Citizenbot’s 2014 Year in Review

Well, glad that’s over.

2014 can officially go fornicate itself– while the geeky stuff we got was an embarrassment of riches, everything somehow felt like a horrible slog. Maybe it was the news, maybe it was other things. But 2015 is full of promise: Star Wars, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and the final Hunger Games. And that’s just movies: there’s also tv, music, and video games.

So let’s quickly count down the best and worst (from all media) of the past year, and then I’ll offer a few nominations for my own personal Oscars.

Top 10

10. Top Five Ironic that my Top 10 is rounded out by a Chris Rock semi-autobiographical flick? Maybe. But it’s also really good. Draw a Venn Diagram of Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, and rap/hip hop and you have Top Five. It’s foul, it’s funny, it’s poignant without being preachy, and also made me forgive Adam Sandler for his terrible films for the 3 minutes he’s in this playing himself. 

9. The Lego Movie EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! Who knew you could make a dystopian tale about conformity and corporate rule and sell it to kids? It makes almost as little sense as a double-decker couch. But this movie was nearly perfect and I may love it even more than my kids do. 

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes If there is an argument for nominating an actor for voice and mocap work, it is here in the work of Andy Serkis and also Tony Kebbel and Judy Greer. No Apes were harmed in this movie because there were no apes in this movie. Our review of this here.

7. Boyhood The movie gods just smiled all over director Richard Linklater for this, who started filming this over a decade ago. Just watch it. Then let’s talk about the Star Wars scene. My review here.

6. Birdman The part of me that wants to be a “legitimate” film critic screams that this is the best film of the year. And it may be. Keaton is brilliant. The directing and the way it is shot is amazing. Fans of film as an art form are especially in for a treat. Just great. I hope this wins all the awards.

5. Stephen Colbert This was his year. He went out on a high note on The Colbert Report. He interviewed Smaug. He interviewed President Obama, who also did “The Word.” That amazing, geektastic final farewell (can you find Joe Quesada in the final wide shot?) I’m sad to lose Colbert the Idiot as a character, but ecstatic at what he’ll bring to Late Night. He is one of us– Geek Supreme. And I’m just sad CBS doesn’t put their shows on Hulu. May have to try to tune into this one live.

4. Too Many Cooks There was nothing else nearly as inventive, as insane, as catchy as this. The first two minutes were fun, then it got weird. Then it got weirder. Then it got awesome. Then it was in outer space. Then it wrapped it all up in a pretty bow. Just when you think you can’t be surprised any more, not only does this come out, it becomes one of the top trending topics on social media for the entire next week. Thanks, Too Many Cooks!

3. Guardians of the Galaxy This movie came out on my birthday, and I couldn’t ask for anything better. While not my favorite movie of the year, it is my most-watched and most-quoted. Somehow it’s just incredibly repeat viewing friendly. And that soundtrack. Nuff said.

2. Begin Again What? Haven’t heard of this little jewel? Mark Ruffallo is a jaded music producer past his prime who discovers Kiera Knightley singing at an open mic. He offers to produce her debut album, and the two develop an amazing relationship. This movie was brilliant and more people need to see it. That’s why it’s at the top of my list, except for. . .

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier This is the movie for our time. Surveillance. Espionage. Intrigue. The Russo Brothers made a spy thriller out of a Marvel movie, and also made it incredibly smart and relevant for our time. It’s absolutely genius and there is not anything else I saw all year that was better.


Bottom Five

5. Transformers: Age of Extinction. There were worse movies that I saw this year (Blended, Sabotage) but nothing was as brash, loud, and utterly stupid as this. Literally the only way we could think of to review this was as if Grimlock reviewed it. While Grimlock was “in the tank” for the film, my personal opinion was to give this 1 out of 10.

4. The ineptness of the US media.  Just go watch Season 3 of “The Newsroom” instead, ok? Seriously, if you watched any sort of news, cable news, etc, this year, this was the worst thing on television. Like we need three months of coverage over a missing plane. And isn’t it convenient how no one gives a crap about Ebola raging through Africa for months and months, but as soon as one person in Dallas (in a private hospital in a red state, fyi) gets it, then suddenly everyone loses their !@#$. And convenient how the media stokes public fear for weeks and then as soon as an election occurs, everyone magically doesn’t care any more. And major misses of the most important stories going on. At least we have the internet.

3. Racism. Seriously? Racism?!?! Why does it feel like, in 2014, we have taken multiple steps back from where we were 20 years ago in 1994 post Rodney King, etc? (see the issues above with the media) But this year we had major outrage over the casting of Michael B Jordan as the Human Torch and just a few weeks ago, John Boyega as a stormtrooper (they can’t be black!) And then there’s the Ferguson protests, looking like something out of Watchmen, and the deaths of Darrien Hunt, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. . .I just can’t believe this is 2014. This was what I wrote on Dwayne McDuffie’s birthday this year.

2. The Year of the Troll: Speaking of racist trolls, this was the year trolls went mainstream, and got major attention for themselves outside of the internet. Death threats against Anita Sarkeesian, the near-cancellation of the release of The Interview over troll threats, and general trolling over #GamerGate, this was awful. It’s time to shut these people down. Let’s hope in 2015 we can leave this all behind. 

1. JMV. On Memorial Day of this year, I got a phone call from Swankmotron letting me know what had happened to our friend Jeff Michael Vice, aka JerkBot. Swank’s In Memoriam for him was one of the best things written on Big Shiny Robot this entire year, and it’s a shame it had to be written at all. Jeff was also a mentor to me, helping me make connections with movie studios so I could review more films here in Austin. He was also a fierce critic and fierce friend: he would call me out for dumb mistakes and tell me where he thought I was wrong, but also back me up and offer advice. Ask me sometime about the time we got into a big fight on Myspace and he de-friended me (boy, that dates that story, doesn’t it?) But when we kissed and made up later, it was all better. I often looked to Jeff to make sure I wasn’t completely out to lunch about disliking a movie that other critics seemed to really like, or liking something that was being panned. He was great to bounce ideas off of, and there was no better person to help me clarify my ideas. We miss you, JerkBot. 

And now, briefly, here’s the Rest of the Best:

11. Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways Both the album and the series are great. This made me love America. It made me love our music even more.
12. Chef My full review here. I loved this. And geeks should love it.
13. Geekshow/Hello Sweetie/Full of Sith I can’t get through my week without podcasts. I love these so much. Thanks for making me feel like family. 
14. Star Wars: Rebels Isn’t it great to have Star Wars back on tv? Thanks, Filoni and crew.
15. Edge of Tomorrow One of the best movies of the year hampered by a terrible title and (misplaced?) Tom Cruise fatigue.
16. Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars  Crossovers often suck. But this didn’t. Simon Pegg. “I find your lack of socks disturbing.” Gimme more!
17. Sherlock We had to wait faaaar too long to find out how Sherlock survived. My reviews of the three episodes here, here, and here. And I loved the character development for Mary. Brilliant.
18. The Imitation Game And even more awesomeness from Cumberbatch. This film was fantastic and the story is fantastic. Turing was ahead of his time, and Cumberbatch plays him with so much pathos.
19. X-Men: Days of Future Past It’s easy to forget this film in a summer of so much awesome, but it was the X-Men film we all wanted and deserved. Thanks for rebuilding your universe!
20. The Flash/Arrow These are the two shows I most look forward to every week. Why is that? They’re often dumb, but in the right ways. Thanks for making genre tv fun and approachable, yet also provide depth and nods to the comic fanbase.
21. Agents of SHIELD This show had a rough opening stretch, but in 2014 it kicked it into high gear with the introduction of Bill Paxton and the HYDRA storyline. It’s almost like they had to wait for Cap 2 to happen to have some fun. And the current madness with what seems more and more like terrigen mists and Kree and Inhumans. . . you’ve got this Marvel fanboy glued every week.
22. Mario Kart 8/Super Smash Bros. This is the most fun I’ve had in games all year. Call me “casual gamer” all you want, but nothing beats 8-player Smash with lots of friends. Except maybe 12-player Mario Kart online. . . Nintendo did well, and we expect even more next year. 
23. Big Hero 6 I expected nothing from this and got so much. Baymax gives me all teh feelz. 
24. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 These movies keep getting better and better. I hate that they split the last one into two parts, but I liked what I saw in part 1.
25. Mike Tyson Mysteries If you are not watching this, do yourself a favor and check it out. Pure comic madness.
26. The Theory of Everything This was the most beautiful love story I saw all year. And it’s mostly true. 
27. How to Train Your Dragon 2 A rare animated sequel even better than the first. 2014 was the year for amazing animated films– and surprisingly, no Pixar or Miyazaki.
28. Snowpiercer It’s like someone went inside my head and made a movie just for me. Considering how mixed the critical reviews are of this, that may be the case. But dystopian+trains+Chris Evans+violence makes me happy. Here’s Sithbot’s review, which I mostly agree with.
29. A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination In the wake of GamerGate do I have to disclose that I consider myself a friend of Bryan Young before I endorse this? Maybe so, but I love this book, and so does my history-enthused daughter. My review here.
30. Rosewater I keep going back over this film and how much I liked it. It has really stuck with me, a testament to the talents of writer/director Jon Stewart and lead actor Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My full review here.


Now let’s talk awards. There are great films that are largely going to be ignored by The Academy. If I were given a ballot for nominations, here’s who I would write in:

Best Original Screenplay: Chris Rock — Top Five
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jon Stewart and Maziar Bahari — Rosewater, based on Maziar Bahari’s “And Then They Came For Me”

Why these? Because I bet they will be overlooked and they are really, really good. As I said above, it’s like Chris Rock wrote a Woody Allen movie. There’s nothing else I’ve seen this year that plumbs the depths of addiction and alcoholism like this does. It also chronicles a lot of what I’m sure artists often feel like– being told to do the safe thing that audiences “want” instead of pursuing passion projects.

As for Rosewater, Stewart is able to make a dark, depressing tale about torture and political prisoners and successfully display the banality and stupidity of evil governments like Iran’s. It channels the Kafka-esque humor and presents it without making light of the seriousness of things like torture and oppressive regimes. That is hard to do. And Stewart walks that line successfully and also translates a great journalistic piece of writing into a film. Given Stewart’s. . ahhem. . .lackluster career as a film actor, he seems to understand what will work on film.


And now, Citizenbot will present an argument for the creation of a new Oscar category: “Best Performance involving motion capture.”

In a just world, Andy Serkis would be nominated outright for his performance as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But prejudices still exist, and, as some sources have pointed out, there’s an entire team of people who enhance any mo-cap performance. So, let’s honor all of that. Nominate an actor, a director, a visual effects team, and honor the contributions of all of them.

And this year, while the obvious standout is Serkis as Caesar, this year we should also nominate James Gunn, Sean Gunn, Bradley Cooper, and the effect team for the work to bring Rocket Raccoon to life. Hopefully by now you’ve see the special features on the Guardians of the Galaxy home release. You’ll notice that James Gunn’s brother Sean did the mo-cap for Rocket, while Bradley Cooper only came in and did the voice later.

This was truly a team effort, and exactly the reason why a “special performance” Oscar is warranted.

As this type of mo-cap work becomes more and more common, performances like this are going to keep getting ignored by the Academy. 


So, that’s it. Goodbye 2014– don’t let the door hit you on the butt on your way out. And come here, you good looking 2015. Let’s make some magic. 

See you next year.