List: Top 30 Favorite Films of 2013 (#15-1)


My other 2013 film lists:
Top 25 Performances https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/list-top-25-performances-from-2013/Top Fives of 2013 (in which I dole out a boatload of superlatives):https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/list-top-fives-of-2013-in-which-i-dole-out-a-boatload-of-superlatives/
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 2013: A Personal Sampling:https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/what-ill-remember-about-the-films-of-2013-a-personal-sampling/
Top 30 Favorite Films of 2013 (#30-16): https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/list-top-30-favorite-films-of-2013-30-16/

Some Major Blind Spots: The Act of Killing, The Great Beauty, Nebraska, Captain Phillips, A Touch of Sin, We Are What We Are, The Square, In a World
, Post Tenebras Lux, All is Lost, Gimme the Loot, Wadjda, To the Wonder, After Tiller, Twenty Feet from Stardom

The order in these last 15, and the previous 15 for that matter, has been flip-flopping all over the place within their mini-groups of 3-4.

The Grandmaster

15. The Grandmaster (Hong Kong/China) (Chinese cut)
Full of the simmering wooziness we expect from Wong Kar Wai’s imagery. The fight scenes glimmer and flow. Elements and body movement are highlighted. Kung-fu is shown as a delicate and elegant art form, akin to dance. And that’s what this film is about; the art form that is kung-fu, its ancestry and many subsets and schools of thought. How does art fade, die, rebirth, adapt and reconfigure itself as a reaction to history? This lends an incredibly mournful quality to The Grandmaster, so powerful in its cumulative effect that I became very emotional by its final minutes.

I understand that Zhang Ziyi as Gong Er is cut down quite a bit in the American cut, which is a shame because not only is she a co-lead but I actually felt like it was her story more than Ip Man’s. She is the driving force of the film as far as I’m concerned. The character and performance, and the way her character is tethered to its themes, are what I connected to most on a content level.

laurenceanyways_04
14. Laurence Anyways (Dolan) (Canada/France)
Equal parts period glamour and turbulent romance, Laurence Anyways has the specific brand of assured self-conscious filmmaking that I fall head over heels for (can we dub it the A Single Man brand of filmmaking?). The first Xavier Dolan film I’ve had the pleasure to see has sophisticated sweep to spare, using new-wave chic inspired surface pleasures of sight and sound to paint the characters’ inner experience and self-ownership. Both Laurence and Fred grapple with themselves and each other, coming together and apart in waves of time and baggage, never able to make it fully work.

Dolan’s compositions are direct and pronounced, with virtually every element of mise-en-scene unifying a vision that promotes active engagement through costume, art direction, and framing. The prints and patterns, the fashion and color, it informs to make up the fabric that is the film. It doesn’t detract or distract. It simply is the thing.  I haven’t stopped thinking of Fred’s ballroom entrance or Laurence’s leaf-stitched sweater, or the way she only wears one dangly earring. It’s stylistically satisfying yes, but equally so from a storytelling perspective. It also has the best compilation soundtrack I’ve heard all year, possibly in years. Dolan reaches unimaginable peaks at age 23 with his third film, even if he periodically lets it get away from him. Suzanne ClĂ©ment is especially excellent for making Fred’s resistance human as opposed to just cold-hearted.

tumblr_mtals3IAsL1qfrnyao1_500
#13. Museum Hours (Cohen) (Austria)
Forcing us to consider snapshots of life the way we would a painting, Museum Hours is about the neglected details of the everyday and the variety of ways we look at and consider art. The scarcity/non-existence of narrative allows Jem Cohen to mold a free-form structure that becomes invigorating to watch. It also depicts a lived-in and cloudy portrait of Vienna with the kind of familiarity that dispels any touristy perspective. It gets far too pointed in its final scene but this was an absolute delight from start to finish. The Bruegel lecture in particular took me in more than anything else this year.

The Wolf of Wall Street

#12. The Wolf of Wall Street (Scorsese) (USA) 
Brazen, bloated, maniacally funny, exhausting, redundant, and revolting.  An uncomfortable film for many reasons, mainly because Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter constantly toe the line between unapologetic immersion into Jordan Belfort’s scummy lifestyle, in a way that is deliberately meant to feel infectious, and pulling back for that nasty transparency. Scorsese has always had a fascination with hyper-masculine types who turn their backs on the law in various ways. And that comes through, complicating things a bit, mostly for the better.

The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t just meant to condemn, but to mirror the worst of man’s base instincts, and the mentality of American Dream as horror show. Leonardo DiCaprio is blistering on a wavelength we’ve never seen from him (hell, never even come close to), and never thought him capable of. He is all-in, unhinged in a way few performances are, keyed up for physical comedy and improvised distastefulness. It is both exhilarating and exhausting to watch him work; in many ways, it’s the performance I’ve been waiting his entire career for.

It has an amplified potency which, though I wish it had more of the kinds of stinging moments depicted in the brilliant head-shaving scene, makes for a film that pitches us right into the heartlessness of a rotted mentality that supports the notion that having money gives you carte blanche to stop being human.

her_movie.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge
#11. Her (Jonze) (USA)
Her comes at you with open arms and an open heart. It is ready and eager to engage your mind and soul. That openness, an inclusive openness, is a lot of what I loved Her. We see our own relationship with technology up onscreen, amplified by an idealistic near future with its colorful and endlessly soothing aesthetic and its recognizable tweaks to everyday life. But we, even more importantly, see our relationships with people up on the screen, and the familiar but always earth-shattering patterns in which people grow in and out of each other.

As remarkable as Joaquin Phoenix is here (which it should go without saying at this point) with Theodore’s permanent halfway-out-of-his-shell demeanor, it’s Scarlett Johansson I was most struck by. Her breakneck growth, enthusiasm, inquisitive nature; trying to grasp at human emotion and where she fits within and outside of that spectrum.

Her reminds me a lot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (but far more optimistic), not just because of the lo-fi sci-fi element but for the encompassing way it tackles the experience of loving and living and losing that at times approaches profundity. The acknowledgment that bad comes with good and it’s often all worth it even if it can seem like it’s not. There is something of the hopeless romantic in Her; that love-on-a-pedestal way of looking at life, where emotional vulnerability is both risky and worthy.

BlueJasmine

#10. Blue Jasmine (Allen) (USA) 
My favorite Woody Allen film since Husbands and Wives released just over 20 years ago. I’ll say outright that the film is somewhat riddled with potential drawbacks; the men mostly represent things, Allen’s continually simplistic look at class which can veer into caricature, and there’s some clunky expository dialogue. But this is a genuine gut-punch from Allen, one of his bleakest films but also his most refreshing turn in some time. It has a flashback-heavy structure that bleeds past and present as we sit in Jasmine’s mindset. Watching it recalls the back-and-forth information letting of a stage production. The sense that this could be a play, along with Jasmine’s heavy Blanche DuBois vibe, is part of what makes the film so memorable. Allen and Cate Blanchett, who is astonishing even for her, do such a mesmerizing job of getting into her state of mind that Blue Jasmine is a rewarding experience and a tough one to shake off.

The-Worlds-End-2

#9. The World’s End (Wright) (UK) 
If this kind of film were made by anyone other than Edgar Wright, the four men with grown-up lives would be seen as a problem to be fixed, as ‘stuffed shirts’ in need of letting loose. Gary King would be seen as a bringer of fun, a harbinger of good times. But The World’s End takes a much different, much more rewarding road by depicting Gary King as an alcoholic whose life peaked at 17. He is the odd one out. He is the one with problems. He is the one that needs to grow up.

I found myself so invested in the broken dynamic between the four men and Gary that part of me didn’t even want the genre play to kick in. The entire cast is perfect but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost both completely take me aback. Both play against type and their interactions are the most affecting of their other onscreen pairings. Pegg in particular is something to behold with his alcoholic desperation, his put-upon obliviousness and his impossibly high energy level. Frost, Marsan, Considine and Freeman all have each other to bounce off of, but Pegg has to be on his own wavelength throughout and convey that his life is on the line in more ways than one.

Wright’s reliable ability to photograph action scenes with clarity and style results some really exciting physicality on display. Anyone who knows my tastes understands this means major points. The World’s End doesn’t stay nearly as strong in its final minutes, but this was still one of the most rewarding movie-going experiences I’ve had in a long time. It’s hilarious, heartfelt and built around its characters. Stasis is damaging; stasis is death. Nostalgia cannot mix with the present because bad things will happen. Plus, I’ve been waiting my whole life to see “Alabama Song” used to great effect in the film. My wish has finally been granted.

In the House

#8. In the House (Ozon) (France)
Right up there with Francois Ozon’s best work. His films lean toward an acerbic wit, adaptations of plays (In the House is an adaptation of Juan Moyarga’s “The Boy in the Last Row”) and playing with story deconstruction and manipulation whether carried out through his form or his characters. I went on an Ozon binge as a teenager and he remains one of my favorites. With In the House he reaches new heights, in a film that meta-intellectualizes the writing process, exploring our attachment to characters, the critical nature of tone and what happens when you get caught up in real life through fiction. This all sounds stodgy and overtly pleased with itself, and at times it is, but it’s an unabashedly entertaining class-conscious ride of melodrama and irony. I went into this not knowing anything, only knowing that it was the new Ozon film. And I was gripped from minute one all the way through to the perfect unpredictable, but ‘of course it needed to end this way’ final scene. In the midst of it all, there’s Ernst Umhauer, an alarmingly impactful new find. And he’s absolutely dreamy to boot.

beyond_the_hills

#7. Beyond the Hills (Mungiu) (Romania)
Can we all just agree that Cristian Mungiu has the best shot compositions by any director working today? This is a harrowing work of good intentions gone horribly wrong under the perverted superstitious-driven perspective that can come through religion. It looks at a system misused in the daily life of this monastery where judgment becomes clouded and oppression against women comes through in ways that fundamentally misunderstand people’s motivations, emotions, feelings, reactions and inner selves. There is so much going on in this scathing but admirably level-headed critique.

There are no villains; everyone involved is all-too human but unable to see what is in front of them. Meaningful values have been dwindled down into limited perspectives and a medieval way of living. It’s all backwards. It becomes difficult to pinpoint when everything starts to take an uncontrollable turn in this story which is unfortunately based on an actual event.

Like the masterpiece that is 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, this is rooted in a complex and loyal female friendship, this time with unspoken intimacy and hinted history. Both women have been and are continuously let down by various institutions they come in contact with. One has committed herself to God and the other, who has some unchecked mental sickness, clings to her friend, the only person she has left. That stalemate allows the eventual tragedy to unfold in the way it does. Mungiu continues to use tension, a lack of music, long unbroken takes with precise composition and a disturbing overlay told through bleak humanism.

Stoker 2

#6. Stoker (Park) (UK/USA) 
Stoker
 is a stylish sensory-riddled piece of sustained atmosphere, the kind of film I gravitate towards like a moth to a flame. Was there ever any doubt I would love this? Park Chan-wook puts his spin on this demented tale, a vigorous aphrodisiac, deeply rapturous and steeped in luxuriant emotion.

From a directorial perspective, about the art of silent observation, testing how to best capture that subjectivity on film. It ever-so-slightly recalls Kieslowski and what he does in The Double Life of Veronique, only in the single-minded prioritized task of capturing feeling and transferring a character’s experience to the audience. Using overt symbolism, stretching out moments right up to their expiration date and having an intuition for the beauty of the detail, Park and screenwriter Wentworth Miller make the art of silent observation the central focus from which all other aspects of execution stem. Park has operated with this trademarked operatic formalism for many a year; no compromises and no apologies. And who are we kidding; the man has nothing to apologize for.

1153583_Like_Someone_In_Love

#5. Like Someone in Love (Japan/France) (Kiarostami)
A rigorously contemplative character piece that exists in the spaces of loneliness and human connection. The film functions around what would normally be central events but not on them. What brings these people together, the lies they have told themselves and each other, and the untold history of the choices they’ve made? Abbas Kiarostami is a master filmmaker, using each camera choice to maximum effect, dangling the possibilities of character perspective in front of us like catnip. That first scene, for example, and the way he gains attention through his attentiveness, all because of where he places his camera and the way he uses sound. The return value on this film, just like Certified Copy, his first film made outside of Iran, is enormous. Leaves a lot to think about, particularly that slam-bang fade-in to the closing credits.

Top of the Lake

#4. Top of the Lake (Campion/Lee) (Australia/New Zealand)
Yes, I count miniseries for year-end lists. No, I don’t care if you wouldn’t.

Prolific Jane Campion’s feminist noir deals with the festering effects of resurfaced trauma set ablaze in a haunting New Zealand landscape of scumbag misogyny. Its blunt weapons come alive through its exploration of the unquestioned normalcy of such imbalances, and it’s all disguised as a whodunnit procedural. The passed down rituals of the alpha male surround a patriarchal world where staking territorial claim and asserting control gives way to power and status no matter the barbaric context.

But it’s not even just about the overt horrific ways in which men post a threat to women. It also looks at the other end of the threat spectrum. Top of the Lake captures, in ways I haven’t seen, the inherent daily threats women can feel amongst men; the instinctual act of tensing up, keeping your guard up whether intentionally provoked or not. It’s rare to see that evoked and examined in any storytelling so bravo to Campion and co-creator Gareth Lee for that.

Special mentions to Elisabeth Moss and one of my favorite actors, Peter Mullan for some of the most rigorous and spectacular acting you’ll see. Matt Mitcham will stay with me for some time.

24-inside-llewyn-davis

#3. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers) (USA)
Using the Greenwich Village scene to evoke the warmth of community, and creative outlets amidst the chilly haze of winter (courtesy of Bruno Delbonnel), Inside Llewyn Davis zeroes in on one man’s anonymous search outside that epicenter for success, purpose, and place. When trying to describe how I felt after this film ended, I mistakenly landed upon the film having the kind of heart I don’t often find with the Coen Brothers. But this wasn’t the sentiment I was looking for. They often have heart of some kind, but there’s a softness, an emotional center here that I haven’t quite experienced from them, at least based on my emotional response by the time the credits rolled.

There’s so much of come to expect from the Coens’, not least that trademark precision and a can’t-win credo. It has either a spiritual, character-driven or structural connection to both Barton Fink, O Brother Where Art Thou? and A Serious Man. There are cyclical journeys within journeys, streaked with surreal touches and a cat (well, more than one cat) that overtly represents the idea of journey (the cat’s name is Ulysses!) It’s about how we are and who we are within the universe, but also about the search for something that might not be there; in this way it reminded me of an acute kind of depression. We drift along with Llewyn, as he comes to life through song and only through song, a dreary wanderer (who is also his own worst enemy) whose supposed lack of routine reveals itself to be just that. Attempts to break the cycle lead him to the start. It’s clear Llewyn has lots of talent but he seems destined for the eternal winds. Oscar Isaac suggests a fullness of character that doesn’t come around too often.

At Berkeley

#2. At Berkeley (Wiseman) (USA) 
The only time in the 4 years I’ve been doing these top 30 lists where only one documentary found its way on. A sad sad thing. Legendary Frederick Wiseman makes my ideal form of doc, continuing to stay true to his verite, no talking heads, no narration, fly-on-the-wall approach even in his 80’s. He comes back to looking at institutions, this time higher education, after a recent focus on the body in motion, with the 4-hour At Berkeley.

As always, Wiseman acts as a guide, without overt agenda, employing purposeful control over the material in what footage is chosen, its order, and where cuts occur. It’s a heavy task, and Wiseman spent 14 months editing the film. He never forces his point-of-view on the viewer, though of course he has one. We are left to make our own judgments; he just gives us the tools and the means. A fully comprehensive portrait of the higher education system, we are given unprecedented access to administrative meetings which tackle budget cuts, class lectures, lively and complex discussions, and a woefully misguided student protest which is kind of embarrassing to be honest.

It’s a thorny film with no easy answers, indeed, no answers at all. For every sliver of hope, there’s something undercutting. For every moment that feels like the system is densely irrevocable, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Hope and hopelessness walk hand-in-hand. Administration is well-meaning and they do an inordinate amount to keep the wheels turning, but them’s tough odds, and the trickle down effect of that effort doesn’t look felt by the students.  A lot about this film struck close to home for me. But you don’t come out of it feeling sad, but the reality, which includes the good, the bad and the ugly.

before-midnight-ethan-hawke-julie-delpy

#1. Before Midnight (Linklater) (USA) 
There’s simply no way I could favor anything over Jesse and Celine. Would the ‘Before’ series be as vital if we didn’t feel at every single second that there was an invisible force of creative kismet between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? Because as I think about why it is we love these films so much, I come back to the collaborative connection between this trio and that revisiting Jesse and Celine has always felt like something that was meant to be. These characters are in their very bones and as we watch Hawke and Delpy perform what they have collectively written with Linklater, it’s clear that something special is happening onscreen. Something embedded between these two actors; it feels that they legitimately live Jesse and Celine as they act before the cameras.

The romanticism of the first two films is almost entirely cut down to reveal a long-developed dynamic at first simmering and then bracing. We catch them at a make-it-or-break-it moment. This is about the moment in a relationship when you fully understand that this idea of ‘sharing a life’ together actually doesn’t exist. Why? Because you may be sharing a life but experiences are always going to be disparate in some fashion. As Jesse and Celine unabashedly and often cruelly unload their burdens onto each other, looking however they can to get a leg up, we see these characters in a light we never hoped we would. Their connection is still unchallenged and genuine. On the surface, life is going well for them. But there’s a lot boiling underneath and they’ve let it stew for a mite too long.

We see the negatives to Jesse and Celine’s positives; the passive-aggressiveness, the blame game, all of it. We understand where each is coming from, why one is fed up with the other, but also, and crucially I might add, why they should ultimately be able to get through this.

List: Top Fives of 2013 (in which I dole out a boatload of superlatives)


Welcome to the 3rd annual Cinema Enthusiast Awards! I started this, and the personal remembrance post to go up tomorrow, in an effort to encapsulate the odds and ends of a year in film. The purpose is to pay tribute and recognize the rankable elements of films great, decent and unfortunate in a given year. Each year I seem to be adding more and more categories because, well, why not! It’s my blog! Normally I have an individual song usage post as well as a posters post. This year I’m condensing them and throwing them in here. Next year I’ll get back to extrapolated posts for them, especially because people seem to enjoy them. It’s just that they are particularly difficult to do after the fact.

The Conjuring

Use of Title Card/Opening Credit Sequence:
1. The Conjuring (title card)
2. Top of the Lake (opening credits)
3. Stoker (opening credits)
4. The Spectacular Now (title card)
5. The Bling Ring (opening credits)

Bastards Creton

Beginnings: 
1. Bastards (Creton haunting the streets)
2. Laurence Anwyays 
3. Spring Breakers
4. The World’s End
5. Inside Llewyn Davis 
Honorable Mention: It’s a Disaster

Bastards

Endings: 
1. Bastards 
2. 12 Years a Slave 
3. Before Midnight 
4. It’s a Disaster
5. Prince Avalanche 
Honorable Mention: Her

The-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-1

Ensemble Cast:
1. The Wolf of Wall Street 
2. Top of the Lake 
3. The Spectacular Now 
4. The World’s End 
5. Blue Jasmine 
Honorable Mention: This Is the End 

brody-in-the-house-580
Underappreciated Films:
1. In the House 
2. It’s a Disaster
3. Byzantium 
4. New World
5. The Pirogue
Honorable Mention: Monsters University (well known, but unfairly catches abundant amounts of slack within cinephile circles. It’s one of my favorites this year)

magic-magic-clip-05132013-114028

Films That Started Strong But
:
1. Magic Magic (blunt and distancing climax that undoes everything that came before)
2. This Is the End (unfortunately settles into spectacle mode for last third)
3. Stories We Tell (runs out of steam and Polley neglects to place herself within her own story)
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (once again, the games are not nearly as interesting as the rest)
5. The World’s End (those last 20 minutes are pretty rough and yet it’s still got a high spot on my  year-end list) 
Honorable Mention: Side Effects (that twist…)

Gravity

Disappointments: 
1. Gravity
2. The Place Beyond the Pines
3. You’re Next 
4. Much Ado About Nothing 
5. From Up on Poppy Hill
Honorable Mention: Leviathan 

Patsey

Newcomers: 
1. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
2. Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
3. Saskia Rosendahl (Lore)
4. Ernst Umhauer (In the House)
5. Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) (he’s been around for a while but this is a breakout role for sure so I’m putting him in)
Honorable Mentions: Cosmina Stratan (Beyond the Hills), Conner Chapman (The Selfish Giant), Macarena Garcia (Blancanieves)

New world
Underappreciated Performances:
1. Hwang Jeong-min – New World
2. Gemma Arterton – Byzantium 
3. Michael Cera – Magic Magic 
4. Elizabeth Debicki – The Great Gatsby 
5. Katharine Isabelle – American Mary 
Honorable Mention: Caleb Landry Jones – Antiviral, David Cross – It’s a Disaster, Jane Levy – Evil Dead

KyleChandler_WolfofWallStreet
Bit Parts/Smaller Roles: (goes up to minor supporting parts) 
1. Kyle Chandler – The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Matthew McConaughey – The Wolf of Wall Street 
3. Lola Creton – Bastards (integral to film, 5th billing, but very little screen time)
4. Michael Cera – This is the End
5. Adeporo Oduye – 12 Years a Slave
Honorable Mentions: Nathan Fillion – Much Ado About Nothing, Tom Hollander – Byzantium

PrinceAvalanche-Photo

Scores: 
1. Prince Avalanche – Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo
2. Only God Forgives – Cliff Martinez
3. Spring Breakers – Cliff Martinez and Skrillex
4. Bastards – Tindersticks
5. Stoker – Clint Mansell
Honorable Mention: Prisoners – Johann Johannsson
Note: Even though I haven’t seen Nebraska, I’m addicted to Mark Orton’s “New West” track which is featured the trailer.

LlewidDavisTrailerStill

Favorite Characters:
1. Llewyn Davis – Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis 
2. Johanna Mason – Jena Malone – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
3. Gong Er – Zhang Ziyi – The Grandmaster
4. Amy – Amy Adams – Her
5. Mako Mori – Rinko Kikuchi – Pacific Rim 
Honorable Mentions: Clara – Gemma Arterton – Byzantium, Andy Knightley – Nick Frost – The World’s End, Aimee – Shailene Woodley – The Spectacular Now, Samantha – Scarlett Johansson – Her

Brad Pitt 12 Years
The ‘Why Are You Even Here’ Award:
1. Brad Pitt – 12 Years a Slave (OK, we all know why he’s there but ugh)
2. Countless Celebrity Cameos in the climax of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
3. Justin Timberlake – Inside Llewyn Davis 
4. Sasha Grey – Would You Rather? (also pick for worst performanc of the year)
5. Isla Fisher – The Great Gatsby 
Honorable Mentions: Paul Dano – 12 Years a Slave, Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Picture-45

This Performance Isn’t Working For Me: (miscastings/performances that didn’t work for me; must be at least strong supporting parts)
1. George Clooney – Gravity 
2. Ryan Gosling – Only God Forgives
3. Ryan Gosling – The Place Beyond the Pines
4. Carey Mulligan – Inside Llewyn Davis 
5. Hugh Jackman – Prisoners
Honorable Mention: Everyone in Oz the Great and Powerful, Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Antiviral
Great Performances in Not-So-Great Films:
1. Caleb Landry Jones – Antiviral 
2. Jane Levy – Evil Dead
3. Sam Rockwell – The Way Way Back
4. Steve Carrell – The Way Way Back
5. Isaiah Washington – Blue Caprice
Honorable Mention: Fiona Dourif – Curse of Chucky 

pieta-3

Worst Films:
1. Pieta (Kim)
2. Escape from Tomorrow (Moore)
3. The English Teacher (Zisk)
4. Phil Spector (Mamet)
5. The Truth About Emmanuel (Gregorini)

The-Worlds-End-2

Character Dynamics:
1. Gary King and the Gang (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman) – The World’s End
2. Anne and Johann (Mary Margaret O’Hara and Bobby Sommer) – Museum Hours 
3. Alvin and Lance (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) – Prince Avalanche 
4. Theodore and Amy (Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams) – Her
5. Ashburn and Mullins  (Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy) – The Heat 
Honorable Mentions: India and Charlie (Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode) – Stoker, Takashi Watanabe and Akiko (Tadashi Okuno and Rin Takanashi) – Like Someone in Love

before-midnight-ethan-hawke-julie-delpy
Romances/Couples:
1. Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply) – Before Midnight
2. Sutter and Aimee (Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley) – The Spectacular Now
3. Theodore and Samantha (Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson) – Her
4. Adele and Emma (Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux) – Blue is the Warmest Color
5. Eva and Frank (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini) – Enough Said
Honorable Mentions: Liberace and Scott Thorson (Michael Douglas and Matt Damon) – Behind the Candelabra, Laurence and Fred (Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement) – Laurence Anyways

blanca3
Villains: 
1. Encarna/La Madrastra – Meribel VerdĂș – Blancanieves
2. Jordan Belfort – Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Uncle Charlie – Matthew Goode – Stoker
4. Kristen Scott Thomas – Crystal – Only God Forgives
5. Danny McBride – Danny McBride – This is The End
Honorable Mention: Edwin Epps – Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

The Selfish Giant

Welcome to Sob-Fest 2013: (Films I had the biggest emotional response to in regards to tears shed, because yes, films make me cry a lot)
1. The Selfish Giant
2. 12 Years a Slave 
3. The Grandmaster
4. Blackfish 
5. Her
Honorable Mention: Before Midnight 

maxresdefault

Song Usages: 
1. “Fade to Grey” – Visage – Laurence Anyways 
2. “Please Mr. Kennedy” – Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis
3. “Put Your Love in Me” – Tindersticks – Bastards
4. “Every 1’s a Winner” – Hot Chocolate – Frances Ha 
5. “Looking for the Magic” – Dwight Twilley Band – You’re Next
Honorable Mentions: “Everytime” – Spring Breakers, “Shiloh” – Neil Diamond – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, “Live and Let Die” – American Hustle 

Blue-is-the-Warmest-Color

Scenes: 
1. Restaurant Heartache – Blue is the Warmest Color (picture above is not from the scene listed)
2. Parking Garage/Elevator Ambush – New World
3. Lemmons – The Wolf of Wall Street 
4. Piano Duet – Stoker
5. Ball Entrance (“Fade to Grey”) – Laurence Anyways 
Honorable Mentions: House Party Fire – Something in the Air, Church – The Hunt, Train Fight Scene – The Grandmaster, At the Club – The Heat, Split-Screen Self-Homage – Passion, Pre-Apocalypse Party – This Is the End

Posters: (pictures features below) 
1. Laurence Anyways
2. Kiss of the Damned
3. Stoker
4. Frances Ha
5. Spring Breakers
Lots of honorable mentions, however it’s hard to signify which poster I speak of per film so I’m letting it lie.

laurence_anyways_ver210257878_gal stoker-poster francesha SpringBreakersContentsPosterwhbig4

 

Review: Before Midnight (2013, Linklater)


before-midnight-ethan-hawke-julie-delpy

Would the ‘Before’ series be as vital if we didn’t feel at every single second that there was an invisible force of creative kismet between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? Because as I think about why it is we love these films so much, I come back to the collaborative connection between this trio and that revisiting Jesse and Celine has always felt like something that was meant to be. These characters are in their very bones and as we watch Hawke and Delpy perform what they have collectively written with Linklater, it’s clear that something special is happening onscreen. Something embedded between these two actors and the fact that it feels that they legitimately live Jesse and Celine as they act before the cameras.

Before Midnight is bittersweet to its core. The romanticism of the first two films is almost entirely cut down to reveal a long-developed dynamic at first simmering and then bracing. We catch them at a make-it-or-break-it moment. This is about a relationship riddled with past baggage. This is about the moment in a relationship when you fully understand that this idea of ‘sharing a life’ together actually doesn’t exist. Why? Because you may be sharing a life but experiences are always going to be disparate in some fashion. That crevice can fill up with negative unspoken dissonance. And at some point you come to blows, and the incomparable intimacy you share with a person is used by each to target the other’s weaknesses, faults, failures. As Jesse and Celine unabashedly and often cruelly unload their burdens onto each other, looking however they can to get a leg up, we see these characters in a light we never hoped we would. Their connection is still unchallenged and genuine. On the surface, life is going well for them. But there’s a lot boiling underneath and they’ve let it stew for a mite too long.

Before Midnight takes the unstructured conversational elements we love so much about the first two and adds the specificity of what a relationship between the two actually turned out to be. Each major scene contributes something essential; in this way, as well as the way those pieces are used to build to something, it feels more like a story than the first two. That master-shot in the car at the film’s start is something to behold and it just gets better from there. Linklater is always unobtrusive; he knows exactly when to have blocking, when to keep his distance and when to cut close. His unobtrusiveness helps the audience conversely feel obtrusive as things get ugly. We get to see the negatives to Jesse and Celine’s positives; the passive-aggressiveness, the blame game, all of it. We understand where both are coming from, why both are fed up with the other but also, and crucially I might add, why they should ultimately be able to get through this.

The final minutes are edge-of-your-seat stuff. You deeply feel what’s been said. You feel and are desperately moved by that last ditch effort. Everything’s riding on it. In that moment the stakes become higher than anything I’m likely to see in a film this year. And it exists just between two people. But not just two people; between Jesse and Celine. Before Midnight is a thing of bittersweet majesty. It may double back on most of the romanticism of Sunrise and Sunset, but goodness me the disillusionment with a silver lining is worth it.

Films Seen in 2013 Round-Up: #131-137


Hello everyone! Sorry it has been quite a while since I last posted. I go through spurts of writing a lot and then corresponding ebbs. I’ve shifted my focus a bit to reading and trying to learn some German so films have taken a backseat as of late. Plus, in effort to save some money I’ve cut back on certain monthly expenses. Meaning no more Hulu Plus and only Netflix streaming for me. But I’ll certainly keep up with some viewings and posting output. For one thing, I plan on participating in next week’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot for Mary Poppins.

Berberian-Sound-St_2261783b

#131. Berberian Sound Studio (2013, Strickland)

A meticulous tribute to giallo and the inextricable subconscious effect that sound contributes to the moving image. It’s made for a very narrow but appreciative audience and is more of a fascinating academic-like exercise that I primarily admired. I’ve gotten much more interested in the role of sound in film this past year so it is a treat to see something that uses this crucial but often underappreciated and little understood aspect of filmmaking as its almost essay-like focus. Isolation and cultural dislocation lead the way with Toby Jones as Gilderoy. He might as well be trapped in the sound studio.. The setting plays like a psychological prison and Strickland explores the power of sound through its surrounding inescapable nature. Visuals are something we can look away from. Sound has the capacity to drown us, drive us into dismantling states.

We never see the film Gilderoy is working on, titled The Equestrian Vortex, but we hear a great deal of it. As everyday objects are used to fill in our imaginative aural gaps, the film builds up a jarringly uncomfortable atmosphere. No blood is shed, no violence seen. But watermelons and the like suddenly have squeamish associative power, made all the more complex through its effect on Gilderoy who becomes uncomfortably complicit in helping create horror by indirectly taking part in it. The film-within-a-film seems to be an extension of how the beautiful but mistreated women in the studio inhibit the space. It may not seem like a lot happens in Berberian Sound Studio, because to be sure this is true, and yet its purpose is clearly multi-layered.

Random Observations:
Interesting that we the audience get an advantage over Gilderoy re: subtitles for spoken Italian while Gilderoy has an additional disadvantage over us re: he is seeing both the footage and the sound of The Equestrian Vortex while we only hear the audio.

tumblr_mog29oGS521qfrnyao1_500

#132. Antonio Gaudi (1985, Teshigahara)

Putting another layer of artistic endeavor between us and the fantastical undulating work of Antonio Gaudi, Teshigahara’s near-wordless documentary is like a poetic context; the gift of heightened consideration. The way his work is shot runs the gamut, from close-ups where detail is abstracted to far away in order to place his creations within the context of Barcelona. What about this angle; or this angle? How to best extrapolate the ever-changing notions of his shapes and constructs? The camera considers his work from every angle, caresses the curves and even considers the world outside as his buildings would hypothetically see them as sentient beings, thereby treating them as such. This film was also a big influence on my decision to save up and travel to Barcelona for a week this November.

tumblr_mog33bkRVb1qfrnyao1_500
#133. The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987, Hara)

From the moment a wedding celebration becomes an awkward self-indulgent confessional moment of radicalism as Kenzo Okuzaki denigrates the concept of family and drops reference to his committed murder and jail time you know this is going to be a bonkers documentary. And it is. There are no easy answers; Okuzaki’s tenacity is something to behold but his methods, which yield some result, are fidget-inducing. It’s the most excruciatingly uncomfortable film I’ve seen in some time. You kind of feel like you’ve crossed into another dimension once Okuzaki hires his wife and friend to impersonate the brotherless siblings who rightly jump ship on their journey towards truth. His interrogation methods are so relentless and so narrow that the film is a dive into one man’s post-war psyche just as much as the partial truths of specific WWII atrocities dug up. And then there’s the role of documentarian in all this. Truly a bizarre trailblazing documentary of dangerous and volatile investigative parts and you’ll never forget Kenzo Okuzaki. Not something I ever want to see again but that’s okay because it’s burned into my brain.

before-midnight-ethan-hawke-julie-delpy
#134. Before Midnight (2013, Linklater)
Review in separate post.

lovemarilyn
#135. Love, Marilyn (2013, Garbus)

A really informative cliffnotes info dump about her life. Considering how loaded and complex her life was, it is impressive how much ground is covered. Having a chunk of her written material be the context for the documentary was lovely, centralizing her voice. If only it had been presented differently. Most of the male actors got the job done. The women on the other hand are often forced, over-emotive and theatrical. It was like being at an unfortunate casting session. It didn’t help that the fake backgrounds and constant camera movement further distracted from the reading sessions. But overall well worth watching if someone wants a sense of the basic puzzle pieces of her life as well as an introductory sense of her mindset.

Bling Ring
#136. The Bling Ring (2013, Coppola)

Like a vapid anthropological study, Coppola ponders the mindset of these entitled criminals as they nonchalantly rob the houses of the rich and famous. What drew me to The Bling Ring is the way Coppola focuses on the entitlement of the entitled. That is to say, these teenagers act as if they are merely going to a friends house while they are away. There is never a sense of doing something wrong. No worrying about implications and consequences. They shared the same space as celebrities at various clubs and bars. Tabloids and gossip blogs allow people to track their every movement so anyone can know where a celebrity is on any given day. So it’s like they feel naturally entitled to break into their homes and take their things. It’s treated as blase, and the materialism brings them superficially closer to fame. Coppola is more interested in the frame of mind, specifically the lack of it, that would make one do such things. Being that close to fame, allowing one’s life to be made up entirely out of superficial concerns. And taking the next step.

We might not be like the characters in the film, but it’s indicative of larger fact that many of us obsess over and talk about famous people with a inordinate level of familiarity. And this is something that has certainly blown up with the advent of internet culture. These girls are on the farthest end of the spectrum but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people invest too much time and energy and thoughts into what their favorite famous people are doing or wearing or fucking day in and day out.  Between tabloid culture and real-life shipping within fandom, which I personally find uncomfortable, there are may facets of becoming far too involved with famous people. I see it every day on tumblr and pretty much everywhere else within fan culture. The broader implications aren’t addressed in The Bling Ring, but they certainly exist and the film depicts one extreme example of unwarranted attachment.

These characters are wildly privileged and clearly have zero sense of the concept of earning, of private space or of remorse. Coppola took an interesting approach that I largely admired, staying true to her initial fascination, sacrificing the development of ideas for mere contemplation. It doesn’t make for as great film, but it certainly makes for a good one.

Watching several episodes of ‘Pretty Wild’, the short-lived Alexis Neiers reality show to prep for the film added a wonderfully horrifying layer of context to everything. As a result, Emma Watson saying ‘kitten heels’ had both of us cackling.

monsters-university02
#137. Monsters University (2013, Scanlon)

A riff on the college buddy comedy, Monsters University might not pack the kind of next-level emotional wallop of some of Pixar’s output or have the kind of ambition we crave from them, but this is flat-out the most entertaining film I’ve seen this year. That anyone could have walked out of this unsatisfied boggles my mind. As much as I want to accept and be open to all responses people may have to any given film, ‘soulless snob’ automatically springs to mind in regards to anyone who was impervious to its considerable charms. It’s heartfelt, hilarious and carries a wonderful message on its back. It hits every note it tries to, every joke lands on-target (anyone who lived on a college campus will appreciate a lot of the humor) and Crystal and Goodman lend their top-notch voice work in reviving their Mike and Sully characters. Far exceeded my expectations.