Now that the halfway mark has hit between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we're inclined to look back on the past six months of cinematic glory. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. Next, we turn to movie scenes and moments — the funny, shocking, moving, and just plain weird instances that stuck with us long after we stepped out of the theater. Here's a quick list of some of the most memorable movie scenes and moments we've seen so far in 2014.
The evolution sequence in NoahDarren Aronofsky's account of the great flood jumped levels in progressive thinking when it included a scene that comfortably meshed creationist beliefs with the science of evolution. The sequence, which followed an aquatic amoeba as it grew into a fish, then a lizard, then a series of mammals, until ultimately becoming the impetus for mankind, is not just intellectually rich, but visually dazzling.
Gustave's prison break in The Grand Budapest HotelEvery chapter in Wes Anderson's latest film is terrific fun, but Ralph Fiennes on the run from the law (and the vicious Adrien Brody) is about as merry as it gets... even with the haunting undercurrent in an approaching World War.
The opening sequence in BorgmanThe mysterious Danish picture Borgman institutes an excitement, a levity, and a curious nature all at once with its terrific opening sequence, wherein the title character is drawn from his home underground for unexplained reasons and forced to flee the wrath of angry villagers, and help to liberate his friends from the same.
The "Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship!" gag in The Lego MovieServing primarily as a punchline to a long gestating joke, Charlie Day's Lego character's manic exclamation of his favorite word is the biggest laugh in a very funny movie.
Scarlett Johannson abducting a man with neurofibromatosis in Under the SkinJonathan Glazer's bizarre film is nothing if not evasive, but peaks in its enigmatic nature when the nameless hero/villain Scarlett Johansson, herself of mysterious origins, abducts and seems to warm to a man afflicted with a facial deformity. Cue the process of undress and cannibalistic black liquid floors...
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Ken Watanabe's big moment in Godzilla"Let them fight."
The end credits of 22 Jump StreetChris Miller and Phil Lord embrace their love of genre parody in the post-narrative moments of 22 Jump Street, in which they send their starring duo through a long line of false sequels (entailing their attendance at med school, military school, traffic school... there are a good dozen of these, all of 'em funny).
The statutory rape endorsement in Transformers: Age of ExtinctionLet's get this straight: we're simply in awe of this scene due to how god damn bizarre it is, not at all on board with its message (or even its artistic merits in a movie about robot wars). We can't help but think about Mark Wahlberg challenging the validity of 20-year-old Jack Reynor's romantic relationship with 17-year-old Nicola Peltz, only to see Reynor pull a laminated document from his pocket that exempts him from all legal ramifications of dating a minor. Weird as all hell.
The getaway scene in Night MovesNear unprecedented tension hits when Jesse Eisenberg and his two fellow eco-terrorists attempt to flee the scene after programming a time bomb to detonate an ecologically destructive dam. The trio sits on the midnight river, hoping to avoid both the eyes of passersby and the wrath of a deadly explosive. It's edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.
Liam Neeson grabbing a gun in mid-air while the airplane aboard which he is a passenger hurdles into oblivion as a team of hijackers attempts to take the whole thing hostage in Non-StopRight?
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The Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future PastEvan Peters spends very little time onscreen in the latest X-Men picture, but his talents are milked for all their value when he is charged with dashing around a slow-motion Pentagon kitchen to the soothing tunes of Jim Croce.
The grade school scene in SnowpiercerThe most disturbing, macabre, and wickedly fun scene in a movie that has no shortage of any of those three qualities, a very pregnant Allison Pill's grade school seminar in the back half of Snowpiercer stands out as the film's most enjoyable achievement. Pill sells the hell out of lunacy in this sequence.
Paul Rudd walks into a bar in They Came Together Our favorite joke in They Came Together, narrowly beating out Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler's mutual love of fiction books, is Rudd's sullen conversation with a highly redundant barkeep who, let's just say, calls 'em like he sees 'em. Over and over and over.
Nicolas Cage asking a neighborhood kid if he's still MMA fighting in Joe I have no idea why I love this so much, but one brief exchange in the sleepy, somber movie Joe has Cage chatting with a young neighbor in a bodega, asking about how his martial arts practice has been going. It's incredibly peculiar and charming, though I don't expect any of that to carry through here.
The Zola computer reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier Although we weren't crazy about the second Captain America movie, we have to tip a hat to the reveal that Toby Jones' Nazi scientist has been living on for the last 70 years in the form of a bulky yet surpemely efficient supercomputer. The sort of weird stuff that we love to see in the crevices of Marvel flicks.
The 67th Annual Tony Awards, held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, was swimming with A-List stars — and from the moment they stepped foot on the red carpet to the final curtain call, they were having a blast. We should know, we were in the thick of it.
While viewers at home were transported to Broadway with 15 musical numbers and laughed along with Neil Patrick Harris' fantastic hosting, those of us on the red carpet and in the media room were privvy to a little extra bit of fun. Here's what the TV cameras didn't catch.
Mike Tyson, who enjoyed a stint on Broadway with a one-man show last year, amazed everyone with his cameo appearance in Harris' show-stopping (or show-starting, as the case may be) opening number. But before he hit the stage, we watched Tyson hug The Sopranos' Steven Van Zandt (who would later present an award with Tom Hanks) on the red carpet. Tyson looked dapper on stage, but outside in the 90-degree New York City heat, the fighter was sweating like he had just exited the boxing ring. Inside the theater, Tyson cozied up with Now You See Me star Jesse Eisenberg.
Broadway veteran Bernadette Peters cut a stunning figure in a green Donna Karan Atelier with a basketweave texture. What you didn't see was the assistant she had on hand to scoop up and properly arrange her gown's train between poses.
Cyndi Lauper was the well-deserving belle of the ball on Sunday night. Not only did she rake in six awards (her show, Kinky Boots, was nominated for 13), but she was incredibly gracious to her fans and her energy was boundless. On the carpet before the ceremony, Lauper made sure to wave to the legions of fans lining the street (Glee and Annie star Jane Lynch did the same). Following her win, she hammed it up for photographers in the press room.
On the red carpet, Scarlett Johansson greeted Sienna Miller (whose fiancé, Tom Sturridge, was nominated for his work in Orphans) with a kiss on the cheek. Backstage, Johansson was equally chummy with fellow presenter Alan Cumming. The two played patty-cake before presenting the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
On the carpet, Cumming made peace signs and crazy faces while posing for photographers.
Four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald (whom you may know from Private Practice) shared the spotlight — and a hug — with her daughter, Zoe.
Smash star Megan Hilty shared the stage with fellow Broadway actors-turned-TV-stars Laura Benanti (Go On) and Andrew Rannells (The New Normal) for a laugh-out-loud musical number that poked fun at their bad luck on screen (cliffnotes: their shows have all been canceled). Hilty's Smash co-stars Debra Messing and Will Chase — who notoriously had a real-life affair — were conspicuously cuddly.
Home audiences were lucky enough to see this tender moment between Annie star Sunny (who plays Sandy, the lovable stray canine) and host Neil Patrick Harris. But since it's just too cute for words, here it is again:
Reporting by Lauren Paylor
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If we think hard enough, we can remember the old Mandy Patinkin: the one we knew before the days of Claire Danes-enabling and fluffy beardom. The actor's last television stint before Homeland was the CBS crime procedural Criminal Minds, on which he starred for two seasons between 2005 and '07. Patinkin's leave from the show was abrupt, as the actor has affirmed a distaste for the content of the program. A recent New York Magazine interview has Patinkin delving deeper into his issues with the show. The actor goes so far as to say, "The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place."
Patinkin joined Criminal Minds with ideas about what the show might be, but apparently wound up starkly disappointed: "I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality." He adds, "After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again."
This isn't a sentiment he resigns to Criminal Minds alone, but to the crime procedural genre in general: "I’m not making a judgment on the taste [of people who watch crime procedurals]. But I’m concerned about the effect it has. Audiences all over the world use this programming as their bedtime story. This isn’t what you need to be dreaming about."
But Patinkin has some very different feelings about his current job on his critically acclaimed Showtime drama: :A show like Homeland is the antidote. It asks why there’s a need for violence in the first place."
And although Patinkin might have distance himself from the forces behind Criminal Minds with these statements, he joins the revered community of actors who hate the stuff they've been in. And he's in pretty good company:
Katherine Heigl and Knocked Up
Not only has Heigl declined Emmy nominations for Grey's Anatomy in light of the show's writing not meeting her standards of quality, but she has also gone on record against the 2007 comedy Knocked Up, taking particular issue with writer/director Judd Apatow's female characters. In an '07 interview with Vanity Fair,Heigl called the movie "sexist," and said, "It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys."
Bob Hoskins and Super Mario Bros.
There aren't too many Super Mario Bros movie apologists out there who are going to take issue with Hoskins' lack of affinity for the film. In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, Hoskins was asked the following three questions: "What is the worst job you've done?," "What has been your biggest disappointment?," and "If you could edit your past, what would you change?" To these, the actor replied, "Super Mario Brothers," "Super Mario Brothers," and "I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers," respectively.
Mark Wahlberg and The Happening
And then of course there is Marky Mark's tirade against his 2008 M. Night Shyamalan endeavor The Happening. During a press conference, Wahlberg eloquently illustrated his fervent distaste for the film's ultimate reveal: "F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it."
Bill Murray and Garfield
Here's a personal favorite: comic genius Murray admitted that the only reason he signed on for the 2004 film adaptation of Garfield in the first place was due to a case of mistaken identity. In a 2010 interview with GQ, Murray revealed the truth behind his
"I looked at the script, and it said, 'So-and-so and Joel Coen.' And I thought: Christ, well, I love those Coens! They're funny. So I sorta read a few pages of it and thought, Yeah, I'd like to do that ... So I worked all day and kept going, "That's the line? Well, I can't say that." And you sit there and go, What can I say that will make this funny? And make it make sense? And I worked. I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, and the lines got worse and worse. And I said, "Okay, you better show me the whole rest of the movie, so we can see what we're dealing with." So I sat down and watched the whole thing, and I kept saying, "Who the hell cut this thing? Who did this? What the fuck was Coen thinking?" And then they explained it to me: It wasn't written by that Joel Coen."While Murray presumed the screenwriter of Garfield to be the famed Joel Coen who co-wrote and -directed critically acclaimed movies like The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men, the Joel Cohen behind his film was in fact the writer of Toy Story, Cheaper By the Dozen, and Evan Almighty. Topping this off, Murray made a tongue-in-cheek jab about Garfield while playing himself in the 2010 horror comedy Zombieland. As Murray lay dying in the film, he is asked by stars Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson about his biggest regret, to which he shrugs and surmises, "Garfield, maybe."
Alec Guinness and Star Wars
And finally, the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who grew a strong distaste for the iconic film Star Wars after its fandom began to grow well past the levels he felt appropriate. In Guinness' memoir A Positively Final Appearance, published in 1999, the actor shares an anecdote about a run-in with a 12-year-old die hard devotee of the film, who admitted that he had seen Star Wars over one hundred times. Guinness agreed to supply the young boy an autograph if he would grant him one request: never watch Star Wars again. The actor remarks in his book, "I shrivel inside each time [the movie] is mentioned."
[Photo Credit: Ronen Akerman/Showtime]
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Screenwriter Oren Moverman, who brought us Jesus' Son and I'm Not There is working on the script for The Terrorist Search Engine. The film is an adaptation of Wesley Yang's New York Magazine article about Evan Francis Kohlmann, who, at twenty-three, earned the moniker "The Doogie Howser of Terrorism." Kohlmann is considered one of America's foremost experts on jihad terrorism, and has served as an expert witness on twenty-six terrorism cases internationally.
Originally cast to play Kohlmann was Jesse Eisenberg, who proved with The Social Network that his forte is right in the neighborhood of young, eccentric intellectuals. However, there is no word at this point on who will play Kohlmann.
Moverman has directed 2009's The Messenger and the upcoming Rampart. At this point, no director is signed on for The Terrorist Search Engine, so Moverman might be double-heading the project himself.
Normally when someone gets a call from Scott Rudin, that person is prepared to say yes to whatever the Oscar winning producer asks of them. But Jesse Eisenberg needs to take a moment to think about what his Social Network collaborator is offering: essentially, the chance to play another young computer geek who gets in way over his head. This time around, the geek is Evan Kohlmann, who helped convict 23 defendants in federal courts and Guantánamo Bay tribunals with his expert witness testimony. An FBI agent who worked with him dubbed him "the Doogie Howser of terrorism" when he was just 23, so it's safe to say that he was at the top of his game.
Now 31, his story was chronicled by New York magazine's Wesley Yang (in an article titled "The Terrorist Search Engine"), who apparently always felt the tale was big-screen material, telling Vulture, "as I was reporting it it, I felt like it was a very cinematic story." The journalist is happy to have a Hollywood heavyweight like Rudin circling his work, but the real question is whether or not Eisenberg will be as enthusiastic about the project. The source says that the young Oscar-nominee is waiting for a script before making a decision about playing Kohlmann; a wise idea for a number of reasons.
First off, terrorism doesn't exactly sell these days at the movies. It's dark subject matter that most moviegoers would rather avoid; those that do want to know about those kind of activities are generally more interested in BBC and CNN. But beyond the commercial prospects, Eisenberg needs to do what's best for his long-term career, and it sounds like the arc of Kohlmann's story could closely resemble that of Mark Zuckerberg's, who he played in last year's lauded drama. I'm sure that the character is far removed from the code-creating entrepreneur, but Eisenberg is already on the verge of being typecast. I don't think playing another genius is the best tactic, at least not this soon after The Social Network, even though the project does sound intriguing.