The Odds And Ends Of 2014: A Few More Superlatives To Wrap Up A Year In Movies

We've shown you our top 10s of 2014, our favorite actors, characters, and trailers, the best under-the-radar releases, and so on. Even so, there are a few more scenes, performances, gags, and other miscellanea we'd like to highlight before we close the book on 2014. So as we head into 2015, we present to you the odds and ends of 2014 — the other stuff that we'll remember about the past year in film, for better or for worse.

Most Effective Marketing Campaign: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Anyone can give you a well-cut trailer or a pretty poster. Lionsgate turned its marketing campaign for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 into an experience. The Capitol TV dispatches turned us all into citizens of Panem, while supplementary materials like the District Heroes series expanded the world of Panem far beyond what we've seen or will ever get to see in the movies. But for me, the real evidence of the campaign's effectiveness arrived in the theater. The hair on the back of my neck stood up at the opening strains of the Capitol TV, thanks to the months I'd spent listening to it in the run-up to the movie.

Worst Case of Dragon Sickness: Peter Jackson and Warner Bros.

Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies Thorin Gold

If "dragon sickness" makes an otherwise sane person act unreasonably greedy, then Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. had the worst case of "dragon sickness" in Hollywood in 2014. As The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies rolled out, it became clear that every suspicion we'd had about the trilogy being a cynical money-grubbing ploy was correct. Together, the three epic pictures only served to prove that The Hobbit had no business being adapted into three epic pictures to begin with.

The You Tried Award: Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale

There were a lot of bad movies in 2014. What made Winter's Tale unique was that it was a bad movie that had clearly been made with a lot of care. The tone of the film is almost oppressively earnest, and not a single person in the cast or crew seems to be phoning it in. And yet nearly every decision is preposterously misguided, from Colin Farrell's terrible haircut right up to the film's very notion of "miracles."

Best End Credits Sequence: 22 Jump Street

27 Jump Street

22 Jump Street was a sequel to a comic reboot of an old TV drama, that was all about the very ridiculousness of making a sequel to a comic reboot of an old TV drama. And just when I thought they'd squeezed every joke they possibly could out of that premise, they dropped about a dozen more in the credits. It's almost too bad Sony is actually moving ahead with another Jump Street movie. The sly sequence would've been the perfect capper to a movie franchise that's proved much sharper than it ever had any right to be.

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Things take a dark turn on the next page with the best and worst timing of the year, the best argument for letting humanity die off, and more.

Boyhood

Most Prescient: The Star Wars conversation in Boyhood

Boyhood's 12-year shooting schedule meant that Richard Linklater was left to guess what pop culture touchstones would still be relevant by the time the film finally opened. He fares pretty well overall, but his crowning achievement in this area is a conversation in which Mason and his dad discuss the possibility of more Star Wars movies.

By the time Boyhood was actually released, of course, anticipating Star Wars Episode VII had become a national pastime. The scene would have been overly cutesy if not for the fact that Linklater couldn't possibly have known that would happen. Or could he? Perhaps after spending so much of his career working with time, Linklater's finally gained the ability to travel through it.

Worst Timing: Let's Be Cops 

Let's Be Cops

There was probably no good time to release Let's Be Cops, a middling comedy that squanders the chemistry between its charming leads. But it had the bad luck of opening at the worst possible time — August 13, just a few days after the shooting of Michael Brown. The gross abuse of police powers was probably the last thing anyone felt like laughing about.

Best Timing: Selma

SELMA

On the flip side, a movie as good as Selma deserves praise and attention no matter when it's released, but it was made extra relevant by the protests that swept the nation in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. (And Eric Garner, and John Crawford III, and Tamir Rice, and...) Selma served as both a triumphant look at how far we've come in the past 50 years, and a depressing reminder of how far we still have to go.

Most Chilling Depiction of Mass Surveillance: Annie

Quvenzhane Wallis;Jamie Foxx

Remember the scene in The Dark Knight when Batman uses a cell phone-based surveillance system to track down the Joker, and feels so ambivalent about it that he gets Lucius to destroy it afterward? There's something like that in Annie, only no one feels bad about using it. Instead, everyone acts like it's a great thing that this private corporation has the ability to track, trace, and monitor every cell phone going back 10+ years, and release the data to anyone who asks. Because surely the only people who'd ever use such a power are benevolent billionaires looking out for adorable moppets.

Best Argument for Just Letting Humanity Die Off: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Humankind was never more endangered last year than it was in Snowpiercer, in which the entire population had dwindled down to the passengers on a single train. But humanity also never seemed more deserving of extinction last year than it did in Snowpiercer. After all, it's human greed that brings about climate change, and human arrogance that leads to a cure that's worse than the ailment.

As for the survivors, the lower classes have done some horrific things in order to survive, and even then their lives are so awful that death might be a blessing. The upper classes are even more despicable, willfully ignoring the suffering of their fellow citizens so that they may luxuriate in gourmet foods and decadent dance clubs. The sense that the entire human race is on the brink of extinction hangs heavy over Snowpiercer, but it feels less like a tragedy than a relief.

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Let's lighten things up on the next page with the best and worst dick jokes (and more).

GOTG Jackson Pollock

Best Dick Joke in a PG-13 Blockbuster: Guardians of the Galaxy

Leave it to James Gunn to slip a perfectly disgusting, perfectly hilarious semen joke into a Marvel superhero movie. It's the kind of joke that sails right past the kids in the audience, which means it's also the kind of joke that'll have those same kids laughing in a few years when they realize their favorite childhood film wasn't quite as wholesome and innocent as they remembered.

Worst Dick Joke in a PG-13 Blockbuster: Michelangelo's erection in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Michelangelo header

Truly, "She's so hot I can feel my shell tightening" was one of the low points of cinema in 2014. It's one of the very first lines uttered by Michelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which means the filmmakers decided the first thing audiences should know about Michelangelo is that his dick is hard. He says it while April is freaking out about being surrounded by four large turtle men in a dark alley, which gives it a nice rapey vibe. And it's only the first of many, many come-ons by Michelangelo to April throughout the movie.

The line itself forced me to think about all sorts of things I'd rather not think about, including the sexual urges of beloved childhood icons, the mechanics of turtle erections, and the potential for interspecies sexual relations. And on top of all that it's weirdly sad, because it suggests that unlike those of normal turtles, Michelangelo's penis is forever trapped underneath his shell. (For the record, this is how an actual turtle penis works.)

Best Bodily Function Gag: The breast milk scene in Neighbors

Film Title: Neighbors

Piss, shit, farts, vomit, jizz — all of it is old hat when it comes to Apatow-related, R-rated comedies. Neighbors is the only movie I've ever seen with an extended bodily function gag built around breast milk, and by God, it is horrifying. I think I'm finally starting to get how you men feel when you watch guys get kicked in the nuts.

Least Appetizing Meal: The pizza in Wetlands

Wetlands

If you don't want delivery pizza forever ruined for you, don't watch Wetlands. Just don't. Trust me on this one.

Worst Explanation of Rape Laws: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers Statutory Rape Law

There is a character in Transformers: Age of Extinction who carries around a laminated copy of Texas statutory rape laws. He does this because he is a 20-year-old man with a 17-year-old girlfriend, and the 165-minute film grinds to a screeching halt so that he can explain to her dad why it's okay that they're boning. Not only is the scene skeevy (even by Michael Bay standards), and wholly irrelevant (it never comes up again), it's not even legally accurate.

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Our wrap-up wraps up on the next page with the worst casting, the most surprising cameo, the best mini-McConnaissance, and more.

Exodus whitewashing

Worst Casting: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott gave us one of the most egregious examples of whitewashing in some time with Exodus: Gods and Kings. He tried to justify his choices by insisting that ancient Egyptians could too be white. When that line of defense failed, he argued that he couldn't have gotten a movie made with "Mohammed so-and-so" anyway. None of it made the sight of white movie stars playing royalty surrounded by silent black actors playing slaves any easier to stomach.

Then after all that, he didn't even make good use of the cast he got. Sigourney Weaver is practically an under-five, John Turturro is bizarrely out of place, Aaron Paul is given little to do but stare intensely, and Christian Bale doesn't even seem to be in the same movie as his co-stars half the time. Exodus: Gods and Kings might not have been better if it starred other (non-white) actors, but at least it would have been less infuriating.

Most Surprising Cameo: Topher Grace in Interstellar

INTERSTELLAR

Matt Damon was supposed to be the big surprise cameo in Interstellar, but when a star that big signs on for a project this feverishly anticipated it doesn't go unnoticed. Though he was carefully left out of the marketing, his appearance had already been spoiled by headlines in 2013. No, the real shocker was Topher Grace. He appeared out of the blue, did what he could with what precious little he was given to do, and then slipped away before we had a chance to figure out what he was doing there to begin with.

Worst Argument for Continuing to Give Johnny Depp Work: Transcendence

There was a time when Johnny Depp's name on a poster was a promising sign for the film; nowadays it feels more like a dire warning. Nevertheless, I went into each of his films hoping it'd be better than the last. Then Transcendence happened.

In early scenes where Depp is forced to play a normal person, he's about as convincing as the "I'm a hooman" cat. This is Depp stripped of his usual crutches — the tics, the funny accents, the bold makeup choices — and it turns out there's nothing underneath. Depp must have noticed, too. His other two releases this year saw him retreating back into his bag of tricks and looking far more comfortable (if not any more appealing) as a result.

Most Seen and Least Remembered: Brenton Thwaites

The Signal

Brenton Thwaites was in no fewer than four movies this year. But you probably don't remember him because none of his projects really took off besides Maleficent, in which he spends much of his limited screentime floating, asleep. Better luck in 2017 with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, I guess.

Best Mini-McConnaissance: Chris Pine

Chris Pine Stretch

Chris Pine looks like a generic leading man type and for years he's been playing generic leading man types, mostly to forgettable effect. Even with two Star Trek movies under his belt, Pine has struggled to stand out among the Chris Hemsworths and Channing Tatums and Ryan Goslings of the world. 2014 initially looked like more of the same, as Pine kicked off the year with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

But then he spent the rest of the year embracing offbeat supporting roles, with awesome results. First he surfaced as a hirsute weirdo in Joe Carnahan's Stretch, though you might not have noticed since 1) he was uncredited and 2) the film bypassed theaters and went straight to Netflix. Then he held his own against a trio of seasoned comic actors in Horrible Bosses 2. In Into the Woods, he spoofed his own pretty-boy image and showed off his pipes to boot.

Pine's due for a return to center stage in the next Star Trek movie, but if I had it my way he'd keep going down this weird road. There seems to be a hilarious character actor stuck in that handsome leading man's body, and the former looks like the one to watch.