Just over two months ago, I lamented the fact that 2014 was shaping up to be a poor year for movie quality. In fact, 2014 was churning out much stronger drama on television than at the movies. But, as Rustin Cohle noted, without time, nothing grows, nothing changes.
And time changed the entertainment landscape. Gone were “True Detective,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Leftovers,” and “Mad Men.” In their place? “Saved by the Bell: The Unauthorized Story” and a plethora of fall TV offerings that looked mediocre at best. And the best drama? Back to where we expected it: the big screen.
It all started with “The Skeleton Twins.”* Despite the fact that it has some hilarious moments, the movie is grounded in some very real drama. It certainly won’t win the Oscar for best movie ever made, but I enjoyed it immensely, and was also relieved to see a movie actually live up to its hype. Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, and especially Bill Hader are all fantastic, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this movie nab a screenwriting award, at the least.
*Note: I’m not someone who was very taken with “Boyhood,” but you could argue that was the first great drama of the year.
Then came the cultural shockwave that is “Gone Girl.” There are so many things that I can say about “Gone Girl”: how it seamlessly blends horror, mystery and drama; how it interestingly addresses themes of media, violence, romance, and public perception vs. private reality; how good the performances of Baffleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit and Carrie Coon are; and how it 100% feels like a David Fincher movie, but is still true to the source material.
And yesterday, I saw “Birdman.” I can’t praise this movie enough. I’m far from a professional critic, but I’ve certainly seen enough to recognize greatness. (Or as Dwight Schrute would say, “I know everything about film. I’ve seen over 240 of them.) This movie has everything: incredibly strong performances from Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifinakis, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and especially Edward Norton; a unique and fascinating visual style that make the movie seem like one long, uninterrupted cut; and a plot chock-full of themes like redemption, the craving of publicity, and the distinction between respect, fame and adoration. “Birdman” doesn’t feel like any other movie I’ve seen, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The most exciting thing is that there is a strong possibility for a lot of good films to follow. “Unbroken” from Angelina Jolie looks fantastic:
Eddie Redmayne looks like he gives a career-making performance in “The Theory of Everything”:
Steve Carell looks unrecognizable, and the movie has a very creepy vibe (and true-story basis), but “Foxcatcher” looks like it will be a great film:
The McConaissance was clearly not meant to be confined to Earth itself, and as my friend Nathan said, “If you combine McConaughey, Christopher Nolan, and space, I’ll be there.” Plus, the return of Wes Bentley! And let’s be honest, McConaughey was driving space-ships long before he was paid to.
Despite the fact that I think Edward Norton should win all the awards for supporting actor for “Birdman,” J.K. Simmons (my favorite J. Jonah Jameson) is getting a lot of Oscar buzz for his role in “Whiplash”:
Now, who’s to say that all of these movies will ultimately be good? Certainly some will fail to meet expectations. But, on paper alone, this winter is shaping up to be quite a good crop of awards-worthy movies and performances. And really, that’s all you can ask for. Besides, with what’s on TV these days, audiences deserve good entertainment from somewhere.
What movies are you most excited to see? Any obvious awards contender I forgot to mention? Feel free to let me know in the comments.