#10 Ministry of Fear
My first American Firtz Lang film and Lang does a good job in translating the noirish tones to America. But, this film is too steeped into anti-Nazi propaganda to be anything significant other than being a stylish film noir. The film starts off great with a Hitchcockian trope in which an everyman, played by Ray Milland, gets out of an asylum and finds himself steeped into a Nazi plot. It is wonderful when you have no idea whats going on like the main character but once the twists and coincidences started occurring, the film became stale.
11:08 pm • 14 January 2014
#9 Los Angeles Plays Itself
I got the pleasure of going to NYC IFC Center to catch this wonderful collage film by Thom Anderson about the relationship of the city that makes movies and the movies itself. Thom Anderson uses various clips from many different movies to explore how film depict the city of angels. Its amazing being, as Anderson would call it, a low tourist, Los Angeles in a way that has never been presented to me before. More importantly it opened my eye for feature screenings to take note of the way a film uses its environment. And this is also an amazing piece of editing. I think the film will play for at least one more week at the IFC Center so for you NYC people go catch this 3 hour film.
7:58 pm • 9 January 2014
#8 Inequality for All
David Ehrlich on Film.com shared the sentiment with another movie saying that message movies does not count as cinema. Watching this, I agree with that sentiment. “Inequality for All” is not cinema but a glorified Ted Talk. There is no problem with that because Robert Reich is incredibly entertaining and he shares my political views and now I have new firing power for politic debates. He is a teacher and you can see how he explain these complex economic concepts in a way that someone like me can understand. I think this will be n important film to show in economic class and is better than other ones of similar subjects but it is certainly not cinema.
7:54 pm • 9 January 2014
#7 Repo Man
If any movie embodies punk rock that would probably be “Repo Man”. Unfortunately I was not a big fan of this movie. I can see why it is a cult movie because it is incredibly a product of its time. But, a lot of the sensibilities and Reagan era rage does not connect with me. That is probably no fault to the movie but with me.
7:49 pm • 9 January 2014
#6 Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Apparently the definitive version of the Shakespeare’s classic but, this also serves as my first time ever seeing any version of this play. And, this film is quite dated by my estimation. Franco Zeffirelli does not bring anything to it and the cast seemed to be still acting in the theater with big performances which does not translate well to film. While for 1968 standards, I can understand the sexual charge and energy from this version that has never quite been done before, for a modern audience it does not quite have the same panache. The two leads did the role just fine but seemed more like Donnie and Marie rather than actors of worth. I fell bad that this version of the classic romantic tale did not connect with me the way it connects with many other people.
10:11 pm • 8 January 2014
#5 47 Ronin
Eh. It surpassed my very low expectations but that’s not saying much. The thing that I do not get is that the original story is inherently epic in scale. By adding this faux Japanese mysticism just ballooned the budget while lessening what the film should be about. But, it is westerners looking at Japan’s most famous tale. Other than that, its biggest disgrace is just being boring. I respect they kept a mostly Japanese cast but the fact that they had to speak English served as a problem. Writing anymore about this film would be a waste of time.
10:01 pm • 8 January 2014 • 2 notes
#4 Grudge Match
The most disappointing part of this movie is that Robert de Niro actually tries in this film. Of all the movies that he is in, why does he try engage in this film. In fact, everyone tries. Unfortunately the screenplay was a dud from the start. It is no question that this was made by Peter Segal, a staple of the Happy Madison family,as the movie tries to incorporate dramatic musings with the comedy that does not work quite well. And I must say that they found the worst kid actor I have ever seen onscreen. Nothing out of that child’s mouth seemed convincing at all.
9:55 pm • 8 January 2014
My Top 10 films of 2013
10. Blue is the Warmest Color
Take the controversial sex scenes out of the movie and we get a stunning portrait of falling in love and falling out of love. Each moment of emotional sincerity on the parts of Lea Seydoux and especially Adele Exarchopolous, was a pleasure to watch. I don’t if it is because of my male gaze, but the raw passion of the sex scenes did contribute to the film. It is jarring to see it unfold but even more jarring to see it missing between the two after they lose that emotional passion. Without that, the intensity of Adele’s final plea of love to Emma would not be as powerful.
9. The Place Beyond the Pines
The structure of this film is highly debated but I personally love it. Derek Cianfrance has stated that he wanted to make his own American epic. And what he does to Synecdoche, New York, in all its flaws and splendor, felt like what George Stevens did with “Giant”. Done in three parts, Cianfrance directs with style and confidence in his story by put his stars to the back seat by the third act. A story of redemption and legacy, this is a graceful American epic.
8. The Hunt
I have not been as angry about stupidity as I have been watching this film since “Atonement”. But, the difference with that film and this one is that what I was seeing was scary. It was scary because I believe I would’ve acted the same way as the characters of this film if I hadn’t known any better. I implore anyone who has not watched this Thomas Vinterberg film to not watch anything about it and just see the film blind. It will have it best impact that way. It is a no hold barred type film that emotionally drains a person after viewing.
7. Before Midnight
This film going to the midway point of the year was my favorite film of the year. It has fell several spots but that does not mean it loses its power. With two films of character development, Celine and Jesse has almost become family. We saw them fall in love and we saw them rekindle that passion. So, it was hard to see it seemingly fall apart at the seams. Richard Linkalter has probably become America’s most underrated director. This collaboration between Linklater, Delpy and Hawke has become the most consistent trilogy and that’s because the film draws upon real ups and downs of the collaborators. By doing so, these films find the human struggle of not falling out of love but simply staying in it.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
Like “Inside Llewyn Davis”, this film cannot stay out of my mind. I do not quite know how to describe “The Wolf of Wall Street”. I can say that I do not quite agree with the controversy that this film has brought on. The Jordan Belfort that we see onscreen is at no point portrayed as a life we want to have. In fact, the final moments are the ultimate example of the twisted American dream we have propagated. Hundreds of people have come to this assembly room to get a self empowering seminar from a man who has cheated others out of money and been to jail. No matter how much we condemn this man, ultimately it is our own desire to have that life that leads to the greed on Wall Street. And that is encapsulated when the final frame we see is a bunch of unknown people scribbling notes.
5. Museum Hours
Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours” is one of the most intricate films made this year. He gazes upon his subjects like a person would gaze upon a painting in a museum. He uses the medium of film in the way Sergei Eisenstein would. Every shot has a purpose. Dialogue does not always correspond with the images presented, but by doing this, he is working the same magic the Soviets discovered when they cut from the image of a man to an image of soup. Cohen is doing something graceful in his film, that is little on plot but big on surprises. “Museum Hours” is a quiet and gentle film but made a loud impact for me.
4. All is Lost
It is interesting a year with “Gravity” that the one survival movie that captured me most has even less dialogue or back story than that film. “All is Lost” is simply watching Robert Redford be a movie star. He has a mostly silent presence in this film in which his character’s name is never revealed nor any rhyme or reason why he is on the yacht. As an audience member we draw our own conclusion which serves the film best because there are a lot of still moments. But, then the action starts happening and you care because it is Robert Redford. More than “Gravity”, this film had me asking how J.C. Chandor accomplished all the technical marvel he achieved and by the end this was the most exciting movie I watched this year.
3. The Spectacular Now
This film has been dismissed by most people to be simply a coming-of-age story but I think it does things that I never seen in a film before for this type of story. High school is not black and white and none of these kids look like actors but real children. Popularity is not a problem. The problem is living up to your potential and becoming an adult. That is a high school scenario that is so often overlooked in Hollywood movies. But, most importantly, the plight of the main character (not the alcoholism but the father issues) really resonated with me. And his relationship with Shailene Woodley, some of their interactions, seemed to be taken out of my own life. The precision in which James Ponsoldt captures that period in a person’s life is was really amazing to watch.
2. Like Someone in Love
Abbas Kiarostami has always been interested in films about identity. “Certified Copy” and “Close Up”, unfortunately the only two other films I have seen by him, is certainly about that. This film looks at the roles we take on to serve a purpose. This film has the most gripping moment for me on film this year. This one scene in which the main character is simply listening to voicemails is so well done that the minute detail that is in this scene can cause a person to tear up. This will be the litmus test on whether a person will enjoy this film because if you squint at certain precise moments to see what you want to see, then Kiarostami has one his job.
Spike Jonze has made the movie that most represents the modern era. In making a film about romance with artificial intelligence, he has made a film that looks upon relationships that is so truthful and soulful. He uses the sci-fi genre the way it is supposed to be used; to use the future to look upon the present. He garners amazing performances from Joaquin Phoenix and even more amazingly, the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Once again, a movie is supposed to leave something upon its viewers. And the central character really resonated with me as it revealed things I never notice upon the way I look at my own personal relationships. “Her” shows the power a film can have, doing the simplest of things. This film is the most touching, personal, soulful, amazing film and it is my favorite film of 2013.
Link to my Top 20 - 10
Link to my Top 25 - 20 and top 5 Documentaries
8:29 pm • 6 January 2014 • 24 notes
Top 20 Films of the Year (20-11)
This Disney film was a complete surprise for me as I was not expecting to like, especially with its overly cute teaser trailer. But, as I walked out the theater I realized that very rarely I ever stopped smiling from the beginning of the short “Get a Horse” to the wonderful songs and the subversion of expectations. The movie does not come without its flaws. I have described this film as having a great first half with a merely good second half. “Frozen” is close to being a full blown Broadway musical, probably due to the experience of the writers of the songs, and loses that momentum the second half. That said this film captures that Disney magic that can touch the heart of even the deepest curmudgeon.
19. American Hustle
With this cast and its writer/director, David O. Russell, it is a disappointment that “American Hustle” fell so low on my list. I love the characters, the set design, the bad 70’s hair, yet this felt like a very good imitation of Scorsese. But, I am being too hard on a movie that I am calling my number 19 movie of the year. This movie is nonstop fun that will live on, on cable and will be instantly watchable every time it plays on TNT.
18. The Attack
What is remarkable about this film is how this film quickly becomes a mystery that is so engrossing. But, by using this mystery, writer/director Ziad Doueiri, asks serious questions about pertinent issues. Cultural identity is a major issue that comes into question throughout this film. The film does not move like an action film but it is ripe with intense drama of the most intense thriller. This is one to catch if you missed it.
17. A Touch of Sin
Told in four parts about random acts of violence, supposedly based on true stories, this is my first exposure to the filmmaker Jia Zhangke. This is a well crafted movie especially in the context of the social differences between the high class and lower class. The message of the film to not be boggled down by the social order, this film combines many genre elements that have become a hallmark of Asian filmmakers.
16. Short Term 12
Brie Larson gives one of the best performances of the year in one of the smallest movies of the year. She is able to portray a strongly fierce woman, hiding the inner turmoil of vulnerability underneath the façade. That is a powerful thing for an actress to effectively portray. Destin Cretton, a relatively unknown filmmaker knows this world of a short term facility so well that he populates it with rich characters. There is no bad guy, although the argument could be made that there is a cartoony type antagonist that is never seen, to propel these children lives as life has been their worst enemy. In portraying these kids and their struggle while occasionally finding the joy of life, is incredibly moving and rousing to see.
What more can be said about Alfonso Cuaron’s intense sci-fi thriller that is a marvel to watch. Watching it in theaters, it presented a gripping epic that did not have the world at stake like a lot of the high budgets summer action films. Unfortunately I succumbed to everybody’s criticism of the film that made me downgrade this to the top-15 which is something I need to avoid because this was a great film until other people ruined it for me. I got to stop reading other people sometimes.
14. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
How do I describe this pseudo-romantic comedy, animated, art film hybrid? How about that this is one of the most thought provoking films of the year. Made by Terence Nance, he made a film about a woman who shows him up and shows it to the woman that inspired it. All I have to say is watch it and make of it what you will.
13. Inside Llewyn Davis
Each day I watch the Coen Brothers’ latest efforts, the more the movie rises in my esteem for it. By this time next year, this could become my favorite movie of 2013. Oscar Issac’s performance of Llewyn Davis is sad and hilarious at the same time. The Coens has always been fascinated by these characters that self-sabotage their own efforts. For Llewyn Davis’ case he is an unbelievable prick who is in the right place at the wrong time. That, the music, and little inside jokes such as F. Murray Abraham, who is famous for another down on his luck performer who cannot catch a break, makes this a worthy movie to watch.
12. The Past
Asghar Farhadi has made the ultimate divorce double feature with this film and “A Separation”. Intense in drama, this movie rises in emotional intensity until it reaches its climax at the end. The movie reaches its emotional height at the end when Farhadi just gives a still shot and every person leans forward to see if a certain action happens. There is only one other movie that does that this year and that’s in the top 5 of this list. That’s how you know a director has its audience in the palm of his hands.
11. 12 Years a Slave
This movie is probably one of the best American films ever made. Unfortunately it is so gruesome and horrible that I cannot say that this is my favorite movie of the year. McQueen strips all the sentimentality out of a subject that is usually rife with it. More importantly, this is a slave narrative actually told through a black person’s perspective. By using the story of Solomon Northup, he is able to tell the story through an outsider’s perspective and an African American perspective as well. This is something in cinema that is so rare. “12 Years a Slave” deserves all the praise it could get.
Link to My top 5 Documentaries and favorite films of 2013 25-21
Link to my 10 - 11
7:04 pm • 5 January 2014 • 5 notes
#3 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
What aggravates me most about this Ben Stiller movie is that the original source material has so much to work with. Walter Mitty is the embodiment of the every man. People want to become more than they are. Unfortunately this adaptation could not live up to its trailer. The film suffers from inconsistent tonal beats, not knowing whether it wants to be a straight inspirational film or a Ben Stiller comedy. The comedy that is in this, such as this weird Benjamin Button segment does not work with the touching moments. Most importantly it squanders the central message of the source material as the conceit is expanded in scope but not in story (if that makes sense). That said, the cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh is beautiful.
12:17 am • 5 January 2014