Best Of The Year Archive

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Heavyweight Champions of 2014: Interstellar

Space exploration is probably one of the most fascinating human concerns in our times, since it says so much about the idealized human spirit that we constantly chase as a […]

Space exploration is probably one of the most fascinating human concerns in our times, since it says so much about the idealized human spirit that we constantly chase as a society. We’re Survivors, We’re Craftsmen, We’re Heroes, bound not to this Earth but to this universe, and whose dreams are equal to our reach as well as our thirst for knowledge. Or some other philosophical wax.

I have personally always found it fascinating because it’s easy to link it up to another narrative that involves the re-examination of our collective and individual identities: the immigrant story. Much like in immigrant stories, the travelers are people who are searching for better lives and a place where they can finally let go of the emotional baggage that has haunted them in their previous lives, either due to their culture or due to their mistakes (sometimes and most often, both) It is in space, then, that most sci-fi storytellers decide to test and examine how much we’re bound to these concepts of countries, borders, cultures and “home”. And most importantly, the ones that compel me go a long way towards liberating or stripping these characters of these in order to reach a raw, naked emotional truth.

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Heavyweight Champions of 2014: Life Itself

Biographies are hard. They’re hard to get into and they’re hard to make. And especially, they’re hard to make compelling. It all depends entirely on the material you have, whether the […]

Biographies are hard. They’re hard to get into and they’re hard to make. And especially, they’re hard to make compelling. It all depends entirely on the material you have, whether the person was prominent on their own or not and more importantly, whether the person had any history worth getting into. Filmed biographies are especially complicated due to the talking head format, where you have to select carefully the people you want and the questions you want to ask in order to create the portrait you want to come out. You also always run the risk of subjectivity in your portrait. All portraits are inherently subjective, of course, but you still want to create something that fully conveys the nature of the person you are representing to the spectator.

In Life Itself, Steve James challenges himself to obtain a portrayal that comes close to Roger Ebert’s autobiography. Not only does he succeed, he manages to immortalize Roger in his beloved art form in a way that was probably beyond his wildest dreams. Ebert is probably already one of the most beloved icons of the film industry, an achievement that is made more staggering by the fact that the man himself was almost never involved in the making of movies himself. But Ebert made up for this in sheer passion for what movies were, what they could be and his significant contributions towards bridging the gap between those two places.

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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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