Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Films of 2014

The new year is less than two days old, so once again, it’s time to look back to our favorites of last year. As always, lists are imperfect, incomplete, and totally subject to change upon reflection and the passage of time.

We’ll start with Paul; he remains skeptical of this whole top 10 business, so this year, his contributions to our lists (including comics, albums, and TV shows) will be presented without comment.

(Mine, of course, will probably say too much.)

~ AJ

PAUL’S FAVORITE (NOT BEST) FILMS OF 2014
10. Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)
9. Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan)
8. Maleficent (dir. Robert Stromberg)
7. Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch)
6. The LEGO Movie (dirs. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (dir. James Gunn)
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dirs. Joe & Anthony Russo)
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Matt Reeves)
2. Big Hero 6 (dirs. Don Hall & Chris Williams)
1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. Dean DeBlois)

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (dir. Francis Lawrence)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (dir. Bryan Singer)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (dir. Marc Webb)

DIDN’T SEE
Birdman (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Force Majeure (dir. Ruben Ostlund)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (dir. Peter Jackson)

AJ’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014

10. BIRDMAN (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Film Review Birdman

“A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing,” reads the quote (sometimes attributed to Susan Sontag) stuck to Riggan Thomson’s mirror. One imagines the former superhero actor, played by a back-and-swinging-for-the-fences Michael Keaton, clings to that mantra as he negotiates a shot at artistic integrity with his paranoid need to be loved. It also serves as a warning to anyone trying to dissect the film or Iñárritu’s intentions. After making a career out of overwhelmingly somber dramas, Iñárritu has made a frenzied comedy propelled by a furious drum score from Antonio Sanchez. He also peppers the film with flights of insanity, in which Riggan has telekinetic powers or takes to the skies just like his old alter ego. How much of this is real? What does the film’s beautiful final shot mean? There’s a lot to be said, but you can also take Birdman for the absurd, chaotic, hilarious thing it is.

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Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Films of 2012

Last week, we discussed our favorite TV series of the last year. This week, we turn to the big screen.

PAUL: 10. DJANGO UNCHAINED (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Jamie Foxx in 'Django Unchained'

With Django Unchained, director Quentin Tarantino takes us once more back to a terrible moment in our history, and once again asks us to indulge him his little anachronisms and revisionist revenge fantasies. This time, instead of Nazis and baseball-bat-wielding Jews, we get slavers and bounty-hunting dentists. Set in the pre-Civil War Deep South, Unchained is Tarantino’s homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Leone and Corbucci, which he prefers to call his Spaghetti Southern. I’ll say that the absence of editor Sally Menke is sharply felt here, though. If I, of all people, notice the nearly three-hour runtime, then there could’ve been some tightening. The cast is great across the board, including a list of hidden cameos longer than my arm (among others, original Django Franco Nero makes an appearance). Jamie Foxx is great in the title role, though I imagine what Will Smith could’ve done with the part, as was the original intent. Leo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins all shine in their respective roles. Kerry Washington was reduced to little more than the damsel in distress, however, which is unusual for a Tarantino picture. But the standout here is Christoph Waltz. He is every bit as charmingly heroic and admirable this time as he was charmingly repulsive and hateful in Basterds.

AJ: 10. MOONRISE KINGDOM (dir. Wes Anderson)

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Wes Anderson’s films often have a childlike quality about them, whether it be his colorful storybook compositions or the petulance of many of his characters. So it’s fitting that he’s finally made a film about children, one in which the kids are on the run from what’s expected of them and their adult guardians are forced to accept the roles they’ve played in their children’s abandonment of them. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both in their first screen acting roles, give perfectly awkward performances. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are in their element here, while Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton join the auteur’s troupe with ease. Perhaps most encouragingly, Moonrise Kingdom is the first sign of life in years from Bruce Willis–who, with a movie soon to appear on our lists, proved later in the year that he’s most definitely still kicking–and Edward Norton, two actors who really needed a movie like this.

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Great New Posters for ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Tree of Life’

Two of the movies I’m most looking forward to this year are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and whaddaya know, they’ve both just unveiled terrific new posters. First up, we’ve got the Harry Potter poster:

Harry and Voldemort, bloodied and covered in grime, staring each other down while Voldemort holds the Elder Wand between them? Yeah, that’s enough to get me pumped. And of course, what better tagline than “It all ends 7.15”? I remember when the final book came out, it felt like a momentous moment in my life, having grown up with the books and its characters. The weight of the movies ending hasn’t hit me to the same degree, but I’m positive I’ll be misty-eyed come July 15.

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Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture #60-51

Last week, Paul and I reached the halfway mark of our countdown of the Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture. Here are excerpts of our thoughts on our picks for #s 60-51, but be sure to listen to the show for our full rundowns.

#60

PAUL: Vincent (Beauty and the Beast)

Speaking with a gruff but gentle whisper and all but hidden beneath an impressive leonine Rick Baker prosthesis (which didn’t, but absolutely should have, won awards), Perlman was the very definition of Romantic-with-a-capital-R misunderstood emo monster heroes for a generation.

AJ: John Locke (Lost)

His regained ability to walk gave him a new lease on life, and he looked at the island as a beautiful, supernatural force. He refused to leave, and tried to get the rest of the group to stay as well, believing them to be there for a greater purpose. The constant push-and-pull between Jack, the man of science, and Locke, the man of faith, became the series’ core thematic conflict.

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