Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Above Average Awards: Pre-2014


As a movie buff, it is my pleasure to watch dozens of films each and every year. Sure, some of my film viewing stems from my desire to become more knowledgeable on the subject, but the majority stems from my love for movies and entertainment, in general.

In 2014, the majority of the films that I viewed were actually released in 2014, which is likely the case with most moviegoers, and I cannot wait to recognize those films, in the coming month, as I release the Above Average Award lists for both comedy and drama. However, each year, I (along with the rest of the world) have the opportunity to watch older films, released before the present year. These films could be from 2013, 2004, or 1968. They could be comedic or dramatic. And, while it is a lot of fun searching through the present year and finding the best in drama and comedy, it is also exciting to find these older films that are as good or better than anything that the current year has to offer.

So, in order to recognize older films that shone within my little film bubble, in 2014, I've compiled a list of my Top 5 Non-2014 Films that I viewed for the very first time in 2014. Some of you may have had the opportunity to view these films in their actual release year. Some of you may have seen one or two of these films 100 times. Regardless, this list will give you a little peak into my world, where things aren't all about the present!

#5 - What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Of course, many of my readers have likely seen What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but what a quirky film, for 1993! The comedic elements of the film created some much drama in Gilbert's life, and you could not help feeling sorry for the poor guy. If you want to smile, laugh, scratch your head, and maybe cry, What's Eating Gilbert Grape offers you the best chance of any of the films on this list. Be sure to check it out!
#4 - Annie Hall
Annie Hall ruled the Oscars in 1977, as Woody Allen won best director and original screenplay, Diane Keaton won best actress, and the film won best picture. And, although I can't say that I've seen many films from 1977, this gem is certainly deserving of such awards. Something about Woody Allen's rhetoric just takes me away into another world. Allen's Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite films of all time, and I am truly enjoying going back through his other work and seeing what I can find. I'm ashamed that it took me 23 years of life to actually watch Annie Hall, but, nevertheless, it was worth the wait!
#3 - Short Term 12
If I could go back to the 2013 Above Average Awards and make adjustments, Brie Larson would likely land at #2 on my list for best dramatic actress and Short Term 12 would likely land at #5 on my list of best dramtic films. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to watch this hidden gem until post-publishing my list. Either way, Short Term 12 is a heck of an emotional journey about a young counselor at a short-term children's housing unit. If you have a special spot in your heart for teenagers, as I do, be sure to check this one out.
#2 - Bernie
The poster/DVD case for Bernie has always intrigued me, for some reason. I have never really heard anything about the film, but I just always wanted to watch it, because of that yellow poster! So, finally, I took the time to watch the Richard Linklater-directed dark comedy, and, in my opinion, Bernie puts Boyhood to shame! Since watching for the first time, Bernie has been on repeat, for me, as I continue to share the film with everyone I know. Linklater's direction is perfect, here, and Jack Black has never been better!
#1 - The Big Chill
As I grow older (and hopefully more mature), I realize the significance of old friends and the role they play in my past, present, and future. It is great to know that, no matter how long we have been apart, if I have a chance to meet up with my old friends, things will go right back to normal. At my wedding, in December, it was hard for me to push aside the thought of my wedding potentially being the last time that all of my friends will come together in that way. As life takes everyone in different directions, you never know when you and your friend group, in it's completion, might be together again. While this fact is quite sad, it helps aid in the appreciation of the time spent together and the memories made.
That said, The Big Chill is the perfect example of old friends coming together and realizing just how much life can change individuals. I've always been a sucker for these types of films, but I had never taken the time to watch The Big Chill, mostly because I don't really like the 80s. Now, this film has quickly become one of my favorites of all time! For Christmas, my grandparents gave me The Big Chill on DVD/Blu-ray, AND they were able to find the soundtrack on vinyl, to which I have been jamming out, since! If I ever take the time to write a film, I have a hankering that it would have the same vibe as The Big Chill, which more or less means that I am writing the new Star Wars film (my thanks to Lawrence Kasdan).
Please, please, please... watch The Big Chill! And, please, call up your old friends!

There you have it, folks... my first ever list of un-yearly, yearly favorites! If you have never seen these films, I beg you to check them out. I believe that every one of them is on Netflix Instant, so no excuses! Also, to my fellow bloggers, I would love to hear of the pre-2014 films that you enjoyed in 2014. Comment, below, or, heck, do your own list (if you can remember what you watched)!
Stay tuned for the Above Average Awards for 2014 comedy and drama! It shan't be long!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Imitation Game

As I sit here and write about The Imitation Game, I just realized that I haven't actually reviewed a film since December 1, which is quite insane. Sure, I can blame some of that on my busy schedule, but much of this drought can be blamed on the fact that I had no interest in writing about the films that I actually did watch in late-November and December. Mediocrity was abounding in my film-watching world, as a few of this year's Oscar-hopefuls have been a bit disappointing to me. Nevertheless, I needed something to watch, this week, and The Imitation Game was the winner of my attention. Honestly, I knew very little about the film or Alan Turing's role in the events of World War II, but the critical praise of the film drew me right on in. Considering the historic nature of the film, one can assume that The Imitation Game is all but a lock for a best picture nomination, which gave me a chance to get caught up on Oscar's favorite films (even before the actual list of nominees is released).

While the film was certainly intriguing and emotional, the amazing story would have allowed for anyone to create a successful film. In fact, when the film strayed from simply telling the story, I lost interest completely. That said, I believe that this story should be taught in every single history class in every single country that is happy that Germany failed to win WWII. This film may have been a bit distracted by the obvious social progression that is quite recognizable when comparing 2015 to any previous year, but, regardless, at the heart (for me at least), the achievements of this man and his counterparts are more than worthy of our recognition. While Alan Turing was certainly a victim of the social constructs of his time, the film should not have been so caught up in displaying this disconnect, unless the film was going to be 100% about said disconnect. In my opinion, a guy who wins World War II and basically creates the original design for modern computers is much more than just an example of failed society, as this film attempted to display Alan Turing.

At this point, I will attempt to move beyond my rant about the focus of The Imitation Game. Of course, stopping myself from ranting is quite difficult. So, we will see how that goes!

Rory Kinnear's Detective Nock was one of those pointless characters that filmmakers create, in order to tell the story in the way that they see fit. Whether or not Detective Nock actually existed, I do not care, because his presence in this film was pointlessly necessary. In keeping with my lack of caring about Turing's sexuality and personal issues, I was not a huge fan of the flashbacks to Turing's childhood, which featured young Turing (played by Alex Lawther) and young Turing's love interest (played by Jack Bannon). Because the WWII portion of the story was so fascinating, everything else just distracted from the awesomeness, in my opinion.

Benedict Cumberbatch was certainly intriguing in his portrayal of Alan Turing. While I have no previous perception or knowledge of Turing, Cumberbatch did a great job of being the Alan Turing that The Imitation Game was attempting to create, and that success is quite praise-worthy! Additionally, I really enjoyed Mark Strong's performance in his role of Stewart Menzies. This film really utilized the preconceptions that come with Strong's presence in a film, minimizing additional explanation of his role in the film, which I thought quite clever.

The story that was encompassed within The Imitation Game was likely the most interesting thing that I have seen in the past twelve months. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed miserably in their utilization of that great story, taking something potentially great and turning it into something quite mediocre. Never in my life have I directed anything, but I feel as if I could one-up Morten Tyldum, for sure! This film should be an Oscar frontrunner, considering the AMAZING storyline, but oh well! Although I have been fairly critical of The Imitation Game, I would encourage you to watch the film, if only to realize the significance of Alan Turing's role in shaping the 20th and 21st centuries. Also, next time I google something (like, 2 minutes from now), I will know that my actions are partly made possible by Alan Turing, which is quite neat. I give The Imitation Game 2.76 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Look Ahead to 2015

Well, here we are... The new year is upon us, and this one promises to be BIG!

I apologize for being so sparse, over the past two months, but I've been a bit swamped between finals, getting married, and the Holidays. Nevertheless, I'm back (hopefully).

As always, my 2014 best list (The Above Average Awards) will be coming your way sometime in February, in order to give me time to catch up with some late-releases and rentals. So, do not forget about 2014 yet!

However, it is a great time to take a look at some films that are sure to be on my watchlist, in 2015, and some that I will be sure to avoid. Feel free to persuade me!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Movies I Just Can't Wait to See

Chappie (March)

While We're Young (March)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (May)

Inside Out (June)

Ant-Man (July)

Trainwreck (July)

The Walk (October)

The Jungle Book (October)

Peanuts (November)

Untitled Christmas Eve Project (November)

Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens (December)

Joy (December)

Other Notable Films

Kingsman: The Secret Service (February)

Fifty Shades of Grey (February)

Cinderella (March)

Insurgent (March)

Pitch Perfect 2 (May)

Mad Max: Fury Road (May)

Tomorrowland (May)

Jurassic World (June)

Ted 2 (June)

Minions (July)

The Fantastic Four (August)

Vacation (October)

Big Movies I Will Avoid (At All Costs)

Taken 3 (January)

Jupiter Ascending (February)

Furious 7 (April)

Terminator: Genisys (July)