Long ago, my honored predecessor and friend John Hartl (who’s been reviewing movies for Seattle Times readers for 48 years) began a tradition of wrapping up the movie year with a list of “Dubious Achievements.” Following once more in his footsteps, here we go, for 2014:
Best performance in a lost cause: Kevin Kline in “The Last of Robin Hood”; Liam Neeson in “A Walk Among the Tombstones”; Jessica Lange in “The Gambler”; Colin Farrell in “Winter’s Tale”; Michael Caine in “Stonehearst Asylum”; Patricia Clarkson in “Last Weekend.”
Best vampire: Quite possibly the coolest, chicest vampires in movie history were played, extra-languidly, by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in “Only Lovers Left Alive.” (In a related category, quite possibly the year’s best veins were displayed in the otherwise undistinguished “Dracula Untold,” in which the heroine’s veins seemed to get their own special lighting. And perhaps their own agent.)
Best performance by an animal: That very chill cat in “Gone Girl.”
Best chemistry: Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker in “Beyond the Lights”; John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in “Love Is Strange”; Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”; Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in “What If”; Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in “The Fault In Our Stars”; Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”; Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”; Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris in “Mood Indigo.”
Worst chemistry: Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in “And So It Goes”; Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde in “Third Person”; Colin Firth and Emma Stone in “Magic in the Moonlight.”
Funniest chemistry: Thomas Haden Church and Toni Collette in “Lucky Them”; Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in “The Trip to Italy.”
Creepiest chemistry: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”; Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in “Nightcrawler.”
Best siblings: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader were completely believable as twin sibs in “The Skeleton Twins”; and, speaking of “Saturday Night Live” alums, Tina Fey connected nicely as Jason Bateman’s bossy sister in “This Is Where I Leave You.”
Best breakthrough performance: Jenny Slate in “Obvious Child”; Gugu Mbatha-Raw in “Beyond the Lights” and “Belle”; David Oyelowo in “Selma” (opening here Jan. 9); James Corden in “Into the Woods” and “Begin Again.”
Best deadpan: The magnificent ensemble cast of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Most tiresome teen movie trend: Though the “Hunger Games” movies are a good sit (thanks mostly to Jennifer Lawrence), when taken together with “The Giver” and “Divergent,” well ... if that’s the future, I’ll stick with the present, thanks.
Best debut: Ellar Coltrane in “Boyhood”; Miyavi in “Unbroken.”
Best popcorn movies: “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Lego Movie,” “Beyond the Lights,” “Chef”, “Gone Girl,” “Maleficent,” “Pride.”
Best superhero: Cranky Batman in “The Lego Movie.” Seriously.
Best sequel: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”; “The Trip to Italy.”
Worst sequel: “Horrible Bosses 2.”
Best villains: Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley! How could you?) in “The Guest”; Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”; Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”; J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”; President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) in “The Lego Movie”; Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent.”
Most disappointing villain: Jamie Foxx had some good early scenes, but was soon rendered unrecognizable as Electro in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Best final shot: Emma Stone’s face at the end of “Birdman.” Sigh.
Best evidence that the romantic comedy isn’t dead: “What If,” and ... wait, where were all the rom-coms this year, anyway?
Most convincing evidence that the romantic comedy is, indeed, dead: See above.
Best stories you couldn’t make up: Just a few good documentaries from a year full of them: “National Gallery,” “Tim’s Vermeer,” “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden,” “Life Itself,” “Ivory Tower,” “Fed Up,” “Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil LeClerq.”
Best kid performance: In the year’s best movie miracle, we literally watched Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater grow up on screen in “Boyhood” (directed by Lorelei’s dad Richard). Other strong performances by under-18s: Alex Lawther as young Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”; Joey King in “Wish I Was Here”; Charlie Tahan in “Love Is Strange”; Kodi Smit-McPhee in “A Birder’s Guide to Everything”; and the teen cast of “Men, Women and Children.”
Actor most in need of a new agent: Would somebody please find a good script for Melissa McCarthy? And Jon Hamm? And Nicole Kidman? And Viola Davis? All deserve better than what 2014 brought them; respectively, “Tammy,” “Million Dollar Arm,” “Before I Go to Sleep,” and two tiny roles in “Get on Up” and “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.” (No wonder Davis is doing TV.)
Slyest scene-stealing: Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods,” Tyler Perry in “Gone Girl,” and, if a scene can be stolen by scenery, those lovely landscapes of “Wild.”
Best singing: Emily Blunt, displaying lovely (and previously unheard) pipes in “Into the Woods.”
Best lip-syncing: Chadwick Boseman, bopping joyously through the music of James Brown in “Get On Up.”
Oddest “singing”: The not particularly tuneful cast of “Annie,” who mostly sounded Auto-Tuned.
Best year for a “Downton Abbey” alum: Jessica Brown Findlay pretty much played Lady Sybil again in “Winter’s Tale,” and Allen Leech didn’t have too much to do in “The Imitation Game” ... but Dan Stevens nicely launched his Post-Matthew Crawley Redemption Tour with two thoroughly nasty and very American bad guys, in “The Guest” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones.”
Most uncanny transformation: Jude Law as a safecracker in “Dom Hemingway,” his movie-star looks hidden behind extra pounds, a facial scar, and the kind of sideburns that seem to be planning an attack on his mouth. Also noteworthy here: Steve Carell, transformed by a nose in “Foxcatcher.”
Hello, Seattle: The Emerald City looked awfully pretty in two charming locally made features: Megan Griffiths’ “Lucky Them” and Lynn Shelton’s “Laggies.”
Saddest goodbye: Robin Williams, who died in August leaving behind a legacy of laughter, had a sweet screen finale as Teddy Roosevelt in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.” (He completed several other indie films that are as yet unreleased, so we may see him again.) Also poignant: the final appearance on screen of James Gandolfini in “The Drop,” and a just-in-time tribute to Elaine Stritch in the irresistible documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” released just a few months before her death in July.
Best reason to look forward to the new year: Pixar’s “Inside Out” (after a year without Pixar!), coming in June and set inside the head of a young girl. Her emotions are played by different voices: Amy Poehler as Joy, Lewis Black as Anger, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Bill Hader as Fear, and Phyllis Smith (from “The Office”) as Sadness. Intrigued yet? Happy 2015!
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