The Best and Worst of 2014 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Best and Worst of 2014

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Moving to the future togetherWe had a complicated relationship with our media in 2014.  The molestation from and hush money paid by Bill Cosby to women he's violated over the years finally blew up in his face thanks to a viral video from Hannibal Buress.  Other long-gestating problems with sexist gaming culture got a lot of media time thanks to #gamergate's harassment of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.  Then the intersection of race, class, and authority blew up in Ferguson, New York, and other areas of the United States.

Media has been demonized rightly for careless reporting of issues that deserve careful scrutiny and investigation to protect victims, and it has been lionized for being able to communicate information about these tragedies with an unblinking camera.  While all this has transpired the ongoing conversation about what role new media plays in our lives continues.  Is it still a healthy force, or has our culture of clickbaiting gotten to a point where there are no real issues that last more than 24 hours?

I can see youIt's that last part, that no tragedy exists for more than 24 hours of the time, which fuels my dark fascination with my favorite movie of 2014, Nightcrawler.  Some have lambasted Nightcrawler for its seemingly old-fashioned approach to media since it involves a camera crew roaming the pre-dawn L.A. streets looking for the next bleeding story.  But if 2014 has taught us anything, it's that we appreciate and loathe these purveyors of trash and information in equal measure.  It doesn't matter if they're armed with iPhones or shoulder mounted cameras, they are the people who will set the course of the narrative with each image they capture.

Lou, played to the soulless hilt of entrepreneurial opportunism by Jake Gyllenhaal, is the protagonist we deserve for now.  He is admirable, clawing his way up the food chain with increasing success as he first finds then stages elaborate acts of violence.  He is detestable, plying his newfound power for physical intimacy and forcing his intern into unpaid slave labor.  He is evil, allowing the police officers of the city to get drawn into a shootout before Lou sacrifices his long-suffering intern for a good shot.

Pay attention to the sacrifice and you'll understand why our relationship with media is still so complicated and vile.  Lou takes advantage of minorities whenever he can, forces himself on those who are unwilling, and cares little about the physical outcome.  The conflicted optimism about working toward the future in my 2013 film of the year, Man of Steel, is absent in Lou's haunting eyes.  There is only the appealing glint of blood and what Lou can sell the image for - nothing more.

Whether we'll end 2015 in a more optimistic spirit or not remains to be seen.  If wages continue their frozen state then I predict the cinematic future is going to look a lot more like Blue Ruin and a lot less like Frank.  There's still hope so long as excellent testaments to faith like Calvary and absurd spectacles like Interstellar are around to fuel our imaginations and morals.  Maybe, like the protagonists of Beyond the Lights, we'll find a good way forward that we never realized was there.  As Whiplash shows us, it will take a lot of work and we might need to reach into dark spaces to push ourselves to the next level.  If not, we doom our families to the violence of The Babadook, push unexamined darkness into the corners of our collective psyche as in Fury, or turn around to cannibalize ourselves as in Under the Skin.

Let's hope for advancement in 2015, and not for Lou's empty smile as he films our death and decay.

The BestWaving

GreatOrganic elevation of the artificial

GoodEthan and Sophie in the pool

Zone of IndifferenceCleared Double

BadSchlocky crap

WretchedThe whirlamagig will save us all

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Posted by Andrew

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