Welcome to the fourth annual Bitch Awards, celebrating the best and worst in film and TV for the year. Stick around for the next two weeks as we raise a glass to our favourite works from 2014 (and duck as we unceremoniously throw the remote at our least favourites).
Click through for our #5 pick for best and worst films…
Let’s begin by explaining the selection process:
- We readily admit that we have not seen all the films that were released in 2014 so our lists are comprised solely of those films that we have seen.
- Some films may have been given a limited release in 2013 (which includes the festival circuit), but we still count them as 2014 if they went into wide release this year.
- If we’re going to blow the ending or a crucial scene, we will put up a very explicit SPOILER warning, but all of the posts during the awards will dig into the films and shows. Consider yourself warned.
- Bear in mind that our purpose here is not to be definitive; we simply want to encourage you to seek out some new films (and avoid others at all costs).
- If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the results of the 2013, 2012 and 2011 Bitch Awards for film.
Today we kick things off a week focusing on the peaks and the valleys of the film spectrum for 2014. Read on for our #5 picks.
#5: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Webb, 2014)
Before the stone throwing begins, let me preface this choice by saying The Amazing Spiderman 2 isn’t completely atrocious. It makes the list primarily because I can’t help but compare it other films of the genre. I know it’s unfair to do so, but when juxtaposed against its Fox – X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014) – and Marvel – Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014), Captain America 2: Winter Solider (Russo, 2014) – counterparts, this one simply doesn’t measure up. Besides the fact that all I wanted to do was force- feed a sandwich to BOTH Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, Spidey 2 feels bloated and uninteresting. I can’t say I loved the first film, but I found it far more entertaining than this sequel.
The burgeoning relationship between Peter (Garfield) and Gwen (Stone) is cute in the first film. In this offering, however, they are the epitome of annoying. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised when every hackneyed cliché is shoehorned in as to why these two can’t stay together – should I have expected more? I’ll give some points for short bursts of originality (like the suggestion that Gwen could pursue her own independent interests without following Peter around like a wide-eyed puppy dog) but they are few and far between. And don’t even get me started on Jamie Foxx as Electro – I don’t think there could have been a more boring, one-dimensional villain. He probably would have fit in better with the histrionic villains from TV’s Gotham.
Even with the SPOILER ALERT death of Gwen Stacey, the film lacks emotional resonance. And why do they try to pull at the heartstrings in the last scene with the kid? The result is emotionally manipulative rather than genuine. The result is a film that feels unfinished – it doesn’t stand on it own. Films like this have a very obvious profit motive, but with the level of sophistication that we’ve encountered in other “popcorn” movies of its kind, is it too much to ask that some time be taken for character development and a compelling narrative? I’d much rather wait another year or two for the next installment – provided that it deliver on very basic requirements rather than all style, no substance.
When I think back to the other superhero films I’ve listed above – films that were both intriguing, smart and fun –The Amazing Spiderman 2 is simply a disappointment.
#5: All Cheerleaders Die (McKee & Sivertson, 2013)
Like TVAngie’s first ‘Worst Of’ pick, many of the films on my list are disappointments. Lucky McKee is a director that I respect because he takes on interesting projects that often have a feminist angle. All Cheerleaders Die is a feature-length adaptation of a short he and Sivertson made before McKee hit the big time with the indie horror film, May, and the logline about a gender battle between cheerleaders and jocks sounded like a fun, entertaining and potentially thought-provoking film in his capable hands.
Unfortunately it’s not to be. There’s wit and satire at work in the film, but it is a muddled mess. The film is about Maddy (Caitlin Stasey), a high school girl who plots revenge against her high school’s cheerleading squad after the death of a friend the year before. Her plan is to tear the girls apart using tactics from the Mean Girls playbook (boyfriend stealing, rumours and bitchy insults). The plan goes horribly awry (for both the characters and the film) when the misogynistic quarterback accidentally kills all of the girls, including Maddy, by driving their car off the road. Soon after they are resuscitated as flesh-hungry ghouls by Maddy’s secret goth ex-girlfriend.
This may make it sound like zombie Heathers, but the finished film is completely unsuccessful. All of the characters, even Maddy, are varying levels of unlikable and their motivations change more frequently than characters on Glee. The gory deaths are campy and silly, but not enough to be enjoyable (unlike the other Video On Demand candidate that was vying for this fifth spot, Stage Fright). Meanwhile the piece that most excited me- the gender politics – are underwhelming and confusing (who are we supposed to cheer – pun intended – for?).
Chalk this up to noble intentions, but flawed execution. It’s not worth your time.
#5: Enemy (Villeneuve, 2013)
I’m a little bit biased with this one since I absolutely love Denis Villeneuve (his previous film Prisoners (2013) ended on my best list last year and Polytechnique (2009) continues to resonate with me years later). Even with my bias, Enemy rightfully deserves a place on my best list because I continue to deconstruct it to this day. A film built on metaphor; Enemy is complexity at its best. There are no easy answers in this one, but with a little bit of reflection (and some Googling) Enemy unfolds as a fascinating character study.
The premise is intriguing: Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) pops in a DVD rental one night and finds his exact double popping up on-screen as an extra. It’s silly but I found the fantastical concept somehow relatable – how many times have we wondered if that person across the street is our doppelganger (for me at least, the times have been plentiful). Is the double a long-lost twin? Is Adam simply going mad? Is he leading a double life and it is finally catching up with him? All these questions are answered but nothing is handed to the viewer, which I appreciate. The narrative develops in such a masterfully artistic way, complete with meticulous art direction and a near perfect performance from Gyllenhaal in the dual roles. The suspense builds at just the right pace, and much of it seems incredibly believable, even with mutant spiders and orgies, I just felt completely engrossed during the film and well after. Enemy pushed me to think about it – and that’s always a winner in my books, which is why it earns a place on my best list this year.
#5: Blue Ruin (Saulnier, 2013)
I usually begin keeping a running tally of “good” films around the mid-year and the title Blue Ruin caught my attention because it ended up on many mid-year lists. Sadly it appears to have been forgotten in the usual end of year bluster, but for me, this gritty, quiet, desperate tale of revenge caught my attention and held on throughout the year.
The film is a quiet tour de force that takes its time unraveling. The opening scenes feature a homeless man – we eventually learn his name is Dwight (Macon Blair) – who discovers some upsetting news in the paper. We don’t know immediately what sets him off, but Dwight cleans himself up and immediately embarks on a brutal, bloody rampage. A huge aspect of Blue Ruin is its refusal to deliver exposition in a dumbed-down fashion, especially in the early part of the film, which is nearly dialogue-free. The violence itself is shocking, realistic and tension-filled, reminiscent of No Country For Old Men. What’s fascinating is that Dwight is not a professional hitman coming out of retirement like so many other films; in fact in one of the best sequences, he must track down a friend from college for help because he’s in so far above his head.
Although there are a few moments of light-hearted humour and even a little warmth, Blue Ruin is a terse, stark film that has no ambivalence about its dark purpose. This is a tale of revenge, filled with violence and a surprisingly high body count. It’s also incredibly well-acted, directed and edited. In a year filled with seemingly endless bloated action films, this lean, mean gritty tale has stuck with me long enough to creep into my ‘Best Of’ list. Be sure to check it out.
What do you think of our fifth place picks: agree or disagree? Are you going to fire up Netflix and check these out? Hit up the comments and let us know and be sure to check back tomorrow to see which films take number 4 on the countdown.