The year has finally drawn to a close. They're celebrating 2015 already in some parts of the globe (I guess our troops in Afghanistan are popping champagne right about now). But before really send 2014 off into the the sunset, a last look at the best of what silver screens had to offer this year...in one guy's opinion, anyway.
As is often the case with biographical films, accuracy can become an easy target for criticism. Regardless of how changes or alterations reflect dramatic and thematic intent, and that narrative films aren't meant to be documentaries, those with a bone to pick about how history is seen through an altered lens will lash out, particularly if a film is an Oscar season threat. We've already seen it happen with "Selma," but now Bennett Miller and "Foxcatcher" are taking on fire…from one of the very people depicted in the film.
As I said a few weeks ago in spotlighting some of the most exciting cinematographers working today, I believe we're quietly going through a golden age for the form. There are some dynamic ideas making their way through the system these days thanks to exceptional artists behind the camera, and hopefully this little feature does its part in celebrating what they have to offer.
We're winding down the year-in-review game here at HitFix as 2014 draws to a close. For whatever reason I took a year off of the ballot/superlatives posts, but I'm back with those personal assessments of the best of the year, beginning today with my top picks across the Academy's 24 categories.
For this edition of the Contender Countdown we're going to approach the race for a Best Picture nomination a little differently. Now that every major contender has opened in at least limited release outside of "A Most Violent Year," we can finally review how the nation's critics have judge them on a broader, consensus basis. As Nate Silver may have realized when he tried to predict Oscar, you can't count on statistics with so many factors in play, but if presented comparably it might make you rethink the possibilities. To make this investigation work we'll use both the Rotten Tomatoes percentage score and the Metacritic grade to illuminate some very interesting data-driven discoveries.
If you thought the explosive conclusion to "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" was an elaborate physical stunt involving Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, and three life-size hellicarriers crashing into Washington D.C. buildings, think again! Also, really? You thought that was real? I mean it looked good, but c’mon, Marvel isn’t going to build a billion dollar flying aircraft carrier and drive it into a skyscraper. You're crazy.
More than most of his contemporaries, Richard Linklater’s films are extensions of himself. For "Boyhood" and "Dazed and Confused," the writer-director yanked autobiographical from his own life and adapted them for the modern timeline. Similarly, "Waking Life" and the "Before" trilogy start with personal pondering and blossom into talky motion pictures. Linklater shot his debut feature "Slacker" around his hometown of Austin, Texas and appeared in one of the leading roles, blurring the line between fact and fiction even further. By making films that draw so closely from his own experiences, Linklater has created a web of spiritually linked films that seem to inform one another. None of them are sequels, all of them are sequels. His next film fits the bill.
The North Carolina Film Critics Association has announced its list of nominees in a modest array of categories this season, and once again, it's "Birdman" leading the way, with seven nominations. One of those came for the Tar Heel Award, recognizing artists with ties to North Carolina. Wilkesboro native Zach Galifianakis, who in my opinion actually deserves a hard look for Best Supporting Actor consideration, got a notice there.
As more try to co-opt our patented, eight-year-strong "shots of the year" feature, it seemed like maybe I should start trying to get the package ready sooner rather than later. So I tried to hit it as hard as I could to get 2014's list out to you by the end of the year for the first time ever (it usually drops in late January or thereabouts). So…YOU'RE WELCOME. All kidding aside, though, it makes for a nice bow on the year, even if dropping it this early takes away some of the time I generally allot to thoroughly revisiting film imagery. This time around, the list is very much about the frames that stuck with me instantly, rather than decision-making slaved over toward the end of the year. And there's something to be said for that, too.
A great film score complements without burrowing too far into the ideas, wrestles with genre without locking the picture into a fixed identity, amplifies actors and actress’ choices without spilling the beans. A composer’s job is a balancing act. More and more, movie music finds itself backing off too far, devolving into incidental muzac, or going too far, where full-blast orchestral sounds pummel us like the Transformers’ energon punches. There’s a sweet spot, and the best film scores of the year ride it for an entire runtime.