There are critics, and then there are trolls. A troll is someone who enjoys raining on the parade, to take a beloved classic and tell you everything you thought you enjoyed about it was wrong. The troll only hates something because everyone else enjoys it, and the troll wants to define himself or herself by blazing their own path and forming an interesting, provocative opinion that challenges the status quo of their peers.
I’d hate to think that my opinion on an individual movie would completely define my own personality or my taste in film. That’s because each year, a number of highly critically acclaimed films come out, and not every critic can reasonably get behind all of them. In fact, some critics find a handful of films in this bunch downright bad, and they struggle to explain what all the fuss is about. It happens every year, with just about every movie. Yes, even “Boyhood.”
And yet each year, there are angry commenters who shun the first critic to break the 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and there are people who aim to invalidate a critic’s entire reputation by saying, “How could you hate X and yet give a good review to Y?”
This year I found myself on the far end of a few of these critical spectrums; that doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely loved loved LOVED so many of the other critical darlings and cultural hits from 2014. Yes, that one too.
So take this list with a grain of salt. It’s not meant to be contrarian or say these movies are overrated. Just know that much as I disliked this small batch of films, they’re each admirable, ambitious and memorable in a way you could very well love. Just don’t hold it against me.
“Locke” is a movie made for the radio. The story of one man driving a car and taking calls on his way to his mistress giving birth is a labored, 85-minute long experiment in audio-visual storytelling that is never visually interesting. Many have lauded praise on Tom Hardy’s fiery one-man show, but he seems to be in a different movie entirely, speaking like he’s a Thespian and not a construction worker, and demonstrating not a hint of humor or sexuality in his principled tone of voice. Just like the movie, Locke’s character is a complete contrivance.
A pastiche of Orwellian and Terry Gilliam dystopias, Richard Ayoade’s dark comedy “The Double” is so cynical and bleak that watching it isn’t wryly funny but feels like Ayoade turning the knife in your back at every carefully calculated plot turn and thematic wink in the dialogue. Like Jesse Eisenberg’s polar opposites performance, there’s no subtlety here, just bludgeoning ideas and dreary colors.
After the high that was “Prisoners”, Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” is frustratingly ambiguous and opaque in its attempt to pile on the cloak and dagger suspense. Like “The Double”, it tells the story of two doppelgangers, one timid, the other charismatic and brash, but the stakes it sets feel like plot holes, and the symbolic fantastical imagery is plain strange and inscrutable.
Darren Aronofsky is a great director, and his vision is plastered all over this studio picture, but in “Noah” his ambition gets the best of him. “Noah” is an ambitious mess of biblical proportions, in which ugly CGI monstrosities occupy the same space as an intimate cabin in the woods scenario of madness and humanity. It’s all over the place in what should be an ordinary morality tale direct from the Bible.
The first half of Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” is thoughtful, fresh, funny and dramatic, whereas the second half adopts the same themes and becomes depressing, repulsive and torturous. von Trier makes us endure horrible acts of sexual abuse against women, and all the while he’s laughing in our faces with cheap metaphors for spirituality, revealing why the director is such a persona non grata.
Though Gareth Edwards earned acclaim for the new visual spin he brought to the “Godzilla” franchise, he’s forgotten to include any allegories or ideas that might modernize it, any characters that are more than paper thin and any dialogue that might make it memorable, funny or clever. “Godzilla” is dry, lumbering, humorless and forgettable.
“The Missing Picture” is a harrowing documentary and recollection of the horrors endured in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and director Rithy Panh has made up for a lack of honest images with remarkable dioramas recreating his memories. But these dioramas are literal set pieces. With his faceless figurines, he removes a human center from the film along with any context or personal touch, but leaves in all the grim, litany of horrors. For a better documentary about genocide, check out “The Look of Silence” or “Shoah.”
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is still locked under house arrest by his government and forbidden to make films, but in “not” making a film he’s gone meta upon meta upon even more. Even the most evocative sequences in “Closed Curtain” are mercilessly long, uneventful and confusing in hopes of a more satisfying narrative.