Obligatory Year-End Post: Our Favorite 2014 Films

By: BBT Staff

We like to write a lot about movies here at BBT. Whether it is Oscar season, a random recommendation, or a review of a classic film, our love of film is obvious. So, you’ll forgive us if we add to the bevy of year-end posts currently inundating the internet by sharing with you our favorite movies of 2014.

Here we go:

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians

“BBT readers will be hearing a lot more from me in the coming month as Oscar season is always prime movie review time. That being said, know that Guardians was my ‘favorite’ movie of 2014 was, which is not necessarily the same as the ‘best’ movie of 2014. What I would say specifically about Guardians is this: it is perfect because it had to be. The source material is absolutely ridiculous and would’ve produced one of the worst movies of the year if it was even slightly mishandled. What happened instead was one of the most recommendable blockbusters we’ve seen since Super 8. In a year with no big-time movie to look forward to save Mockingjay and Captain America II (also very good), Guardians of the Galaxy snuck in and stole the show. Go see it.”  -Jason

Interstellar

Interstellar

“I think Christopher Nolan may be the greatest filmmaker today. At the very least he is the most ambitious. In Interstellar, Nolan introduces highly complex plot elements about the relation between space and time which would make anyone who doesn’t have an advanced degree in physics head spin. Instead, he leads the audience through a story of love, survival, and humanity itself, which keeps the audience both intellectually and emotionally engaged for two and a half hours. To top it all off, he includes some of the most beautiful scenes of space ever rendered, including the first realistic images of a black hole. Oh, and Michael Caine recites poetry. This is Nolan’s biggest film yet.” -Andy

Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued

Credit: mumsonfans.com

Credit: mumsonfans.com

“In 1967, Dylan had a motorcycle accident, canceled all tour dates, and withdrew totally from the public eye. During this time, he and his band recorded “The Basement Tapes” which later became the first widespread “bootlegged” album in American history. He also wrote countless other songs, poems, drawings that were not discovered until recently. Legendary producer, T-Bone Burnett, brings together some of the most amazing songwriters of our time for a few days in LA, and asks them to compose and record songs with the fragments Dylan left as source material. It’s amazing to see the different methods and styles each artist employs as they try to collaborate with each other and Bob Dylan’s source text.” -Kellen

The Lego Movie

LegoMovie

“Admittedly, I only saw two movies that actually came out this year. However, The Lego Movie was my favorite. As a child who grew up obsessed with those square-headed yellow people, the movie took me back quite a few years. The film also struck a good balance by incorporating two levels of humor, one for the kids and one for adults. If you have a young son or nephew, this film would most certainly provide a good bonding experience for both of you.” -Alan

Grand Budapest Hotel

GrandBudapest

“I also haven’t seen very many movies this year, but I went out of the way to see Wes Anderson’s most recent flick. His movies are magical and I’m always excited to see the new worlds he creates. Ralph Fiennes was spectacular and deserves consideration for best actor nominations.” -Casey

These are our favorite movies of 2014. What are yours? What are you looking forward to in 2015? Comment below, or let us know on Twitter.

Turntables & Vinyl Records: A Newcomer’s Guide

By: Alan Meincke

If you’ve been curious about the recent resurgence of vinyl records, we’re here to help. You already know the joy of collecting vinyl, but I want to discuss a few other important aspects of the hobby: the best record player to start you out and where to buy both new and used records.

Infographic: The LP is Back! | Statista

The Turntable

Far more detailed buying guides can be found elsewhere, so I’ve boiled it down to one simple recommendation. Meet the humble Audio Technica AT-LP60. I have owned this player for the last few years without any complaints. While there are certainly more advanced options out there, this player gives you the most bang for your buck in the sub-$300 range and you can upgrade various parts as needed.

Important features of the turntable include the following: a built-in preamp, it’s automatic (meaning you press one button and the arm will automatically lift and start playing a record), and it’s affordable.

One important caveat with this and any other turntable is that you will need speakers. Any old set will do if you’re just getting into the hobby, but obviously there are vast differences in the quality of the 15-year old Dell computer speakers you’ve been lugging around all these years and a Bose wireless system.

If you’re not a fan of the new technology, there are a variety of used alternatives. Get yourself down to a local Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and you should be able to snag an old console player for around $50. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you might consider upgrading the entire console.

The Records

Over the last three years, I’ve rummaged for records across Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In fact, just about every trip I take out of town lands me at an antique store, thrift store, or record store to search for new additions to my collection.

While you can always buy used on eBay, there is a novel form of excitement from discovering a cheap used record. Some of my best finds have been at the most random places. Antique store on Amelia Island in May? Boom. Bing Crosby Christmas album. Goodwill in Atlanta? Kapow. John Denver’s Greatest Hits.

Be cautious of any visible scratches, blemishes, or copious amounts of dust on any used record. I have most definitely been disappointed about a new purchase to discover a horrible scratch, skip, etc. once it’s home. Additionally, dirty or scratched records can damage the stylus, so always carefully inspect any used record for damage.

For new records, Amazon usually has great prices. Do not, however, order from them during the summer if you live in a hot climate. I have returned more than a few warped records due to the lack of air-conditioning on delivery trucks.

While you may pay a little more (but not always), you should be sure to shop at a local record store. They may get special releases on Record Store Day, and you can always get good recommendations from their employees.

Recommendations

Finally, I cannot end an article about vinyl without throwing in a few recommendations (whether you find used or new copies is up to you). I would encourage anyone starting a collection to explore other genres, as my taste in music has been stretched and morphed by classic rock, jazz, and blues records as they’ve entered my collection.

Boston – Boston (1976)

BostonThis album is a quintessential classic rock specimen. I never realized so many of the hits I still hear on the local classic rock radio station all came from this one record. The interplay of each instrument is far more clear on vinyl, and you’ll find yourself playing this album over and over. My favorite song is Foreplay/Long Time.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)

MilesDavis

This album is on just about every top-10 records to own list, and it’s an approachable introduction to the jazz genre. The record serves as terrific wind-down music at the end of a workday. Somewhat characteristic of jazz in general, the record emphatically fills in as background music, however, a close, intentional listen reveals the nuanced interplay of each musician as they riff and play off the others. My favorite song is the opener, So What.

Dawes – Stories Don’t End

DawesThis album is a great example of modern-day singer/songwriters who naturally gravitate toward vinyl. Evoking a laid-back vibe of their native California, this album could be 30 years old and you’d never know it. My favorite song is From a Window Seat.

- Alan is a sucker for a good vinyl record, and he’s even convinced his wife it sounds better than any other form of media.

ItHappenedOneNight

Review: It Happened One Night (1934)

By: Andy Crawford

You know that movie where a guy from the wrong side of the tracks meets the upper class girl looking to break out of her family’s shell? Or what about the one where the guy and the girl can’t stand each other, but circumstances arise that require them to complete some goal together? What about movies where the man falls in love with a woman who’s already engaged? And who could forget the one where the woman runs out of her own wedding to go find the true man of her dreams?

These are the well-tread and somewhat tired elements that make up the romantic comedy genre. Audiences have come to expect them, especially if you’re a long suffering boyfriend or husband.

In 1934, however, these weren’t the exhausted plot points they are today. The romantic comedy genre was brand new when It Happened One Night swept the Oscars in all five major categories: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay (something that has happened only two other times).

The film stars Clark Gable (best known as Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind) as Peter Warne, a down on his luck New York journalist returning by bus from Miami. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, an heiress to an extremely wealthy family. Her father discovers that she eloped with a gold digger, and insists that the marriage be annulled. Andrews decides to run away to New York to go be with her new husband.

Warne meets Andrews on the bus, and immediately recognizes her as the rich heiress who has run away. As she has never been on her own before, Warne agrees to help Andrews reach New York in return for her exclusive story.

Of course, from this point on it becomes a road trip. There are moments of romance interspersed with comedy. It’s all rather familiar territory for anyone who has seen seminal contemporary romance movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Sweet Home Alabama, The Notebook, or How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. (Although one refreshing difference is that as Warne and Andrews fall in love, they don’t immediately jump into the nearest bed together.)

But the reason to watch It Happened One Night isn’t to see a movie with crazy plot twists. The real reason is to see one of the finest romantic comedies in Hollywood history. Clark Gable was known as the King of Hollywood throughout the 1930s, and for good reason. His chemistry with Colbert, who received two more Oscar nominations in her career, is among some of the best you’ll ever see. Moreover, they are each genuinely funny.

This film was one of the first hits for director Frank Capra, who would go on to also direct legendary films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, You Can’t Take it With You, and It’s a Wonderful Life. As demonstrated by those latter films, Capra had a knack for hitting both sentimental and comedic notes that keep the viewer emotionally engaged with the characters.

If you’re a lady who enjoys a good rom-com, you will be hard pressed to find a better example of a more engaging on-screen couple. If you are a fella looking for brownie points on a movie night, consider this classic film that has the added novelty of being the original chick-flick. For all you know, this is one your grandpa took your grandma to see. And he probably enjoyed it.

Andy lives near Athens with his wife and daughter, so the TV is often on Lifetime, the Food Network, or the Soap Channel. He doesn’t watch romantic comedies if he can help it, but he will watch anything directed by Frank Capra.