Welcome to the Third Annual Watched In Theater (W.I.T.) Awards!
The 2015 Oscars have been delivered, honoring movies that push boundaries, wrench at your heart, and make the audience question their entire existence. While these may be great films, I have not seen most of them. Instead, I present the WIT awards, honoring the movies I have actually seen in the theater. You are welcome to share your own personal WIT awards in the comments below.
The Judging Criteria:
- I have actually seen the film in a movie theater
Following the theory of a good friend of mine, “Would I buy it for my home collection?” To add to this, would I buy it, and then watch it enough times to memorize most of the film, or rewind to watch a certain scene over, and over again?
Round 1: The Movies I’ve Seen In Theater In 2014
First, I would like to note, that unlike previous years, I enjoyed each film I saw last year.
If you ever wanted to feel as if you were lost in space and about to die, this is the movie for you.
Gravity is an immersive experience, using Sandra Bullock’s every-woman presence as Dr. Ryan Stone to draw us into her panic and despair in a simple, almost allegorical film. At the same time, incredible technology is used to create a three-dimensional, gravity-free world of space, It is a great film that can bring in new technology, yet still create a great film.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Spies! This isn’t the greatest spy/Jack Ryan movie, but it’s a solid good time. I went to see it with my mom because she loves Jack Ryan/Jason Bourne/Daniel Craig as James Bond movies. It feels more as if it came from the late 90’s/early 2000’s. However, sometimes, it’s nice to have a bit of a throw back to older spy-thrillers, to take a break from flying super-heroes and have a good, old-fashioned chase scene and fist fight.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
While this film did not do well at the box office, it appears to have gone on to a significant post-theater life. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a great post-modern film, incorporating a sweet, innocent hero’s journey with nods to film styles and tropes. Ben Stiller tones down his usual antics to play Walter Mitty, a quiet, gentle photography processor for Life Magazine just before it transfers to digital. Kristin Wiig is understated and grounded as Cheryl Melhoff, his love interest, and assistant in the film’s escapades.
The film has a late 70’s vibe, and plays with the visual aspects and geometry of the backgrounds. The understatement of the film’s initial reality is wonderfully contrasted with the over-the-top fantasies Mitty plays through in his head. Then, the adventure builds to a surprising, intriguing climax which makes the audience feel better about the world.In short, for a film based on an older movie, it’s a lot better than most would expect it to be.
The Lego Movie
Everything is awesome when you watch this movie. The Lego Movie runs at a spastic, fast pace, yet is grounded by the heart of the characters. It is a brilliant mish-mash of post-modernism, with Batman working alongside Benny/Something Eighties Space Guy, and playing with the physical tactility of Legos. Similar to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, this movie should not have worked, yet, the final concoction is a blur of childhood glee.
Muppets Most Wanted
My love of the Muppets is second only to my love of Star Wars.
In the spectrum of Muppet Films, Muppets Most Wanted falls somewhere in the middle. It has some great gags and moments. I love Kermit guiding a group of prisoners in putting on a musical show, and the shenanigans of Constantine, Kermit’s world-class-thief doppleganger – separated only by a black mole. The plot is just ludicrous enough to be Muppety, and the characters are mostly on point. However, there is a stiffness to the overall film that does not quite match the loose vibe of the Muppets.
In the growing world of modern-made fantasy/fairy tale adventure films, Maleficent is the best so far. Alice in Wonderland has some spectacular visuals, but lacks a unified plot line, and Snow White and the Huntsman gets lost in its own darkness. Maleficent, however, draws us into a world of magic, bringing depth to an alternate version of Snow White. Angelina Jolie is mysterious, engaging, and charming as the once-evil fairy. It becomes a tale of redemption and follows the modern conventions of expanding the concept of true love.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The second Captain America film is a 70’s style thriller disguised as a super hero film. A mistrust of the government abounds as SHIELD turns against itself. If the film were to stand alone, it would be solid. As part of the greater Marvel Universe, it is spectacular. This film is a pivot point for the cinematic Marvel world, and the stakes are high.
While the plot is tightly wound, the whole film works by being grounded in Steve Rodgers/Captain America’s strong moral standards. This is a good man and a good hero, and the identity of the Winter Soldier allows for a deeper plot line.
I would say that this is my favorite Marvel movie so far. Click here for a more in depth review.
While Gravity is arguably a better overall film, I enjoyed Interstellar more. It succeeds in matching 2001: A Space Odyssey in portraying the vastness of space, while not matching the slow pace. The space-vistas are spectacular, beautiful, and fascinating, but not the center of the story. This is a father-daughter story, a tale of survival and trying to benefit the greater good of mankind while sacrificing the personal.
At the end of three hours, I was still immersed in the world until I stood up and realized my legs were a bit wobbly. I suppose the length helps immerse us in the low-gravity world.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Speaking of post-modernity, Peter/Star Lord is a walking cultural reference encyclopedia. My favorite of which is the reference to Kevin Bacon starting a revolution in Footloose. Perhaps it is because both star Christ Pratt, but Guardians of the Galaxy feels like the more adult version of the Lego Movie. Both are a bit spastic, both feature a rag-tag team running together, both have mile-a-minute nods and references to pop culture and genre tropes, and both never quite take themselves seriously. Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun space opera, a wild adventure, and yet often falls into the cliches of its genre. It’s a good movie, but it will be interesting to see how the franchise grows in future films.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
This is a solid adaptation of the first half of Mockingjay. It captures the darkness, the tenseness of the book, while adding layers of emotion. The scenes outside of Katniss’ perspective help build the world and the story. The music and story build together a world of desperation, preparing us for what will be a surely epic grand finale of explosions and really depressing deaths.
And The Winner Is…
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t the greatest film on this list, and Captain America: Winter Soldier is a close second, Interstellar a close third. However, it surprised me and entertained me, and isn’t that what film is about? I have already seen it three times, and, each time, enjoyed the mix of Hollywoodism and marketing with an independent film sensibility. I think, really, the film ignites the excitement of the film major in my brain. It’s a rare, fun, sweet film, and isn’t caught up in dirty jokes and potty humor. It is about being a better human being and building stronger relationships. If I can watch a movie and feel better about myself at the end, then I think it’s worth watching again.
What is your favorite film from last year? Did you agree with the Oscars? Did you have fun having so much space in movies last year? What movies are you excited for next year?
Side Note 1
I predict that next year’s winner will be…
Side Note 2
I am going to try to update the blog sometime before the end of the semester, but need to apply to internships. In the meantime, here is a small sample of what I’ve been working on.