Weekly Essay Question (Apr. 2, 2015)

Every couple of weeks, the OFCS polls its members with a question related to movies. It can be serious or amusing, but each member is given the opportunity to submit a short response to the question, which we will then post on Thursday mornings. Here is this week’s query.

Essay Question #9: What film from 2014 surprised you by being significantly better or worse than you anticipated?
Kenneth Morefield @ 1More Film Blog


Rick Aragon @ Rick’s Cafe Texan
The Theory of Everything is the most overrated film of 2014. What is billed as a moving portrait of a genius was nothing but shameless Oscar-bait bordering on hagiography. Everything about it (the screenplay, the directing, the music, the performances save Charlie Cox) was so substandard and made for a poor biopic.

The much-lauded Eddie Redmayne performance was mechanical, efficient but essentially soulless. Redmayne was rewarded for giving a great impersonation, but that was all it was. He won because he is British, he was in a biopic, and he played a disabled person: the trifecta of Best Actor winning parts. It’s almost to where his win plays like parody of how to win awards.

I’ve never been as disappointed or as frustrated with a 2014 film as I was with The Theory of Nothing (as I call it).

Robert Cashill @ Popdoss
The dud of the year was Foxcatcher, a questionably fictionalized account of a true crime turned into a slow, lifeless indictment of society at large. No pulse, nothing. Good putty nose, however.

Not having much liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn knocked me out. Much stronger on every level.

Andy Crump @ Paste Magazine
PRIDE. I honestly thought PRIDE was going to be in the same vein as boring, bland nonsense like THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL – harmless British fare that people watch because it’s non-challenging, and because it’s “foreign” but doesn’t require relentless subtitling. But PRIDE is nothing like that sort of film. It’s actually good. It has teeth, it has heart, it has a message and it articulates it well with a terrific ensemble cast.

Candice Frederick @ Reel Talk Online
Boyhood. I was all ready to hate this film just by the biased title alone, but I absolutely fell in love with it. It resonated with me on so many levels.

John Gilpatrick @ JohnLikesMovies.com
The first one that comes to mind is WILD. I wasn’t much a fan of director Jean-Marc Vallee’s DALLAS BUYERS CLUB from 2013, and everything I’d seen or read about WILD screamed “Oscar play for Reese Witherspoon.”

But the film is so much more than that. It’s a very thoughtfully composed film and Nick Hornby’s screenplay is aces. It didn’t quite crack my top 10 of 2014, but it was definitely among my next 10.

Jeremy Kibler @ The Artful Critic
I’m probably one of only a few who liked the 2014 remake of “Annie.” While I can’t fully defend it for being a great movie musical–it’s too clumsy to be great–I will defend it for being far better than it looked from its first trailer and TV spots. Seeing Cameron Diaz hamming it up as Miss Hannigan and hearing some of the auto-tuned reduxes of memorable songs, I feared the worst. Cut to December after actually seeing the final product, I’ve surprised myself to keep listening to “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” on repeat. Plus, anything with the delightful Rose Byrne can’t be awful. 2014’s “Annie” is a prime example that no one should judge a film until you’re in the theater and have watched it the whole way through. Don’t knock it until you see it!

Kristen Lopez @ Awards Circuit
In terms of what ended up being better: Camp X-Ray for how affecting Kristen Stewart’s performance was. I also thought 22 Jump Street ended up being just as good as its predecessor.

As for what ended up being far worse than I expected: The Fault in Our Stars, particularly considering how heavily praised it was. I hated it.

Mike McGranaghan @ The Aisle Seat
For me, the biggest disappointment of 2014 was “Inherent Vice.” I’ve loved every previous Paul Thomas Anderson film, but the magic was missing here. The movie was rambling, repetitive, confusing, and far too long, given all those things. It also added nothing new to the genre of pictures featuring stoned protagonists. I respect PTA for the attempt, but the execution was sadly lacking.

Kenneth Morefield @ 1More Film Blog
I had high hopes for Thomas McCarthy’s ‘The Cobbler,’ but it was…not good.

In contrast, David Gordon Green’s ‘Joe’ significantly surpassed my expectations based on his previous work and that of the cast. It was excellent.

Pat Mullen @ Cinemablographer
Call me a hopeless romantic, but the most pleasant surprise of 2014 for me is the irresistible romantic comedy ‘The F Word’ (aka ‘What If’ for American audiences who blush at the word ‘friend’). ‘The F Word’ surprises me because Canadian films rarely do comedy so well. Most of our notable(ish) comedies tend to be generic Hollywood wannabes or slight Tim Horton’s-grade sitcom stuff. It’s a wonder, then, to see such a warm, witty, and funny film with a such a strong sense of place and such a great local flavour. I love the use of Toronto as Toronto as Wallace and Chantry (the perfect pair of Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan) fall in love by taking in a movie at The Royal or even referencing Sarah Polley’s ‘Take This Waltz’ with a nod to great Canuck contemporaries. Best of all, however, is the honesty and heartfelt humour of this romance as it perfectly captures an authentic relationship in the old will-they-or-won’t-they dilemma. I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love ‘The F Word’!

Paulo Peralta @ CinEuphoria
Boyhood… although a good film with an everyday story, the anticipation created by the “12 years in the making” has created too much expectation considering the (good) final result.

Jerry Roberts @ Armchair Cinema
In 2014, there was a movie that went far over my (admittedly low) expectations, and that was Scott Frank’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, which I had no faith in the previous six or seven piteous action pictures that Liam Neeson seems determined to call a wise career move. A Walk Among the Tombstones was a great crime drama that is a throwback to the kinds of cops and criminal pictures from the 1970s. It’s dark, gritty and filled with all manner of early millennium paranoia over Y2K – misplaced as we see The World Trade Center looming on the horizon. Yes, Neeson plays a drunk cop (again) but this movie was all atmosphere and dread. You could feel the hellish world that this man was entering as he tries to find two blood-thirsty serial killers. It’s a quiet movie. Effective, moody and dark.

At the other end of the spectrum, a movie that went under my expectations, was Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a movie that was so acclaimed and made with such love and passion, yet when it was over I just didn’t feel anything. It was very good, but somehow I just didn’t feel greatness.

Robert Roten @ Laramie Movie Scope
Probably the most disappointing film of the year was “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” I was hoping this film would redeem the Hobbit trilogy, but it did not. Instead, it may have been the worst of the three.

I expected better things from the creative team led by Peter Jackson, but it looks like corporate greed won out over artistic sensibilities, resulting in a film that probably would have greatly angered J.R.R. Tolkien if he had lived to see this travesty.

Marcio Sallem @ Em Cartaz
Although a fan of Phil Lord’s and Chris Miller’s previous works, The Lego Movie certainly surprised me for its bold, satirical and sweet approach.

Gregory J. Smalley @ 366 Weird Movies
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “The Dance of Reality,” made by the mystical/surrealist director after a 23-year absence from filmmaking during which he worked on inventing his own system of “psychomagical” therapy, was set up to be a huge disappointment simply because expectations were so high. Instead, this autobiographical phantasmagoria was my favorite surprise of 2014. Self-indulgent in the best way, “Dance” includes all the surreal touches the director is famous for (a mother who sings all her lines, urine that cures the plague) but adds a strain of wise humor that was sometimes missing from the often ponderous and pedantic movies Jodorowsky made as a younger man.

Andrew Wyatt @ Gateway Cinephile
Most of the 2014 feature films that I was very enthusiastic about at year’s end were also films that I at least had some inkling were going to be great, or at least quite good. The only film that truly ambushed me was Edge of Tomorrow, which has the honor of being (arguably) the first science-fiction film to crack my Top Ten list for St. Louis Magazine since I started doing one in 2011. (Depending on whether you want to count The Cabin in the Woods in 2012.)

As a rule, a sci-fi film with Tom Cruise is usually a promising affair (as compared to other Tom Cruise vehicles), but everything about Edge’s marketing looked so generic. Then–wham!–we get one of the best popcorn flicks in ages. It’s kind of the perfect exemplar of how good a Hollywood science-fiction action feature can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. I’ve seen it four times to date, and it’s already become a part of my 21st century personal film canon.

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