Wrapping Up 2013

Now that we are fully committed to the New Year, I think I owe the 2013 a proper farewell kiss. Ironically, not too long from now, this very blog will be turning one, but I decided to separate those two occasions and simply devote this entry to looking back through time in ‘calendar’ terms. To me, personally, this year was full of fantastic developments and major changes, but film-wise, some would say, the 2013 was a bit underwhelming.

Looking at the box office revenues and the onslaught of sequels, it’s hard to disagree with the notion that (globally) cinema has seen better days. Still, the indie scene is flourishing and has been supplying us with food for thought, as if to counter the sensory overload brought about by the Hollywood money-making machine. However, I think highly of some of this year’s big budget productions and can’t help but admit I had a lot of fun watching them. I have had, unfortunately, my fair share of disappointment, but nevertheless the year 2013 shall not go down in my memory as one of the worst on record, at least that’s certain. I just have to come to terms with the idea that comic book movies are here to stay as replacement for the good ol’ actioners I grew up with, and that rehashing old ideas is the thing of the future.

In order to complete the ritual burial of 2013 (Viking style, of course), I decided – just like everybody else – to come up with my Top 10 Films I enjoyed the most in 2013, similar in vein to what I’ve done to summarize the first six months of the year. Bear in mind, that the artistic quality is only one of the factors that I consider. I make a point of not rating the films in my reviews (with the exception of Letterboxd that I joined recently), because for me a film can speak to me intellectually, artistically, or in terms of pure entertainment. And let’s not forget about those films that strike a special note in my heart, even when they are otherwise disappointing (“Elysium”, I’m looking at you).

Here we go:

10. “Evil Dead” / “Star Trek Into Darkness”

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I couldn’t decide which one I liked more and I couldn’t imagine my list of this year’s favourites without either of them. “Evil Dead”, directed by a débutante Fedé Alvarez, was just a pure adrenaline rush that, whilst being a remake, elbowed its way into my heart.  I am normally very sceptical when it comes to redoing classics, but this one certainly delivered on all levels, with strong emphasis on the gory, visceral entertainment that made my legs shake on my way home from the screening.

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“Star Trek Into Darkness”, directed by J.J. Abrams (a.k.a. The Lens Flare Guy) also spoke to me on a visceral level, but stroke completely different notes. Forgetting it’s a sequel to a reboot to an established franchise, this Sci-Fi epic was filled with action and adrenaline in its entirety. Surely, this film had its flaws and part of my enjoyment must have had something to do with the usual mystery J.J. Abrams veils his films with, but “Star Trek Into Darkness” was still pretty awesome.

9. “Man Of Steel”

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Some say that “Iron Man 3” was the best comic book film of the year, to which I say ‘Hell, no!’. I really loved Zack Snyder’s approach at resurrecting the Superman franchise, and that’s no small feat considering the level of disrepute it was brought down to over the years with abysmal sequelitis. “Man of Steel” has definitely been airbrushed by Chris Nolan, and partly because of this attempted grounding Superman’s mythos in reality, the film delivers astounding entertainment filled with high octane action. I loved the performances, I loved the villain, and for once, oddly, I am somewhat excited for the sequel.

8. “You’re Next”

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Even though I didn’t get to write up this film properly, I think it deserves its spot up there with the best. Rarely do I get to have as much fun watching horror films, as I had with ”You’re next”. It’s brutal, witty, comically self-aware (unlike “Cabin in the Woods”, which is allegedly comical, but I failed to see that) and playfully twists the genre on its head.

7. “The Conjuring”

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Widely touted as the scariest film of the year, James Wan’s “The Conjuring” truly lived up to the hype. I am a sucker for a good scare, which this film has sported a good deal of. The combination of a clever use of old-school practical effects, relatable characters, and the ‘based on a true story’ slant truly resulted in a memorable and terrifying experience.

6. “The Kings of Summer”

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I find it sad I didn’t get to see this film over the summer, because its impact would have been all the more powerful. “The Kings of Summer” is a brilliant coming-of-age comedy filled with witty humour, snappy dialogue, and beautiful cinematography, that makes you wish you were  fifteen again so that you could run away from home and build a house in the woods.

5. “Pacific Rim”

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As someone cleverly summed it up, “Pacific Rim” is the best early 90’s film made today. God, I wish I had come up with that myself. Guillermo Del Toro’s return to the big screen sporting monsters and big robots was just phenomenal and I couldn’t have wished for better quality entertainment. Brilliant special effects, awesome models, and outstanding attention to detail, stapled with a metric tonne of action was responsible for my biggest nerdgasm in recent memory.

4. “Behind the Candelabra”

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Steven Soderbergh’s swan song (following “Side Effects”, also released in 2013) about the life of Liberace was a phenomenal treat with unforgettable performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Watching this gripping story of love, abuse, betrayal and manipulation was not only entertaining, but most importantly engaging from the point of view of the artistry of film-making. Soderbergh, regardless of what he tackles, has a fine grip on the subject that will highlight the smallest nuances and turn a seemingly shallow love story to a whole different level. Sadly – and I hope he changes his mind – “Behind the Candelabra” is probably going to be the final entry in his filmography.

3. “The Place Beyond The Pines”

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Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to the stunning “Blue Valentine” kept me glued to my chair. It’s the perfect indie drama with visceral performances by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper that through the maze-like plot gets you to think about causality in life. Gripping, naturalistic, and dark in the subject matter, as well as the tone, “The Place Beyond The Pines” has been a front-runner for the best film of the year and only recently was it dethroned.

2. “Captain Phillips”

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Paul Greengrass’ newest piece was nothing short of great. This gritty film stylized as a documentary was striking in its naturalistic portrayal of the ordeal those few guys must have gone through when taken hostage by Somali pirates. Interestingly, “Captain Phillips” tries to stay impartial and somehow validates the motives of both sides, but the film’s true greatness comes from the meticulous procedural approach to every single thing on the screen. Plus, in my opinion, Tom Hanks has given the performance of a lifetime in “Captain Phillips”, which crescendoed amazingly in the final act. If that doesn’t score him an Oscar, I don’t know what will.

1. “Gravity”

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Alfonso Cuarón’s science-fiction epic adventure “Gravity” has left me speechless. Not only was it a feast for the senses with the amazingly clever special effects, blunt or inexistent sound, and finally a proper use of the third dimension, but it spoke to me on all levels. “Gravity” was a bundle of enjoyment with a stunning performance by Sandra Bullock, whom I never suspected of such capabilities, and a tight and layered storyline that kept me riveted to my seat. Finally, tickling me on an intellectual level with subtle visual cues and strong adherence to the rules of science has propelled “Gravity” to the very top of my most favourite films of the year, possibly of all time. In space no-one can hear you scream… Am I right?

And just like that, I can close the books on 2013. I guess, I could give the honourable mention to “Good Vibrations”, “Only God Forgives”, “Stoker”, “The Way, Way Back” and “Prisoners” that didn’t make the cut, but still are fantastic films in my opinion. At some point, I had to make the tough decisions, but I’d still gladly come back and revisit them as well.

Point of note for those wondering: I somehow failed to see apparently awesome films like “Mud”, “Fruitvale Station”, “Frances Ha”, “The Bling Ring”, “Rush”, “Blue Jasmine”, “The Counsellor”, or “Before Midnight” which might explain their absence in my ranks. I am, however, planning on getting round to watching and reviewing them in the near future.

Also, in my neck of the woods, films like “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Out of the Furnace”, “12 Years a Slave”, or “American Hustle” (opened today) are released in January 2014 and I will make it my mission to watch them.

Happy New Year!

See Also:

2013 so far…

2013 so far…

While working on something I had been wanting to write up for a long time now, it occurred to me that with June clocking out we are now halfway through the year 2013. And on this glorious evening, whilst over across the pond the Americans celebrate their stars and stripes, I figured I might have a look at the past six months and summarize it a little. I had the pleasure of seeing some really outstanding films, as well as a bunch of terrible ones – so you might say it has been… diverse. Probably at some point in time, I will try and summarize the summer as well (when it’s finished, duh, but over here where I live I think the summer is already gone for good…), but meanwhile I figured I could break down the ‘2013 so far’ in terms of cinema-related goodies.

I have seen and reviewed a good crowd of films, but if I had to choose the best 2013 releases so far (that I have seen), I have no other choice but to point out five:

 

5. “Trance” – Danny Boyle’s latest opus that I will sure go back to at some point in time.

4. “The Iceman” – Michael Shannon’s take on the mind of a murderer

3. “Behind The Candelabra” – Soderbergh’s fantastic swan song

2. “Good Vibrations” – the ultimate feel-great movie

1. “The Place Beyond The Pines” – The only film this year so far to have left me nearly speechless.

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As much as I would have liked to include a couple more in the list (“Side Effects” or “Stoker”) I think keeping that little list short makes it a bit more meaningful. I normally don’t score films in any way, but it does provides a challenge to make up my mind about certain thing… finally. And it was a hard nut to crack, I have to admit.

On the other hand, if you asked me what the biggest duds this year so far were, I would immediately stand up and recite the following trio of shame:

 

3. “Oblivion”

2. “Iron Man 3”

1. “A Good Day To Die Hard”

 

All of them terrible films… two of them sequels… All of them made more money than they should have… Really… The fact I even mention them makes me feel uneasy, because I might just be giving them unnecessary attention once more, so there…

I could sure mention more titles that ended up mild-to-horrendous disappointments that I haven’t given any thought in writing before, like “Jack Reacher”, “The Last Stand”, “Jack The Giant Slayer” (that I refused to finish watching by the way), or “Bullet To The Head”, but I think I should try and end this little article on a good note instead.

To that end, I think I should admit that a couple of titles managed to slip through my sausage fingers, like “Mud” with a career-defining performance by Matthew McConaughey, or “No”, so I deem it appropriate to wrap up the first half of 2013 with a vow to catch up with these gems of cinema that have eluded my sight so far.

As it is usual every year, the remaining half of the year can only get more and more exciting with the awards season slowly making its way our direction and the summer popcorn-munchers gradually dissipating into nomen omen oblivion… Good luck to us all…

85th Academy Awards – Predictions and Wishful Thinking

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‘Tonight’s the night… And it’s going to happen again and again… It has to happen.’

That quote from “Dexter” pretty much sums up the atmosphere surrounding what is going to happen in the next couple of hours. The awards season is about close again with the most widely recognized ceremony in the history of everything ever – The Oscars. I have to admit I feel a bit like a serial killer (but with a code) on the prowl now and I am quite certain I’m not the only one. Many of us have our own personal predictions, favorites and what-not. Therefore, I figured I would devote a bit of space to the Oscars and see how I do when it comes to making predictions. Continue reading