with myself, my animation award would have to go to How To Train Your Dragon 2. Yeah, it’s a sequel, but like the Hellboy sequel it improves upon what it had before and advances the characters rather than rehashing the plot of the first movie. Also, unlike Big Hero 6, there were a lot more twists and turns I couldn’t see coming and the gut punches hurt a lot worse. I think if the side characters in Big Hero 6 were as developed as in Dragon, it might have been a tougher pick. But in this race, the Night Fury’s wings beat Baymax’s jets.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

Did you miss my first review of this? Then let me sum up.

I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I… am Groot. I… am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot! I am Groot? I am Groot. I am Groot! I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I AM GROOT! I am Groot?! I am Groot. (I AM GROOT!) I am Groot? I AM GROOT! I AM GROOT! I am Groot? I am Groot. I… am Groot. I am Groot?! I… am Groot. I am Groot?! I am Groot?! I am Groot! I AM GROOT! I am Groot! I am Groot? I am Groot?! I am Groot. I am Groot! I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I… am Groot. I… am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot! I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I AM GROOT! I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I am Groot? I am Groot? I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot? I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot?! I am Groot. I am Groot! I am Groot. I AM GROOT! I am Groot? I am Groot. I am Groot? I am Groot! I am Groot! I am Groot?! I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot?! I am Groot. I am Groot. I… am Groot. I… am Groot. I AM GROOT! (I… am Groot. “I am Groot.”) I AM GROOT! I am Groot? I am Groot. I am Groot. I… am Groot. I AM GROOT! I… am Groot. I AM GROOT!

Was the cheapening of the universe’s deadliest woman irritating? Definitely. But it was still some of the most fun I’ve had in cinemas in a while with memorable, quotable dialogue. And I even liked the post-credits stinger. Yeah, I said it. Come fight me about it.

5. The LEGO Movie

Actually, I take it back. THIS is what I’d give my animation award to. Is it high art? No… actually, maybe. That twist at the end is so brilliant and such a great commentary that I would actually recommend this film to as many people as I could. This should not have been as good as it was, but it perfectly encapsulated the creativity and fun of childhood and I would be surprised if it didn’t do that for other people too. What else can I say, but… everything is awesoooome~!

4. The Imitation Game

Initially, I was turning over in my head whether to put Chef or Mockingjay on this list. In the end, it didn’t matter because this late entry bumped them both off. Benedict Cumberbatch has quite a few forays into American cinema, but whether it be disappointing like Star Trek: Into Darkness, average like August: Osage County, or downright awful like The Fifth Estate, he had yet to have a bona fide hit. This movie changed that. The fact that he was able to play a character so like Sherlock and yet completely distinct from him is a testament to his acting skills, but the fact that he can make him seem so sympathetic and real just blows the doors wide open for him.

Oh, and the rest of the movie’s great too. Sorry, I wrote about it very recently, so I don’t feel I need to reiterate too much. However, I will note that it’s nice to see Mark Strong not play the villain for once (anyone who brings up the Green Lantern movie will be shot).

3. Whiplash

If I could give an award out for the movie that surprised me the most with its quality, it would have to go to Whiplash. The amount of character study you can draw from this is astounding and the sheer brutality of the music world that this movie depicts should be a nice wake-up call to those who think that music isn’t real work. This might have gone on the top of the list… if the director had kept his mouth shut. See, he stated in an interview that the ending was supposed to show how broken and meaningless the main character’s struggle was and that his pursuit would lead him to an untimely end. That… does not gel at all with what I took away from that ending or even fit with what I saw on screen. I think this is one of those times where the Death of the Author would be more beneficial. You know, let people draw their own conclusions on what happened to the characters. As it stands, though, this is still a great movie.

2. Gone Girl

Picking between the top two was very difficult and I have no doubt that my choices changed many times as I wrote and edited this list. Regardless, it would be a crime not to give Gone Girl a place here. You will never find a more gripping mystery that makes you question what you know to be true or an ending that will leave you feeling so shocked. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but that’s how I feel. Any talk of Ben Affleck’s talent and the Daredevil movie can now be put to rest as this role brings out the best in him. It’s not a perfect representation of reality, but it shows a very dark side of humanity that needs to be examined. Psychopaths do exist and can trap your life in ways you can’t imagine, and in today’s society, where people young and old give out their trust online so easily, that’s not a lesson that can be ignored.

1. Boyhood

But perhaps it’s best to also be reminded that life goes on after you’ve moved past the psychopaths, that there’s beauty in simplicity, and that people are complex layers upon layers of good, bad, and everything in between. And no movie encapsulates that better than Boyhood. Oscar Wilde once said that life imitates art more than art imitates life, but this movie seems to be the glittering exception. This actually felt like I was watching a person’s journey through adulthood captured in a bubble. I didn’t feel like I was watching characters on screen, I felt like I was watching people that I was getting to know. I have no doubt that there will be a lot of college papers exploring and interpreting this film, which is why I think everyone should see it. Everyone will be able to take something different away and interpret things differently from this movie as they go through it. And that’s life.

Did I miss any of your favorites? Which movies did you think were the top and the coliseum? Let me know in the comments below (and please keep it civil). This was a great year and I look forward to this year’s movies.

Posted under Musings

Reel Snippet – The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderfully quirky experience that left me smiling. Apart from the witty humor and dialogue, a big part of the charm is that the film keeps reminding you that it’s a story. A few of the backdrops are clearly beautiful paintings, a bit of the narration acts like the non-dialogue text of a book, a lot of the colors are so vibrant that no one would dare use them in any real establishment, and the film’s aspect ratio changes depending on when the scene takes place. The atmosphere and humor itself are delightfully quirky and there are even some dark comedy moments that never feel out of place or mean-spirited. The only nitpick I have is that none of the actors, whose characters hail from Europe or the Middle East, even attempt an accent and it’s a little distracting at times. However, the end result is a great film which brings an air of class and poetry that has been sorely missing from cinema lately.

Posted under Reel Snippets

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