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animation_duets

Covering animated short film in 2014 has been an exciting, often bizarre and always fulfilling experience. Doing it almost entirely from home, aside from an occasional festival, has been as fascinating as it is sometimes frustrating. Many of the best new animated shorts I caught this year were technically from 2012 or 2013, only recently making it off of the festival circuit and onto YouTube or Vimeo. This means that no definitive Top Ten Animated Shorts of 2014 is possible, at least not one that involves embedded video of entire films.

However, the next-best thing is a sampling of some of the absolute best stuff that is available to watch, right here and now. Here are three of my favorites, standing in for some of the best ways to find brilliant, creative work as the year goes by.

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Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

…and the giant, flying death-dealer known as Smaug circles above the lakeside town of Laketown, spewing fire and destruction upon its buildings and populace who scramble for safety below. As people struggle to escape, a man named Bard (Luke Evans) strikes back against the dragon. His efforts are ineffectual at first, but the beast’s singular weakness comes into view and Bard fells the monster.

Threat removed, Bard and his fellow humans head up Lonely Mountain to claim their share of the horded gold, but the dwarves — led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) — make a stand saying it all belongs to them. The Elf king, Thranduil (Lee Pace), also arrives with his army in tow, and they’re all soon joined by a legion of dwarves arriving to support Thorin. It’s already a stand-off of Tarantino-esque proportions, but by the time the goblin hordes show up the fight card is filled to the cinematic brim and ready to paint the mountain red.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the final installment of Peter Jackson‘s (arguably unnecessary) trilogy adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, and while it’s neither the best nor the worst of the three films it brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. Mostly because it is a conclusion, but still.

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2014review_credits

Picture, if you will, the end credits for our 2014 Year in Review. Credits rolling. Perhaps a little incidental orchestra music from the soundtrack (or if this was a romantic comedy, “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers). We’re past the soundtrack credits, and the special thanks. Here’s the MPAA logo — clearly, we’re at the end here.

Then, blackness.

Then, a flash of color! We’ve snuck one more end-of-the-year thinkpiece in after the credits. And to think, if you had walked out during them, you might have missed it.

The post-credits stinger is changing. As of 2014, they remain ubiquitous (though there’s always a sizable section of the audience in the opening weekend of any Marvel movie that leaves as soon as the lights come up; surely you’ve danced this dance before, people). Studios are keen to throw all kinds of crap in after the movie’s over — gags, teases, bloopers — anything to give you one last bite to end your moviegoing experience on. But they’re not as keen as they used to be.

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Staff Pick: Selma

Paramount Pictures

The end of the year is upon us. So to is the end of our annual Year in Review, which ends today. Just as 2014 has zipped by, so too has our review of the best, worst and everything in between. We’ve analyzed everything from the biggest disappointments to the best horror movies to the older movies we discovered for the first time. If you’ve been reading all week, you’re probably a little exhausted.

Don’t worry though, we’ve got a little more to share. As we’ve done every year since 2009, we’ve asked all of our regular contributors (“the staff”) to each provide a list of the 5 best films they saw during the year. They’ve all written little explanations for their choices and we’ve even put together a staff Top Ten. You know, because we can’t resist the urge to turn one list into another list.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

This week’s edition of Movies to See is shorter than usual. I figure it’s the holiday season, we’re all busy with shopping and spending time with family. Also, if you’ve just watched The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, you’ve already used up a good amount of your precious December hours staring at the hobbits, dwarves, trolls, elves, orcs, wizards and a dragon all fighting each other over a mountain full of riches.

And that’s it. There’s not much more to the third part of Peter Jackson‘s overlong “The Hobbit” adaptation besides the titular battle of five armies over a ginormous treasure. There’s not a lot I can do with that here. So, I’ve limited the recommendations to as many movies as there are armies in the film at hand. And they’re all pretty much various on the same theme.

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Muppet Christmas Carol

Walt Disney Pictures

The holidays! They are stressful! Even moments that should be relaxing, like lounging in front of the television while the rest of your merry band of relatives putter around you, demanding ham or presents or whatever it is that your family likes best (I like ham and presents best, personally), can be fraught with issues, especially when someone asks that a family-friendly offering hit the tube. “Family-friendly”? What does that even mean? The last film that made a big splash when it hit Netflix was Wolf of Wall Street and, surely, that can’t be good for the lil cousins! Right?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, with a massive list of truly family-friendly titles that are currently available to stream on Netflix right now. This is your bible, people. Love it. And happy holidays!

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2014review_old

Like every December, FSR is devoting numerous posts to the very best and worst (but mostly best) that 2014 had to offer at the movies. But as movie fans, we don’t only see movies that were released in the year we see them – we might dig into classics and curiosities via online streaming, repertory showings, or simple chance encounters.

Year-end lists may summarize the breadth of movies released in theaters throughout the calendar year, but they don’t necessarily reflect the yearly consumption of a dedicated movie fan. To many movie lovers, going to a movie theater can be surprisingly rare, and watching movies follows less of a calendar schedule and works a bit more like time travel: one day you’re in 2014, and the next you’re in 1940s war-torn Rome, followed by a brief stint in the 1970s Australian outback, and then back to the present again.

For some of you, 2014 may have had little to do with your movie experience in 2014. So I’ve again concocted an alternative year-end list: the 14 most memorable movies I saw in 2014 that weren’t actually released this year. Not necessarily the best, but the movies that most surprised me – the movies that reminded me that no matter how many you’ve seen, there’s still another worthwhile surprise out there, and even an older film that speaks profoundly to our present.

But rather than simply navel-gaze at my own movie habits and tastes, I want to hear from you: what are the most memorable non-2014 movie discoveries you made this year?

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Song of the Sea seals

GKIDS

Song of the Sea is a film as light as the wind, and as swift. As airy as the Gaelic song which rides above its plot like a mystical zephyr visiting from another world, it’s a unique fairy tale even among the many supernaturally inclined animated features that have entranced us this year. The Boxtrolls is more aggressively outrageous, The Tale of Princess Kaguya more overtly theosophical. Tomm Moore’s Irish rhapsody of shape-shifting and age-old lore is special because of both its narrative restraint and its visual ambition, an occasionally overwhelming object of color and light with a deceptively modest plot.

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AMC

AMC

“Guess I got what I deserved.”

Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” provided a fitting sendoff to arch criminal Walter White in the final scene of Vince Gilligan’s landmark television drama Breaking Bad. We guess that’s all the show had to say.

All that remained was silence, and, honestly, a fairly formidable void. Where now would audiences go? What did we deserve?

As far back as we can remember, crime films have been a staple of American cinema. From the roaring days of James Cagney and the Warner gangster movies to the golden age of Scorsese, it seemed evident that the one place crime almost always paid was at the theater. Still, when looking back over the year in film that was 2014, it can’t be denied that the genre took some rather interesting turns and indeed experienced an embarrassment of riches that would make Henry Hill’s Lufthansa heist seem like small potatoes.

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2014review_missed

As I said in the intro for our list of the year’s best films, 2014 has been a fantastic year at the movies.There was a lot to love, and that means there were a lot of films that simply didn’t make the cut on our other “Best of 2014″ lists.

The fourteen movies below didn’t get much love during the year and failed to make much of a dent at the box-office, but they’re very much worth seeking out on Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix, iTunes or anywhere else unloved movies go to rest.

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Source Code

Summit Entertainment


This article is presented in partnership with Cadillac.

This summer, Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenged producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants made a short film over a single weekend in late June, and you can watch the semi-finalists’ films at the Make Your Mark website. The 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards.

Few names radiate the characteristics of that competition like Hawk Koch, a producer who appears in the credits for a host of enduring classics (think Heaven Can WaitWayne’s World and Primal Fear). He’s been the president of AMPAS and of the Producers Guild, and he was also a judge for this year’s Make Your Mark short film competition.

If you’ve ever wanted a direct line into the mind of someone picking official favorites for an event that can jumpstart careers, this conversation is it.

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2014review_docs_fsr

2014 is the year documentaries began to take over. At least this seemed to be the case. The most acclaimed fiction film of the year, Boyhood, has primarily been praised for its nonfictional element of showing the actual 12-year growth of its cast. Another critical favorite is Under the Skin, a sci-fi/horror film that prominently features non-actors interacting with its protagonist, unknowingly captured with hidden cameras. Then there’s the footage from The Dust Bowl in Interstellar, the footage from Baraka and Samsara in Lucy and documentary material in Selma, Godzilla and Foxcatcher.

Meanwhile, some of the best nonfiction films of 2014 veer into fiction film territory. Although this kind of blurring of real and scripted isn’t new, docs like Robert Greene‘s Actress and Roberto Minervini‘s Stop the Pounding Heart continue to find creative new ways of mixing up modes of storytelling as the most appropriate way of exploring and presenting certain subjects. More and more docs are playing like cinema rather than term papers, giving us works that are thrilling, beautiful, funny, frightening — entertaining as well as enlightening. Even issue films are tending to focus on character study over arguments and data from so-called “experts.”

Documentary in 2014 saw few mainstream standouts, but it seems to have delivered more knockouts for those of us who love nonfiction cinema. There were few simple trends, more variety of styles and genres, overall a broad range of exceptional works that made it terribly difficult to determine an ordered ranking of only 14 titles released this year. The following list was compiled democratically from four Nonfics critics — Christopher Campbell, Daniel Walber, Dan Schindel and Landon Palmer — and it’s a representation of our admittedly unaligned personal top 20s (which will be posted next week). Documentary fandom and appreciation takes all kinds, and as such we’re happy to have all favored different films this year.

dashes

14. Maidentrip

First Run Features

First Run Features

Boyhood is quite a cinematic achievement, but for the honor of the best coming-of-age story of the year, it has some strong competition from this documentary by Jillian Schlesinger. The film chronicles the 2010-2012 solo round-the-world sailing trip of Laura Dekker, who broke the record for youngest person to circumnavigate the globe alone. She began her voyage at the age of 14 and grew up a lot over the next year and a half at sea, making this as much a personal journey to discover herself as a physical adventure across the oceans. And we get to witness both firsthand, most of the footage in the doc having been shot by her along the way. Maidentrip is as metaphorical a tale as any about seafaring characters (“she heads out into the uncertain waters of her own existence,” I wrote in my review), but even greater here is the shining presence of the character herself. Dekker is the sort of documentary star you wish had signed a multi-picture deal. - Christopher Campbell

READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Simple Math MYM

“Simple Math” PGA Make Your Mark Competition


This post is in partnership with Cadillac

This summer, Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenged producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants made a short film over a single weekend in late June, and you can watch the semi-finalists’ films at the Make Your Mark website. The 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards.

Luckily, we’ll be speaking with one of the semi-finalist teams, Ian Wagner and Michael Burke, whose short film Simple Math earned them one of the top spots and a chance to compete for the grand prize. They’ll talk about the challenge of coordinating a cocktail party film shoot with less than a day’s notice and explain how they both ended up in the pool.

Plus, Geoff and I open up the viewer listener mailbag to cover questions about Canadian movie favorites, the current state of thoughtful film journalism (the Star Wars 7 characters have names, people!), and other subjects of engrossing interest.

You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis.

Please review us on iTunes

Download Episode #80 Directly

Or subscribe through iTunes

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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