2014 in Review

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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 as a guest on a full podcast, the Forgotten Filmcast, episode 42, discussing Fritz Lang’s Man Hunt

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First time on a talk show, as a guest on Hollywood Time Machine

Co-hosted 2 amazing blogathons celebrating Movie Villains and Canada in Film (Thanks if you took part, please join up in ‘15)

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

Saw my first classic movies in a theater

Did my first videos for the blog 

Contributed a list of favourite mystery movies to Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

 

My 2014 Classic discoveries:

(I won’t say too much about these since they have full reviews linked.)

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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.

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Loved the Quatermass trilogy: The Quatermass Xperiment, Quatermass 2, Quatermass & the Pit.

Hazard, with Paulette Goddard trying to dodge Macdonald Carey was great fun.

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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.

Stanley Baker was awesome in Hell Drivers and The Criminal.

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.

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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.

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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:

In scifi/ monsters/ horror, I loved Caltiki The Immortal Monster, The Maze, Planet of the Vampires, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Eyes Without a Face

In comedy: The Lavender Hill MobSpider Baby

In suspense: Count Five and Die, Time Table, And Then There Were None

Classic Re-watches and rediscoveries:

The Man Who Would be King I love more every time I watch it.

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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.

a Joel McCrea double feature: The Most Dangerous Game for top notch action and The Richest Girl in the World for the romantic comedy.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

carole

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20 thoughts on “2014 in Review”

  1. A fascinating peek into your year, Kristina. Having read that, I have to say I’m even more impressed by the work you’ve put into your site considering all the other stuff going on in your life.
    Wishing you a healthy, happy and productive 2015.

    1. The more the blog is a fun break, a bit of therapy, even, the less like work it is. Which is the reason I even went into it, to say how you can find that boost and much to celebrate no matter how tough things can get, and we all have something. Thanks for reading, Colin, I appreciate the wishes and same to you!

  2. Great post! I am so sorry to hear about your mother, I can understand how difficult that can be my Nanna suffered with Alzheimers and it is the worst thing watching them slip away. I have some films now that still watch because we enjoyed them together.

    1. Thank you, it’s something that touches so many of us, sadly a very common thing, but we can learn a lot, and you are so right, when you can share something like movies you get even more special memories that last. Thanks and Happy New Year.

  3. What a lot you’ve managed to achieve in 2014, Kristina: I’m awed not just by the fact that you’ve succeeded in but that you’ve given us all so much cheerfulness through what must have been very difficult times. I’ve found great joy in reading your blog through 2014; many thanks. All the very best to you for 2015 and beyond.

    1. And I’ve really appreciated and had fun getting to know you as well. Thanks for the kind words and that was my point, we all can and should find positivity and fun when things seem tough, and movies are one good way into that. It tends to build on itself after you find and feed it. Cheers and here’s to a wonderful year ahead for you and yours.

  4. As one who has gotten to know you I must say that I find it amazing you can accomplish as much as you do having visited and met your family. This was really a beautiful posting Kristina. I hope others find it as emotional yet as uplifting as I did.

    1. Thank you, that’s very kind, and I’m glad it comes across as uplifting, I didn’t want it to be a downer but to tell people that no matter what difficulties you have (and everyone has something) there’s that silver lining somewhere, find it. Plus how much good came from working on the blog and sticking to the movies 🙂 Thanks!

  5. It is amazing to me that you can watch so many movies, write reviews and post photo tributes to classic film actors; adding caretaking to that is unbelievable. Many thanks for your diligence with your film posts. I wish you the best for 2015.

    1. Thank you, the movies just fit into my day well, and I’m glad to have the blog to tinker and play with 🙂 glad you enjoy it as much as I do, and glad to see you stop by so often, wish you all the best for a wonderful New Year too!

  6. Wow! What a year you’ve had. I know exactly what you mean about a blog being therapy – and your blog was therapy for us, too!

    Your blog is one of my faves, and I hope there are many more years ahead for Speakeasy.

    Here’s hoping 2015 brings you more wonderful blogging and celebrity-related opportunities, as well as some personal triumphs, too. 🙂

    1. That’s awesome, thank you so much for the nice words and wishes 🙂 I wish all the same to you and yours, and thank YOU for being such a wonderful co-host (with Karen on the Villains one too) on both blogathons, we are sure to have a blast the next times!!

  7. I had much the same situation as you last year, as my mother’s health declined (she passed on in December, age 93). My brother, who lived with her, did most of the work on her behalf, which I’ll always thank him for, but I provided emotional support through phone calls and the occasional visit.

    It’s been in many ways an epochal year for me, and I plan to discuss it in my final Carole & Co. entry for 2014. Best wishes in the new year for you, both personally and as a movie buff.

    1. Sorry you had to go through that, it’s sadly common, something most of us will have to deal with. The positive is that nobody’s alone in it, and the toughest things have their blessings and rewards. End of year is a good time to assess where we are and I’m looking forward to your post. Thanks so much for your visits here since I started, and for the kind words and wishes, all the best.

  8. What a wonderful post. Amazing that you watched so many movies through such trying times. How great it is for us that you were able to find the time to enjoy yourself. Keep up the great work, both on and off the blog.

    1. Thanks so much, I appreciate that and I’m glad to hear that I could pass on any fun and boost I got from movies, that’s something we should all have more of in life 🙂 All the same good wishes to you!

  9. Kristina, just a note to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated your post — in fact I read it twice to take it all in! So true that it’s important to take time for the things we love.

    Like you I loved BEAUTY AND THE BOSS! Just got THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS in the big Fox Connect sale and looking forward to it even more now. 🙂

    I’m so glad you have time to keep this blog going with all your other responsibilities, as it’s one of my very favorite places to visit!

    With thanks and best wishes for 2015,
    Laura

    1. Thank you so much Laura, for the kind words and wishes, I really appreciate it coming from one of my faves to visit. 🙂 Glad that my “fun” time here at the blog might serve as a reminder to anyone else, to stick to the positive, and how much good comes from having a rewarding hobby in any time, but especially during bumpy times. Wishing you a fabulous year too!

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