Reviewing the Films of 2014, The Beginning: The Lego Movie
The Films I Look Forward to in 2014
This past year was a fine one at the cineplex, bringing excellent-but-not-quite-iconic films both big (Gravity) and small (Nebraska, Philomena). We saw top-shelf work from Woody Allen, David O. Russell, Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze, second-tier (but still great) stuff from the Coen Brothers, Hayao Miyazaki, Kar Wai Wong and Martin Scorsese, and some complete out-of-left field shockers (Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, likely the funniest film of the year). We also saw some truly memorable performances, including that little one about a Dallas "buyers club" that won Matthew McConaughey his first Oscar and has positioned him to possibly be the first actor--ever--to follow it up with an Emmy win (four females have done it, period, but no males). Also, Alfonso Cuarón is the first Latino director to win Best Director (for Gravity), Steve McQueen's Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave makes him the first ever black helmer of a picture to be so honored (and the film's win also finally made Brad Pitt an Oscar winner), and the Academy FINALLY saw fit to let the nominees for Best Original Song perform live on the show again, which they've been steadily trying to do away with for the better part of a decade. Incidentally, the year also saw one of that category's nominees ("Alone Yet Not Alone" from the practically unseen film of the same name) get rescinded, an extremely rare occurrence almost as strange as the nomination of the song in the first place. So, while none of last year's films struck me as indisputably iconic (the closest one, her, is still a solid 9.5 rating for me), it was a truly fine year, and I can only hope this year will be even better. I have already enjoyed the delightful The Lego Movie, which I will be reviewing shortly; I am stoked by the possibility of seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel and Muppets: Most Wanted by month's end (and am still hoping to see The Monuments Men). Further down the road, I eagerly await The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Serena, Unbroken, Magic in the Moonlight, part one of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (though I wonder if they needed two), and X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (though it is with some trepidation for these latter two). I know there are some others out this year that I will want to see; Noah, Rio 2, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Nut Job all sound interesting, and others have caught my interest that do not occur to me at the moment. In short, the year appears to be off to a fair start, with plenty of fun to come; I can hardly wait. As I go, I will be attempting to write reviews for each 2014 release I watch. These will follow the format for my 2013 reviews (which I also intend to continue as I see fit); as such, I will end each review with the film's Oscar worthiness. This is not intended to be a prediction for next year's race, simply a statement of where I feel the films reach Oscar level. Anyway, on to the review.
The Lego Movie
And now to begin the 2014 movie reviews. Every once in a while, there comes a movie where you see a trailer, a poster, a mention in a trade article--something--and go, "I've GOT to see that movie!" Good or bad, whether the film gets glowing reviews or is touted as a train wreck of epic proportions, you know you will be going to see it--The Lego Movie was such a film for me. The main reason, indeed, that I waited as long as I did was in order to coordinate my schedule with that of friends who also wanted to see it; eventually, I simply got tired of waiting. You might wonder, "Was it worth it?" Mostly... Mostly. The film is cheesy--there's no two ways about it. There are life lessons to be learned here, and most of them are delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Does it matter? Not really--not when everyone involved in the making of this film clearly had a blast making it, especially since that sense of fun and excitement is every bit as infectious for the audience as the earworm that plays frequently through the film, "Everything Is Awesome!" Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks give solid, energetic life to their lead characters, Emmett and "Wild Style," and the supporting cast includes excellent work from Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman, along with a wide range of occasionally hilarious cameos. Arnett, as Wild Style's boyfriend Batman, is particularly hilarious; he is arguably one of the best arguments I've seen for an Oscar for Best Vocal Acting--Male (though Ferrell, Pratt and Neeson are all also solid contenders here, and Banks and Alison Brie are arguments for the Female category).
Anyway, the story here is fairly straightforward; President Business (Ferrell) is tired of all the chaos and uncertainty of his perfect, ordered world, and launches a plan to freeze everyone in place with the "Krigle" (Krazy Glue); a prophecy by Vitruvius (Freeman) leads to those opposed to Business' tyranny seeking out a Master Builder known as "The Special," who turns out to be just about the blandest, most ordinary, most non-special guy imaginable, a construction worker named Emmett (Pratt). He meets up with Wild Style (Banks) whose initial hope and excitement is quickly dashed when she realizes "The Special" is a talentless noob who cannot build a thing. They meet up with Vitruvius, before Bad Cop (Neeson) catches up to them and sends them running for Cloud Cuckoo Land, a vibrant and crazy place run by the equally vibrant and crazy Princess Unikitty (Brie). Along the way, they meet Batman, and things just get even crazier. I don't wish to spoil too much what happens, but I would like to note that, in an odd and creative twist, the film is not strictly animated throughout. Whether this will hurt the film's chances at next year's Oscars remains to be seen; this is the same august assembly, after all, that declared Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore to be eligible in the Animated Feature category. Here's hoping, I suppose; the film also SHOULD be a shoo-in for at least making the shortlist for Original Screenplay and Production Design, though history is against it in these categories. All in all, this truly is a delightful film, a tad cheesy and a bit less awesome that I had hoped, but still an easy way to kill a couple hours, and a film that will likely have staying power.
The Lego Movie: Oscar-worthy for Best Original Screenplay (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), Animated Feature (assuming the "animation in every frame" condition is negotiable), Production Design, Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Effects Editing. Nominated for Original Song ("Everything Is Awesome").
Will Purchase? Hells yeah! It may take a minute, but I will get this movie.
So, there it is. This movie is good fun that should be appropriate for all manner of audiences (except very young kids). Do be sure to go see it if you get a chance, perhaps as the second half of a double feature with The Wind Rises (for the adults, at least). Anyway, I hope you are as excited about this year's films as I am; feel free to comment on any you feel I need to check out. Happy viewing!