2014 Archive

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Heavy Weight Champions of 2014: Gone Girl

David Fincher is probably Hollywood’s most high-brow mercenary. A new Fincher movie is exciting because regardless of the script-work, we’re always going to get some highly beautiful aesthetic work on […]

David Fincher is probably Hollywood’s most high-brow mercenary. A new Fincher movie is exciting because regardless of the script-work, we’re always going to get some highly beautiful aesthetic work on all fronts. Unfortunately, Fincher’s last two projects before Gone Girl were disappointing because of the material he chose. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network are succesful movies, but they felt weak and overeliant on Fincher’s aesthetic work to carry out stories that most of the time felt generic and whenever they veered out of generic territory, they went into outright insulting and bizarre territory. This is especially jarring in the light of the fact that Zodiac proved to be a highlight in Fincher’s career.

So, when Gone Girl was released, I was apprehensive. On the one hand, this was another adaptation, not unlike Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and I had serious issues with the book in terms of its characterization of its two main leads, which by the end of the book felt less like people and more like plot devices in constant contradiction. On the other hand, Gillian Flynn’s structure really fit the flights of narrative fancy that distinguished Fight Club and Se7en from the pack. And it’s important to remember that Fight Club was also a barely-above average book before Fincher turned it into a turn-of-the-millenium grenade of a cult film.

And then we had the final product. Gone Girl is probably the strongest Fincher release in a career filled with modern thriller classics and it’s all due to the fact that when it comes to Gillian Flynn’s script, Fincher understands that while her characters could be strong and compelling in the page, they do not come across as humans unless someone imbues them with life. Cue Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, taking both roles and turning them from simulacra into living, breathing individuals. Pike, in particular, is a complete stand-out as Amy Dunne, switching from kind and sweet to conniving and menacing in the blink of an eye, she’s the ultimate femme fatale, taking her cue from the Lauren Bacalls and Veronica Lakes of old Hollywood and then ultimately giving them the chance to redeem themselves outside of the narcissist and misogynist narratives that defined them and blossom as the forces of nature they were meant to be.

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On Run The Jewels, The Greatest Hip Hop Act of 2014

2014 has been a mediocre year for hip hop. 2014 has mostly been home to expectations, such as Doomtree’s or Kendrick’s spectacular singles. Both of these announced new albums for […]

2014 has been a mediocre year for hip hop. 2014 has mostly been home to expectations, such as Doomtree’s or Kendrick’s spectacular singles. Both of these announced new albums for 2015. But, sadly, hip hop’s luminaries went in hiding for 2014. The average Jewel Runner would tell you that it was because a certain Jaime “El-P” Meline and a certain Michael “Killer Mike” Render announced Run The Jewels 2, the sequel to their critically acclaimed mixtape for 2013.

Yet, for me it wasn’t just the album release in 2014, a dry year for hip hop in general, what finally converted me to El-P and Killer Mike’s virtues as artists. It was their complete dedication to the idea of what their joint act could be. Run The Jewels 2 is the best album of 2014 and El-P and Killer Mike crafted the best musical act of 2014, but make no mistake, if they were faced with the Kanyes and Kendricks of the world, they’d still win.

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Birdman, (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Superhero Hate)

I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in […]

I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in time. In order to save the night, we decided to watch another movie. It was a choice between Birdman and something I don’t remember. The reason I was worried I was wasting my time and money was Scott Tobias’ review for the Dissolve, which makes a pretty comprehensive case against the movie and my own personal conflicted feelings about the Marvel and DC empire.

See, I love superhero stories. They’re powerful, meaningful operatic depictions of humanity’s best virtues put on the microscope so that they can be observed at their grandest and yet experienced at their most nuanced. This could be said of all genre fiction, but DC and Marvel’s spin is filled with an idealism and a humanism unparalleled in my experience consuming all sorts of media. I always point to the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that ends literally with five friends holding hands to vanquish the antagonist…  As many problems as that movie has, the good moments feel so sincere that I could not look away.

But then there’s the business side of things, Marvel’s current film universe has stuck to a very specific formula and tone. While the films have been wildly varied in milieu, everything about them feels factory made. Taken on an individual basis and when we had few releases, this was tolerable because the outings were still fun. But by the time we reached a mediocre Thor 2 and a flawed Guardians, it was quite easy for me to jump off the bandwagon (and occasionally laugh whenever the train went off the rails) while mourning the death of my love for the genre.

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