Friday, February 20, 2015

Movies of 2014, Top Films (3, 2, and 1)

            I originally thought to give each of these there own blog comparing them to other movies I like, but realized that I did not want to give in depth descriptions of each of them, I just preferred people to go watch and enjoy them, which I think most people have in the case of two of them.  So I will just recommend them.  Even going so far as to tell people to buy them.

This actually has a really good visual to it, the main character split between two worlds.
The Boxtrolls (I am not linking to the trailer because the trailer is rubbish)
            I do not know why this movie specifically spoke to me at the level it did.  I do have some theories though.
            1) It has coherent themes and messages... as the most communist film I have seen in recent memory.  There is a class of tinkerers who lack a voice in the political system being oppressed and labeled as monsters by the villain who is trying to climb a social ladder that shouldn't exist and does nothing to help society.  As I do think a lot of the issues in society come both from a lack of social mobility and a failure to listen to the needs and concerns of the working class this is a good message.
            2) I absolutely love stop motion animation.  This goes back to me talking about Gimmicks in my review of "Birdman".  I fully acknowledge that using 3D puppets and stop motion animation as opposed to CGI is perhaps the more time consuming option and is definitely a style choice.  BUT, THESE ARE PEOPLE MAKING REAL TOYS COME TO LIFE.  My brain marvels at this, and the fluidity of movement in this movie makes it look like people in suits some of the time, and the number of figures on screen all moving at once is dazzling.  This is a gimmick that in theory adds nothing because you could use CGI, but at the same time I appreciate it a lot.  I can't rectify this with my usual stances on things, but I point to this little interview with Quentin Tarantino about the magic of film, the illusion of movement is part of the magic that this movie uses to entice the audience.
            3) The world itself is cool and imaginary without being so outside the norm as to be distracting from the story and characters.  A steam punk city, an economy based around cheese, the whole thing built on the side of a mountain (everybody must have spectacular calf muscles), and a storm sewer filled with gadget loving trolls (pettiest of gripes, these are not Trolls in the strictest crypto-zoological sense, they are goblins, kind of the inverse of the movie "Troll 2" having only goblins on screen, but there they correctly identified them as goblins).
            4) The humor.  While there is a lot of physical comedy and bug eating, much of the humor has to do with word play, puns, and comedy of manners type interaction.  How does the boy raised by monsters fair in a formal setting?  (I got a lot of "Tarzan" vibes off of this story, but trolls instead of apes).  How does the gentry spend the city's money?  (There is one asshole who really needed to die by the end of this movie).  Why is everything named after dairy products?  It is strange but funny.
            Honestly I can see this movie not appealing to many, and its marketing is terrible.  I would never have seen this movie if I had not happened to have a class canceled while they were screening it at the campus theater.  And I imagine few people will seek it out, but please do if you can, I feel it is a very strong film that should be watched.
Overall: 10/10

Fun fact, that opening spoken bit from Eminem's "Rap God" are from a Captain America comic.  (Poster)

            I love Captain America.  Too often today the main character of a story is a high functioning psychopath, autistic, alcoholic, or flawed and damaged in non-specific ways... and that is fine, but it gets to the point where I am tired of seeing flawed protagonists fighting villains who are only marginally more violent or irresponsible than the hero.  Captain America is the inverse of that.
            Captain America is a completely good guy.  He is smart, strong, kind, and is the first to try and offer support to those in need.  He uses his might for right rather than might making right.  His villains are great, twisted extrapolations of the ideals he fought for in the last movie.  Yeah, WWII required a lot of killing before it resolved, but the Nazi's had actually been killing lots of people and invading countries with the intent to kill more.  This movie points out how using insane levels of military superiority to kill people because they fit a profile of someone who might do harm is madness.  "That is not freedom, it's fear."
            It is almost like these themes are super topical and directly speak to the culture we live in.  The militarization of police, the use of drone air superiority... RACIAL PROFILING.  Thank god they got such a great black actor to play the best interpretation of Falcon ever, his presence makes this films team of Secret Avengers (you could have called the movie that) with Cap, Widow, Falcon, Agent Hill, and Nick Fury the most diverse superhero team so far appearing in a Marvel film (discounting the inclusion of Raccoons and Groots).
            Like I said while reviewing "X-Men: Days of Future Past" both films deal with the use of drones to attack remarkable people who could upset those in power, imposing order on a world that resists such impositions.  The stakes are huge in this the villains competent, powerful, and far reaching.  This movie has fantastic scope and intelligence to how it handles its material.  But strangely it also ties into a bad movie I saw some time ago, "GI Joe: Retaliation" a movie which has a criminal terrorist organization seize control of the government, hunting the heroes, all so they can gain control of an orbital weapon.  In "GI Joe" the bad guys are ultimately defeated, but only after 20+ million people were killed by a weapon strike on London.  So I guess it is a good thing Cap was around for this one cause apparently "GI Joe" has proven to be pretty terrible as a franchise.  Gods bless America.
            Strangely (considering I give number rating to things) I tend not to compare movies to one another in my mind.  I don't really like ranking things because different movies are trying for different things.  "Starship Troopers" is a fantastic science fiction movie parodying the military... But it is a terrible western.  "Silence of the Lambs" is an intriguing psychological thriller, but is a terrible romantic comedy.  Unless two movies try to do similar things with similar characters then comparing them is sort of a disservice to those who made them.  Comparing "Batman" to "The Dark Knight" is fair, comparing "Forgetting Sarah Marshal" to "Apocalypse Now" is not fair or logical.  The reason I bring this up is because I do think it is fair to rank the Marvel movies against one another.  Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man are all in the same universe, made by the same studio, and have many of the same themes and tones.  So when I tell you "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is my favorite marvel movie, that information should carry some interesting weight.  I think this movie is the current high mark for subject matter and character dynamics that can be explored in a Marvel film while still doing the doomsday action scene to the T.  I loved this movie.  And as cheesy as this reads, I much like Falcon standing in his kitchen after handing his file to Cap, I feel like I wanted to help.  How could I refuse?  "Captain America needs my help".
            So I guess I am asking you to find a veteran service, free speech defense fund, and (considering he only did in real life what Black Widow did in the movie) re-evaluate Edward Snowden and the role of government in our lives.  Is what is happening around us Freedom?  Or Fear?
Overall: 10/10

My Movie of the Year 
            I can't really describe myself as a fan of Wes Anderson.  Mostly it has to do with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller showing up in his movies and I generally dislike them (they have their moments but mostly... bleh).  But I like his characterization, his blending of styles, the artistry, the weirdness.  Much like "The Boxtrolls" this movie has a strange world filled with characters bordering on being magical.  The humor is smart.  The costuming is cool.  Everything fits together so well that... I don't have any complaints.  None.  Everything about this movie works for me on all levels.
            A long while back I explained that my favorite movie was "Fight Club" (though my brother said that blog was hard to read and very round about to the conclusion).  "Fight Club" is also a movie free of criticism from me.  But I also feel that "Fight Club" appeals to a part of my brain that I am growing away from.  I first encountered the movie when I was 16 and it appealed to a very angry part of my mindset.  "Fuck the man, fuck the machine, fuck the world, I will hit it all in the face until it is unrecognizable..."  But nowadays, while I am still angry about the bad things in the world (including Starbucks) there is a stronger aspect to my personality taking over... My desire to be a part of the best parts of the world.
            Gustav H. (Ray Fiennes) The star of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" stands in direct contrast to Tyler Durden.  Gustav gives speeches to his staff on how to be better at their jobs, and to derive enjoyment from their jobs, to take pride in themselves and who they are.  Tyler gives speeches on why we are nothing, why we are dirt, why we are violent and base, and encourages us to break the system and break from our jobs.  Gustav dresses up and wears perfume.  Tyler doesn't wear a shirt or shoes so as to more effectively grapple people.  Gustav quotes poetry (I actually recognized the first poem he quoted in the movie, the moment I knew I would like the movie).  Tyler splices pornography into family films.
            I definitely have a dark side that makes me want to hit things, that makes me frustrated and angry at the world and the hollowness that is everywhere.... BUT I STILL LIKE STUFF.  I want to live and excel at being a good person who helps his friends and loved ones, and take pride in being the best at what they do and ultimately gets rewarded for it, but still takes real risks for the sake of those around him.  So, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is replacing "Fight Club" as my favorite movie, though like I said before, comparing these two is a study in contrasting styles, tones and themes.  I am not diminishing "Fight Club" it is still great, I am illustrating how I have changed over the years and how my tastes have altered.
Overall: 10/10
Favorite Film Ever

            I really want these movie to win awards.  And out in the world I am sure there are many people discovering things in media for the first time and coming to believe something is their favorite.  Something they love, believe in, something that hits them deep in the mind.  A friend of mine yesterday told me I had made a mistake putting "Interstellar" at number 4.  It should be my number one, and I told him it was a great movie, and for him the best.  But to me it is there.  This is not the sort of thing that should inspire fights, but it should inspire people to explore what they like, why they like it, when, and how, or with who.  The context of the experience is part of the experience.  All are ripples in the pond.

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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