Of all the lists you’ll be perusing over the course of the next few weeks, this one was, without a doubt, the hardest to make. Not because 2014 was so overloaded with quality product; just the opposite, actually. When you have to leave out terrible titles like Sex Tape, Tammy, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Dumb and Dumber To, The Best of Me, No Good Deed, The Last of Robin Hood, As Above So Below, Are You Here, Let’s Be Cops, The Devil’s Knot, A Haunted House 2, Dark House, The Outsider, Vampire Academy, and I, Frankenstein off your list to make room for the real crap, you know you’re dealing with worst of Hollywood’s hopeless dung heap… and that’s just the ones we were unfortunate enough to see. All around the artform are independent and self-released atrocities just waiting to waste one’s time and make them doubt in the existence of God—or talent.
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Christmas—or, in the more PC vernacular, the holiday which occurs sometime in December—is supposed to be a celebration of peace on Earth and goodwill to all humanity. Instead, it usually ends up being a nightmare of unbridled commercialism, long retail shopping lines, endless fattening foodstuffs, and a reminder why you don’t spend more time with your family the other 364 days/11 months out of the year. It’s also a trying time for people suffering with depression, as suicide rates seem to escalate along with partygoers cholesterol and diabetes rates. Part of the problem is entertainment oriented. There are lots of wonderful songs, TV shows, plays, and films which expertly capture the yuletide spirit. But for every classic, for every A Christmas Carol or “White Christmas”, there’s an ‘RXmas or a “Mary, Have You Heard”.p
Over the weekend, in a low key announcement it hoped would fly way under the PR radar, producing studio Paramount announced that Roberto Orci, the director responsible for handling the third film in the newly rebooted Star Trek franchise, had been relieved of his duties. For some, this was expected. Orci is a famed screenwriter, and he’s at least partially responsible (with former writing partner Alex Kurtzman and filmmaker J.J. Abrams) for invigorating the beloved sci-fi series’ stalled fortunes.
On the other hand, he had never directed a feature film before. Also, Orci provoked the anger of Trek Nation by browbeating the fanbase over the affection (or lack thereof) for 2013’s Khan-oriented Into Darkness. It was a gamble. While he said all the right things during the original honeymoon media phase, apparently he was not prepared for an assignment of this magnitude.
Let’s get one thing straight right up front: we clearly recognize, going into this category, that almost every movie made in 2014 could be considered for this list. Thanks to a little something called CGI and its overuse by modern moviemakers, almost every film featured at your local Cineplex contains some animated element. That beautiful rendering of your favorite city or countryside? Digitally tweaked. That stunning car chase or impossible stuntwork? Aided by computer-generated vehicles and characters.
Of course, your favorite superhero and his equally engaging villains are rendered with the help of technology. Even basic stuff, like support wires, make-up mistakes, and posthumous performances are altered, thanks to those post-Jurassic Park technical breakthroughs. So we aren’t going to address this approach. If we did, we’d have to parse through hundreds of movies and make mention of each instance where a laptop or motherboard made a difference.
Mike Nichols won nine Tony Awards, four Emmys, a Grammy and an Oscar, making him one of the few artists in any medium that can claim such honors. Not bad for a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who thought of becoming a doctor but, instead, dropped out of the University of Chicago to try the theater. It was there where he met partner Elaine May, and the two would soon become the toast of contemporary (‘50s) pop culture.
He was accepted into the Actor’s Studio and studied under the great Lee Strasberg before joining the Windy City’s Compass Players in 1955. Along with May, Shelley Berman, Del Close, and Nancy Ponder, they were the predecessors for the noted Second City improv troupe. In 1960, Arthur Penn directed the Broadway smash An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and soon both were huge household names.