It's Oscar night! Ok, I'm kinda not that excited either this time around. Truthfully I haven't caught many of the nominees this year. Doing the Dark Discussions Podcasts has me committed to seeing a lot of genre films, and that's eating up time I could have used to see things like Whiplash or Boyhood. But truthfully, I'd rather live in the genre world if I had to pick one or the other - I'll catch up to the one's I'm truly interested in later.
Dark Discussions did put up our Year in Review episode a few weeks ago, and if you're interested, you can give a listen here. You can also find it on iTunes or Stitcher, and as always, reviews and feedback are appreciated.
If anyone is looking for a more detailed look at my lists for best horror and non-horror films of 2014, there will be an article forthcoming on the DDP homepage (any day now, Phil), though I should add in the interim I have caught up with American Sniper, John Wyck, and The Guest. Of those only John Wick would have snuck onto my top 10 non-horror list, though I did enjoy all three.
So without further ado, my Choice Cuts of 2014:
Favorite Film, Period:
Nightcrawler - It is a shame that this film didn't make the Oscar list. A brutal look at modern news and our gawker culture. Gyllenhall's performance is outstanding. DDP episode can be heard here.
Favorite Horror Film:
Cheap Thrills - As we have said repeatedly on the podcast, this has been a great year for thrillers, not so much for horror. The boundary between the two genres can be very thin, and we had a bit of debate as to what was what. I lean towards a broader definition of horror, and so included Cheap Thrills here. This is one of the more disturbing films of the year, particularly the dinner scene, and it is one I kept coming back to again and again. On the surface the film is an exercise in sadism, but beneath that is a clever exploration of class and interpersonal relationships. Very similar in plot to Thirteen Sins, but I think with deeper resonance and without the conspiratorial silliness. DDP Episode 135
Runner up: Big Bad Wolves DDP Episode 132
Favorite SF Film
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: It is an apes movie, and it is exquisite. No way this doesn't top my list. I know the humans are thoroughly fleshed out, but that's not the point of the story. DDP Episode 148
Runners up: Snowpiercer and Edge of Tomorrow (DDP Episode 143)
Favorite Action Film
John Wick - Keanu makes a comeback mostly by keeping his mouth shut. A classic revenge tale, it is nice to see movies like John Wick and The Guest eschewing CGI extravaganzas for short, brutal and mostly practical sequences. Be warned: if you're a dog lover, the first few minutes may be tough.
Runner Up - The Raid 2 DDP Episode 136
Dead Snow 2 - Exploding baby carriage. Need I say more? An instant classic in the zombie comedy genre (which is already bursting with classics). DDP Episode 167
Favorite Comic Book Film
Captain America: Winter Soldier - Not quite the ton of fun that Guardians of the Galaxy is, but some fabulous action sequences, including a fight between Cap and Batroc the Leaper. I shit you not.
Favorite RemakeThe Town That Dreaded Sundown - Kind of quiet on the remake front this year, and that's OK with me. But this is a solid entry, despite an ending ripped right out of classic 90s horror film.
Favorite Zombie Film
Dead Snow 2.
Favorite Vampire Film
Only Lovers Left Alive - What Twilight would have been if it had been made by and for grown ups. A very slow relationship drama, with barely a trace of horror, but the performances by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are more than capable of carrying us through.
Favorite Nature Horror
Since I didn't see Sharknado 2, let me say Big Ass Spider. Weak, weak year for the genre.
Best Cheese of the Year
Tusk - Not everyone loved this film like I did, but really Justin Long in a walrus suit made of human flesh? Johnny Depp as a Quebec-an knock off of Inspector Cleuseau? The silliness just won me over.DDP Episode 156
Favorite Found Footage Film:
Exists. DDP Episode 162 As maligned as this genre is, there were some very solid entries this year. Exists easily tops the list (as was DDP's #2 horror film overall), but entries like The Den, Afflicted, The Case of Deborah Logan and Conspiracy are well worth catching.
"You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!" Many good and violent death scenes this year, but nothing tops the climax of Game of Thrones "The Mountain and the Viper."
Runner up - Godzilla blows away the MUTO.
Deserved Better Award:
Edge of Tomorrow - Damned fine action and entertainment, and a solid, self effacing performance by Cruise. People need to get over the couch jumping.
Eat - A last minute watch bumped Cheap Thrills from this spot. Starry Eyes handles the premise better (actress desperate to save her career) but if body horror gives you the quivers, give this a shot.
The Pyramid - Just bad in every way imaginable. Worst theatrical experience in many years, and it is a shame that this got a wide release while so many better movies went straight to video.
Come Back to Me - Hard to blind side me with an ending, but this film did it. DDP Episode 170
Willow Creek- No bigfoot, and a cheap Blair Witch camera drop.
Hero of the Year:
Peter "StarLord" Quill - Guardians of the Galaxy is a joyous experience, and a big part of that is Chris Pratt's rogue. There's a reason he's being talked about as the new Indiana Jones.
Villain of the Year:
Lorne Malvo, Fargo (TV series) - An absolutely brilliant performance by Billy Bob Thorton, playing a hit man who might as well be the Devil himself.
Journey to the West - Not a lot of good monster films this year, but this fun kung-fu action flick boasts some fun critters, despite limited effects.
Johnny Depp - Transcendence continued his string of disappointments after Dark Shadows and Lone Ranger, and his cameo in Tusk is widely cited as ruining the film for most of its detractors.