Now that the Oscars are over, it’s time for the REAL awards….the Joe awards. Skip to the bottom of the list if you’re just here for the winners…..
This may be my favorite post of the year. Because I love films and the Oscars, I see lots of movies each year (also, there isn’t much else to do in Texarkana). Last year I saw 45. This year I’m pleased/embarrassed to say I saw 62. Because I count movies through the Oscars, I count ALL films that qualified for awards as as films from the previous year (meaning some of these I caught in 2015).
Also, I list films I saw this year that were from different years via Netflix or Amazon. Lumped together, they make each year’s list a mishmash of current and old flicks….ranked by the amount of enjoyment I personally took from each.
If you want to see 2013 go here.
Looking for 2012? Here you go.
Joe’s Top 5 Films of 2014
1) The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch has played some really quirky assholes, but Allan Turing might be his biggest. I was hooked from the beginning. The film describes British attempts to break the “unbreakable” German enigma code, lead by a closet-gay man with severe social problems. Watch here also for often-overlooked Mark Strong.
2) Whiplash – Speaking of assholes, JD Simmons plays the biggest one of the year in this film about a music school student trying to please a psychotic teacher. Does he succeed? That’s still the million dollar question….even though I saw the film! When I walked out of the theater, I was sure this was my film of the year…until I saw The Imitation Game about six weeks later. JD Simmons EARNS that Oscar by being the meanest, most frustrating character you’ll meet in film. Can you understand someone (a little) while still absolutely hating them?
3) Chef – I’ve never wanted food truck food so badly as I did after walking out of this flick. Tons of cameos in this movie (Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr.), but they’re irrelevant. This movie about a man struggling with his identity and his son looking to connect with him is a happy road trip movie.
4) Her (Netflix) – I WANTED badly to see this at the theater and was sad I had to watch it on a plane. Excellent story of loneliness and what it means to be human. Scarlett Johansson is excellent as the voice of the operating system.
5) Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Netflix) – I don’t know what Woody Allen was drinking when he made this and then turned around and made my favorite film of all time, Midnight in Paris. He’s on fire. Scarlett Johanssen inadvertently becomes part of a lover’s triangle in this strange, fun, awkward, interesting film.
Excellent Films I Highly Recommend
6) Selma – I was at a party last night where a man was talking derisively about how advocates of this movie thought that African-American people got screwed (and he was sick of hearing about it). I agree….not with him, but with advocates who think Selma got screwed. Great film. Excellent performances. If you’re looking for a film to describe the civil rights battle, skip The Butler and watch Selma.
7) Philomena (did I count this for last year?) – The only reason this film isn’t higher? I missed it in the theater before the Oscars and it was so hyped that it didn’t live up to my (too high) expectations. Dame Judy Dench and Steve Coogan are excellent as the main (true life) characters – a woman whose baby was taken by the church and a writer who desperately needs a story to tell.
8) Guardians of the Galaxy – This is easily the best Marvel film I’ve ever seen. Funny, irreverent, surprising. Who knew I’d dig a talking raccoon?
9) American Sniper – I’m already tired of the political debates around this film. I saw it as a movie about an American war hero who was consumed by the battles he faced and, like many soldiers, had tons of serious troubles adapting to home life afterward. Bradley Cooper is my choice for best actor in 2014.
10) Nightcrawler – This film is beyond creepy. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a loner trying to break into the world of freelance film coverage. He’s literally an ambulance and police chaser, looking for the next shot…and he makes sure that he feeds Los Angeles the most grisly video he can find. There’s a high school English paper’s worth of subplot and character discussions buried here.
11) Big Hero 6 – While I understand some of the fervor around Frozen, Big Hero 6 is the big winner in any match between the two films. While the plot is generic and wooden, the interactions between the robot, the boy, and his big brother are intense, heartwarming, and leave a lasting impression.
12) Top 5 – Chris Rock proves he can act in this comedy/drama about a comedian who’s at a crossroads. The chemistry between Rock and Rosario Dawson helps sell his angst. My pick for “most overlooked film of 2014.”
13) Charade (Netflix) – What’s better than Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant in a whodunit? This year, not very much. Another one down in my quest to see classic films….
Very Good Movies You Should Rent
14) Hot Fuzz (Netflix) – Simon Pegg is a police officer in a small town where people keep dying. It’s an Edgar Wright film (Scott Pilgrim, The World’s End), so you know the movie and it’s conclusion are going to be ridiculous, hilarious, and bloody. While I love Edgar Wright movies, I avoided this one because of the name. My mistake.
15) The 100 Foot Journey – An Indian family opens an loud, ethnic restaurant across the street from Helen Mirren’s elegant French offering. The battle between the two restaurants and the cooking scenes are really fun. The film wanders near the end, but it’s a fun ride.
16) The Lego Movie – This movie is awesome. Will Farrell plays the voice of the bad guy in the movie, about a forgettable everyman Lego who has to save the day with the help of Batman (the Lego version) and his girlfriend. I wasn’t going to see this because it was a “franchise” movie that I thought was “selling” Legos. Not the case.
17) Unbroken – How can a film be so far up my list and still be a disappointment? Angelina Jolie’s retelling of the story of a captured soldier who endures the horrors of a Japanese prison camp is gripping, cinematic…and long. I think this film could have been better edited and the amazing punch it packed would have been even more emotional.
18) Hearts of Darkness (Netflix) – This fantastic documentary tells the unbelievable story of the making of Apocalypse Now. From the financing of the expensive film to Marin Sheen’s heart attack to Marlin Brando showing up grossly overweight (and unaware of the script), I was gripped.
19) Under the Tuscan Sun (Netflix) – I’m going to get shit about this being so far up the list (especially when you see what’s below it), but bear with me. Besides the fact that I’m a sucker for gorgeous chick-flicks, I was headed to Tuscany a few weeks after seeing this film, so I was in the right mood. A fairly predictable story about a middle-aged woman who moves to Tuscany impulsively. It hit all the right spots.
20) St. Vincent – A son of a chronically overworked single mom (Melissa McCarthy) is cared for by the belligerent and off-putting Army veteran played by Bill Murray. Whomever didn’t vote for Murray for best supporting actor needs to get kicked. While I thought JD Simmons deserved the win, Murray was a lock for a bid.
21 ) Birdman – The Oscars say it’s #1, I say it’s number 21. Why? While I thought the cinematography (one long scene) was excellent and the individual performances were really good, I just didn’t care about Michael Keaton’s character. It’s hard to care what happens to a guy that you think is a self-absorbed whiner who’s out of his league on Broadway. My prediction? You’ll see this movie because of the hype and either love it or not get it. Put me in the second camp.
22) In a World (Netflix) – My friend Tonya (Budget and the Beach) recommended I see this. I’m so happy I took her advice. A woman tries to break into the male-dominated voiceover world. Who knew a movie about voiceover actors could be so fun?
23 ) Into the Woods – In another hit to my man card, I have to admit that I told Cheryl I wanted to see this….and I really liked it (though it sagged in the middle). Good tunes, fun story. Plot twists I didn’t see coming. Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Does she deserve it? In my book? No….but that doesn’t mean she’s bad. It’s just that every time Streep hits a film now I think we look for a reason she should be nominated.
24) Belle – A white British officer impregnates a black woman and claims the baby, but dies, setting up a story about a dark-skinned woman growing up in aristocratic English society. Funny side story: the same guy who plays the judge in this movie who’s tasked with ruling on slavery (Tom Wilkinson) also plays Lyndon B. Johnson in Selma…where he’s forced to also make decisions about civil rights. He’s a multi-era civil rights fighter!
25) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – I didn’t see the first one because I thought the premise was stupid…and read all kinds of great reviews. I’m glad I caught this sequel (really don’t need to see the first to understand the plot).
26) X Men – Days of Future Past – The X Men team have to travel back into the past to control events. I love James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the young creators of the X Men.
27) The Skeleton Twins – Bill Hader (Cheryl says I have a man-crush on him…..no comment) and Kristen Wiig star as f$%#ed up twins dealing with a broken (him) and breaking (her) relationship. Think two SNL alums would make a funny movie, wouldn’t you? While there are laugh out loud moments, this is a serious, dark, weird drama.
28) Godzilla – This film is long, Brian Cranston isn’t in it as much as you’d think by seeing the trailer, and unless you’re a geek like me, you might not rate this film as highly. This film takes itself WAY seriously…and it’s a giant dinosaur-thingy fighting an alien looking thingy.
29) Gone Girl – You may find this film so far down as disappointing. I liked it. I just thought it was really, really long and after the plot twist…well…I can’t talk about it without spoiling the movie. Just…not for me.
30) The Boxtrolls – A city hires a man to exterminate the misunderstood Box Trolls, who also happen to be raising an orphan boy. This stop-animation film by the same people who created Wallace & Gromit is absolutely fantastic. I can’t remember a year where all four of the animated films I saw were as good as this year.
31) Million Dollar Arm – A fun Disney story about two Indian boys plucked out of their comfortable surroundings to try and pitch in the United States. Like many of these formulaic movies, it’s a “based on true events” story.
32) Love Actually (Netflix) – I was looking for a good Christmas movie, and Shannon McLay (Budget Blonde and Martinis & Your Money podcast) delivered. I’m still singing that damned song from the film. I’ll watch this every year.
33) How to Train Your Dragon 2 – I’m down to movie 33 and I’m still rolling through some really good, worthwhile flicks. Not as good as the first, but better than I’d expect a sequel to be about a boy and a dragon.
34) Three Kings (Netflix) – After hearing lots of great reviews of this film, I finally ordered the disc and watched a great story about four guys at the end of the Iraq war who think they might have discovered a huge treasure trove. They decide to take an unauthorized trip to go retrieve it…and get more than they bargained for.
These Films Were Good
35) Skeleton Key (Netflix) – I heard it was scary. It really isn’t (much), but this film does have an absolutely mean twist at the end that I should have seen coming….but didn’t.
36) 22 Jump Street – Reprising their roles as a couple idiot cops, this fearless duo now graduate from high school and hit college. Lots of fun.
37) Bears – John C. Riley’s narration makes this a thrilling ride following a mother trying to fight other bears and adverse conditions to feed her cubs.
38) The Hobbit – The last film in what looks like a money grab by Jackson and the gang.
39) American Masters: Johnny Carson (Netflix) – This documentary is a fascinating look at the late night talk show host. He was charismatic, lonely, tough, weird….what a strange man.
40) Mile, Mile and a Half (Netflix) – I love hikes in the woods. This documentary story is forgettable, but the views are amazing, as a team of people hike the John Muir Trail. This is a great film to play in the background while you’re working.
41) Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible No Good Very Bad Day – I was surprised by this film because there was nothing else playing that we wanted to see, so we took a chance….and won. This was FAR better than I’d expected. If you have a family, it’s a fantastic movie to see with kids.
42) Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I love Marvel films because I know they’re going to wind up squarely in the middle of this list and not lower. ANY Marvel movie will be a decent purchase because you won’t go out thinking it stunk….but unless you’re Guardians of the Galaxy and break the mold, you also aren’t going to be high up my list.
43) Fury – Great film and would have been much higher up the list if the last scene didn’t suck so bad. The lookout spots Germans and runs back to the broken down tank. The Germans must be really, really slow walkers because they don’t show up FOREVER! Then, as characters are dying, the Germans are nice enough to stop firing long enough to have an epic line or two of dialogue. Yuck.
44) Maleficent – What a pretty movie….and a fairly dumb movie. I loved having Don Hahn on our podcast, but I didn’t love or hate his film. I loved the views and the costumes (and thought it should have won the Academy Award for it) and I love the theme song rendition by Lana Del Rey…but the story was forgettable.
45) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – If you hadn’t seen the rest of the films, there was no reason to watch this. I felt like most of the film was spent with characters explaining to me what was going on. The second part needs to be better, but who am I kidding? I’ve watched them all so far so I might as well give them my wallet now.
46) Muppets Most Wanted – Not as good as the first Muppets reboot movie, but still funny with my kind of cornball jokes. I hope they keep these coming!
Films That I Enjoyed But That Had Flaws
47) Get On Up – This movie has one scene I absolutely love. They’re singing Get On Up and it’s the best jam I’ve seen in a movie. The problem? It’s hard to watch a film where you really don’t like the main character.
48) The Restaurateur (Netflix) – I love business best-practices movies. I love watching what Danny Meyer has done in his career. This documentary follows Danny opening a new restaurant and all the work that it entails.
49) Ghost World (Netflix) – Two weird girls (Scarlett Johanssen was in a ton of films I saw this year) who are fairly directionless. One hooks up with a buggy-eyed, over the hill loser played by Steve Buscemi. When a 40-something year old guy is hooking up with an 18 year old, you’re in weird film territory. That said, I enjoyed how quirky this movie was and some of the symbolism. I could talk about the subplots in this movie for hours with you over coffee, if you’d come to Texarkana….
50) Bad Words – I laughed my butt off, out loud. That doesn’t happen much. This movie is so mean, and so wrong, that I enjoyed it. Definitely flawed material and not something I’ll recommend to my parents.
51) The Good Girl (Netflix) – The 2nd film this year where I watch Jake Gyllenhal play a really messed up dude. He’s good at it, but this film is SO depressing that I can’t rank it higher. Jennifer Aniston is great in this film, as she is in most films I’ve seen with her. I still wonder why she gets a (kind of) bad rap in Hollywood.
52) Draft Day – I know. This is a really dumb movie with an obvious plot. I like Kevin Costner. I like football. I like sports movies. I found it to be fun and exciting. You’d probably rank it lower.
53) The Grand Budapest Hotel – Why did this movie win so many Oscars? It’s a disjointed story that you can barely follow…..albeit a very, very pretty story. I felt like all the actors were puppets of the director. Everything is wooden. Nothing feels real. I know it isn’t supposed to feel real, but Wes Anderson (the director) is so over the top that it was lost on me.
54) Charlie Bartlett (Netflix) – Charlie’s trying to be popular by selling drugs at school….and lots more. Worth two hours….but wasn’t worth a movie theater ticket, which is why we didn’t (luckily) see it on the big screen.
55) Non-Stop – Plot holes as big as Jupiter, but MAN is this film fun. Action, excitement and Liam Neeson. I feel bad he’s typecast so he plays the same dude over and over now….but it’s a good character here.
56) The Monuments Men – I had fun in this film, but it’s so campy that it undermines itself. Was it sold wrong to the public through the trailers? I don’t know, but the film just didn’t meet my (high) expectations.
57) The Maze Runner – Sadly, I just didn’t care about the characters. Will they make it out alive? Beats me….I was fairly annoyed to see they were setting up sequels.
58) Dumb and Dumber To – Okay….I had to see this myself and I STILL laugh about some of the really, really dumb scenes. I enjoyed this film, but let’s get real: if you don’t have grade school humor, you might not enjoy this. Plus: Jim Carey just isn’t funny most of the time. Jeff Daniels carries the show.
59) Jack Ryan – I nearly forgot I saw this film. Unmemorable. Decent action scenes. Not horrible.
…and Finally, The Films Where I Took A Bullet For You. These Sucked
60) Night At The Museum – I fell asleep. Enough said?
61) The Giver – Here’s an idea: take a message and a sledgehammer and continually reminding me that I need to “get it.” I hate message movies (see my review of the Butler last year….or better yet, that horrible thing that did to The Great Gatsby).
62) Funny People (Netflix) – Pathetic characters and flawed filmmaking. Am I supposed to like Adam Sandler or hate him? Am I supposed to like Seth Rogan? Why the hell am I watching this? Maybe only because as a red-blooded male, I find Rose Byrne very attractive. Not enough of a reason to sit through two boring hours.
63) Tammy – Yes, winner of the worst film I saw all year award was this dud. Did I laugh? Yes. Was I bored? Most of the movie. The story is pointless and Melissa McCarthy, whom I really enjoy, is incredibly tiring. Stay away.
Movies I Missed But Really Want To Still See
1) Begin Again – I loved Once and this looks to be a similar film.
4) The Trip To Italy – I saw the first road trip movie and loved it. This should be equally slow, beautiful and fun.
7) John Wick
8) Mr. Turner
12) The Babadook
13) Big Eyes
The Joe Awards
Have I done this before? I think not. Here are my top awards in each of the main Academy Award categories.
Best film: The Imitation Game
Best Actress: I realized just now, different than most years, I didn’t see many films with a strong female lead. That’s why my winner appears WAY down my list: Kristen Wiig in Skeleton Twins.
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper. He’s never been better. I believed him the entire film.
Best Supporting Actress: Rosario Dawson, Top 5
Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons, Whiplash
Best Animated Film: Big Hero 6
Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman. I know….I didn’t love the film, but the influence of the director was really strong and the reason it actually wasn’t lower down my list. From the idea to make the movie appear as if it was one long take, the swirling nature of the camera angles to reflect the mood of the film….excellent direction.
Okay….that’s mine. What’s your favorite films? ….or, as we do every year, feel free to rip mine in the comments below.