Best and Worst of 2014 in Film

2014 was a strong year for Hollywood.

We got our usual crop of strong superhero movies that continue to dominate the box office. We experienced the release of a movie twelve years in the making that is a Best Picture frontrunner. Movies that we were pessimistic about turned out great and movies that the whole world couldn’t wait to see disappointed.

More importantly, more than ever before, we saw films that reflected the times as far as ongoing movements (Wild and feminism), enduring societal troubles (Selma and Michael Brown) and ostensible character examinations that may or may not have been totally accurate (American Sniper and this and this and this).

As always, movies made us laugh, cry, smile, hope, and walk out of the theater demanding our money back.

Just like any other year – or any timeless film from any other year, decade, century – the greatest movies moved us, challenged our way of thinking, sometimes had us relating it to the real world to such a deep extent that we eventually had to return to it.

It was a strong year for movies, strong enough that it was hard coming up with a “best of” list.

But I tried. And I present it to you know.

 

Best Movies of 2014

  1. Birdman

Right from the start, you know Birdman is going to be different. It simply grabs you by the horns and does not let up with its insanely honest and hilarious story of trying to be relevant in the modern era of twitter and viral videos. Birdman is one of the most complete films of the year, with the addicting score, masterful camera work, perfect writing, and Oscar-worthy acting all coming together to create a truly modern masterpiece, with themes and concepts meant to be analyzed with as much brainpower as when you read The Great Gatsby in high school.

2. Boyhood

There has never been anything like Boyhood, and there will probably never be again. What makes Boyhood so captivating is one in the same with how it was filmed: over a period of 12 years, utilizing the same actors, telling a seemingly simple but intensely relatable and deep story of life, and why it’s important to bask in every minute of it.

 

3. Selma

There could not have been a more perfect time for the release of Selma, a film that is as much about social discrimination and “justification” of wrongdoing as it is about Martin Luther King’s fight for getting African Americans the right to vote. Brilliantly directed, inspiring and, hopefully, educational, no movie released in 2014 entertained viewers as much as moved them in quite the same was as Selma did.

 

 

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

What was Marvel’s biggest gamble to date is also arguably their best movie to date, combining Star Wars and The Dirty Dozen to create the best superhero movie of the year.

 

 

5. Snowpiercer

An excruciatingly underappreciated dystopian film at a time when dystopian stories are all the rage. Snowpiercer is the latest allegory of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, and also one of the gripping action flicks of the year.

 

What, I didn’t mention this all happens on a train?

 

6. Wild

Reese Witherspoon is a marvel in this real-life drama that turns standard movie tropes on its head. Wild is both unexpected and extremely satisfying.

 

 

7. Gone Girl

One of the most anticipated films of the year, moviemaking maestro David Fincher delivered on all fronts, giving us the most morbidly cool and terrifying movie ever made about the perils of marriage.

 

 

8. Foxcatcher

Led by revelatory and perspective-shifting career performances by the seasoned Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, who you just knew was going to break out soon. Although many considered it too aesthetically drab, few wouldn’t call it tantalizing, engrossing, and probably the monster movie of the year.

 

 

9. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan continues to go bigger with every film, and although many weren’t satisfied with the ending after such a daunting and emotional journey, he should receive credit alone for the sheer ambition of his latest work. It was also, remarkably, one of the LINK most accurate films of the year. Imagine that.

 

10. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor Rigby was the most emotionally draining and realistic love story of the year. You want to find out so bad what made Conor and Eleanor (played brilliantly by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain) split apart, but when you do, you realize it’s all about what happened beforehand, and of what could come later.

 

 

Honorary Franchise Standout Award

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Just when you thought all hope was lost after X-Men Origins: Wolverine…

The latest entry in the enduring superhero franchise is right up there with X2: X-Men United with its near-flawless blending of action, drama and time-traveling suspense.

X-Men: DOFP is the first superhero movie (at least in quite a while) that can stand proudly alongside the better films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and also gave us one of the most memorable movie scenes of 2014, regardless of genre.

 

Most Unexpected Movie of 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the The Dark Knight to Rise of the Planet of the ApesBatman Begins.

Surprisingly dark, incredibly entertaining, and as gripping as its motion-captured villain, Dawn was the popcorn flick of the summer….at least until Guardians came out.

Judging how much of an exponential improvement in terms of narrative and style Dawn was over the okay-but-not-great Rise, the next entry should be one of the most anticipated films of the foreseeable future.

 

Eventually….

Before you gasp and comment your disdain and “how could you!”s after checking out the aforementioned films and think I left something just as good, possibly better off, here are some standout films that I wanted to catch, but just never got around to. Some day though.

Nightcrawler

Whiplash

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

The Lego Movie

CitizenFour

Under The Skin

 

Alll better now?

 

The Worst Movies of 2014

Because what good would Hollywood be without some disasters?

1. Transformers: Age of Extincion

Michael Bay, how could you (again)?

We TRUSTED you, Mark...

We TRUSTED you, Mark…

 

2. Blended

Adam Sandler, how could you (again)?

Do you like being a perennial Razzie contender, Adam?

Do you like being a perennial Razzie contender, Adam?

 

3.Divergent

Shailene Woodley, why?

This pretty much cancelled out The Fault In Our Stars, Shailene...

This pretty much cancelled out The Fault In Our Stars, Shailene…

 

4. Lucy

ScarJo, c’mon now….

This should have been you after reading through Lucy's completely nonsensical script, Scarlett...

This should have been you after reading through Lucy’s completely nonsensical script, Scarlett…

 

5. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Do us all a favor, Peter Jackson…stick to the marketed mantra of your film “One Last Time”, por favor.

Are you saying goodbye to Middle-Earth, Peter? Or your Academy Award credibility?

Are you saying goodbye to Middle-Earth, Peter? Or your Academy Award credibility?

 

 

Here’s to 2015. 

force-awakens-6

 

 

 

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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4th & Inches: Championship Sunday

4th & Inches is a weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to trending topics.

As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

Big Brother is watching

In the 45 minutes or so leading up to the NFC Championship, news was coming out of the NFL threatening to eject Marshawn Lynch – honestly, who else – from playing.

What? Say what? Oh my goodness, what did he do? Did he get in some bar fight last night that the league had learned about? Did he badmouth someone, refuse to talk to media, what Marshawn antics has Marshawn gotten into this time?

Well. None of the above. Lynch apparently was being told he would not be able to play if he went through with a particular wardrobe choice.

Gold cleats, huh? I can dig it, Marshawn. You do you, man. Too bad the NFL didn’t allow him to do so, for reasons that only god knows about.

In some respects this shouldn’t even be surprising. The league has had such a chokehold on how players should behave and say that dictating what they wear was bound to come up. Granted, this isn’t the first time that players have come under fire from the league for some fashion choices, but it is one of the most perplexing.

The thing about this story isn’t the weirdness factor. The thing about this story is that it isn’t weird at all, not with the dictatorship structure of the league. But this does raise it to a whole new level – one in which the league almost its own dystopian society, one where each player is pressured to act the exact same way, say the same things, wear the same colors on their cleats.

The fact of the matter is that players are expected to be mindless, choiceless drones at the service of the NFL, and to The Almighty Goodell. It transcends the standards of keeping a business running smoothly; it’s beginning to delve into a type of psychological control that is in place for the welfare of the league itself, many times at the expense of players’ free will. At least it seems that way.

Goodell is continuing to show that what he wants is what the NFL needs, with zero regard for the choices of his enslaved players. And thank goodness he does, because we can’t IMAGINE what kind of chaos gold cleats would have caused.

marshawn-lynch-doesnt-talk-to-pete-carroll-is-on-his-way-out-of-seattle

We’re onto you, Marshawn.

 

Cutler’s gotta be cut

All signs point to John Fox being the next head coach of the Chicago Bears after “mutually parting ways” with John Elway and the Broncos last week.

Fox coached Peyton Manning during what some would call the best couple seasons of his illustrious career. That seems to have been one of the primary factors in his hiring, as many believe Fox will be able to help “resurrect” Cutler’s career.

I say “resurrect” lightly because, in truth, Cutler is beyond saving, beyond redemption. Even with an abundance of weapons at his disposal – Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, etc etc – Cutler was an absolute joke in 2014, right up to his benching for backup Jimmy Clausen.

For Fox – who went 46-18 with a Super Bowl berth in his four seasons at Denver – to have any success with his next job, Chicago has to pull the plug on Cutler. Because for him to turn it around and take the Bears to the Super Bowl would be would one of the most remarkable transformations in NFL history.

Cutler has thrown for at least 12 interceptions in seven of the last eight seasons. The average season-long passer rating for Cutler is 85.2, right about average on the scale. He’s topped 25 touchdowns only three times in his nine-year career. He has a .512 career winning percentage.

None of these numbers are exactly anything for Fox to get excited about and, more importantly, they don’t show any growth in Cutler’s time as a quarterback. Sure he threw for the most touchdowns in any season of his career last season (28), but he also led the league in turnovers, a word that unfortunately became synonymous with his name.

Jay Cutler was the very definition of "ineffective" in 2014.

Jay Cutler was the very definition of “ineffective” in 2014.

The most important thing to pay attention to is Cutler’s playoff career. In short: he doesn’t have one. He is 1-1 in the playoffs, both games coming from a 2010 trip.

How does one garner expectations based on that number? If your quarterback can’t even play well enough during the regular season to even get to January football, how do you expect him to perform if he DOES get there?

You can’t. You’d have better luck turning the Raiders around.

Exceptions may be made if Cutler was still young and learning, but he’s a veteran, a veteran who has shown over the course of his career that he is as ineffective as he is confident in his play.

So if Chicago is going to start over, they might as well START OVER. Letting go of Cutler should be as the top of their to-do list. Yes, their defense was just as laughable in 2014, but how much can you expect them to really play when they know their efforts will more than likely be for naught when Cutler gets the ball again?

Fox’s impact in Chicago begins with Cutler’s departure. He’s gotta go.

 

 

A triumph of the 12th degree

Prior to Sunday’s NFC Championship, the Packers had no business winning to advance to the Big One.

With five minutes left in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, the tables had turned – to the tune of five turnovers – and suddenly it was the Seahawks who had not business coming out on top.

I mean, not after plays like this…

Or this.

I mean, check this out.

The game is SURELY over now.

But then this happened.

 

A GB special teams miscue, a Wilson touchdown scramble, a rumbling tumbling Marshawn Lynch earthquake run later (all in a span of a few minutes), it was apparent that this game wasn’t going to end the way it looked with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

A miracle descended upon CenturyLink Field, and Russell Wilson went from Least Valuable Player to Messiah for the 12th Man.

Fortune favors the bold, and I’ll be damned if Russell Wilson’s play in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime was not bold. Not since the 1960s has a quarterback overcome a four interceptions to win a title game. Wilson himself couldn’t have seen it coming.

It’s a rare quality, to be able to perform like No. 3 did when all hope was lost. To be able to keep it together, keep your emotions and sanity in check until after the game. To be able to perform your highest when so many of the NFL’s most devoted fanbase had already lost faith. But if there’s one thing Wilson has shown since he entered the league, it’s that he is quite the rare quarterback.

After Sunday’s victory, it is perfectly justified to call Wilson the clutchest of the clutch, the most composed of composed, the mentally toughest of the mentally tough. The Packers, by and large enormous underdogs in this game, had victory in their hands…for 55 minutes.

So, of course, it would be the Seahawks triumphant in the end, finishing the greatest comeback in NFL title game history, improving to 26-2 at home since the start of the 2012 season, becoming the first team since the 2004 Patriots to return to the Super Bowl.

Because Wilson is a rare breed. Because there is no such thing as “game over” with these Seahawks. Because games like this, and Wilson’s speech afterwards, are the reason we love sports.

 

Take 4

Everything that the NFC Championship was, the AFC title game was not.

Andrew Luck entered the matchup at New England winless in three tries against Tom Brady, but to say that Brady was the one who beat him in two of those three match ups would be inaccurate.

Over their last three meetings, including the playoffs, the Patriots have rushed for 673 (!!!) yards and 13 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) touchdowns.

Nothing about tonight’s game showed growth in the Colts with how they match up against the Patriots. From beginning to end it was pure deja vu for Indy fans. The Patriots have now outscored the Colts by 116 points over their last four meetings. This shouldn’t happen in football.

And this shouldn’t have happened on Sunday. Not with the resurrection of Indy’s run defense in these playoffs. The way they shut down the Bengals’ and Broncos’ running game established that this was should have been a more competitive matchup than the last three.

Instead, Luck dropped to 0-4 against Bill Belichick, and in epic fashion, having lost by 21 points in each game. Oh they made history, make no mistake about that.

This loss shouldn’t be put on Luck, at least not entirely. Almost every phase of the Colts game was completely overmatched by New England – their receivers couldn’t get open, Herron couldn’t get it going on the ground, their defense couldn’t stop LeGarrette Blount, and they beat themselves with dropped passes and turnovers.

It was a perfect storm of lack of preparation and lack of confidence that lasted 60 minutes and resuled in Tom Brady’s postseason legacy growing ever larger.

 

Chuck Pagano will receive credit for leading his team one round deeper into the playoffs for a third straight year, and rightly so. But to get to the next level in 2015, the one level that really matters, they need to work their butts off to get home field advantage next season. The citizens of Indianapolis are all too accustomed to seeing familiar foes in the playoffs.

As for New England, Tom Brady gets his third shot at a fourth Super Bowl ring when they head to Arizona in a few weeks. No matter what happens, Super Bowl XLIX has to be better than last year’s debacle….right?

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

 

 

 

 

American Sniper relies too much on the destination, and not the journey

It’s tough to decide whether American Sniper, the latest directorial effort from Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, is a biopic or not.

On one hand, the film’s main subject – Chris Kyle, dubbed the deadliest sniper in US military history – has an unwavering presence. This is his show for roughly two hours, from the southern boy to the cowboy to the soldier.

On the other hand, Eastwood is ambiguous, almost epileptic, in how he conveys Kyle’s journey. There are clearly destinations that Kyle is supposed to arrive at in terms of how the war affects him, but more often than not while watching American Sniper, we arrive at those destinations without ever realizing we were on the journey in the first place.

American Sniper is essentially two films. One tells the story of Kyle the American, during his time at home between his four tours in Iraq. These parts of the film are clearly what got American Sniper nominated for the Best Picture Oscar last Thursday. Eastwood does an incredible job showing how Kyle’s time in Iraq affects his interaction and relationships, and there is a clear transformation from the always-smiling, somewhat naïve but dutiful Texan we saw at the beginning of the film, and the troubled character he becomes the more he experiences.

 

Chris Kyle becoming one with his weapon.

Chris Kyle becoming one with his weapon.

The tight, tense focus on Kyle’s inner conflict is by far the strongest aspect of the film. Eastwood has shown his effectiveness in conveying inner struggles before, most notably with his own role in 2008’s Gran Torino. Kyle’s world changes, and he deals with the all-too-common problem of never really returning from war. There is consistent attention to detail concerning Kyle’s morphing perspective at home. Although he stresses throughout the film that he is just a soldier doing his duty to his country, it’s the things he doesn’t say or do or visibly feel – things that we know pre-Navy Kyle would do – that is a fascination to experience.

In stark contrast, the majority of the film’s time spent in actual conflict in Iraq is mostly vastly underwhelming. We all know what to expect from war films. Gunfights. Death. Patriotic undercurrents. Actions so infuriatingly suspicious that sometimes we know what is really happening before the soldiers on the screen do. American Sniper presents all these in a manner that is simply all too familiar.

An exception to this weakness is when we get to see Kyle do what he does best as Kyle the Sniper. The few – two few – scenes where Kyle is providing overwatch for his comrades are as tightly filmed as the scope he is attached to, and a sequence involving his split-second decision involving an Iraqi child is both memorable and breathtaking. We are able to see what made Chris Kyle so deadly, and it’s incredibly entertaining.

Unfortunately, those scenes are too few and far between. Instead, Kyle spends the majority of his time on the ground in what soon becomes nothing more than monotonous Call of Duty action on the big screen. The film neglects to add any real levity to the majority of the film’s time in Iraq, save for an intense gunfight near the end.

The most disappointing aspect of the film’s time spent with conflict is how little it adds to the story. We are able to see the leader Kyle becomes – which, some say, is a historical inaccuracy – but it’s predictable in its point A to point B narrative. We never really see how the decisions and actions of Kyle the Sniper come around to affect Kyle the American. There are only two or three truly poignant moments during his time overseas when the audience can sympathize with the horrors Kyle experiences.

Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) is a revelation as Kyle. He officially sheds whatever skin he still had from The Hangover, emerging in his own right into an elite class of dramatic actor. He rightfully earns his third straight Best Actor nomination, completing a both unexpected and fascinating metamorphosis into an actor who ascends higher with each performance. The way he conveys Kyle’s ignorance to his own transformation – with his southern drawl, and lower jaw-jutting smile – is both believable and powerful. Cooper makes it easy to sympathize with Kyle and what he goes through.

One may wonder how the film would have been different if it utilized the majority of its running time focusing on Kyle’s struggle and the complex, confused character he turns into. Instead that storyline is forced to compromise and split time with the expendable,mundane, “hoo-ah” military spectacle so engrained in our culture that it doesn’t provide any surprises.

 

In a Nutshell

Bradley Cooper fully comes into his own, portraying a soldier who unknowingly realizes how the war is changing. But unlike another recent Iraqi war story, The Hurt Locker, American Sniper is inconsistent with its focus and direction, instead seemingly presenting two different films with their own motives, one vastly superior to the other. As a result, the movie ultimately ends as jarringly as Kyle’s life; there is so much more meant to be that simply isn’t.

 

6.5 / 10

 

 

 

 

American Sniper is rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Directed by Clint Eastwood

2014

 

Unbroken is unwavering, relentless, and uncommonly well told

In recent years the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has had an unceasing infatuation for the historical drama; period pieces centered on a protagonist who must overcome some – or several – obstacles before he eventually triumphs. It’s come to the point where it’s easy to tell which films Oscar voters will immediately fall head over heels for because the Academy’s consistently conservative nature has become easy to predict.

Many people – this critic included – would like to see the Academy become more inclusive of all genres on a more even playing field. Not since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King went 11-for-11 on Oscar night in 2005 has such a blockbuster and crowd pleaser also had the honor of taking home the coveted Best Picture honor, although many a film have certainly been deserving. It’s become somewhat frustrating for many people.

That being said, Angelina Jolie’s second directorial effort – stronger than her first on all counts, and then some – fits all the traits necessary for being in the running for Best Picture. It’s historical. It’s a period piece. It endures hopelessness which leads to triumph. And bonus points – it’s a true story.

What sets Unbroken apart from other clichéd films of its genre is that its story is so well crafted and told that it would be deserving of being named the best film of 2014.

Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a U.S. Olympic runner who is sent to war against Japan, and eventually is a prisoner of the enemy. He endures a tormenting amount of abuse at the hands of his captors – one nemesis, to be specific – as he and his comrades do their absolute best to exact revenge – by living to see another day.

Unbroken is as visually gripping as it is emotionally arresting.

Unbroken is as visually gripping as it is emotionally arresting.

Unbroken is tense from the opening sequence and that mood lingers throughout, our only solace being flashbacks to Louis’ life before the war, when he represented his country in a different way. Jolie strives for two hours to make Louis’ ordeal just as painful for us as it is for him, and she succeeds on all fronts. It isn’t easy to sit through some of Unbroken’s more unforgiving scenes, and damn near impossible to not sympathize with what the POWs are going through.

Although the way we get there is by no means comfortable – a credit to Jolie’s direction – by the time the credits roll it becomes clear that she has created an endearing tribute to the power of the human spirit. Unbroken is as hopeless as it is uplifting, as powerful as it is straightforward, and as honest as Louis himself.

The strength of the film’s early half is how it manages to make coherence out of the flashbacks to Louis growing up as a person and as an athlete, in what may seem as a whole other movie entirely due to his situation. While some directors may have been satisfied as simply going through the motions and showing what Louis did before the war, Jolie shows with flawless storytelling how Louis the soldier came to be. His life was never short of overcoming obstacles, as the flashbacks show.

The film is at times unapologetically bleak and daunting, each scene and method of torture to Louis raising the emotional stakes further and further, but make no mistake that it pays off in the end. When Louis finally proves himself to be stronger than his captors, it’s hard not to stand and applaud. That’s a credit to Jolie’s direction and accomplished vision as much as it is to Joel and Ethan Coen, who have strayed from their usual style of cinema to deliver their most epic screenplay yet.

Jolie makes sure to give intimacy to every character, but the humanity she gives Louis is on a whole other level. You become fully invested in him from the start, and remain that way through his trials, which at one point shows him literally taking up his cross. Through it all he is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying characters to come out of 2014.

O'Connell will make you feel every bit of pain that Louis is forced to endure.

O’Connell will make you feel every bit of pain that Louis is forced to endure.

Although the film’s bookend acts are dutiful in keeping the audience’s attention, the middle act begins to lag a bit as some of the film’s more grisly details mount up and the plot becomes impatient with itself, and us along with it. The pace slows down a bit too much for a short stretch as Jolie attempts to build a meaningful relationship between Louie and his primary tormenter, in a way that doesn’t truly become so until the very end. Thankfully, once we get a change in scenery things start to pick up again.

Louis is played impeccably by Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire, Starred Up) in a role more physical than many we’ll see this year. He effortlessly translates his pain into a sense the audience also experiences, and he is written in such a way that O’Connell is able to become the type of person that we can easily root for.

In the end, Unbroken is a story that starts and ends with Louis, and that becomes apparent with how the film prioritizes different triumphs in the film’s third act. It is a biopic beyond anything else, one which inspires as much as it horrifies and teaches us as much about the darkness as it does the light that we sometimes take for granted.

 

In a Nutshell

Well-written, well-acted, and excellently directed by one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, Unbroken sets forth the daunting task of enduring the torments that Louis is forced to go through, and it pays off in a profound and moving way.

 

8.5 / 10

 

 

 

Unbroken is rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihira, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock

Directed by Angelina Jolie

2014

 

Oscar Watch

Best Picture

Best Directing – Angelina Jolie

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

 

Big Problems with Tim Burton’s Big Eyes

Tim Burton’s latest work, Big Eyes, encompasses many stylistic tropes that have become familiar with the quirky visionary. The hit-or-miss director of classics such as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Corpse Bride as well as recent disappointments Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows tackles a story that encompasses some of the more serious themes he has ever worked with.

Unfortunately, Burton’s reputation for being fantastically unique and distinct can’t lift Big Eyes from uneven tones as well as committing one of film’s deadly sins: being frustratingly predictable, and in a manner which is self-aware, while hoping to lure the moviegoer’s attention to its more ostensible qualities.

Big Eyes tells the story – one based on true events – of Margaret and Walter Keane. One is a painter with a deep connection to their work who doesn’t get the attention they deserve, but doesn’t crave. The other is a poser hell-bent on living the celebrity lifestyle at the expense of devaluing the art. I’ll give you one guess as to who is who.

The strength of Big Eyes comes from its unwavering thematic focus. Themes of gender superiority as well as the emotional depth – or lack thereof – of mass-produced art ring consistent throughout the film’s roughly two hour runtime, as well as the question at the forefront of the Keane controversy: is credibility and respect worth the expense of honesty?

Margaret Keane is devoted to her art, but not in the same way as her husband.

Margaret Keane is devoted to her art, but not in the same way as her husband.

However, while the film’s themes and messages are consistent, the tone, unfortunately, is not. Big Eyes without a doubt is of a more serious and grounded nature than some of the more macabre, morbid plots that we are so accustomed to seeing from Burton. As such, Big Eyes has an issue with foregoing the audience’s attention for some stretches, and that is due to its seemingly bipolar script. At times it is humorous and light in spite of the plot, and then the next moment the dialogue and plot turn frighteningly bleak.

That isn’t always an issue in movies; Tim Burton actually does a rather good job of balancing the two in his more memorable works. But shifts in tone occur so jarringly quick in Big Eyes, and with seemingly no precedent as to why, that it’s almost as if the heart of the film dies for a moments only for the wit and humor to act as defibrillator and soon bring it back to life.

The Keane's argue over rights and wrongs of their scandal.

The Keane’s argue over rights and wrongs of their scandal.

The pace of the film, also inconsistent, is a casualty of this. The film begins rather briskly, bounding about the start of its plot rather transparently until you realize our two main characters are married just as we’ve settled into our seats. And then things begin to slow down, and we begin to see Margaret and Walter for what they really are. The slower moments of the film’s middle act are its strongest, when we get to see what makes Amy Adams (American Hustle, Man of Steel, Enchanted) and Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained) so dynamic and commanding.

That is another trait of Big Eyes that helps to keep the ship somewhat afloat – Adams’ and Waltz’s indelible, addicting performances. Adams is endearing yet quietly powerful as Margaret, with big, telling eyes of her own that can’t see through the con-artistry of her husband. With every line and quivering smile, Adams delivers a thoroughly believable and satisfying performance of someone caught in a web of Stockholm’s Syndrome.

Waltz continues to dazzle and amaze, showing a wide range of emotion but in such a way that you know the true Walter Keane when he is let out of the cage. Waltz has built himself a reputable repertoire with award-winning roles while working with Quentin Tarantino, so it really is no wonder he excels in a story by the equally-tantalizing Burton. The German-Austrian actor continues to be one of the most reliable in Hollywood today, and his career should only break out more when millions of moviegoers see him in the next Bond film in November. Don’t be surprised if his unsympathetic and devilish turn in Big Eyes makes him 3-for-3 with the Academy come Oscar night.

It becomes apparent by the film’s third act that the strength of the film worth paying the price of a ticket for has passed, as the only reason for the film to go on any further seems for it to wrap things up. It does so rather disappointingly, leaving much to be desired at the end of our character’s decade-long journey. Burton hesitates to end the film in a way that elevates its messages about the true value of art, instead opting to end things a tad too soon, leaving the audience unmoved.

There is no real surprise at the resolution of Big Eyes, no sense of plot because it all just seems a bit too ordinary of a note to eventually end on for Mr. Burton. Which, coincidentally, may be the biggest surprise of all.

 

 

In a Nutshell

Walter Keane at one point says in Big Eyes that “art should elevate, not pander.” Tim Burton would have done a service to his film had he stuck to that line of dialogue when directing his latest work. Although the film is very much Burton’s, it’s difficult to imagine he prioritized the value of a legitimate ending to his film, and so contradicts the film’s central question: does high art remain high art, when so much focus is on getting people to buy into it?

 

7 / 10 or a potentially memorable film becomes a last-resort option for the holidays.

 

 

Big Eyes is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language

Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz

Directed by Tim Burton

2014

 

 

Oscar Watch

Best Actress – Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz

Best Score – Danny Elfman

Best Production Design

 

 

4th & Inches: Wild Card Weekend

4th & Inches is a weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to trending topics.

As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

A legend is born, for all the wrong reasons

Ryan Lindley etched his name into NFL lore on Saturday afternoon.

No, he didn’t throw for 600 yards. He didn’t even throw for 100. He didn’t throw for six touchdowns. He threw for one. Oh he set a big record, no doubt about that, but one which will prevent any child born in Arizona this year to be named Ryan.

https://twitter.com/si_nfl/status/551538733481480192

Lindley now has the distinction of being the quarterback – of about the 37th string variety – who led an offense to an NFL playoff history-worst 78 net yards.

78.

78.

78.

That number ain’t fake.

78.

For Pete’s sake.

Seventy-eight offensive yards. In the NFL. In 2015.

How on earth did this game finish with a score of 27-16? The same reason Arizona will win one dubious NFL distinction – Bruce Arians, head coach extraordinaire.

Arians continues to be masterful calling plays, creating schemes, and always keeping his team in it, no matter which quarterback gets injured on a given week.

Arizona’s defense, too, continued to play with the extraordinary amount of heart that they showed in the regular season when Carson Palmer went down, when Drew Stanton went down, when all hope was lost, when they had no business winning football games in the Golden Age of the Quarterback in the NFL.

Defense kept Arizona in the game. But they couldn’t overcome the tropes of modern pro football and win a game with a quarterback even Cardinals fans hadn’t heard of a month ago. Rather the opposite happened; with each drive Lindley led, Cardinals fans were most likely forced to take another drink and another drink so the miserable performance could become more bearable.

It’s nothing against the Cardinals, really. They gave their best effort against a Panthers team that won its last four games by a combined score of 111-43, led by a rejuvenated shutdown defense oftheir own and a humbled and dynamic Cam Newton. Carolina became the second team with a sub-.500 regular season record to win a playoff game (Seahawks over Saints in 2011), and they look like an under-the-radar NFC team ready to make some noise.

Maybe defense will win a championship this year. Maybe it’ll be Carolina’s, or the Legion of Boom once again. But it couldn’t even help Ryan Lindley on Saturday, or dissuade the bitter aftertaste of the worst offensive performance in NFL playoff history.

 

 

What’s an accurate Super Bowl prediction anyway?

The Ravens over the last five or six seasons have perpetually been one of those teams that linger outside the spotlight for the majority of the season…watching…waiting…doing seemingly the bare minimum to sneak into the playoffs, where they tend to then undergo metamorphosis into a team whose lives depend on reaching the Super Bowl.

At least, that’s what happened on Saturday, where they began another potential Super Bowl run by spelling doom for three parties in different ways: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots, and this writer, whose Super Bowl prediction was busted on the first day of the playoffs.

My completely educated and supported theory guess that Big Ben would face off against the Seahawks in (probably, maybe) his last good shot at another championship in February seemed fairly possible, at least in my head.

Then Flacco happened. Those pesky Baltimore Ravens, who have now won the most playoff road games in NFL history (10) are a whole other team when January rolls around, as we all tend to forget and as the Steelers found out. With star running back La’Veon Bell out, Roethlisberger would have to be relied on more than usual if they were to pull out a victory against their rivals.

Roethlisberger didn’t come through, Baltimore’s front seven did, and Tom Brady might be shaking in his shoes today as a result.

I had said that I thought the Steelers are the only team who could legitimately threaten New England on their own turf, but seeing how the Ravens played on Sunday, Brady will still have his hands full next weekend, perhaps even more so. In reality we shouldn’t be surprised, seeing as how both Pittsburgh and Baltimore reside in the AFC North, which is the boxing ring of National Football League divisions. They play an extremely similar style of physical football, a style that their rivalry is built upon, and ol’ Joe Flacco has proved he can play with the best of them in the playoffs.

Flacco vs. Brady or Baltimore’s gaudy, terrifying defensive line vs. Brady?

We’ve got a week to decide.

 

Andy Schmandy

What are we even supposed to make of Andy Dalton at this point in his career?

After a 26—10 Wild Card loss at Indianapolis, in which they scored a grand total of zero points in the second half, Dalton becomes only the second quarterback to lose his first four postseason starts. To put it mildly, his career is reaching the point of comedy. The correlation of how much he makes to his playoff success is a pain to look at.

https://twitter.com/si_nfl/status/551834337004781569

He was coroneted the Bengals’ Messiah in 2011 but after three seasons Cinci has yet to win their first playoff game since 1990. He’s put up pretty numbers, sure – like joining Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck as the only quarterbacks to throw for over 3,000 yards in each of their first three seasons – but those numbers are virtually transparent when his playoff success, or lack thereof, is so dismal.

It’s tough to envision Dalton holding up the Lombardi Trophy at any point in his career, no matter how hard we try, and that speaks to the bigger picture of a growing disparity between quarterbacks in the NFL.

The gap between elite quarterbacks and slingers who lack “it”, that undefinable quality which makes them winners, is growing at an alarming rate. NFL quarterbacks either have the stuff to win a Super Bowl or they don’t, and it’s becoming pretty easy for even the fan who only watches football two weeks out of the year to categorize. As far as this year’s playoff slingers go, Dalton falls into the latter category, as do (for now) Cam Newton and Matt Stafford.

The other quarterbacks – including Luck, Tony Romo, Russel Wilson, and Tom Brady – have varying levels of “it”, but make no mistake that they have it, whether they proved it in the regular season or by winning The Big One previously. They also have varying levels of postseason success, but that doesn’t matter when the subject of a player having “it” is oftentimes so clear. “It” is not an ostensible quality. You either have it or you don’t.

Quarterback parity in the NFL isn’t extinct. It probably isn’t even endangered. However we’re at a point where several quarterbacks have shown a lack of the unteachable qualities that place them on lower tiers of NFL Quarterbackdom. There is less and less of a middle tier of quarterbacks who show promise and instill hope, but have no rings to show for it, and perhaps only Philip Rivers resides on it.

 

Meanwhile, in the sports netherworld…

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”

-Stuart Scott, ESPN anchor, reporter, and sportscasting groundbreaker

Hope heaven has a nice desk for you, Mr. Scott. RIP.

Stuart Scott

 

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.