I’m allowing myself fourteen movies for 2014 because: 1) ten is too hard, 2) I want to bring attention to these movies I think are great, 3) you’re not the boss of me, and 4) Buzzfeed tells me round numbers are not important (i.e. 19 Seriously Disturbing Bug Faces That Will Ruin Your Life Forever and 26 Pictures That Will Give You Hope For The Future). I haven’t seen ALL the films this year, but of those I did see these are my personal favorites.
As I eavesdrop on people leaving the theater after their Gone Girl screening I hear many iterations of “What a crazy psycho bitch!” and all I want to do is scream, “BUT SHE’S SO MUCH MORE!” Since I read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl a few years ago I’ve ranted at anyone who will listen that Amy Elliot Dunne is one of the great female characters of literature — and now film. With anti-hero’s basically ruling network and cable television it seems strange to me that people are so ready to just write off Amazing Amy as just another crazy bitch. The only acceptable reason for loving Travis Bickle, Tyler Durden, Alex Delarge, The Joker, Chuck Bass, Don Draper, Francis Underwood, and Walter White while totally overlooking Amy is because Amy is a woman and the others are men. There doesn’t seem to be any getting around it.
Grimm’s fairytales, those children’s stories that have stood the test of time, have done so not in spite of the danger in which they throw their young protagonists, but because of it. Hansel and Gretel get devastatingly close to being devoured by the witch, Little Red Riding Hood is eaten by the wolf, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both essentially die when they are put into a never-ending sleep. And yet, we read these stories to our children from a very young age. Stories are where our children first encounter danger, difference, and fear, ultimately overcoming those obstacles while nestled safely in our arms. Movies have stepped in to share the mantle of acquainting our children with experiences that we hope they never have to confront in their own lives. At their best, movies help them vicariously experience and overcome these trials in the safest possible space.
This summer’s children’s adventure film Earth to Echo pulls certain plot points from the genre’s most successful outings (The Goonies and E.T.) and attempts to update the stories for the current generation. If you missed the film’s quick stint in theaters don’t be too dismayed; my reasons for discussing it now speak more to a wider cultural shift in the access children have to risk than just the sins of this particular movie. Unfortunately, when updating this modern story (read: adding the stock references to smart-phones, YouTube, Go-Pros, and Googling) the film ultimately suffers from the current epidemic of helicopter parenting — meaning constantly hovering over children to prevent them from experiencing any and all danger — and essentially sterilizes itself of any merit.
The film’s ultimate message? Confronting danger and difference in fiction is almost as undesirable as confronting it in life.