Grand Budapest Hotel

With the calendar rolling over to July tomorrow, we are almost exactly halfway through the year. With the arrival of mid-term, it’s customary to take a look back and take stock of where everything stands.

Outside of the film world, I’m feeling pretty good about 2014. My attempt at getting healthier is about to hit its second year, the shows I watch on television astound and delight me with great frequency, and the last six months have brought my delights by acts like St. Vincent and Jack White to consume through my headphones.

But what of the cinema?

In truth, as I mulled this post over in my head, I was about to bemoan 2014 as a terrible year for cinema so far. I was about to talk about how “they” just aren’t giving us the good stuff anymore, and how the good stuff “they” were giving us was becoming harder and harder to source. But a funny thing happened on the way to the rant…

Looking at my Letterboxd Feed, I counted off 37 releases from this calendar year that I have seen – which includes titles I watched at last autumn’s Toronto International Film Festival. Of those 37, there are a mere five that I didn’t care for. An 86% success rate? I’ll take that happily.

Now that batting average if buoyed by the luxury I have of sitting out films that don’t tickle my fancy. So as much as I may deeply wish to get paid for the words I write in this space, I must remind myself that the upside of doing it for the love is that I can turn a blind eye to that which I do not love. Likewise, that average is buoyed by the fact that I have so many options available to me. So if I lived in a smaller market – say one that didn’t have screenings scheduled of WE ARE THE BEST! or ENEMY – I might be here singing a different tune.

What’s even more encouraging is the fact that I still haven’t come around to titles I’ve heard great things about like THE IMMIGRANT, THE ROVER, IDA, and LOCKE.

There haven’t been a lot of home runs, but as I look back on the release pattern of films and my affection for them, it occurs to me that I seldom encounter more than two or three before the start of July anyway. In the past, it’s usually taken until June before I find myself handing out my first four-star review of the year. While this year brought about one in April, most of the love had to wait until June yet again…and the love arrived right on schedule. Twice, actually.

So while I will not bemoan the state of cinema in 2014, I will say that my take has been slanted by the wide array of indies I have soaked up through the winter and spring. Were I only to base this opinion on the output of major studios, I’d be singing a very different tune…and that confounds me. On the one hand, I believe it’s because the majors just don’t have as much to offer us this year. On the other hand, I believe that the studios are still archaically holding back on their best stuff until the late fall…which I just don’t get. If CAPTAIN AMERICA and LEGO tell them anything it’s that people will get up and go to the movies whenever something strikes their fancy. It doesn’t matter if the kids are still in class or not – when you put out something appealing, people will make the trip.

That of course is independent of the quality of the films the majors put out, which is a whole different discussion.

So as North America gets ready to celebrate its holiday weekends, I find myself happy with the state of things. The great stuff may not be showing up in cinema one, but happily cinema nine and ten are constantly filled with great offerings. Makes me optimistic for what’s still to come after intermission!

What say you? How has 2014 at the cinema been treating you thus far?