Taken as a whole, Hollywood's cinematic output seems to get more asinine with each passing year but there are always the exceptions that prove the rule.
As a smaller market, Whistler misses out on a lot of obscure or independent hits, so this list of the Best of 2014 is anything but conclusive. Part 2 will run next week.
Best Movie That Never Got Made
Jodorowsky's Dune: In 1975 Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) began the process of adapting Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel DUNE for the screen. A cinematic artist in the truest sense, Jodorowsky assembled a dream team of 20th-century talent for the film, including Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd, HR Giger and Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Jodorowsky's Dune is a 2014 documentary about the film that was ultimately never made, but the astonishing part is just how many of the ideas and visuals in Jodorowsky's stunning storyboards ended up sci-fi classics that came afterward.
Best Flick You Never Heard Of
Dear White People: When discussing "post-racial America," filmmaker Justin Simien has plenty to say, and he knows the media is part of the problem. Set in an Ivy League school, Dear White People is a ballsy film about identity and ideology that uses humour and a talented cast led by Tessa Thompson to examine racial tension (both historical and contemporary) without getting too judgmental or preachy. Pitch perfect satire, this one is worth seeking out.
Guardians of the Galaxy: I didn't have high expectations for this super-powered space opera from Marvel Studios, but the snappy one-liners, recurring verbal gags and back-and-forth repartee between properly realized characters really highlighted how strong the writing was. The talking tree has a vocabulary of only three words total and still manages to outshine many of the cookie cutter heroes of late. Screenwriting classes should start by deconstructing the script of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Best Canadian Flick
Wild: stars Reese Witherspoon in one of the year's most complex roles as a woman finding herself on the Pacific Crest Trail. This one showcases the power nature has to inspire and heal. Themes that hit home that much harder in a place like Whistler. Canadian director Jean-Marc Valee creates a rock'n'roll road movie with no road and dishes up a strong female-driven film in an industry far too male-dominated.
Maps to the Stars: Not only is it Canadian (and made by legendary David Cronenburg), Maps to the Stars also pokes fun at America, particularly Hollywood's self-destructive celebrity obsessed culture. This one is a rollicking mix of subplots and cheap shots, but the wit of the script and the talent of the cast elevates it, particularly Julianne Moore.
A Million Ways to Die in the West: Part of the genius of Seth MacFarlane (Ted, Family Guy) is how he disguises his intelligence with low-brow ridiculousness. On the surface this is the most improbably stupid Western ever. Pay attention, however, and it's a history lesson of carefully researched details delivered as a snap-fast comedic tour de force. Most critics hated this one, but for a night at home with the bong there was nothing better in 2014.
Best Teeny Bopper Flick
The Fault in Our Stars: The acting shines the most but it's still a touching and funny film about young love, the pains of growing up, and the inevitability of death. Plus, everything from movie theatre popcorn "butter" to our cell phones is probably giving us cancer these days so we may as well get the kids used to it.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: also rules because we need the kids to be thinking revolution too. And Jennifer Lawrence is the bee's knees.
Best Role (female)
Angelina Jolie carried the picture in Maleficent, adding complexity to a character ingrained in our culture. That flick wasn't half bad actually, especially if you are a 30+ year-old with a faerie tattoo somewhere on your body.
Best Role (male)
Understand that this is a different category than "Best Actor" and you'll see why I'm giving it to Bill Murray in St. Vincent. Murray would get the lifetime achievement award too except you know he still has more great stuff coming.
To be continued...