It’s not very hard to determine what makes a great cinematic moment. A more than efficient barometer for judging such things is simply if an audible gasp, a bewildered stare, or even a small laugh was unconsciously produced. These moments can be wholly visceral in nature or challenge what we’re seeing and have seen (sometimes even a little bit of both), ranging from technically extravagant escapism to minor gestures that induce an overwhelming emotion or past memory—occasionally with the capacity to be seen on its own, regardless of context. (Then again, where’s the fun in not experiencing the entire film?) From Stray Dogs’s penultimate marathon take to Force Majeure’s avalanche sequence, 2014 saw no shortage of aesthetic pleasures. Here are 10 essential moments that kept our eyes open and thoughts racing more than any other. Wes Greene
Godzilla (#1–10 of 16)
1. “There Goes the Neighborhood.” Lee Weston Sabo on Godzilla and the gentrification of pop.
“Godzilla has no anarchy or eccentricity, much less any experimental spirit or Japanese weirdness. [Gareth] Edwards is too preoccupied with turning the movie into something new, serious, and, worst of all, respectable. It’s the gentrification of pulp filmmaking, the process by which properties originally intended to spin light-hearted ridiculous yarns are repurposed, repackaged, and resold as serious adult fare. If there’s one thing I always need more of in my summer blockbusters, it’s daddy issues—or, at least, that’s what my therapist, Hollywood, keeps telling me. Far from an old-school monster mash, the new remake of Godzilla is just the latest in a series of mega-budget action movies that in some way revolve around absent fathers, surrogate fathers, and grumpy white men who just need a hug, like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Man of Steel, J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Super 8, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. They even managed work it into a James Bond movie with Skyfall, albeit muddled with an Oedipal complex. Knee-jerk cynicism might ascribe the prevalence of these dour themes in blockbuster movies to formulaic filmmaking-by-committee, the so-called ’human element’ that received wisdom says is necessary for a light genre movie to succeed. That’s possible, but there are dramatic clichés other than father-son melodrama that would serve the same purpose. It strikes me more as a Freudian slip, an embarrassing reflection of the macho insecurities and arrested development in contemporary American film culture.”
1. “Are We at Peak Superhero?” It seems like the comic-book bubble will never pop—but Marvel isn’t too big to fail
“There is a wishful whiff of ’too big to fail’ thinking, if not outright tulip fever, about this multi-studio scrum involving dozens of projects, billions of dollars, and the fervent belief that the audience will remain big enough to prevent these movies from cannibalizing one another. Shouldn’t the struggle of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was spun out of the highest-grossing comic-book movie in history and which could barely get through its freshman season, give everyone pause? Sure, execution counts: The second Captain America movie has outgrossed the first by $75 million because it’s better, and Spidey’s downward spiral is largely the fault of weak, repetitive storytelling (and also of a character too light and thin to support such somber and protracted attention). If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had been at its strongest from day one, perhaps we’d be talking about it as a major hit rather than, as the New York Times recently called it, a ’disappointment’ that proved ’inaccessible for many rank-and-file viewers.’”
1. “James Franco offers pros and cons of going to graduate school.” Franco, who has been in at least six graduate programs, pens essay for new book, Should I Go to Grad School. He oughta know.
“Graduate schools. I’ve been to a few. They’re funny. Each one is different, obviously. Most of the programs I went to were MFAs. I went for fiction—twice—I went for film, I went for poetry, and I went for art. I went because I had spent years as a professional actor and as a mature student of everything else; I wanted to treat my other interests with as much seriousness as I did my acting. Since at one point I had been a mature actor who worked hard and became a professional, I thought I could do the same thing with other fields. Here are a few observations I’ve made over the course of six years of grad school at six different programs.”
1. “The leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media age.” It’s an astonishing look inside the cultural change still needed in the shift to digital—even in one of the world’s greatest newsrooms. Read it.
“I confess I didn’t feel anything quite so revelatory when I read last week’s leaked version—which read like an indoor-voice summary, expected and designed to be leaked to the broader world. This fuller version is quite different—it’s raw. (Or at least as raw as digital strategy documents can get.) You can sense the frayed nerves and the frustration at a newsroom that is, for all its digital successes, still in many ways oriented toward an old model. It’s journalists turning their own reporting skills on themselves.”
1. ” Why Aren’t Movie Monsters Terrifying Anymore?” History’s greatest on-screen creatures embodied specific human fears. With luck, Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla will save us from today’s glut of bland, interchangeable CGI beasts.
“Predictably, the overarching problem with the modern movie monster is that American pop culture is so saturated with franchises—which aren’t operating systems that typically thrive on empathy, metaphor, or textural specificity. Would something as quietly violent and hopeless as Alien even make an impression on multiplexes now? The occasional breakout success of something like Paranormal Activity keeps hope, however marginal, alive that audiences are still willing to go looking for something stranger (or, in Paranormal Activity’s case, something that at least started out stranger), and thus spur filmmakers to want to appease that hunger—not for newness, but for awe.”
1. “Tony Award Nominations.” Lucy Liu and Jonathan Groff announced this year’s contenders for Broadway’s top honors at the Paramount Hotel in New York City.
“Nominations for the 68th annual Tony Awards were announced on Tuesday morning. Lucy Liu and Jonathan Groff co-hosted the announcement, broadcasted live from the Diamond Horseshoe, the newly reopened nightclub venue at New York’s Paramount Hotel. The awards ceremony, to be hosted by Hugh Jackman for the fourth time, will air live on Sunday, June 8 on CBS from Radio City Music Hall. The announcement included a surprise appearance by Jackman, who popped up to lightheartedly remind everyone of the awards show date.”
I emerged out of the train station and onto the roiling snake pit of Hollywood Boulevard this past Thursday afternoon with a singularity of purpose that has served well those who have learned to safely navigate this peril-ridden stretch of tourism and other desperate forms of humanity. Among the mass of logy sidewalk gawkers, shaggily costumed superheroes, and barkers hawking coupons for bus tours and free drinks at comedy clubs, the guy in the Creamsicle-colored tuxedo and matching top hat didn’t even cause me to balk as he moved toward me on the sidewalk. He certainly didn’t seem out of place, even as his lanky, six-and-a-half-foot frame towered above the stumpier heights of most everyone else bobbling down the Walk of Fame. But as we passed each other, this orangey giant suddenly offered up a loud, impassioned plea to the crowd, for no readily apparent reason, which put me at attention: “Remember Bob Hope!” Wondering if a declaration of fond tribute for, say, Mickey Rooney would have been timelier, I moved right along. No matter. There could be no doubt, if there ever was any, that the 2014 edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival, headquartered as always in the very heart of the mythological realm of Hollywood, was now officially under way, a gathering of film buffs vacationing from the real world among the icons and memories of movie-studio glory, where there would be no lack of warm remembrance for Hope or Rooney or any of a hundred other stars whose images and talents would be ceaselessly evoked and reminisced upon over the next four days.
- a matter of life and death
- blazing saddles
- bob hope
- Clive Brook
- double indemnity
- emeric pressburger
- how green was my valley
- ishirô honda
- John Ford
- johnny guitar
- leo mccarey
- make way for tomorrow
- maureen o'hara
- mel brooks
- michael powell
- Mickey Rooney
- on approval
- richard dreyfuss
- robert osborne
- tcm classic film festival
- thelma schoonmaker
- tokyo story
- turner classic movies
- Yasujiro Ozu
1. “Mickey Rooney R.I.P.” The actor, master of putting on a show, dies at 93.
“Not including the Mickey Maguire shorts, Mr. Rooney made more than 200 movies, earning a total of four Academy Award nominations—he was nominated for best supporting actor as the fast-talking soldier who dies trying to protect $30,000 he won in a craps game in ’The Bold and the Brave’ (1956) and as the trainer of a wild Arabian horse in ’The Black Stallion’ (1979). (Because of his size, Mr. Rooney played a lot of jockeys and, as his waistline expanded, former jockeys who had become trainers. He was the vagabond who helps Elizabeth Taylor turn an unruly horse into a steeplechase champion in her breakthrough film, ’National Velvet,’ in 1944.)”
1. “Spike Lee’s Amazing Rant Against Gentrification.” “We Been Here!”
“Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherfuckin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherfuckin’-sixty-eight, and the motherfuckin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not—he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherfuckin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherfuckin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the fuck outta here!”