In a big, bustling, and highly lucrative industry like Hollywood, the only thing more fun than getting paid is getting an award. In honor of the shallow need of over-praise and the genuinely awesome work of various actors and directors, I give you my movie superlatives of 2014.
Most Changed Since Freshman Year
Unless you’re a fan of TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” you probably can’t really remember anything that Chris Pratt was in prior to the ultra-sculpted physique he turned out for 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. But with the epic year this guy has had and all of the epic years he likely has yet to come, if you don’t know the name Chris Pratt then you should unquestionably learn it. This guy is going to become a true A-List movie star in no time at all, and the films he was in this year are a true indication of that notion. First came the fun-for-all-ages animated film The LEGO Movie in which Pratt is the voice of Emmet, a loveable moron who is destined to save his little Lego universe. Then came Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, where Pratt played Peter Quill aka Star Lord, the leader of a band of misfits out to save the real universe from a glowering alien villain named Ronan. This guy seems to be saving the universe a lot, right? This guy has come such a long way and is so entertaining to boot that I promise to watch any movie where he saves the universe and then some (which of course means I’ll be first in line for Jurassic World next summer!)
Most Athletic/ Most Fashionable
Baby Boomers really love the saying, “Age is only a number.” Well, considering how good action movies starring actors fifty and over are nowadays, that bit of wisdom may qualify for being set in stone. Not only have these aged gentleman done a superb job kicking lots of on-screen ass but they also have been raking in the box-office dough while still maintaining the sexy older guy look. First there was Tom Cruise in the stupidly titled albeit criminally under-seen time-warp adventure Edge of Tomorrow; if you don’t think that Cruise has proven his clout as a profoundly talented action star, then there’s probably no way he could ever convince you. Then came Liam Neeson who continued to rock with badass swagger in the stupidly fun Non-Stop as well as the grim-but-awesome A Walk Among the Tombstones. Denzel Washington took on the role of an angry and bloodthirsty former super assassin out for justice in The Equalizer – if you’re looking for a good, mindless movie with tons of excellently gratuitous killing, then you need to jump on this movie. And lastly there’s the comeback dude Keanu Reeves playing the title role in John Wick, which has basically the same plot as The Equalizer, only with more playfulness and intrigue; it is hands down Reeves’s best work since he made The Matrix. Honestly, who needs youth if you can be anyone of these guys?
Comedy is hard – so why is that whenever someone is able to execute a truly brilliant comedic performance that next to no one, least of all the bigwigs who run all of the major award shows, ever gives these actors the praise they deserve? All in all, 2014 was a generally lackluster year for the comedy genre, but all that means is that what was great was just that much greater. One film that stands out in particular is certainly Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. With Anderson’s penchant for his own oddly self-contained aesthetics and his devil-may-care attitude towards the esoteric nature of his body of work, it’s hard to pick out movies from his filmography that are objectively enjoyable. For a short while, the Anderson film that fir this description the best was his adorable child-romance Moonrise Kingdom, but I now firmly believe that Grand Budapest now securely holds the top honor of being the writer/director’s most enjoyable and accessible film. Plenty of elements contribute to this, but most of all is the usually villainous Ralph Fiennes as the concierge Monsieur Gustave H. If you can’t find at least the appreciation for how sharply Fiennes is able to deliver his wildly-elaborate dialogue or even just the wonderfully gonzo nature of the story, then you might want to have yourself checked because you may not have a sense of humor.
Most Likely to Succeed
Movies that encompass darker subject matters are a lot harder to love than your average rom-com… and yet sometimes these movies are so good, driven by something so singularly special that you completely forget that you are rampantly enjoying a film about a lanky sociopath who finds his career calling in freelance filming brutal car crashes, graphic crime scenes, and the like: that’s what its like to watch Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Even though his roles throughout his acting career have varied greatly – from playing naïve doofus Jimmy in Bubble Boy to the emotional disturbed eponymous hero of Donnie Darko to closeted cowboy Jack in Brokeback Mountain – Gyllenhaal has always had that raw talent about him, or at the very least the willingness to really sink his teeth into any part he signs up for. It’s almost impossible to not enjoy any character he inhabits. And then there’s Louis Bloom of Nightcrawler; seeing Gyllenhaal in this role absolutely floored me, there’s no two ways about it. He is astounding. In fact, watching him in this movie was the only instance throughout the entire year when I left the theater thinking, “This guy deserves an Oscar.”
When I first realized as a child that movies were not filmed in consecutive scenes but rather in a jumble of whatever happens to be the most convenient to film at the time according to the shooting schedule, I thought, firstly, that it was silly and secondly, that taking the time to film a movie in the order that it happens would be something to aspire to. If you have any kind of ear to the world of Hollywood, than you probably heard through osmosis about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. The film is an epic (or at least it is technically since its 165 minutes long) about the life of a boy named Mason, whom the audience follows from age five all the way to age eighteen. But the regular method of making a movie about a growing child, that is hiring different actors to play the role at varying stages of maturity, was apparently too easy for Linklater. Instead, the director cast the kindergartener Ellar Coltrane and filmed him sporadically, as well as the rest of the cast, over a period of twelve years. When you read it, it does sound that impressive, but the on-screen effect is magical. Boyhood may very well be not only one of the most creatively conceived films in recent years but also the closest that any filmmaker has ever gotten to capturing real life without making a documentary.
Best All Around
Picking someone to inhabit the crowning superlative of Best All Around is a tough place to be in, but sometimes there is a person who does so well that the job is pretty much done for you. With Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Snowpiercer being two of the best movies of 2014, picking Chris Evans as the Best All Around was that simple. If he didn’t convince you that Steve Rogers might in fact be the coolest superhero out of the Avengers then he definitely has you believing he was a dyed-in-the-wool everyman-revolutionary with some real dramatic acting chops in Joon-ho Bong’s dystopian locomotive thriller. These two movies were a sublime breath of fresh air and as Evans just so happens to be the beating heart of them both, I think that earns his the title of “The Best” in spades. If you haven’t seen either of these movies yet, then I only have one question for you: why are you still reading this?