Last year for the first time I did a mid-year round up of what I had seen thusfar and it seemed to have sparked some issues on the internet, mostly because I was right and you guys are always wrong. But something about it made me thing last night — maybe I should do that again. So here we go. With little discussion and just saying “hey check these out if you’ve missed them so far” with the films of 2014 at our midway point now… Continue reading
This week, people who live in places with good theatres, are going to get to enjoy the latest Tom Hardy effort, Locke. As far as I can tell it’s Tom Hardy on the phone fixing life problems in one night while taking a leisurely drive around town. That sounds amazing, mainly because it’s simple, but mostly because it’s Tom Hardy just talking to me calmly. I think it would do good as a late night film on TV that will lull me to sleep and I can imagine how his voice was digitized and manipulated to be the Bane joke it is today, I’m really glad we’re past that gag.
Anyways, it made me wonder about cars in film; and more importantly non chase scenes in films in cars. Cars are a big part of the world culture, but for the most part they’re used as cut aways in transport or straight up crazed action scenes. However, this week I wanted to highlight some great scenes in films that take place in cars (that aren’t chase scenes).
9. “Maybe it’s the power trying to come on?”; Jurassic Park (1993)
Yes we all remember the T-Rex chasing Goldblum down the path and people shouting them to go faster. However, what we all remember more than that is the water vibrating and being told to pay close attention. I keep remembering how much time they spent just sitting in the cars just waiting to see what’ll happen and as the tension builds it gets more and more glorious on screen for us.
8. “This is bat country”;
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Remember that time that Johnny Depp gave Spider-Man a lift to Las Vegas? I do. It was in bat country. We all adore Gilliam’s drug infused story of Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo adventures to Las Vegas, and more that recognizing his insanity as he slips in an out of inner to outer monologue due to his own drugged filled state.
7. “Pull up here”;
Gun Crazy (1950)
Earlier this year, with True Detective running and a great long take being revealed to us all half way through the season, the internet ran into a big panic filled nerd rage over long takes in cinema and this one kept coming up. It’s great. After about forty or so minutes of build up we finally get to the first real bank robbery and we don’t ever really get to see it. We’re stuck outside with Annie as she’s in the car waiting for Barton to come out with the money. This nice continuous shot from the backseat of the car helps add tension to what is already a very tense moment.
6. Shot Marvin in the Face;
Pulp Fiction (1992)
A reminder of all the things I love about Tarantino filmmaking. It’s holding us with a tangential conversation about Cops and how it isn’t always what you think it means and book-ending it all with someone being shot in the face to the point of a blood filled explosion in the car. It’s what Tarantino does best. Distracts us from the big money-shot to the point of being excited and shocked by it when it happens.
5. “Could’ve been a contendor”;
On the Waterfront (1954)
I forget sometimes how great just letting actors role with scenes can be. Here we see Brando explain clearly to his brother what it was he did to him. It wasn’t about anything other than the fact that he was the one that did it to him. He asked him to dive thinking it was okay, but it wasn’t. It showed him that the world wasn’t fit for him and that didn’t just lose him on money or fame, it lost him on life.
4. “How about some Bohemian Rhapsody?”; Wayne’s World (1992)
I actually can honestly remember when I first saw this movie and this scene has always been the one that stuck out. Also, I hadn’t ever heard Queen before and had no clue what this music was. I assumed it was a fake song they made up for the movie. Cut to me more than a decade later discovering Queen and enjoying it even more.
3. “You’re damn unlucky”;
I Saw the Devil (2010)
Remember when I said I wanted to focus on non chase scenes. I consider this not counting. Here we’re treated to one of those special kung-fu-esque moments in cinema where in a tight space it becomes even more glorious to watch our hero (or in this case villain) fight his way out of a corner.
2. Trunk Love;
Out of Sight (1998)
About a month ago the internet was a buzz with conversations about sexy films (with the release of Nymphomaniac). I was touting Take This Waltz and now somehow I’m saddened that I forgot this amazing film by Soderbergh. Something about this scene of Lopez and Clooney being locked in the trunk trading lines and just kind of being status quo about the whole situation just works. It’s a scene that exists for us to know that the chemistry between these two characters are real and make us want them to be together knowing that it’s improbable with their vocations being on opposite ends of life.
This is a film that will live on longer that me I imagine and this scene is one of the many reasons why. In this continuous shot all taking place within the car as we sit with all these characters attempting to get out of town to save humanity it begins calmly enough with some laughs and fun, but it quickly turns sour as some violent attackers descend on them and it becomes a state of panic. I read FIlm Crit Hulk’s writing about long takes and it helped me understand why it is we as a community of film lovers flock to them, it’s their natural ability to create tension when at times there isn’t even any to begin with. This scene is one where it feels not just that the scene is creating tension as much as it’s teaching us about this technique as it’s all about tension building.
Last year, as I mentioned in my clean up post last week, I participated for the first time in the series of articles called The Blindspot Series. And with my unannounced and barely noted sabbatical from writing and all things internet to the end of half of last year I hope to keep on top of my Blindspots this year.
Last year I found myself pushing into a lot of pre-determined classics that I had yet to see. This year I’m getting a little bit weirder, while at the same time working with some of those very well known classics that I should really get out of the way by now. I have a few films from most recent years and some from years that not many alive now remember existing if we weren’t so preoccupied with writing history down.
Anyways, without further ado, my schedule of films for this year:
January – Breaking the Waves (1996) (dir. Lars von Trier) February – Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) (dir. F. W. Murnau) March – Late Spring (1949) (dir. Yasujiro Ozu) April – The White Balloon (1995) (dir. Jafar Panahi) May – Sholay (1975) (dir. Ramesh Sippy) June – 3-Iron (2004) (dir. Ki-duk Kim) July – Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) (dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger) August – The Great Dictator (1940) (dir. Charles Chaplin) September – Chungking Express (1994) (dir. Wong Kar Wai) October – Only Angels Have Wings (1939) (dir. Howard Hawks) November – The African Queen (1951) (dir. John Huston) December – Three Colors: Red, White & Blue (1993 – 1994) (dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski)
This past year, along with all the great theatrical releases that wowed (see my Top 20 of 2013), I committed to participating in a series of posts that seems to be managed and championed by Ryan McNeil of The Matinee called “The Blindspots”. Along with all my other writings over the last year as it turned to the last third I fell off somewhat, but I called out twelve films at the beginning of the year that I promise I’d finally make myself watch, here are the results of those twelve films and me:
Schindler’s List (1993) (dir. Steven Speilberg)
The movie constantly strives to show power. To show the power one has over the people. It goes so far as to actually discuss it openly between our two characters of dominance where Schindler tells Amon his true power lies not in his ability to take away the life of a Jew but to allow them to keep it, to pardon them.
Where I feel the most interest for me though came in the procedure itself. When the film finally identifies our murderer (Peter Lorre) we’re given this small moment of brilliance that just feels so right. It’s hard for us to somehow conceive how much easier or harder it was to accomplish these procedures that we take for granted in police narratives of this age, but something so simple as marking the back of a man’s coat by chalking a M on your hand so that the rest of the eyes and ears are able to follow him discreetly makes everything else (which is monotonous procedure) work so much more as an act of cinema.
Using the word documentary feels almost dismissive of what Kiarostami is able to accomplish with this film. Where elements are filmed as happens and others re-enacted (for the sake of narrative) it never feels completely directed or forced in any way. Even scenes, like the trial, gives an uncertain feeling as to whether we’re watching the real thing or a re-enactment. This is to the film’s benefit as it ties in further into the filmmaking idea of how this drive and passion that pushed Sabzian to lie about being Makhmalbaf out of a love for cinema even more apparent.
The Night of the Hunter (1955) (dir. Charles Laughton)
While the thematic terror is an element that creates approximately 80% of the tension in the film, more than any acting greatness that is Robert Mitchum or the narrative, it’s the visual sense that the film gives that pulls this off. As mentioned, the first time we know that Powell has reached the Harpers is by a shadow that envelopes the children in their home. More than once Charles Laughton uses the image of shadows to convey this sense of terror. The visual ability of the director is what makes every frame of Mitchum (and his ever present shadow) is what makes the film as palpable as it is. When we have the moment of John and Pearl escaping you’d expect for that visual motif to change, but it doesn’t and it’s only at the very end is it that the film finally feels to come into the light.
Even when the film reaches its climax and we’re given this cyclical nod with Eve in her hotel room after having accepted her award with a very Margo-like demeanor; very somber and slightly disgusted with her reality it should be cliche and annoying but it works. The worst part of it is that we never feel this as a sign of Eve becoming saddened by the results of her efforts, we see her as accomplished and successful. Not just critically and financially but also personally.
Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) (dir. Werner Herzog)
A part of me wants to love this movie. It feels so much like what Malick achieved with The New World (my favourite of his films); and at the same time I feel like this is the film that most easily explains to me how those who dislike The New World felt watching that film.
Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), while on this expedition for El Dorado is given second in command to a smaller team to find their way out of the jungle. The film allows us to focus on the process of Aguirre’s claim to fame as the man behind the curtain of every turn. When he saw that he was unable to control the expedition to his benefit he saw fit the make sure that it became that way in short order. It’s great.
At the same time though the film feels like a general slog of a story where from the outset, watching these conquistadors seeing their own demise in the near future, we have no hope for the story or our characters. Aguirre almost feels like he’s supposed to be the villain you love to hate that we’re forced to associate with, but I ended up distancing myself from him as much as possible.
In the Mood For Love (2000) (dir. Wong Kar Wai)
Adultery is a strong word and has always been seemingly well defined in the construct of society. However, In the Mood for Love starts to question the limits of that definition and asks us when it’s worth re-evaluating that word. There is a point in the film where we are led to believe that Mrs. Chow and Mr. Chan are having an affair, whether together or separately is undetermined. When Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan decide to spend more time together it begins with the line of, “We won’t be like them” which admits to the dark road they are about to travel down but walks down it with the intention of it remaining pure.
The film’s imagery is anything but subtle. There are times when Fritz Lang actually looks to remind us of the themes he wants to portray numerous times through imagery. The same narration that opens the film, of the mediator, is repeated numerous times through Maria’s preaching to the workers and when the finale comes around. The same thing happens with the Babel imagery. Early on when Freder first is inspired to speak to his father about his suffering brothers in the machine room he screams, “to the new Tower of Babel,” and later on the film explains – in almost a scripture like manner — the imagery and meaning of the Woman of Babel who inspires all of these sins that eventually leads to the death of a people only to have the Machine Man version of Marie be placed into that exact same imagery so much so that the film would overlay the presented image of the Woman of Babel when evil Marie appears to remind us.
Where this film rises above a lot of even today’s films is in it’s visuals. Something about films of today are so understandable by the audience. When someone goes to watch Avengersthere is an understanding by him and the film even before a frame is shown that we already know how 99% of the film was made and the part of one’s brain that spends rattling around trying to figure out how we got a Hulk to take down a big Alien ship living thingy (whatever that was) is completely disengaged through the experience. However, watching Sherlock Jrthat part of your brain is constantly engaged attempting to figure it all out because unlike with today’s films there is no understanding before the film begins.
At the time the first thought I had when the credits began to roll was instantaneously to have someone explain this French New Wave to me. I know what it is and have seen a couple of films from it’s time, only to feel lost about it all. It’s realism and paired down productions create mood that I adore, but this film felt like a loss of story. There was nothing to truly latch onto as opposed to the likes of Frances Ha, which takes it’s entire feel and style from the films of this era but adds something more to the mix that I feel filmmakers then didn’t care for.
Godard asks me to follow his protagonist into nothingness as the film devolves into a very odd state of affairs and just a random smattering of meetings that shift from being adorable to frustratingly uninteresting.
Double Indemnity (1944) (dir. Billy Wilder)
Is this the year I dislike noir cinema? Something about this film rubbed me the wrong way. Noir cinema, more than a visual style and general dark toned revenge/mystery stories, rely on a sense of intrigue that I felt this film lacked for me. Another big thing that these films live on is general badassness. We love the hard as nails cop going after the bad guy and questioning who’s really the worst person of the two sides. Here it’s an insurance salesman who always have the right selection of words to go together, and it’s great, but at the same time it comes off as no better than The Counselor where we want to take a minute or two to deconstruct each sentence and by the time we’ve caught up we’ve lost the film and any focus the film had with us.
Touch of Evil (1958) (dir. Orson Welles)
So… remember I talked about noir? This is noir. With a Mexican Charlton Heston and a fat Orson Welles playing off one another to solve this crime and see where justice really lies we have nothing but great dark gritty police stories to fill that part of our mind which loves to hate bad people and loves even more to see the morally good succeed in the end. The direction making the film feel as fluid as possible and writing keeping us on our toes while never losing us keeps this film entertaining and amazingly enjoyable to watch.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the year gone by in bullet point form I should preface this list with a few notable things:
As I mention every year, there are films I missed. In the most notable of films I’ve yet to see from 2013 there is: Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, American Hustle, At Berkley, The Wolf of Wall Street, Short Term 12, Blue is the Warmest Colour and All is Lost; to mention a few.
There are a lot more films I’d love to give love to. When sitting down to do to work on a short list for this end of year tally I came up with near 30 films that I feel left an indelible mark on my mind that I either can’t wait to revisit or just can’t stop thinking of. Of the films of 2013 that aren’t mentioned below that I’d love to give a cowboy like nod of the hat to are: The Place Beyond the Pines, Pacific Rim, Stories We Tell, The Purge, The Grandmaster & The World’s End.
Otherwise, let it be known that while my list is numbered there are a lot of points where I just flung a film in a place as opposed to being definite about anything. Like all lists, it’s personal and therefore flawed. So enjoy:
20. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (dir. Richard Linklater)
I wrote previously how this film reminded me of the aged love that I as a 20-something (the age that Celine and Jesse were in their first meeting) am yet to figure out. That kind of love which tackles the idea of “forever” and whether it’s that idealized version of love. The fights and the disagreements that leave a lot of awkward moments that to me I’ve tried to avoid so far in my life, with this film looks more as the moments that make the more peaceful ones more appealing.
Do all women become crazy people to men and all men simple children that will never take something serious until we go to defcon 1? Or do we see it as that moment where we can say as simply and beautifully that this is me, this is love, this is what I have for you and I have no intention of taking that away even if you decide you don’t want it anymore. That’s the equivalent of all of the “I love you”s and “You’re the most beautiful”s that we say when we’re twenty. I guess time will tell for me, but at least Jesse and Celine wen’t there first for me and it remains an emotional tirade of moments that make me love love in movies more.
19. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (dir. Paul Greengrass)
Very much like 127 Hours we have another opportunity for isolation and self-sufficiency in the real world show how bravery really looks. We still imagine that the marines and the kung-fu masters of cinema show us how to be brave. However, Capt. Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) shows us that with nothing other than reason and his wit is what keeps him alive in this situation.
This may be one of the first films in recent memory where Greengrass‘ handheld style of filmmaking didn’t get in the way of my understanding of intentions and feelings of characters but rather actually assisted it all. Something about how it featured our pirates, Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and others, it reminded us that their tale, as serious as it is, is easily understood. While we have the stereotypical moment of him telling us “maybe in America” for his hopes and ambitions of being legitimate making a living.
18. RUSH (dir. Ron Howard)
What happens when you put two of the best characters that the world against each other in a brilliant tale of sporting rivalry? FUN! This film works as charisma oozes out of Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth as they go against each other in racing, life and everything inbetween. Both with differing opinions on life and racing in every aspect, other than being first is the most important thing ever.
Ron Howard discovered something I that I hope a lot of filmmakers, both young and old, discover very soon; that is that if you can, it’s probably a lot more interesting to just do the real action. When you film real Formula 1 cars racing on the track it’ll be a lot more engaging and intense than any computer generated version you can imagine. I’m not putting down CG as a tool, I love great CG embedded in filmmaking, but still when possible the real tactile thing can do wonders for storytelling.
17. COMPUTER CHESS (dir. Andrew Bujalski)
To those of you who follow me on twitter you would probably know two things about me, besides movie adoration; (1) I use to be a heavy chess nerd; and (2) I’m a software/web developer by trade. Taking those two facts into mind what works better on this person other than an comedy set in the 80s about a group of chess players who have come together to play their chess playing computer software against one another. It’s filled with that type of nerd discussions I’ve heard all my days as they make coding jokes and many weird unbelievable chess gags that seem so absurd they just work. There’s even a computer that’s figured out it’s playing against computers and is actively trying not to play against computers. It’s insanity wrapped in a serious piece of satire that I’m sure only the right kind of audience will find funny. I was the right kind of audience for this one.
16. THIS IS THE END (dir. Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen)
Moving from the niche comedy of the year to possibly the best of the comedies of the year that hit it wide. Packing in actors that we’ve come to love/hate as the “same role” actors that’s had their fair share of Hollywood successes and horrendous failures into this one mansion to watch them devolve as the world enters its final days and we all just want to fight over who gets a bite of that last Milky Way bar.
More and more I find myself gravitating to these films, especially in the world of comedy, which have that nod to film itself. Not only does this film take comedy as it relates to mocking the public persona — however true or false it is — of these guys as they play these caricatures of themselves, but also it takes a bead on the world of apocalyptic horror cinema; from Rosemary’s Baby to The Exorcist and more. The film plays all these things and more with the biggest of tongue in cheek moments, 90s reminiscent nostalgia (not even in a good way) and just good ideas and intentions littered throughout.
15. MAN OF STEEL (dir. Zack Snyder)
I feel it’s become my burden to be that guy this year who keeps the light burning for action cinema. Man of Steel was Zack Snyder‘s reminder that when we make cinema grand it’s spectacle washes over us in a fantastic fashion. Something about the wonder that film does to us as I can only imagine a 6-year-old would feel for the first time seeing Krypton through this film. Seeing a world where Superman (as we know him) finds out who he is when he first enters the fortress of solitude and meets his father. To when General Zod challenges him and he finally shows himself to the world seeking a weird self defined version of acceptance.
I’m not even going to be that guy who asks you to look at all the amazing explosions and forgot that dumb story in the background. I want to ask you to look at the tale of a man finding his own acceptance of himself in society. So many films we call “coming of age” of tales have to be of that real teen who’s finding their place in the world. This is Superman and Clark Kent’s coming of age tale that I adore.
… And it’s got some awesome action.
14. ONLY GOD FORGIVES (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
A few years back the world was seemingly introduced to what I like to describe as Winding Refn-lite with Drive. This is Refn-true as we’re given this tale of justice with seemingly unreal to the level of godlike stature. The more I think of this film is the more I want to describe it as a dark fairy-tale of the world of vengeance and justice. Vithaya Pansringarm playing the Angel of Justice in Bangkok, Chang, as he sings his karaoke awaiting for another case to assess where justice must be played out. It’s important that we never see the courts or any sense of systematic justice, only Chang and Jullian (and the rest of his family). Only the right and the wrong.
13. DRUG WAR (dir. Johnnie To)
Coming back to the world of entertaining action crime cinema. I can’t imagine a more tightly structured and well put together film of this past year than Johnnie To‘s Drug War.
Over the last few years I’ve seen my love for the genre be spurned on in the world of television (with the likes of Luther), but this film does something I don’t think I’d ever see in film; that is keep the tension built and never letting it go. You imagine that whenever a built action sequence occurs it would deflate enough tension and intrigue that it would ask us to take a breath, instead it does the opposite. It creates more.
Also all the kudos to Honglei Sun for playing the lead in this film. From scene to scene he’s a joy to watch be the most amazing police officer ever existed.
12. FRANCES HA (dir. Noah Baumbach)
When you are young there’s nothing but magic in the world. There are thoughts, hopes and dreams. When you grow older those things either become a reality — somehow — or they become a forgotten thing that you once felt for and not necessarily in a bad way. The film follows Frances as she fiddles and fumbles through life looking for that moment where she knows that “she’s a real person” finally and it never feels hurtful or dismissive of those moments where she’s finding it difficult to be searching. Life isn’t a direct line of progression like a military ranking system, but rather something more emotional and needing a more analog compass to complete; if it ever can be. I’m still looking for my compass and I look to Frances to know this better.
11. THE HUNT (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Real life is sticky and not well laid out. There are things which aren’t controlled by scientific truths but rather a very emotion driven one. So when the world throws you a bothersome side note like your best friend’s daughter who you teach in kindergarten telling a lie that you molested her it becomes infinitely more difficult to live. The thought constantly entered my head as the community became more and more against him of “is there anyway out of this?”and I’m honestly uncertain if there is. No matter how civil we are in our society there are always going to be taboos like this that as untrue as they are and whether or not you can be found innocent in the world of the law the world cannot forgive you. Even if we don’t reach the end of days where the Kangaroo Court takes over and the community just tortures him to death; the idea of being a pariah in a way that no one will communicate or deal with you in any manner leaves much less to be desired.
10. FRUITVALE STATION (dir. Ryan Coogler)
To continue to discussion of the world not being a nice place sometimes we shift from a fictional story set in reality to a true story that asks us to take note of the reality of the situation. When we watch films set in a long gone by history we look back on it with a kind thought in the back of our minds that think “we’re past this”. When we turn on the news we still see stories of these types, and here it’s taken into the cinema in such an emotionally engaging manner that we can’t ignore. We, or least I, go to the cinema to see reality in a different way, but when you put it straight up like this it still affects you in a way that you can’t imagine.
9. CLOSED CURTAIN (dir. Jafar Panahi)
Something I’ve recognized about the films I’ve seen this year and how this one separates itself from the lot is that it roots itself not just in the realm of truth but in the realm of self truth. With the world of Jafar Panahi being restricted as he’s still banned from filmmaking in his home country of Iran he constructs this narrative of a man trying to save this dog from the outside world that’s currently in a state of riot and murdering all dogs. At the same time an unexpected visitor enters his home and begins to confront him to open his world, to see the past that he’s trying to forget. The film goes even further making us understand that this is an external representation of the internal processes of Panahi himself as he tries to live a life of silence against his will. Locking himself in, when all he wants is what I imagine all filmmakers and artists want, to open up and create.
8. SPRING BREAKERS (dir. Harmony Korine)
We can talk about the American Dream and how it’s a lie. We can discuss how Gonzo weird out there filmmaking makes us disconnect from any reality that is cinema. We can discuss the ideals of good and evil, God and the Devil. I want to talk about Harmony Korine‘s crazed story set in the middle of hedonism and escapism for young adults who’ve yet to discover a world of consequence. Even in this world when our invincible on vacation women are shot or emotionally distraught by their situation they’re able to get on a bus and be almost instantly okay again. It’s a brilliant look into what I remember my perception of reality was when I was 19 and trying to have fun in the US, except I was a dude I guess and didn’t have a bikini and a shotgun.
7. UPSTREAM COLOR (dir. Shane Caruth)
I imagine couples, very much like Celine and Jesse from the Before films, telling their tales of finding each other in the very stereotypical nature. Many people will see the film Upstream Color and question the science and try to deconstruct it to some truth that the world is going through only to be lost. I see it instead as the tale of how these two unlikely people met and created a relationship around this very unique happening that they have in common.
Unlike all other tragic love story it involves a few more weird bits and bobs, including mind control and pigs transfusions, but it’s nothing more than an amazingly put together piece of cinema that will test it’s audience in a complete manner.
6. STOKER (dir. Park Chan Wook)
It feels certain that every year there is that one film that we as a cinematic community rally around and start to call “the film Hitchcock would be the biggest fan of” or “would’ve wanted to make himself”. While I don’t want to be the one to criticize these people — as I’ve done it before, with Buried — or put words into the great filmmaker’s mouth; I want to feel that this film feels most like the best of him. It’s a story about a character figuring out herself in a way that’s been suppressed all throughout her childhood and now reaching the age of 18 is made to find that person that she really is, which happens to be a psychotic murderer. The tension and tone of this film finds new places to take its audience as we stop trying to look for the next bookmark in the narrative but rather feel it all.
5. THE ACT OF KILLING (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
I have a tendency to have, what some may call, the obligatory documentary addition to my end of year list and whether you believe it or not in years gone by I want this one to serve as something else in your minds. This film doesn’t just work as emotional and historical documentation but feels like a new kind of cinema.
We’ve always had two ways of seeing films so far. It’s either through the director’s eyes as he shows us a world or through his subject’s words. Not to say that these tools haven’t been great builders of worlds in film this last decade, but something about allowing these men who in any other sort of documentary would’ve just sat there and told us what they did and what they felt to create their own films to help express their emotions at the time when they were partaking in this coup. It also adds an extra layer in the fact that these men all have their own appreciation of cinema and turning their tales into differing genres of film that we all have our own emotions and feelings on.
4. THE WIND RISES (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
I’ve not been quiet about this. I’m a Miyazaki fan. More than that. I’m an admirer. I love what he does with films making amazing adventure cinema that plays for all. It’s unadulterated joy.
The Wind Rises however is not that. This is a historical retelling of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the planes that Japan used in WWII and more specifically during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film utilizes all of Miyazaki’s known style in a way that remains calm and underspoken all to the story. With some well done dream sequences that help us not only not try to attribute the negative feelings we have towards the outcome of this story, but rather revel in his achievement as a technological innovator at his time.
3. THE SPECTACULAR NOW (dir. James Ponsoldt)
We know the teen romance. It’s cute, it’s lovely, it warms our hearts not only to see, but also to remember when it was us. When we would have this weirdly amazing love that made us love for the first time in a way we didn’t before; and at the same time looking back we see all that was wrong with that romance. Watching this film felt like that, but different.
There’s a tragic tone to this romance that even though we watch her love him we don’t want her to. We see all the ways he’s not right for her and the ways we wish for her to see it. Slowly we see it twist and turn in ways that we wish it won’t. But there’s something about how the film ends up. It ends with hope. We hope he’s better. We hope he loves her. We know he loves her better than he ever loved before. It’s brilliant in how it lets us believe in young love and ways it teaches us that we still hope that people can be better; just as Odenkirk tells us, “I’d tell you what you’re doing to yourself”.
2. GRAVITY (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
It’s a thing these days to hold up a film that deviates from the norm in some small way and still manages to affect you. Gravity isn’t a film that I’d say is new to me, it does something that I’ve seen many before it do, but that doesn’t make its effect on me any less remarkable.
With little to discuss as Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) fights for survival to make it back onto Earth’s surface safely the film holds us moment to moment with every breath that’s limited and every last second chance she takes to make it to the next thing that should help her not suffocate or burn to death swinging towards Earth’s atmosphere.
This film, more than any action filled feast of 2013, proved how to make a proper roller coaster ride of emotions and action so small, so brilliant and so amazing that somehow it makes you forget what you thought you wanted from film before this.
1. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (dir. Steve McQueen)
Don’t make be that guy who holds up a slavery film as the film of the year that you should seek out. It’s most likely the Oscar front runner, to those who care of such things, and at the same time I wonder how much that says about cinema that this is the topic that gets widespread viewing in the world of black cinema as opposed to the contemporary Fruitvale Station.
However, what makes this film most noteworthy for me isn’t the general empathy that is brought about by seeing the system of slavery brought back to life, but rather how the system affected this one man. While the questionable nature of the time there’s something about a story about a free man, with a family and a world in which he’s a successful artist. He’s in no different social standing than most “normal” people today, but still he suffers the same result as most people of his kind did for just being born on the other side of the nation. His systematic suffering from that moment onward becomes a pause in his life. From the static moments when we’re forced to endure his suffering without the ability to look away comfortably with an easy cut away, as films would generally do for us. Until the final moment when we’re forced to see what this world took from him and just begs us to feel. It’s amazing cinema.