Just as I do every year, I charted my Film Quest throughout 2014, tracking each of the movies I saw for the first time. Unlike previous years, I challenged myself to not just see as many movies as possible, but to try to get through a list of films I was challenging myself to see. While I didn’t get through all of them, I made great progress. Not only did I see many of them, but I was also successful in having a large portion of the movies I watched come from prior to 1994. There are too many of the “classics” which I need to have on my resume.
Here’s how my Film Quest 2014 shaped up:
Total Films: 118
Films from Prior to 1994: 25
Busiest Month: April, with 18 films seen
Slowest Month: September, with 3 films seen
Seen in the Theater: 22
Now for the superlatives…
Surprises (in a good way)
Birdman – While I thought the premise sounded interesting, I didn’t expect it would be a movie that would be so widely identified as not only a high quality movie, but enjoyable, too. Now it’s getting Oscar buzz? Deservedly so, and that’s not at all what I was expecting when I first heard that Michael Keaton was going to be starring in a film that sounded like it could have significant ties to his personal life.
Night of the Living Dead – I expected something far different from one of the most famous zombie movies of all time, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought it would. It was a lot more similar to an episode of The Twilight Zone than it was to a gory horror movie, and that’s a VERY pleasant surprise.
Sunshine – I know Danny Boyle is a great director, but I wasn’t expecting a 7-year-old sci-fi flick to blow me away like this one did.
Edge of Tomorrow – I’m not a Tom Cruise hater, so I was expecting it to be decent. But the enjoyment level reaching Groundhog Day levels? That was a big, big surprise.
Frozen – It was a big surprise just how many intense scenes there were in this Disney movie that’s sooo popular with kiddos. The wolves, the ice monster, the shooting of arrows at the main character? Big surprises.
Now You See Me – Watching the previews for this film about magicians, I thought for sure it was going to be terrible, but it wasn’t. It had enough surprises and charm to make it enjoyable.
Short Term 12 – It wasn’t a fun movie to watch, but the performances were great, the story was powerful. Definitely something I’d recommend to people who want to see something they haven’t heard of before.
The Sand Pebbles – It’s surprising that such a good film with as many well-known actors isn’t considered a classic. I hadn’t heard of it before the year started, and now it’s a film that I’d watch anytime I see it on the television’s guide.
Guardians of the Galaxy – A comic book movie from Marvel being GOOD shouldn’t be a surprise, but a movie prominently featuring a gun-carrying raccoon and a walking, talking tree? THAT film being SIGNIFICANTLY more enjoyable than the latest Spider-Man film (which I enjoyed) is a huge surprise.
Chef – Sure, I’m a Jon Favreau fan. And yes, I enjoy cooking and would consider running one if I was somehow independently wealthy. But I saw this indie father-son roadtrip flick on a whim and I would absolutely recommend it to just about anyone.
The Raid: Redemption – When people said that this was the greatest action flick they had ever seen, I scoffed. After watching it, I no longer think those people are crazy.
Locke – Seriously, a movie where a guy never leaves his car, talks on the phone almost non-stop, and it’s an incredibly powerful film with a great performance? Truly the surprise of 2014.
Spirited Away – I’m getting really tired of hearing how great the Studio Ghibli movies are, because I’m yet to enjoy any of them.
Lincoln – I really tried to find things about this film that I enjoyed, but it was an incredibly long film with poor pacing.
Only God Forgives – I enjoyed both DRIVE and BRONSON from Nicolas Winding Refn, and with the praise this was getting, I really expected more from it. The film might’ve been far more enjoyable if it hadn’t involved so much graphic violence.
Pacific Rim – I really need to not let my expectations get TOO high just based off of what other reviewers say about something. I thought this was going to be a DECENT movie, but got hyped up for it, and what I ended up with was a DECENT movie.
A Fistful of Dollars – For such a “classic” western, it was hard to follow, even having watched it twice. I’m not usually dense when it comes to movie plots or listening to dialogue.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – For a film whose sequel is getting plenty of praise, I’m surprised this one was so eye-roll inducing. James Franco really ISN’T a great actor, and there are more than a couple scenes in this film I can point to as examples.
Raging Bull – I really, really don’t understand why this film is so widely lauded. I found the main characters only mildly interesting, and there wasn’t anything special about the dialogue or how the storyline unfolds.
Bad Words – It wasn’t a great movie, but it was really fun to watch. Not a surprise, though, as Jason Bateman is a funny guy. I’d watch it a few more times.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I hate all the hate this film is getting. It’s lots of fun, has only a couple plotholes, but provides plenty of action and throwback moments for fans of the original film. People would have you think it’s not worth watching… but I enjoyed it enough that I own the Blu-ray (and I’m not someone who likes to watch things more than once, so I definitely don’t collect movies).
The Drop – For most of the film, it just seemed to be a good movie to put a bookend on James Gandolfini’s career. Then I got near the end of the film and it got really good.
The Kings of Summer – Not a great movie, but for a guy who built a huge treehouse with his friends as a teenager, this movie had plenty of nostalgic worth.
Chef / Guardians of the Galaxy / Edge Of Tomorrow – see above.
Grand Budapest Hotel – I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan, and Grand Budapest Hotel now ranks among my favorites of his. I’m very happy to see that he has hit his stride again and is producing great work after a couple misses.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – While I’ve enjoyed every X-Men movie I’ve seen, it’s quite possible that this was not only the best one, but also my favorite. They blended two generations of characters together nicely, with only a few minor plot holes.
Interstellar – It wasn’t a perfect movie, but for my money, it’s a nearly perfect science fiction film. Were there plotholes? Sure, but they didn’t bother me too much, and the emotional aspects of the film helped the 3-hour experience fly by.
“TARS: I have a cue light I can use to show you when I’m joking, if you like.”
“Cooper: Those aren’t mountains, they’re waves.”
“Walter Neff: Do I laugh now, or wait ’til it gets funny?”
“Barton Keyes: I picked you for the job, not because I think you’re so darn smart, but because I thought you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit. Guess I was wrong. You’re not smarter, Walter… you’re just a little taller.”
– Double Indemnity
“MATER: Oh, yeah. Don’t let me get in the way of your ‘private business.’ Oh! A little advice: When you hear her giggle and see that waterfall, you best press that green button.”
– Cars 2
“M. Gustave: [to Mme. Celine’s corpse] You’re looking so well, darling, you really are… they’ve done a marvelous job. I don’t know what sort of cream they’ve put on you down at the morgue, but… I want some.”
“Deputy Kovacs: Did he just throw my cat out of the window?”
“M. Gustave: You’re the first of the official death squads to whom we’ve been formally introduced. How do you do?”
– Grand Budapest Hotel
“Sylvie: It is infuriating that your unhappiness does not turn to fat!”
“Floyd: Doyle, I KNOW I gave him four THREES. He had to make a SWITCH. We can’t let him get away with that.
Doyle Lonnegan: What was I supposed to do – call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?”
– The Sting
“Batman: First try.”
– The LEGO Movie
“Mike Shiner: Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige.”
“Will Munny: It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.”
“Little Bill Daggett: You just shot an unarmed man.
Bill Munny: He should have armed himself if he’s gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.”
So, I didn’t finish watching everything on the list I was challenging myself to see when I came up with the idea of “The Challenge”, but I feel like I did alright. I’ll be adding a lot of those films to “The Challenge: Part II” for 2015. Having over 20% of the movies I saw for the first time in 2014 be movies that are over 30 years old feels like an accomplishment.
Of the things I enjoyed, the majority of them were new – from 2013 or 2014. I did see five movies from before 1970 which were really enjoyable, so from that perspective, I’m really glad that I shape up “The Challenge” this way.
I think in 2015, not only am I going to challenge myself to see some things, but I’ll be looking for someone to share in the fun.