List: Top 30 Favorite Films of 2013 (#30-16)


I have to admit, 2013 hasn’t quite impressed me the way it’s impressed others. But you have to take that with a grain of salt. I think every year in film is special. I don’t think any one year in film is weak, and when people have stated it in year’s past I just want to pish-posh them away. If you’ve said this, you just haven’t seen enough! But 2013 did, quite simply, herald more disappointments than most years. But I still found plenty to love. I’ve got some major blind spots, the biggest of which I’ll list below. At a certain point, it’s just time to make the damn lists. I tried to see the majority of the films that held the most interest for me. Eventually I’ll catch up with the ones I missed. My top 15 goes up tomorrow.

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/

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

Bastards Creton
Honorable Mention:
Bastards (Denis) (France)
For my honorable mention I’ve chosen a film that has unexpectedly haunted me since viewing it. I like Claire Denis’ latest a lot, but felt it became trapped between her opaque poeticisms and having to fulfill noir tropes left lingering after the dust settles. That being said, I haven’t been able to shake the thing since seeing it, in such a way that the film bares an honorary mention just on that that, let alone its other considerable achievements.

The Selfish Giant
#30. The Selfish Giant (Barnard) (UK)
Clio Barnard’s second film, an outgrowth of and companion piece to her first (the experimental documentary The Arbor), continues to explore life in Bradford where post-industrial environments harbors dire below-the-line living conditions. It also confirms her as a new voice in British cinema. The social consciousness is rooted in drudgery specific to the area where the hum of electricity, and fate, loom over the characters. We see how and why kids would take part in the illegal and lucrative scrap-dealing world as an immediate answer and sole misguided carrier of hope. This is a hankie movie everyone. Big. Time. Hankie Movie.

The catharsis and release that comes at the end, after a period of unerring focus and shock, is sort of soul-shattering. And it illustrates why the film works so well. It often seems hopeless, and there is little good depicted in this world, but The Selfish Giant is punctuated with moments where compassion is a form of exchange between two people. Barnard is also thankfully far more interested in the daily existence, of seeing Arbor and Swifty in their natural habitats than in point-to-point storytelling. I’m absolutely struck by the work of the two lead children, both non-actors who came from the area. Falls in line with British social realism films of yesteryear. Hopeless yet humanistic. Powerful but not plodding.

Byzantium
#29. Byzantium
 (2013, Jordan) (Ireland/UK/USA)
There were a number of films I became very fond of this year that almost made the cut. But time and time again I kept coming back to Neil Jordan’s succulent and underappreciated return to territory the likes of The Company of Wolves and Interview with the Vampire. Byzantium is a tell-tale yarn fraught with dicey dynamics and the eternal past. Saoirse Ronan stands at the center but it’s Gemma Arterton who most captivates. You feel the weight of time and the world on Clara’s shoulders even though she likes to pretend it isn’t there. Moira Buffini, who I’ve come to expect wonderful things from, concocts a vampiric story about women staking a claim for themselves in a male-dominated construct. The lush imagery is supported by the notion that female characters can take control of their own narratives. It has the feel of a successful adaptation, a film about where people land within their own story when their fantastical tale is all said and done.

No Barnal
#28. No (Larrain) (Chile) Fuses form with the period visual language at hand. No’s greatest success is the way it embraces the outlandish humor inherent in selling democracy to the public using advertising language and branding without ever feeling like it side-sweeps what is at stake. It is heavily populated with riotous and invaluable archival footage. The story is told through the assumedly fictional central figure played by Gael García Bernal who strides through the film freely aware that philosophy and political discussion sadly don’t have the market appeal of say, a jingle. It’s very focus further supports this idea as does the low-def 80’s format. Bernal makes his enigma of a cocky wunderkind full stop captivating. It also brings back pleasant yet vague memories of learning about Chile in my Latin American history class.

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#27. The Heat (Feig) (USA)
Melissa McCarthy dusts off one-liners like she’s dealing cards as well as creating a well-rounded character within a comedic framework. McCarthy and Bullock create the best onscreen duo to hit the multiplexes since Hill/Tatum in 21 Jump Street. Not coincidentally, both are buddy-cop films. And unlike 21 Jump Street, which falters in its last third, The Heat manages to stay consistent, its weaknesses trickle in throughout (including a mean-spirited streak) without hindering it too much at any given time. I had such a blast with this, and Feig’s direction really comes through in how he extracts the most laughs out of chaotic situations. Two examples include the scene at the club and the drinking montage.

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#26. It’s a Disaster (Berger) (USA)
Todd Berger’s low-key apocalyptic comedy nails the awkwardness of being thrust into new social entanglements and the weird and thoroughly under-explored dynamic embedded in the dreaded third date. The ensemble have great rapport, and the chamber piece is kept up in the ways characters take off in various amusing reactionary directions. If some of the characters never become interesting or move past their introductory vibe, it’s a relatively minor detractor in what is one of the most consistent and enjoyable comedies I’ve seen in some time. More people need to see this. The final scene is spot-on.

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#25. 12 Years a Slave (McQueen) (USA)
Steve McQueen somewhat inverts his psychological studies from outside-in/how the body inherently relates as vessel between what we see of people and what goes on within. It’s all recognizably McQueen, with suffering as the nucleus. One man’s story, which remains prioritized, is used as a catalyst for taking in, if not directly on, the larger whole, all stemming from the centrality of Solomon. There is an indirect blanket focus on the broader sets of societal and ideological circumstances through character behavior required for atrocities to be normalized. It’s a story of perverse realities, realities that reinforce the importance of always continuing to confront history, to reexamine, to not forget.

McQueen presents the material, with a no safety setting intact. Long takes, shallow focus, the pain showing on the face and being inflicted on the body. I do wonder about the unerring focus on brutality, and if maybe it’s sort of an easily blunt method of addressing the institution of slavery that slides the aforementioned blanket focus I mentioned earlier into the shadows. It’s a complicated topic to be sure, but I have largely appreciated the folks willing to question the film’s merits as opposed to blindly accepting them, even if I feel there’s a lot more going on in the film than the more narrow ways detractors have read it.

And that ending. Solomon is lifted out of hell, and the film comes to a close with a quiet reunion. As Solomon looks on at his family, both familiar and unrecognizable, apologizing for the state of his appearance, the impact of the film hits you all at once. It’s like an unspeakable tidal wave.

new world
#24. New World (Park) (South Korea)
Mob movies have to work a little extra to earn my commitment. I’m not adverse to them, and there’s actually quite a few I like or love. But it’s not a genre I automatically care about. New World, written and directed by I Saw the Devil scribe Park Hoon-Jung more than earns my commitment. It pulls you in from the word go. It’s more about the characters and how their long-standing relationships go hand-in-hand with the choices that are made than strictly adhering to mob tropes. There is an unforeseen ripple effect that the characters can’t quite define, but they all know it’s there. The parking garage fight scene is a kinetic stunner that I’m still wrapping my mind around. I seriously cannot stress that enough. All of the performances are incredibly strong, none more so than Hwang Jung-min, his doofy swagger acting as a posturing veneer. This is swift, smart, and impressive all-around. It felt like a kind of unspoken love story between two ‘brothers’; the curious coda falls in line with this reading.

Frances Ha
#23. Frances Ha (Baumbach) (USA)
Here’s the thing with Frances Ha. Saw it, loved it, continued to love it, and then a few weeks after seeing it, it left a slightly dissatisfied taste. I’m confident that a re-watch will rectify this strange faded feeling, but for now it gets a lower spot than it otherwise would have. But I’m still in the minority for preferring caustic Jennifer Jason Leigh-collaborative Baumbach over bubbly Greta Gerwig-collaborative Baumbach.

Noah Baumbach revisits the comical sharpness of his roots and the result is a youthful and delectable collaboration with new squeeze Gerwig. It is about the intricacies and intimacies of female friendship and the slow emergence of self-aware maturity. And it ties the two together beautifully. I love its flighty makeshift structure, completely coated in French New Wave sensibilities. It’s equal-parts comprised of full scenes and montage where exchanges and moments are pared down to their minimum for maximum essence. It paints a fairy tale-like picture where the underlying sadness can be overcome because let’s face it, the only thing holding Frances back from putting her best foot forward is herself. She makes some poor decisions along the way in order to live in the past and retain a sense of control but they are ill-advised. Has there been a more pitiful Paris excursion in film?

This would make an excellent double feature with Walking and Talking. Dean and Britta show up again here and this time they have lines! Major bonus points there. I know we all justifiably fawned over the usage of “Modern Love” (though knowing there’s another usage featuring Denis Lavant out there makes me salivating for the latter), but can we stop for a second and appreciate the more memorable multiple usage of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner”?

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#22. Enough Said (Holofcener) (USA)
Nicole Holofcener tends to deal with wayward women in some sort of semi-self-inflicted crisis. Here, she skillfully observes a woman whose inability to trust her own judgment and have her own experiences gets her into some uncomfortably sticky situations. Enough Said works so well in part because the script openly acknowledges that these characters have a lot of life both behind and ahead of them. It deals very honestly with the fact that budding relationships which come in middle age carry baggage and a past that both must reconcile. Each have daughters, ex-spouses, their own experiences and acquired defense mechanisms. In Hollywood, middle-aged romance is a sort of hazy hiccup in life that must be overlooked or ignored completely, despite being far more interesting for its mature perspective. That attention to relationship history is both the possible savior and destroyer for Eva and Albert’s relationship.

It has its stumbles (rom-com polish, unsubtle reminders, and a corny score) but Holofcener gets at the loss parents experience when their children leave the nest, and the parallel terror of new relationships in middle age when the past lingers and the future is mined with vulnerable uncertainties.

Full Review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/review-enough-said-2013-holofcener/

The Hunt
#21. The Hunt (Vinterberg) (Denmark)
That a film like this is an easy potshot of ‘look how useless people can be’ in a herd mentality scenario doesn’t lessen its impact as heralded by Thomas Vinterberg and powerhouse star Mads Mikkelsen. Links back to the director’s seminal Festen by looking at another accusation of sex abuse, this time a decidedly false one. Vinterberg never lets go of his grip on seeing the constant gears of the snowball effect setting up and going into motion. Standard narrative manipulation aside, everything about this feels like an eerily plausible train wreck you can’t stop from happening. Everybody is depicted as well-meaning individuals whose reactions are understandable (Fanny assailants aside) given the circumstances yet still avoidable. It’s one of the more successfully frustrating ‘audience-can’t-reach-out-and-set-things-straight’ experiences. Its study in mob mentality, importantly a mob mentality rooted in genuine search for justice borne out of rightly placed protection, offers no easy answers as it mourns the loss of innocent and pure interactions between adults and children. Those early scenes can’t even exist in their purity because we know what’s coming. Reliable great Mads Mikkelsen brings all of this home with his kind and giving character, respectable stiff upper-lip slowly giving way.

Drug War
#20. Drug War (To) (China/Hong Kong)
2013 seems to be the year where the film community has collectively taken on To’s intimidating filmography with rigor. It’s an exciting development largely triggered by Drug War’s Western success. Not including Drug War, I’d only seen a couple of To’s films (everyone needs to see The Heroic Trio because it has amazing Hong Kong lady stars becoming superheroes and kicking ass!) and Drug War definitely left me pining for more of his work.

This is rigid, disciplined, alive. Entirely driven, on a content level, by its economic plot mechanics, making up a serious and twisty crime/action film laced with politics of Mainland China where rigidity is a false pretense because everything feels like it can go bust at any second. And oh boy does it ever. On its surface it may on first glance look like a really solid action flick, but when you watch it, it doesn’t quite feel like others of its kind. It’s hermetically sealed and about the illusion of order. Everything is slick (what glorious sound!); not supported by the notion of ‘cool’ so much as the notion of pure craftsmanship. There is an immaculate tracking of space and place. You can tell this is special just in the way it goes about introducing all the key players at the beginning. It doesn’t dumb down character intros but it’s a casually intricate map rooted in clarity. Drug War gets more compelling by the minute and is contains a pretty fantastic female detective played by Huang Yi.

Behind the Candelabra
#19. Behind the Candelabra (Soderbergh) (USA) (aired on HBO)
My favorite Soderbergh film since Traffic, Behind the Candelabra is biographical, campy, comedic, showbizzy, heartwrenching, bizarre and poignant all at once. You could watch it once and latch onto any one of its parallel modes of design. Watch it another time and give yourself over to a different thread. It takes the conventional rise-and-fall relationship trajectory and uses it to explore how toxicity and devotion intermingle. Douglas lets us see a little slime underneath the bedazzle, just enough to really grey things up. This is in the running for Matt Damon’s best work. His Scott is also genuine on one level, but subtly duplicitous in the perks of living the life and the downward spiral he allows himself to go on.

The glitz, cosmetic surgery, PR work and pills make up this fragile veneer where everyone is going big or going home in a constant effort to keep up a transparent lie in more ways than one. Oh, and kudos for Cheyenne Jackson who kills every second of his tiny role. On a final but crucial note, the Matt Damon eye candy is at ridiculously high levels.

Blue-is-the-Warmest-Color

#18. Blue is the Warmest Color (Kechiche) (France)
A seminal relationship, the search for identity, heartbreak and hope all in extreme close-up, all mapped out on faces. Largely free of narrative commitment, Blue is more tethered to an almost verite-like observation which captures intense personal experience. There is a ruthless commitment to the vigorous lifeblood of a young woman which is embedded in everything from the extratextual unpleasant filming experiences to the naturalistic self-discovery and epic fumbles that belong to Adele. She has a lust for life in eating, dancing, masturbating; the basics of living are depicted through that stumble towards an uncertain identity and sense of self.  Problematic claims aside, there’s an audacity and animalism to the much-talked about sex scenes (our culture’s general prudishness is as much to blame for this as is textual and extratextual context) that is so pulsing, vital, sweaty and real to the relationship that the idea of them, nature of the male gaze and actors experience aside, is important. It’s the kind of stark eroticism and explicitly frank depiction of sex I think we need more of. We stay with them to the point where, for better or worse, it feels like we enter another realm and it fits with the film he is making, exploitative or not (to which I say both yes and no).

I was especially taken with how meaninglessly Adele fucks up. It’s so spot-on to actual experience. We never see her trying to communicate to Emma how she feels, and her all-too human fuck-up is driven by inexperience with relationships and how to handle their downs, and a general restlessness. Unbearably palpable is the diner scene towards the end, a wrenching depiction of can’t-go-back heartbreak, regret and pain on both sides. The journey we go on just in that scene is mind-boggling. Blue is also responsible for turning my adoration of Lea Seydoux into full-blown crush territory.

More thoughts here: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/films-seen-in-2013-round-up-235-239/

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#17. Monsters University (Scanlon) (USA)
I have no idea what this film did to catch the amount of undeserved slack it received within the film community upon its release. Aren’t most movies been-there-done-that? Doesn’t execution count for anything? Has Pixar pitted itself into a hole of unreachable expectation? 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 was flat-out one of the most entertaining films I saw this year. That anyone could have walked out of this unsatisfied boggles my mind. It’s heartfelt, hilarious and carries a wonderful message on its back that I wish had provoked more discussion.

I find it fairly unconventional for an all-ages film to be this realistic in its message. This isn’t “Reach for the Sky”. This is “Reach for the Sky” but realize it’s okay that you might have to start at the bottom. There’s something bold in stating (in a kids film no less!) that desire and natural talent don’t always have matching levels. Mike wants to scare more than anything in the world. But he’s just average. And that’s okay.  It hits every note it intends 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 top-notch voice work in reviving Mike and Sully.

spectacular now

#16. The Spectacular Now (Ponsoldt) (USA)
Indie darling coming-of-age romance based on a YA novel? Doesn’t sound like my cuppa. Oh, but in this case it was. We are brought into the characters lives on their own level of experience; first loves, mistakes, conflicting flutters, people letting them down. In the process, we come to care so deeply for Sutter and Aimee, separately and, for better or worse, together. Ponsoldt makes us feel like part of the story; we feel as they feel. The uncertainty, the butterflies, the ways people change and don’t change and the self-doubt.

I’m über-picky with romance. But I was struck by the maturity with which this story and these characters, even the secondary ones, are crafted. People are neither wholly good or bad, everyone is flawed and capable of weakness, ill-advised coping and the hardships of living with oneself. It’s an obvious truth, and one that films tend to forget in service of tropes. I guess what I’m saying is that The Spectacular Now doesn’t view its characters as characters, it views them as people. And I responded very positively to that. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are revelatory.

More thoughts: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/capsule-reviews-films-seen-in-2014-round-up-1-5/

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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

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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 

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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)

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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 MentionLeviathan 

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

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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.

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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

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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 

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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)

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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

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Villains: 
1. Encarna/La Madrastra – Meribel Verdú – 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 

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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.

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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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#134. Before Midnight (2013, Linklater)
Review in separate post.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.