Hollywood’s Honor Roll of 2014

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First Posted: 12/23/2014

This isn’t a list of the best films of 2014, but one of the movies I personally enjoyed. Some were good, some were bad, but all were entertaining.

So, stay sweet and have a neat summer because these movies were 2 Good 2 Be 4 Got 8 (Is that how that works? Nobody liked me in high school. Or now.)

Incidentally films like “The Missing Picture” and “The Immigrant” would’ve made this list but I didn’t see them. The theater I frequent needed five theaters to show “Transformers: Planet of the Earth” – or whatever it was called – to accommodate all the people who struggled under the delusion they were required to sit through a “Transformers” sequel.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” didn’t make the list but it did make my top ten of grating acts of intense tween-ness that caused me to vomit the complete inventory of an Etsy storefront all over Ira Glass’ smirking, bespectacled face. It’s number one!

Lucy: All you Neil deGrasse Tysons can save your gross, fishy breath. I’m aware that “Lucy’s” premise is based on a lie. Who really cares there is no evidence we only use 10 percent of our brains or that our brain functions can be increased? Why is cold, hard scientific fact required in a movie where Scarlett Johansson shoots a man on an operating table and then wistfully reminisces over the taste of her mother’s breast milk? Is peer review data a necessity in a movie where Johansson sprouts tentacles and starts absorbing ‘technology’ into her body? Why can’t all of you grating pedants turn off 10 percent of your brain and enjoy something for once. Jeepers Creepers.

Noah: Out of all of the terrible faith-based movies released this year, “Noah” was one of them. Unlike “Exodus: Gods and Kings” or “Heaven is For Real”, “Noah” was neither an unwatchable slog nor the filmic equivalent to a “God Don’t Make No Junk” T-shirt.

“Noah” was Old Testament fan-fiction written by the bad, bad ghosts living inside Darren Aronofsky’s brain. Taking place in a world where armadillo wolf-dogs and Neo-Tolkien rock monsters intermingle and co-exist, “Noah” earns points for its decision to depict Noah as neurotic sociopath who thinks God is mad at him because he isn’t killing enough people.

Labor Day: If the Hallmark channel started making pornography specifically for the sad, unmarried aunts that comprise its audience, something very similar to “Labor Day” would be the end result. “Labor Day” is pure hypnotic garbage that is so achingly sincere and earnest it never realizes how icky it is for a son to give his mother a book of “husband for a day” coupons only to later regret that he could never give his mother the “one thing she truly needs.” Nor does it have the self-awareness to comprehend there’s nothing particularly sexy about soft focus shots of Josh Brolin erotically squishing peaches into pie filling.

Inherent Vice: Even if “Inherent Vice” turned out to be an unwatchable flop, it still would have made this list by virtue it was adapted from one of Thomas Pynchon’s notoriously inadaptable novels. Luckily, “Inherent Vice” became an unprecedented success. A quasi-prequel to director Paul Thomas Anderson’s own “Boogie Nights” and an eccentric throwback to the quirky neo-noirs of Robert Altman, “Inherent Vice” boasts an oddball supporting cast including Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and Reese Witherspoon. The best performance comes from Joaquin Phoenix whose collection of glassy-eyed tics caused me to devolve into a puddle of cringes and regret.

Kung Fu Elliot: A criminally overlooked documentary that deserves a much wider audience. Elliot “White Lightning” Scott is a Canadian kickboxing champion and his low budget epic, “Blood Fight” is a “classic ‘70s style” martial arts film. In reality, Scott is a delusional idiot with sociopathic tendencies who’s pinning all of his unrealistic hopes and dreams on a micro-budgeted action movie that wouldn’t get more than 50 views on Youtube. Although it frequently plays like “American Movie” if it was a Christopher Guest comedy, “Kung Fu Elliot” is not a mockumentary. It is, however, a funny but all too poignant portrait of a pathological man who’s undone by egregious self-deception.

The Congress: If you can’t make a good film, make a weird film. It’s a credo Richard Kelly has abided throughout his career. “Waltz with Bashir’s” Ari Folman has started applying it to his own projects. “The Congress’s” ponderous, ham-fisted stance on the entertainment industry, aging in Hollywood and fancy zeppelins will cause you to roll your eyes so hard, both retinas will detach. The film is stuffed with surreal Fleischer Bros. inspired imagery such as gas mask-wearing banditos riding skeletal horses, a whale-like serpent emerging from a neon colored sea, armies of glowering Robin Wright clones in dystopian glam-rock attire and an elderly Tom Cruise. I can’t say this is a good film but it is very weird and sometimes, that’s enough.

They Came Together: In spite of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer’s best efforts to kill off the parody subgenre with their “Movie” movies, David Wain’s “They Came Together” reminds that spoof movies were actually made to make people laugh. In the film, Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler regale a clearly disinterested couple with the story of how they met. Along the way we’re treated to bizarre sight gags (glowering Law & Order: SVU alumnus Christopher Meloni can’t figure out how to poop while wearing a Halloween costume), stylized dialogue and a romantic montage that slowly morphs into a smug behind the scenes look at the making of a Norah Jones video. Although it rarely hits the heights of Wain’s modern classic “Wet, Hot American Summer”, it is still an effective comedy that joyfully spits on the grave of Nora Ephron.

Force Majuere: What if Michael Haneke directed that episode of “Seinfeld” where George panics during a fire and pushes a few women, children and old ladies as he awkwardly makes his escape? You’d get “Force Majuere” an achingly bleak comedy where a father quickly abandons his family during a skiing trip when he believes an avalanche is on the way. When the threat is revealed as a false alarm, dark chuckles abound as Dad repeatedly denies what happened and struggles to pick up the pieces of his shattered masculinity. “Force Majuere” mines disquieting laughs from this horrible situation and manages the dissolution of an average upper-middle class family slightly more hilarious than it already is.

Jodorowsky’s Dune: In an alternate universe, there’s a version of “Dune” where Mick Jagger plays a hermaphrodite, Orson Welles travels around on “anti-gravitational bubbles” inside a castle that’s designed to look like him and Salvador Dali lives on a planet made of gold and hangs around with a robot version of himself. However, that version of “Dune” still remains unmade. But, as a consolation prize we have “Jodorowsky’s Dune” a fascinating documentary that reveals the making and unmaking of the greatest cult movie we’ll never get to see. Worth watching just for the stories in which Alejandro Jodorowsky – the director behind the unrealized version of “Dune” – basically coerced Welles to appear in his movie by leading the morbidly obese Renaissance man to the set with a turkey leg tied to a stick. Incidentally, that’s less of an exaggeration than you think.