The Top Five Wasted Efforts of 2014

Ask anyone currently working on a movie and they will seem like the most optimistic of people. They have to be. Most movies would never be finished if everyone realized how terrible it was going to turn out. And while that clearly would not be the worst thing, it is very unlikely to ever happen.

 

But the expectations for a potential finished product are not always the same, no matter what the rose-colored perception of that finished product might be. No one involved in Guardians Of The Galaxy was figuring on being the highest grossing movie of the year even if they were sure it was going to be great. They might have been happy with being great and having nobody ever notice. Conversely, nobody involved in Unbroken expects to not be nominated for an Oscar even if they’d never say so where we could hear.

 

And while these future imagined scenarios probably do not impact the quality of the work everyone making these movies puts forth, it can at times seem like a waste of great individual effort when everything around the effort fails so miserably. Or worse, doesn’t fail at all but rather fulfills exactly the destiny it was always meant to, a flatly pedestrian one.

 

In a way, these performances are even more worthy of accolades because there could never have been any chance of getting them. They were always going to be unregarded. But these people made them anyway. Despite the odds. Despite the relative anonymity. Despite everyone around them seemingly unable to give a shit.

 

  1. Leslie Mann – The Other Woman

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She should be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. (Her husband) Judd Apatow ought to be buying billboards all over LA promoting this fact. I’m not even saying she should win. But for this performance to be sloughed off with the rest of the obvious nonsense that was The Other Woman is just appalling. Well, the kind of appalling that you totally expect and will get over pretty quickly, but absolutely appalling nonetheless.

 

Leslie Mann has always been great in such varying capacities and has largely gone unnoticed for them but it has never been unjust. It’s just how it works. But she found another gear in this movie, portraying a woman spiraling out of her mind and forcing every weird decision that coincidentally forwards the ridiculous plot to make complete sense. And was intensely funny doing it. Much is made of comedies being ignored come awards time and that’s terrible and true, but this is so much more than that.

 

  1. Sam McCurdy – The Legend Of Hercules

 

When you sign on to the lesser of two Hercules movies due to be released within months of each other, you can’t be looking for much more than a paycheck. When that lesser Hercules movie is going to be directed by Renny Harlin, you are probably bracing yourself for being involved in yet another dismal box office failure and mostly hope no one ever notices you were a part of it.down

 

But cinematographer Sam McCurdy, who has plenty of other deceptively laudable credits (The Collection, The Devil’s Double, The Descent) is either unwilling or incapable of falling on his sword. The Legend Of Hercules is a failure is nearly every way, but there are plenty of moments where you could be forgiven for not noticing because what you are looking at is stunning. You just hope that Sam McCurdy couldn’t hear the acting going on from where he was positioned with the camera.

 

  1. Everyone involved – Get On Up

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One the one hand, a biopic about anyone might be enough to rouse daydreams of awards somewhere along the line. And this one was about James Brown, starring a guy who just played Jackie Robinson to great acclaim (if not awards) so anything had to seem possible.

 

But it was the guy who just played Jackie Robinson. And it was about James Brown. These are not really the cultural lightning rods they might have been at one time (even if one of those times was barely a year ago.) Beyond that though is the unrelenting and unignorable weirdness of Get On Up. Even in the production stage that had to be palpable. Even the greatest I’m Not There enthusiast wouldn’t watch Get On Up and think, “this is going to win Best Picture!” And it shouldn’t. But maybe it should be considered. For any and every award for which it could possibly be nominated.

 

  1. Ben Kingsley – The BoxTrolls

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Ben Kingsley doesn’t take a minute off. Even in that Jaguar commercial he could have been expecting an Oscar. So I suppose it is not a shock to find him being amazing and totally unrecognizeable in a cartoon that isn’t that great and is full of great actors (Jared Harris, Elle Fanning) being not great right along with it.

 

And BoxTrolls might yet be nominated in Best Animated categories wherever they may be found. It won’t deserve it, not with the field we are given each year at this point, but it will largely be because of Ben Kingsley’s unpredictably evil Archibald Snatcher. Even though it will never seem like it.

 

  1. Hans Zimmer + The Magnificent Six – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

 

When Steven Price’s name was pulled from the envelope last March, it was one of the few times that the best score of the year was recognized as such in any capacity. It’s rare it even gets a nomination. So maybe tides are turning. But they have not yet turned enough for there to be any glimmer of hope for perennially shut out mastermind of movie music Hans Zimmer to be recognized for his work on a sequel to a coldly received superhero movie. A sequel to a movie he didn’t even score in the first place.

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There are probably strains of that other person’s work throughout, it is the handicap of any sequel ever getting past that pesky “original” part of the category, but even with them, there can be little argument over the originality of this particular score. Simply in assembling The Magnificent Six (including Pharrell Williams and Junkie XL) he’s gone beyond even his own grand capacity for collaboration (which has also proved an obstacle for recognition in the past, most notably with James Newton Howard on The Dark Knight.) Moreover, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 score incorporates the best of all its conspiring facets, allowing them all points to shine through. It might even make some of them better (specifically, Incubus guitarist Steve Mazzaro.)

 

Ultimately, not even this team of unlikely musical heroes can save The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from its own drudgery and confused motivations. But there was never a chance of it becoming anything more than it is. More than any of these performances are. Fantastic and bizarre and ultimately overlooked pieces of cinema history.

 

 

 

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