Another Thanksgiving is upon us, which means we'll gather around tables with friends and family and be asked to share what we're thankful for. Here at ScreenCrush, we think now is a good time to reflect on the wonderful bounty that has been delivered to us from the benevolent creators of film and television throughout 2014. This year has given us much to be grateful for, and so now we say thanks as we prepare to stuff our faces and fall into meat and pie comas (and ready ourselves for that 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' trailer).
Scary Movies Are Actually Scary Again
Jennifer Kent’s emotionally resonant and deeply disturbing ‘The Babadook,’ the sibling terror of ‘Oculus,’ the riveting horrific drama of ‘The Sacrament,’ and the inventive chills of horror indies like ‘Starry Eyes’ and ‘Honeymoon,’ prove that scary movies are finally scaring us again. And that’s not all—fest favorites like ‘It Follows,’ ‘Spring,’ and ‘Goodnight Mommy’ promise that filmmakers are still crafting new, surprising, and frightening narratives in the genre.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller
The writing and directing duo proved that not only could they make a hilarious film based on an old TV show, but they could successfully make a hilarious sequel with ‘22 Jump Street.’ To top it off, they delivered ‘The LEGO Movie,’ taking a concept we all side-eyed and turning it into one of the most beloved films of the year. Their version of Batman manages to succinctly and hilariously capture the essence of the character, and does it all with one perfect song.
Solo Female Superhero Power
We demanded and they delivered. It’s been years since a female superhero got her own damn solo film (we don’t need to talk about what happened last time, or the time before), and Marvel and WB have finally promised to deliver ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ solo adventures. Not only that, but WB has hired badass TV director/producer Michelle MacLaren to direct and develop the first ‘Wonder Woman’ movie, said to be the first in a proposed trilogy. Great Hera, indeed. And while we’d still love nothing more than for Black Widow to get her own solo ass-kicking film, a ‘Captain Marvel’ movie is still pretty awesome. (Hey Marvel, have you seen ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ yet? Call Emily Blunt.)
Steven Soderbergh Gets Back to Work
You might not have Cinemax, so I can’t blame you too much if you haven’t seen ‘The Knick’ yet (except I do). After taking some time off, Steven Soderbergh made his return to directing/editing/doing it all with a new television series set in the turn of the century New York hospital, starring Clive Owen as a coke-addled and kind of racist, but utterly brilliant surgeon (with excellent shoes). As expected, the series is gorgeously cinematic and expertly edited, and at times terrifically nauseating, with an enervating score by Cliff Martinez to match. Soderbergh and Co. will return for season 2 in 2015, and whether or not the director delivers another feature film in the near future is OK as long as his products—whatever they may be—are always this exciting (have you tried his booze yet?).
The ‘Broad City’ Broads
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer might be the revelations of 2014. They’re wild and wonderful and wacky, and their brand of comedy is something we’ve sorely needed. ‘Broad City’ is a bold breath of fresh air, a show about two female BFFs in NY who don’t need to stir up drama about dudes and undercut each other in order to make things interesting on a weekly basis. (That’s not a knock on ‘Girls,’ either. Love you, ‘Girls.’) There’s still plenty of time for you to catch up with the ‘Broad City’ broads and check out their first season before season 2 commences in January.
Tom Cruise Gave His Life for Us Again and Again
This year gave us a movie in which Tom Cruise died. Then he died again. And again. And again. And it was glorious. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (we should refuse to acknowledge it by any other name) might be the most surprising film of the year, and no, I still haven’t seen that ‘Christian Mingle’ movie yet, so there’s still time. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ surprised us not just because super A-List leading man Tom Cruise allowed himself to die repeatedly, but because he allowed himself to be the supporting character in a brilliant little bait and switch. Emily Blunt is the true action star of the film, while Cruise starts off as kind of an idiot who needs Blunt to teach him how to kick ass. As someone whose eyes generally cross due to boredom during most modern action films, I found myself involuntarily pumping my fist during ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ which is the best endorsement this film can get.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
What a bunch of a-holes.
The Guilty Remnant
This is the best cult ever. They make wearing white after Labor Day while chain-smoking and glaring silently at your disgruntled neighbors until they want to punch you in the face look so effortless and chic. And if it’s good enough for Liv Tyler and Ann Dowd, it’s good enough for the rest of us.
We should also give thanks for Justin Theroux in ‘The Leftovers,’ who finds countless new things to rage-mope about every week, like that machine in the office that ate his bagel.
Scarlett Johansson's Awesome Sci-Fi Career
Over the course of the last year, Scarlett Johansson has given us the unofficial sci-fi trilogy of ‘Her,’ ‘Lucy,’ and ‘Under the Skin.’ In all three films, she plays leading characters who are inhuman in some way, whether sentient beings or alien, trying to connect to humanity and transcending our lifeforms in ways that are emotional, mesmerizing, breathtaking, and at times, bonkers. We are living in truly #blessed times when Johnasson has become the First Lady of Science Fiction Film.
That Thing, That Thing, That Thing ... in ‘Gone Girl’
You know what? I don’t think it’s juvenile at all to talk about Ben Affleck’s penis in ‘Gone Girl.’ I don’t think it’s unnecessary to mention it or celebrate its cameo appearance. I’m not your under-sexed aunt acting like she’d gone wild at a male strip club that time you took her to see ‘Magic Mike.’ This is different. It’s sad that we have to celebrate full frontal male nudity in films at all. It’s sad that we tsk-tsk those who get excited about it and call them immature rather than consider why they feel the need to be happy about it in the first place. Female nudity is so prevalent and accepted and, well, expected. Full frontal male nudity is not. It’s perceived as graphic and gross, but our bodies—all bodies—are normal. We need to normalize the human body. If you expect women to parade around on screen fully naked, then we should have some equality. A penis on screen shouldn’t be a rare occurrence, like the sighting of some near-extinct species. It’s not OK to say that a female’s fully nude body is appealing, while a fully nude male body is not. To suggest that men should never appear fully nude in TV/films while women are expected to do so implies that these forms of entertainment are not for everyone. So yes, I am thankful for Ben Affleck’s penis in ‘Gone Girl’ because equality in nude scenes between men and women is so, so rare.
This year's cutest trend: tough guys with adorable puppies. See: Tom Hardy in 'The Drop' and Keanu Reeves in 'John Wick.'
‘The Comeback’ Comes Back
HBO’s ‘The Comeback’ is one of those great gone too soon stories, and Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish is one of the best characters ever created. Kudrow is one of our most underrated, under-utilized talents (she is, inarguably, the most talented of the ‘Friends’ bunch; fight me), and one of the most incredibly versatile actresses working in the business. The return of ‘The Comeback’ for its long overdue second season is a comeback in its own right, and although Kudrow has been steadily working, appearing on ‘Scandal’ and starring in the series ‘Web Therapy’ (which she co-created), it’s great to have her back on HBO.
From his impressive dual performance in ‘Enemy’ to his unnerving turn in ‘Nightcrawler,’ Gyllenhaal absolutely killed it this year. He’s slowly become one of our best and most interesting actors, and yet he’s still somehow not quite getting the level of recognition he deserves.