2014: A Dark And Personal Year At The Movies

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)

"Nobody knows anything."

Back in 1983, veteran screenwriter William Goldman was writing about the inability of anyone in Hollywood to know how a movie would fare with the public. (His book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, continues: "Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work.")

More than 30 years later, that adage still rings true, whether in Hollywood or anywhere else in the world. Nobody knew, for example, if a found-footage zombie movie set in an apartment building in Barcelona would work until [REC] was unleashed in 2007. Nobody knew, to cite a more recent example, if a black-humored thriller about two desperate men taking increasingly more diabolical dares for money would work until Cheap Thrills burst out of nowhere in 2013.

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But as 2014 progressed, I found myself increasingly distanced from Hollywood product, which is my primary focus of coverage for this and other outlets. Maybe it's just that my tolerance for movies as events has steadily evaporated over the years and just happened to empty entirely at the end of summer, when I was exhausted of hearing critical praise heaped upon two well-made, yet only slightly above-average movies about apes and galactic guardians, respectively, and then realized that a long run of below-average found-footage flicks and wretched romantic comedies had further fouled the waters for me.

So this fall I drew greater comfort than normal from independent movies, whatever their country of origin, and took full advantage of opportunities to attend Fantastic Fest and the Morbido Film Fest, two events that renewed my spirit of appreciation for dark and personal visions, and the people who bring them to life -- the filmmakers and the performers -- and the people who make them known -- the filmmakers and performers, again, but also festival programmers, publicists, theatre workers, and, yes, writers at sites like this one.

Eventually, I came to the realization that 2014 has been a very dark year for me personally, which is probably why empty-headed, mass-market blockbusters and movies that pretend to be made by amateurs didn't come close to hitting the mark. Who knows what the new year will bring?

For now, I treasure the movies that carved themselves into my memory.

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