Heavy Weight Champions of 2014 Archive

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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: True Detective

The season-anthology format pioneered by American Horror Story is probably one of the most refreshing injections of energy into Television in the last few years. Sadly, while Murphy decided to […]

The season-anthology format pioneered by American Horror Story is probably one of the most refreshing injections of energy into Television in the last few years. Sadly, while Murphy decided to turn AHS into a playground for his extremely unique talent for disjointed storytelling filled with over the top “Oh shit, that happened on a TV show?”-ness not many other options flourished after its immediate announcement. Of course, it could just be because producers everywhere were holding their breath to see if Asylum turned out to be economically unsuccessful. And even if I’m not his biggest fan, I will say, major kudos to Murphy in crafting what is easily the most insane, utterly out of control TV show in recent memory. It’s a shame that that anarchic energy does not translate into entertainment for me, for reasons not worth getting into.

However, what did entertain me during 2014 was seeing how many other shows took the idea of “One season, one story” and ran with it. Especially January’s first big surprise: Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective. Told as a sequence of flashbacks framed by a police interrogation of two former police detectives, True Detective is the story of Rustin “Rust” Cohle and Martin “Marty” Hart, the detectives in charge of the “King In Yellow” case, as their case is being revised by the Missouri police because they believe they have found a new victim and a new lead.

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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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