Well, the Oscars were yesterday. Did you agree with their picks? There are definitely a few movies that I still need to see– Birdman, Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel, and others. But I figured I could select a few of my favorite films that I’ve seen in the past year– perhaps you’ll like one or two of them too!
I am not as detailed and analytical as my friend Kyle Leaman, who also goes by the name “The Part-Time Critic”– you can read his reviews and writings at KyleLeaman.com. I won’t be giving awards for Best Director or Best Production Design, but guess I’ll have to make up my own categories. Also, I might include a couple movies that I saw in 2014 that weren’t released in 2014.
So without further ado… I present to you… The Ecwers (ECW= My Initials, -ers instead of -ars because Ecwars sounds like some foreign historical battle campaign, Ecwers because it sounds like Oscars [sort of], pronounced “Eck-wurz”)
Enjoy playing the video clips to add a little music to your reading experience!
Favorite Original Song: “Everything is Awesome”
The perfect song to get you pumped up for a movie, a jog, or just about anything. It really encapsulates everything AWESOME about The Lego Movie.
Favorite Biopic: Ragamuffin
I was looking forward to this movie based on the life of Rich Mullins since 2011, when their Kickstarter was first launched. It died, but fortunately the film didn’t die. There are certainly some dry moments and cringe moments (the actor that plays Rich sings JUST like him, but looks odd and isn’t that great), but it is a truly emotional story that makes me cry each time I see it.
The Retcon Award: X-Men: Days of Future Past
What do you do when you have created a storyline that the fans absolutely hate and you wish you could redo? Send in a time-traveling Wolverine! But seriously, this was a fun overlap of characters from the original trilogy and the newer X-Men films– and an interesting way to change things up!
Favorite Trailer: Guardians of the Galaxy
From the moment I saw this trailer, and then this one, I was so excited for Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, it’s a Marvel movie featuring “Hooked on a Feeling.” What? In the end, it was a funny, silly, yet exciting part of the Marvel Universe with a strange range of characters. “What a bunch of A-Holes…”
Favorite Action Movie: Edge of Tomorrow
This was a fascinating movie. One of those films that has such a fascinating world that you wish the story was a little better. There were some parts I hated, but it was an interesting “Groundhog Day” action movie with “subtle” political commentary.
The “WTF?” Award: Snowpiercer
I have a strong love for the absurd, the weird and wonderful films that take risks and sometimes (often) end up being derided or criticized or just ignored. I mean, my favorite movie ever is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (and according to my best friend Brandon, if you see that film you’ll understand me a lot better…) Well, I watched this with my sister on Netflix one day– and it seriously blew our minds… So bad, so good, so weird, so much fun. It came out in Snowpiercer, but it’s on the list anyway.
Favorite Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton
Tilda Swinton is fantastic, no matter what, but in Snowpiercer, she is so good, it’s absolutely bonkers. She plays a well hated character, yet it isn’t flat or one-note, but has many ludicrous layers and fascinating facets. I mean, you can just ask her who she thinks should win.
“Uh, me. Duh.”
Best Fan Theory: Snowpiercer
Part of the interest in seeing Snowpiercer was this article about the film that I read on io9. The author states that the film has a Gnostic philosophy that is represented in the flow of carriages on the train– as the characters move from car to car it is like a person leaving the physical cage of the body and moving closer to spiritual freedom of the soul. Read it for yourself. After seeing the film, I wasn’t completely sold, but it was still quite fascinating.
Favorite Music: TIE Ragamuffin & Guardians of the Galaxy
First off, Ragamuffin had emotional performances of songs by Rich Mullins by the actor that played Rich– and the man’s voice is so similar to Rich’s voice, it’s almost scary. They made good song choices– and if you wanted more of Rich’s songs to enjoy, they also released an album of some amazing Christian artists (Andrew Peterson, Derek Webb, Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Jars of Clay, and more) covering Rich’s songs. Check it out here.
Guardians of the Galaxy, meanwhile, was all about the music from day one. The trailer with “Hooked on a Feeling” or “Spirit in the Sky” already tells you this isn’t your typical Marvel movie. Then each song in the movie perfectly accentuates each scene, from Peter’s emotional state at the beginning tied to 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” to the comedic, romantic moment on Knowhere between Starlord and Gamora as they listen to “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop to the final dance off to “O-O-H Child” by The Five Stairsteps. The only mistake the team made, in my opinion, was that the album they released “Awesome Mix Vol 1” (songs curated by Starlord’s mom) did not keep the order of the songs as they appeared in the film. I understand the logic and reasoning, but I believe the movement from “I’m Not in Love” to “Spirit in the Sky” (the film’s order) makes much more sense than “Hooked on a Feeling” to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (and technically that last song isn’t even on Awesome Mix Vol 1). So perhaps the filmmakers are better at making mixes than Starlord’s mother– and for that, they get this Ecwer award.
Favorite Animated Movie: Lego Movie
This movie is a perfect blend between so many things. Mix of drama and comedy, general appear and kid focused, animation and live action, interesting characters and captivating plot and mind-blowing universe– and more! But it is an especially fun mix of CGI animation and stop-motion– it looks like stop-motion (and has a few scenes with real Lego bricks), but for the most part it is CGI. Still, it makes the most of the Lego medium with the Lego characters and pieces only moving in ways that actual Lego pieces could move. Plus… it is just SO MUCH FUN.
Favorite Indie Movie: The Kings of Summer
This actually came out in 2013, but I caught it on TV one day– and it is quite interesting. A group of teenagers decide to build a house and live out in the woods. It’s a interesting coming-of-age film with the perfect blend of realism and quirkiness- plus it’s a few unknowns as well as fun performances from Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaly, Moises Arias (Rico from Hannah Montana, and he seriously steals the show) and many other quirky comedians.
The “WHY?” Award: The Giver
I was so excited when I heard they were making this film. I kept faith even when the trailers seem to be… disappointing. I went and finally saw it in the theaters. And… WHY? The filmmakers took a captivating story (that I understand could be hard to film) and made it into another generic Hunger Games/Twilight/Divergent movie. Surely they did it to match the current trend, but in the end it didn’t have the heart of the book. I’m still glad it was made, but it sure could have been better.
Favorite Supporting Actor: Lee Pace
Many movies try to make frightening villains and monsters using CGI these days. Sometimes it works (Lord of the Rings, Troll Hunter) and sometimes it just fails (The Hobbit, Green Lantern). Well, they did use CGI in Guardians, but fortunately they kept their “villains” (Ronan the Accuser, Nebula, Korath, Thanos, Yondu) “human” for the most part– that is, other than makeup and some CGI tweaks, they let the actors sell their characters, not just rely on special effects. Lee Pace’s performance of Ronan is chilling. His voice, his stance, his demeanor all ring true to his character. He is shrouded in mystery, yet you know all you need to know about him– that you should stay out of his way. Which our heroes, of course, ignore.
Favorite Adventure Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy
While Edge of Tomorrow is more of an action film (focusing more on strategy, warfare, and a few characters) I’d characterize Guardians as an adventure film in the line of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. The characters go on a quest to defeat evil– and you get to be there with them along the way.
Favorite Drama: Gone Girl
I saw this movie on a whim one day and left the movie feeling… I don’t know. It was emotionally draining yet heart racing. It kept you on the edge of your seat wondering what was going on in the characters’ minds. I don’t know if I could recommend it– it’s brutally violent at times and rather dark and depressing (not surprising seeing as it is directed by David Fincher). But it is certainly an amazing drama.
Favorite Actress: Rosamund Pike
All in all, the lead actress in Gone Girl makes the film. They did a great job casting Rosamund Pike in the role, and Pike really makes you question whether she is good or bad, demented or depressed, the virtuous victim or the vicarious villain. What do you think the truth is?
The Breathless Award: Interstellar
I made the mistake of seeing this film in IMAX. That usually makes the film experience more immersive and engaging, but it turns out that the sound mix for the IMAX Interstellar had problems form the get-go. I wish I had read reviews beforehand, because apparently the sound mix for the regular film was outstanding, seeing as it was nominated for an Oscar. The IMAX just had too many moments where you couldn’t hear the dialogue, the music felt like it was accidentally too loud, and at times the bass reverberated the walls like train was going by– and all these things were unintentional. Still, the music, the story, the special effects, the characters and the environments created a feeling of claustrophobia, panic, and fear for the entire movie. At the end of the film, I walked to my car and just sat there, unsure of what to think or feel. A real thrilling and chilling experience. Left me breathless.
Favorite Comedy: Lego Movie
So many little jokes, funny characters, sight gags, and fun moments. Could watch this movie again and again.
The “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Award: Europa Report
This movie came out in 2013, but I saw it online last year. It’s a fascinating found footage film of a trip to the Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. It really feels like an actual scientific expedition– except for all the times someone acts just plain stupid. I understand astronauts have to take risks and are driven by curiosity, but there were so many moments where I wanted to scream at the screen, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Seriously, if people remembered to follow protocol and stay safe, a lot less people would have died. Of course, it wouldn’t have been hardly as interesting.
Favorite Actor: Chris Pratt
This really was Chris Pratt’s year. I hope after many great roles (“Parks and Recreation,” Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie) Chris Pratt doesn’t become overused or type cast as the goofy hero. He is a truly captivating actor and seems like a guy you’d just like to hang out with as well.
Hoping that Jurassic World is better than it seems in the trailers…
Or what if they included Star Lord in the next Lego Movie!?!
Favorite Sci-Fi Film: Transcendence
Everyone has geeked out over Interstellar, and I admit I did as well. So perhaps the reason that Transcendence really amazed me was because I didn’t see it coming. This fascinating film explores where things might go if we continue expanding nanotechnology and building our reliance on the cloud. It’s a grim future. But the cast is phenomenal, the plot is enthralling, and the special effects are fantastical. You really should check it out.
Favorite TV Adaptation: Veronica Mars
I also Kickstarted this film, and it was a record breaking project. It was the fastest Kickstarter Project to raise $1 million and fastest to raise $2 million as well– plus it had the highest reached goal. There were other projects that raised more money, but their goals were much lower than Rob Thomas’s goal of $2.5 million. Anyway, Kickstarter aside, this film did an excellent job of mixing TV storylines and new storylines, a little old with a little new. Some of the plot was just plain nostalgia inducing saccharine, but it was also edgier than the TV show, doing things that only a movie could do.
Favorite Film: Guardians of the Galaxy
I saw this movie in the theaters 5 times, my personal record (beating my previous 3 time record of seeing Star Wars Episode II… I was in junior high, don’t blame me). It is a perfect blend of romance, action, comedy, drama, sci-fi, action, adventure, music, comic book adaptation, and more. And it gets even better on multiple viewings, becoming even more enjoyable due to great visuals, subtle jokes, Easter eggs, character performances, and plenty more.
This movie expanded the Marvel Universe both geographically (cosmologically?) and thematically. We discover more alien worlds and races and histories and we discover that a comic book movie can be both hilarious and substantive. Yes, other Marvel movies have been funny at times, but they’ve been action first, comedy/drama/romance second. This film is unapologetic of its comedic ethos, in fact, as you see in the trailers, it becomes a major selling point. I just can’t wait until the Guardians meet the Avengers– and now Spider Man will get involved too! What an amazing time we live in that a movie studio can create a multi-film universe that takes at least 15 years to tell one major story (The Infinity Gauntlet) with dozens of other interesting plots and subplots. If only we could bring in Abbott and Costello too!
The “Penguin” Award: Penguins of Madagascar
So, if you watch the clip above, you’ll discover that Benedict Cumberbatch can’t say the word “penguin.” So who do the makers of Penguins of Madagascar choose to play a hero wolf spy in the film? Benedict Cumberbatch. This clip doesn’t do justice to how he mutilates the word “penguin” throughout the film, but it’s still pretty funny. See it for yourself!
So those are the 2014 Ecwers. We’ll see if I remember to do it again next year! What are your favorites from 2014?