By now 2014 is getting to be a distant image in the rear-view mirror but it’ll stage a notable comeback this coming weekend (Sunday, Feb. 22, 5:30pm PST/8:30 EST, ABC TV) when the Oscars are given out for what the majority of about 6,000 voters determine their opinions to be for the top achievements in 24 categories. However, it’s taken me until now to see most of what’s been nominated (still missing some in the Foreign Language, Documentary, and Short Films categories), so I’m just now able to finalize what I can of a Top 10 Films of 2014 list (plus some other Top 5 lists in various categories that also get awards in addition to Best Picture). You can get a clear hint of my #1 film from the featured photo that accompanies the lead announcement of this new posting in Popculture Galaxy, but I encourage you to read my 2014 Top 10 Lists and Some Short Reviews to see what else I’m advocating for excellent cinematic achievements from last year whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agrees or not with their various nominations and awards. As for my condensed reviews, one is about the Academy’s group of 5 Short Live Action Films (the only one of the Shorts programs that I’ve yet had a chance to see) while the others address some random 2015 releases: The Wedding Ringer, Black or White, and Jupiter Ascending.
In even briefer form than in the review posting, I’ll just note here that The Wedding Ringer and Jupiter Ascending both work well enough as diversionary entertainment—with the former being an absurd Kevin Hart comedy about a guy who rents himself and some random acquaintances out as best man and groomsmen for guys who need to show the world that they’re more popular than they really are when their weddings roll around, the latter is a flamboyant sci-fi extravaganza from The Matrix-famous Wachowski siblings where an ordinary maid in Chicago learns that not only is there a lot more to the universe than any of us ever suspected but also she owns Earth—although she won’t for long if the sons of the family she inherited it from get their way. I’d recommend bargain-matinee prices for either of these because they’re much like an ordinary cheeseburger: tasty enough during the immediate experience but easily forgettable when something of more substance comes along (which is not to say that either of these movies is “cheesy” … but that’s up to you). Something that attempted to be of more substance is Black or White in which Kevin Costner and Octavia Spenser play characters fighting for the custody and the soul of their precious granddaughter (seriously, the kid played by Jillian Estell is terrific). This story tries to initiate that national conversation about race that we’ve been told we need to have for decades; however, at best this is just a start in that turmoil-laden direction, one a bit too broad in approach and short on nuance to shake much loose from the impasse that we often find ourselves in, although a noble attempt nevertheless.
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