This was (in my not-so-humble) opinion a good year to be a sci-fi geek; even if it wasn’t a great movie year. I will remember the joy of watching a good many sci-fi movies this year. That is not always the case. I know that Oscar will not share my love; but here goes, my end of the year top 10:
1. Interstellar. Truth be told the Nolans are my catnip. I watch everything they are involved in. Not only do they make great movies; but they are unfailingly original. Even their take on a serial like Batman was new and innovative. The new film is more of the same; only much better. Not since Primer have I been so engrossed in a techno-thriller from the first to the last moment. No spoilers here; but this is why I love sci-fi. The discussion of big ideas along with really good graphics and story. Matt and Anne do first rate work alongside an amazing cast including perennial favorites of mine like Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy. I am admittedly a Marvel nerd; but even I had to look up this rag-tag team when it was announced. My trust in the Marvel brand was not blemished as the boys did not disappoint. Acting. Story. And the best soundtrack of the year. Not to mention the fact that Marvel trolled every fanboy in the audience with this one’s post-trailer scene. This is the kind of escapist fare with a heart that I hope Marvel continues to put out. That is Marvel. And they should not feel the need to try and go muddy like DC is always trying to do (with mixed success).
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I got to say this movie was good; but my love for it was only heightened by my fanboy crush on Cap and Widow. Were I to write fanfic; well, Natasha and Cap would be heating up the detente if you know what I mean. This film was also helped by tying into Agents of Shield (TV- ABC) and upping the ante for a show that needed a heartbeat. This was tight and well done thriller that had me cussing on the edge of my seat.
4. Begin Again. Perhaps the feel-good movie of the year. I loved Once and was excited to see the brains behind that gem back at work. While initially concerned about casting; I love Ruffalo and Knightley; but could they carry a tune and make me believe in their craft? And doucheknozzle from Maroon 5? I needed have worried Knightley showed vocal chops and I was never too distracted by that other guy (playing to type if you ask me). The music moved. The characters sizzled together. And I was in love.
I also have to say that this movie was also well suited for my viewing.This tale of beginning again touched a nerve as I viewed it just weeks into a move to a new city and new job.
5. The Fault in Our Stars. Every year I find some great author I have previously ignored and read their entire cannon only to find myself mad that I now have to wait like a regular fan for new books. This was John Green’s year for me. I knew of this author as our pasts included stints in the same Birmingham suburbs. perhaps we both ate at that same McDonald’s mentioned in Looking for Alaska at the same time? Yet I had written him as just the latest tween sensation that will disappear tomorrow. Boy do I hope I was wrong. His work, though often put down as just teen fic, stands strong. This, his best work yet, needed a good movie and it delivered. Showcasing my favorite up and coming actor Shailene Woodley; this film hit all the right notes. it could have been a schmaltz-fest; instead it was mature, touching, and lasting.
6. Snowpiercer. I did not know what to expect with this one. I heard rumors of it being good; but was blown away by it. I’m not sure it works as well as a philosophical meditation as many of the online community want to work; but it does what it does with panache. The fight scenes remind you of the brilliant set pieces of the Japanese version of Oldboy. The plot was just so manic and labyrinthine that the combination made me love sci-fi all over again. Like the Matrix and many before it this film can be seen a great escape; or the start of a great philosophical debate. Who is right? What is just? Watch and discuss amongst yourselves.
7. Edge of Tomorrow. At first I was wary as the Groundhog premise is feeling a little worn (even Christmas movies have adapted it in the last year). It also had Cruise whom I have decidedly mixed feeling (see Affleck,Ben. Below). Cruise is hit and miss and not in a good way. But this was a first rate thriller.
8. Gone Girl. You ever love or hate this novel. No one is like, meh. People really love this or hate it. It’s like Dragon Tattoo in that way (which was Fincher’s previous film). From the opening monologue to the twist and back again, this film was a mesmerizing tour de force asking what happens when we stop pretending and get real.
9. A Million Ways to Die in the West. Laugh out loud. Outrageous. Crude. The perfect way to find a little joy in after a tough week. The first Seth McFarland vehicle I have liked. All true. Great cast to boot (pun intended). I enjoy absurd humor and enjoyed that this film rewarded attentive viewing (trusting I was smart enough to get the joke- something not many have the guts to do).
10. Chef. If it were not for Fault and Begin. This would be the feel good film of the year. Let’s be honest in may years it would have been. This tale of a chef finding himself is a funny, charming, and brilliant amuse bouche of a film. (Can we also talk about Scarlet’s year: 3 films all good and each radically different).
P.S. I’ve got to say, I am a die-hard Wes Anderson fan and it kills me to not have Grand Budapest here. Call my a snob, but I was not a big fan of the “more accessible” Anderson that critics loved.
P.P.S. And yes, I have not seen a few films. I want to see: Foxcatcher, St Vincent, Nightcrawler, Locke, and Boyhood. I am anxiously awaiting to see Wild, Unbroken, and Hobbit as they finish up our year.