Looking back at the year and what movies and this blog meant to me.
I’ve never done a year in review post before, and 2014 is a good time to start because it turned out to be a really unexpectedly nice one for me movie- and blog-wise, and now that it’s almost over, I wanted to share something personal that made my blog what it was in 2014 and made all the movie stuff especially important and rewarding.
I had another busy year running a business in construction, but my bigger role for the past few years has been as a caregiver for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and dealing with the challenges of that brutal and destructive disease. It makes you, the caregiver, learn new ways to do and think about practically everything that goes on in the course of a day, while trying to find the purpose, the lighthearted and the positive in every situation. It’s one of the hardest and most important things you’ll ever do, you get used to a lot, and you grow a lot too; the saying “pressure makes diamonds” comes to my mind often. It makes you grateful for the smallest of joys, lessons and accomplishments, and there are always those, and it also makes you learn somehow to accept big losses as you watch someone you love, the biggest movie fan you ever knew, disappear bit by bit.
In a year like that there are a lot of times when movie watching and blogging can seem unimportant, unnecessary or even selfish, and that’s exactly when you most need to make time for them (or any other kind of “selfish” fun activity). A movie count might seem like a little number in terms of significance, and it is less than I used to watch, but it’s also a huge number because it represents all the days that I made and kept that appointment with myself, to do something I enjoy, and that I especially did it on days when I didn’t feel like it. After most of 2013 when I didn’t make that time, it’s now a great habit again that pays me back with much needed fun, escape, renewal and insight. I got a lot of good out of watching and writing, sticking to a regular blog schedule, from exchanges and interaction with friends new and old in the blogosphere, and from co-hosting two awesome blogathons. I’m really happy and proud I made all that part of my year too.
This year I watched 278 movies, mostly classics and action films with strong characters, heroes, fighters and survivors. People like Monty Woolley in The Pied Piper who never asks to get stuck with a huge responsibility but surprises even himself when he takes care of it, like Daniel Bruhl in Rush who overcomes seemingly insurmountable trauma and even teaches his rival a thing or two about life. People like Iko Uwais in The Raid movies who fights his way through anything anytime anywhere, guided by dedication to justice and love of family, like Tye Sheridan in Mud who faces a confusing and volatile adolescence with a cool head and optimism, like Jason Robards in The Ballad of Cable Hogue who through sheer faith and willpower finds water and happiness where there wasn’t any, and like Messrs. Connery and Caine in The Man Who Would be King who think they’re in it for fun and profit but learn it’s bravery that’s their most valuable asset. I went for movies that reinforced what life wants to teach me: when things aren’t pretty, make it work, get back up, keep fighting and stay positive, you’re a lot stronger than you think. Not everything has to be profound though, and it was also a year of fun and escapism with some of my favourite people: detectives, sleuths, spies, gangsters, superheroes, monsters, ghosts, slashers, swashbucklers, creepy crawlies, aliens, giant robots and kaiju.
It was a year of some firsts and milestones here at the blog:
I was welcomed as a member of the Classic Movie Blog Association
First time on a talk show, as a guest on Hollywood Time Machine
Helped celebrate The Dark Pages’ 10 years of publication, and am proud to say that except for the first couple issues I’ve been contributing for all that time. Click this tag to see those issues and more
Did my first videos for the blog
My 2014 Classic discoveries:
(I won’t say too much about these since they have full reviews linked.)
The Pied Piper was a wonderful WW2 picture with Monty Woolley and Roddy McDowall.
For the Defense had William Powell and Kay Francis complicating each others’ lives.
Hazard, with Paulette Goddard trying to dodge Macdonald Carey was great fun.
So was Beauty and the Boss with Warren William as a wolfish employer suddenly smitten with his suddenly glamourous secretary Marian Marsh, who was amazing and a big discovery.
Man Hunt with George Sanders and Walter Pidgeon added to my Fritz Lang admiration.
The Last Hunt was one of Robert Taylor’s greatest performances.
Murder on Monday aka Home at Seven was a tight British amnesia thriller.
Monte Walsh had Lee Marvin as an aging cowboy trying to survive and find love in a vanishing West (I rewatched 2 more favourites of Marvin’s this year).
Many discoveries came out of the Monthly Mad Challenge project with Mike’s Take on the Movies. I liked every movie he picked for me, and you can see them all here.
I didn’t review The Yakuza, a tangled love story with a culture clash and one of Robert Mitchum’s finest performances. Very likely to rewatch and review soon.
I started exploring and really enjoying Eurocrime and Giallo: Battle of the Godfathers, The Master Touch, Milano Calibro 9, Il Boss, La Mala Ordina, The Killers are our Guests, The Fifth Cord, and Street Law.
Some more that I liked:
Classic Re-watches and rediscoveries:
The Man Who Would be King I love more every time I watch it.
Yvonne De Carlo was the woman with the most posts and readers here this year; after I rewatched Criss Cross and saw her in Sea Devils, I wrote a bio on her as part of the O Canada event, and here’s her gallery.
The Man Who Never Was was a fine espionage picture.
I had fun tearing apart No Orchids for Miss Blandish, but I always say “your mileage may vary,” so it’s well worth checking out, you’re certain to be entertained.
My Darling Clementine, such a deceptively simple film, intricate and powerful. I rewatched it three times in a row.
On to the newer movies, which I’ll say more about since I never reviewed them in posts:
Actors (that aren’t 007 or X-Men, more on those later) I saw in 3 or more movies were Liam Neeson, Michael Shannon, Brad Pitt, Sylvester Stallone, and one of my faves Colin Farrell.
I discovered the fighting phenom that is Gina Carano in Haywire, Fast & Furious 6, and In the Blood, not the greatest actress but an outstanding female action hero. Noomi Rapace popped up in 7 movies, including the Girl/Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Sharni Vinson I have to mention for being one of the most indestructible heroines I’ve ever seen, in a horror movie I otherwise didn’t love, You’re Next. Speaking of horror “final girls,” a movie I do love and gushed about this year is Scream.
It’s rare for me to not finish a movie; I stick with the worst of them all the way through, even if I fast forward a lot, but Killer Joe I found so offensive that I fast forwarded and then bailed after 15 minutes. I somehow made it through all of The Counselor, mainly to find out what happens to Brad Pitt (it’s not pretty), and I needed some eye bleach after the…thing…with Cameron Diaz and the Ferrari.
The Raid and The Raid 2 were the best action movies I’ve seen in a long time. Iko Uwais is a Grade A, real and likeable hero who gets hurt and beaten but gets back up to do even more unbelievable things, and these movies don’t let up for a second. The first Raid was a claustrophobic Die Hard/martial arts mashup with insanely choreographed (and very bloody, gory and violent, be warned) fight scenes, while the sequel took Uwais undercover and all over Jakarta on an epic scale involving years of prison time, messy mob family drama and gang warfare.
Ip Man was inspiring, a classy, touching and exciting martial arts biopic done in classic studio style.
Solomon Kane was an excellent sword and sorcery swashbuckler starring James Purefoy.
Rush was Ron Howard’s excellent biopic of rival Formula 1 drivers and their love-hate relationship. The playboy vs. the perfectionist, with gorgeous cinematography, great acting and character development, tight suspense and thrilling racing scenes.
Pacific Rim was nothing special storywise, but it was visually amazing, the only movie this year I watched (and immediately rewatched) with a childhood sense of wonder at those massive, jawdropping FX, and towering robots battling giant monsters.
Mud was the big surprise, an atmospheric Southern coming of age tale with fine acting, style and substance, comparable in feel and impact to a 1950’s western crossed with a Mark Twain story.
By far the actors I saw the most this year were those that played James Bond or X-Men.
In August and September I rewatched all but 2 of the 007 movies and it rearranged my ranking of fave films and Bonds. I might do a big post when I finish those last couple.
I grew up reading X-Men (and Superman) so X movies are my comfort food, even the bad ones. I rewatched them all in 2014 (but have yet to see Days of Future Past, my expectations are so high I keep delaying) and usually go out of my way to follow most X actors. I’m a huge Famke Janssen fan so I checked out her indie films A Fighting Man, Down the Shore and even the dull The Chameleon, all show what a talent she is, plus she wrote and directed a screwball/drama Bringing up Bobby. Hugh Jackman I like in anything but he was great as the tortured father in Prisoners. Michael Fassbender was brilliant in Prometheus, and solid in The Counselor (which I hated) and the poor guy got all the dashing and handsome stuffing beaten out of him in Haywire (along with every other big name actor in that movie). James McAvoy was very good in The Last King of Scotland, and in a couple mediocre crime movies, Welcome to the Punch and Trance.
On a technical note, the film diary page became an unwieldy mess to update the longer it got, so what I’ll probably do this year is a weekly roundup of movies watched that don’t get their own review post, which means you’ll be seeing more modern films covered.
That was my 2014. Thanks for reading about it, and many thanks to everyone who stops by here this past year to read, comment, like and share, I appreciate you taking that time, and wish you all a 2015 full of health, happiness and success, new challenges and opportunities, and another year of enjoying, discovering and talking movies.