Year in Review – 2014

It’s that time again!  That time of the year with article upon article “reviewing” the year.  Usually this means telling us about things we already know, things we wish we would have forgotten, and thing we really, really wish we would have forgotten.  Anyway, like last year, let’s have a little fun with this played out, silly, and arbitrary concept:

2014 Was a Good Year to be:

1. Michael Bay

Sure Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)  made less money domestically than its predecessors – but it still made dumptrucks filled with cash.  Kudos to Michael Bay, showing everyone that he can get us to open our wallets for a film that looks like it was edited by Ed Wood, panders to autocratic governments, and spends more time explaining why an underage relationship is legal than it does explaining its ridiculous plot.

Then again we have Optimus Prime riding a robot dinosaur for about five minutes.  If you wager that seeing that spectacle is worth spending almost 3 hours of your life on the rest of this movie – Mr. Bay will thank you with an inevitable “Transformers 5 – Optimus Prime Rides a Giant Robot Bird for Some Reason.”

2. A Lazy Hollywood Screenwriter

It’s truly the golden age for the lazy screenwriter – one that may never end.  No, I’m serious – have you seen Hollywood’s release schedule for the next five years?  It’s wall to wall sequels and comic book movies.

This puts a lot less pressure on screenwriters to come up with anything even remotely resembling a creative thought or concept.  Why bother when you can just reboot the franchise and have Spiderman fight the Green Goblin for the twentieth time?  Throw in the occasional adaptation of a bestselling pulp novel like “Gone Girl” and the original screenplay starts to look like a dinosaur – and not the robot kind you can ride either.

3. A British Director, Actor, or Producer

Thinking that American cinema has gone to the dogs – robot or otherwise?  Have no fear intrepid filmgoer, for the British cinema has your back.  If The Imitation Game (2014) or The Theory of Everything (2014) wins Best Picture at the Oscars, 4 of the last 7 Best Picture winners will have been British productions (the other three being Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The King’s Speech (2010), and 12 Years a Slave (2013) for those keeping score).

Of course this also means that we should get ready for a lot more movies about British history.  The British seem to make many more historical period pieces than Hollywood does (Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) doesn’t count).  As for American history, the Western has been drawing nothing but aces and eights (the dead man’s hand) for years,  there have been so many American World War II movies that they are starting to blend together (Saving the Longest Inglorius Fury), and Hollywood seems to think that these are the only things that happened in America’s past (the occasional biopic notwithstanding).  But I digress – cheers to our new British cinema overlords!

2014 Was a Bad Year to Be

1. Sony

The Interview (2014) debacle may have turned around in Sony’s favor – turning a potential flop into a hit because America! – but it never looks all that great when a company with $77 billion dollars in annual revenue cows to a country with a $12 billion dollar GDP.  Yes, Sony could buy North Korea if it were for sale.

But really, did we need an inferior re-boot of Spider Man with an even more inferior sequel?  Sony needs to keep pumping out mediocre Spider Man fare to keep its license to the character, but what’s good for whatever Sony is (does Sony even have a mascot?  Sackboy maybe?) isn’t always good for real, actual people.

2. A Sequel

But how can I say that it was a great year for the writers of sequels, especially the lazy ones, but it was a bad year for the actual movies?  The Year in Review Article is indeed a fickle mistress.  Let’s look at cold hard cash first – almost every sequel released this year made less money than its predecessor.  Some performed atrociously when looked at in context of their budgets (The Amazing Spider Man 2 (2104), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)).

It’s about to get worse too.  Hollywood is about to shove hundreds of sequels and comic book movies into our multiplexes and living rooms whether we want them or not.  I mean, c’mon, does anyone really want to see a stand alone Aquaman movie or another Avatar movie?  Hollywood thinks you do!

3. Cecil B. DeMille

Who is Cecil B. DeMille, you might ask?  Why he’s the long dead early Hollywood director and mogul responsible for The Ten Commandments (1956), Sampson and Delilah (1949), and King of Kings (1927).  He pioneered the concept of the epic Bible film.  That sound you hear in Hollywood Forever Cemetery?  That’s DeMille’s skeleton rolling over in its grave.

First, Russel Crowe as Noah.  Second, Christian Bale as Moses.  Noah was not Maximus and Moses was not Batman.  Besides, even if that were the case, it’s totally unfair because Jesus would have to be Superman and Christopher Reeve is no longer with us.  Actually that doesn’t make sense either, but I’m sure an awkward pastor somewhere in America has used all three of these bizarre analogies in a cringe-worthy sermon.

Scenes from the Great Alehouse in the Sky
  1. The Chalkboard at the Front Reads: Tonight we have a charity standup comedy marathon featuring Joan Rivers, Sid Caesar, and Robin Williams. Later this week, a new play featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ruby Dee.  Mickey Rooney is the guest Master of Ceremonies all this month.  Richard Attenborough is up next.
  2. At the Bar we see: Shirley Temple Black ordering a Shirley Temple, then changing her mind at the behest of Lauren Bacall.  After all, Ms. Bacall reminds her, diplomats of Ms. Temple Black’s stature deserve drinks as tough as they are.
  3. At the Director’s Table in the Back: Mike Nichols and Harold Ramis are discussing their next films.  Both have roles for Eli Wallach if he’s interested.  Meanwhile, Alain Resnais has his camera, and this whole scene reminds of him of last year at Marienbad.

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe