Sunday, March 2, 2014

2013. Movies. You know the drill...

In 2013, I watched at least 175 movies for the very first time.  I say "at least" because I'm pretty sure I failed to record one or two maiden viewings over the course of the year.  And I stopped watching two others before they ended because they sucked, so I didn't count those.  Also, it's entirely possible that I counted wrong.  But 175 is close, anyway.

Of course there were a good number of 2012 films among the ranks.  You know the kinds I mean: those movies you really meant to see but somehow missed, and the other ones you heard really good things about but only after they weren't playing anymore, and of course that one movie you just kept putting off again and again until--what do you know--2012's over and everyone's moving on!  Yeah, those ones.  Anyway, I thought some of them were really good and want you to know about them:

(Don't miss the ones in bold.)
  • Barbara
  • Bitter Films, Vol. 2
  • Detropia
  • The Invisible War
  • Once Upon a Time In Anatolia
  • This Is Not a Film  [Especially great if you're interested in: filmmaking, storytelling in general, Iranian cinema and the constraints involved]
Some of the 175 were older still.  For example, I just saw The Muppet Movie this year.  Can you believe that?  28 years old and I just now got around to seeing The Muppet Movie?  Ridiculous, I know.  Turns out it's a wonderful film, and it wasn't the only one:

  • Before Sunset  [The best of the three, I think]
  • Carnival of Souls
  • Good Hair  [Seriously worth a watch]
  • The Guard
  • Jackie Brown  [Top 3 Tarantino]
  • The Muppet Movie
  • My Dinner with Andre  [Fair warning: It starts slow, but give it a chance--it gets great]
  • Slap Shot
  • Trees Lounge  [Directed by (and starring) Steve Buscemi]
Which brings us to 2013.  A fine year for movies but not one worth writing home about.  (Worth writing a slapdash blog post about?  Sure!)  I'll give you the first thirteen in order of preference, then switch back to alphabetical order for the rest.  Sound good?

  1. The Act of Killing  [Head and shoulders above the rest.  Likely one of the best documentaries I've ever seen, and I've seen some great ones.  It's up for a Best Documentary Oscar, much to my surprise/delight.  I don't expect it to win because I think it's way too heavy/abstract/sad/good for the Academy's taste, but I'm really hoping its nomination means many more people will see it.  Everyone should.]
  2. Short Term 12  [Head and shoulders above the rest of the rest.  Brie Larson is a terrific actress--I'm looking forward to watching more of her movies.  I hope that some of them are as good as Short Term 12.]
  3. Beyond the Hills  [I'm beginning to wonder if very many people saw my Top 3.  I feel like all of them were pretty underseen, even among those of us who knew about them and had access to them.]
  4. Spring Breakers  [I suspect this one is ringing a lot more bells.  Could be Harmony Korine's best film to date, though I know a handful of people who I'm almost positive would disagree heartily.]
  5. Prince Avalanche  [David Gordon Green + Paul Rudd + Emile Hirsch + remote location + low budget + late 80s period piece = GOLD!]
  6. Nebraska  [The best of the Best Picture nominees.  No chance it'll win, of course]
  7. The Great Beauty  [Hoping it wins the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.  I've heard really good things about The Missing Picture, though, so who knows what the best pick is...]
  8. No  [Should have been among the Best Foreign noms, I think.  So should have Beyond the Hills!]
  9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire  [Seriously.]
  10. Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives  [I watched this doc about a group of women who have spent much of their lives promoting and practicing natural childbirth techniques in the Grand Illusion's tiny auditorium, surrounded by women.  Many of them were pregnant (some very much so) and I could just feel their power and pride filling the room as the insane feats of which they're capable were celebrated on screen.  It was incredible.]
  11. In a World...  [A feminist film of an entirely different color.  Lake Bell wrote, directed, co-produced, and starred in this movie, which is pretty nuts.  Taking on just one or two of those jobs is enough to make a person crazy.  Nonetheless, she nailed it.  In a World... manages to be socially conscious and self-aware without ever betraying its genre: it's one of the funniest comedies of 2013.  Killer cast, too.]
  12. Beware of Mr. Baker  [The best music documentary in a year flush with excellent music documentaries.  Ginger Baker is a madman.]
  13. Muscle Shoals  [I told you it was a good year for music docs.  I may be partial to this one for some personal reasons, but hey, it's my list.]
  • Before Midnight
  • The Bitter Buddha
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • The Gatekeepers
  • Kings of Summer
  • More Than Honey
  • Room 237
  • Rush
  • Something In the Air
  • Stories We Tell
  • 20 Feet From Stardom
GUILTY PLEASURES  (I really liked them!)
  • Elysium
  • The Great Gatsby

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Wraith of Cobble Hill

[I recommend just clicking through to YouTube and going fullscreen to watch the video.  As convenient as Blogger's YouTube-embedding thing is, the resultant player is just ridiculously tiny.]

I've worked at a small movie theatre since 2005.  Most years we play the Oscar Nominated Short Films in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards.  Of all the films I've seen over the course of five Februaries (I lived in Georgia during Feb 2009), the one I remember best of all is this one: The Wraith of Cobble Hill.

In true the-Academy-doesn't-know-what-the-hell-it's-doing fashion, this film wasn't even nominated--it made it into the program as a "Highly Commended" film.

Anyway, it's a terrific film and I'm guessing 98% of people have never seen it.  So here it is now, still breaking my heart after all these years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Apartment

The Apartment (1960) ...Dir. Billy Wilder

Four or five Decembers ago, I saw The Apartment for the very first time. I was home for the holidays and had stayed up late watching TV with my dad (we’re both notorious night owls). The Apartment was scheduled to play on some old-movie channel (AMC, TCM... you know the sort) and when I told him that I’d never heard of it, he knew immediately that our search for that evening’s entertainment was over.

I spent the next 2+ hours watching (and listening) in slack-jawed amazement. The Apartment is easily one of the best-written films I have ever seen. The dialogue is awesomely clever without ever sounding unbelievable--every line sounds like something a person might actually say, a distinction which relatively few movies can honestly claim. And good gravy, that cast! Fred MacMurray is cast against type to incredible effect, Shirley MacLaine is more adorable than any human being should be allowed to be, and Jack Lemmon is simply perfect--one of the greatest actors of all time in one of his greatest roles of all time.

There are a lot of easy picks when looking for movies to watch at the end of the year. Classic options like It’s a Wonderful Life and whichever iteration of A Christmas Carol floats your boat are understandably irresistible. But films as smart and as funny and as graceful as The Apartment only come around so often. Be a mensch! Watch the movie!

Friday, February 25, 2011


The Oscars are on Sunday! Holy cats!
Who will win? Who should win? Who cares? (I do! Apparently!)

  • And the winner will be: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
  • Better choices: Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine / Michael Shannon, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

  • And the winner will be: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  • A better choice: Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine (A pair of crazy good performances in that movie.)

  • And the winner will be: Christian Bale, The Fighter
  • A better choice: Nope. Bale was the best this year, by far.

  • And the winner will be: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit (At least I hope it will be her. Taking a bit of a hopeful risk here...)
  • A better choice: Jacki Weaver is downright scary in Animal Kingdom. I'll be pleased if either she or Steinfeld wins.

  • And the winner will be: Toy Story 3
  • Better choices: How To Train Your Dragon, or Despicable Me, or The Illusionist, or...

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • A better choice: I Am Love (Not even nominated! What?!)

  • And the winner will be: Roger Deakins, True Grit
  • Better choices: Adam Kimmel, Never Let Me Go / Jeff Cronenweth, The Social Network | (Deakins is amazing, and has deserved an Oscar many times over, but True Grit mostly pales in comparison to his proven capabilities. See The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford for some of Deakins' best stuff.)

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • A better choice: I Am Love

  • And the winner will be: Inside Job
  • A better choice: Restrepo

  • And the winner will be: Poster Girl (Sure! Why not?)

  • And the winner will be: The Social Network
  • A better choice: Maybe Inception? I still can't believe it was snubbed in this and the Directing categories. Ridiculous.

  • And the winner will be: In a Better World
  • A better choice: I've only seen one of the nominees(Biutiful), so I'll withhold judgment on this one. [Note: The First Beautiful Thing may be a great film--I don't know. But had Italy submitted I Am Love as its contender for Best Foreign Language Film, they might very well have won. Dummies.]

  • And the winner will be: The Wolfman (Seriously.)

  • And the winner will be: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network
  • A better choice: Hans Zimmer's Inception score was integral to the film, but I'm 100% behind The Social Network on this one. Paired with Aaron Sorkin's script, that score is the film's backbone. Watch it again with the sound up, you'll see. (PS: How was Daft Punk not at least nominated for their TRON:Legacy score? Highway robbery!)

  • And the winner will be: "We Belong Together," Toy Story 3
  • A better choice: The one Ryan Gosling's character sings in Blue Valentine.

  • And the winner will be: Madagascar, carnet de voyage(?)
  • A better choice: I still haven't seen them! I know, I'm the worst! (Should I be fortunate/industrious enough to see them this weekend, I'll edit accordingly.)

  • And the winner will be: Na Wewe(?)
  • A better choice: (See "Short Film - Animated".)

  • And the winner will be: Inception

  • And the winner will be: Inception

  • And the winner will be: Inception

  • And the winner will be: The Social Network

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • A better choice: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

  • And the winner will be: David Fincher, The Social Network
  • A better choice: Depending upon how much (if any) of Exit Through the Gift Shop was constructed by its maker(s?), Banksy might deserve this award more than anyone. But that's also assuming Banksy is the actual director of that film, so.... | Werner Herzog for My Son, My Son..., Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio for Alamar, Charles Ferguson for Inside Job, and the royally-snubbed Christopher Nolan for Inception are all worthy. But all of that said, I'm totally down with Fincher taking it home.

  • And the winner will be: The King's Speech
  • Better choices: Any of these. (The Social Network definitely has the best chance of pulling the upset, and I'm hoping it does just that.)

Ranking the Best Picture noms:
  1. The Fighter
  2. The Social Network
  3. True Grit
  4. Inception
  5. Winter's Bone
  6. Toy Story 3
  7. The King's Speech
  8. 127 Hours
  9. Black Swan
  10. The Kids Are All Right (Don't want to launch into too much of a rant here, but The Kids Are All Right is one of the worst movies I've seen in years. That it received a Best Picture nom really cheeses me off. If it wins any Oscars at all, I'll be quite unhappy. That is all.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 10 of '10

I'm done calling my year-end film lists "Best of". I don't buy it anymore. There are simply too many diverse criteria at play for it to be safe to call one great film better than the next great film. These movies are all great, but for wildly different reasons. This list should really be called: "Colin saw these films during 2010 and liked them a lot based on their possessing some combination of Social Significance, Visual Beauty, Excellent Storytelling, Skillful Filmmaking, Literary Merit, Honesty, His Having Connected With It On a Personal Level and Nearly Having Cried While Watching It, Fascinating Undefinability, Great Acting, Etc. Also, he may have just been in a particularly receptive mood when he saw them." But "Top 10" seems less cumbersome. You're welcome.

Notes regarding this list:
...If it was released in a theatre near me in 2010, it's eligible. This does not include reissues of 50 year old films like Breathless, but does include movies like A Prophet which was 'officially' released in 2009 but didn't actually make into theatres for general viewing until February.
...Each title--save one--is linked to its Wikipedia page. I have linked to IMDb in the past, but IMDb's new format is garbage so Wikipedia gets the nod. Besides, should you feel so inclined, a link to the film's IMDb page is available at the bottom of its Wikipedia entry.

Cutting to the chase...

1. Restrepo
...And this is why I can't call this list a "Best of". By pure cinematic standards, Restrepo wouldn't touch the top of this list. But it's the most important movie I've seen in quite a long time, and the only movie concerning the ongoing war in Afghanistan that doesn't have an agenda. It is documentary filmmaking at its best: no narration, and no filmmakers trying to make themselves famous by stepping in front of the camera. Restrepo is a rare thing--a pure, uncorrupted document of life (and death) for real American soldiers in Afghanistan.
2. A Prophet
3. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
...To my knowledge, very few people have seen this film, and that's a shame. Directed by Werner Herzog, produced by David Lynch, and starring Michael Shannon (for my money, the most talented actor currently working) among other greats, My Son, My Son... saw strangely limited distribution. It's on Netflix now; you can even watch it instantly! Seriously, go watch it right now.
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop
5. Alamar
...Hey, I just blogged about this one! Just below this post! Or, if you can't find it there, you can be magically teleported to it by clicking right here!
6. The Fighter
...The best film in serious Oscar contention by leaps and bounds. And it's still in theatres most everywhere, so go see it while you still can.
7. I Am Love
8. Lebanon
9. Inside Job
...The two most stomach-turning images from Movie Year 2010 were almost carbon-copies of one another. In one, Donald Rumsfeld & Co. smile and pat each other on the back after successfully deflecting blame for the death of Pat Tillman in The Tillman Story. In Inside Job, similarly scummy assholes deflect blame for the economic collapse during congressional hearings then go home to the billions they made off with. These buck-passing thieves and murderers-by-proxy are the supervillains of today.
10. It's a tie! Between: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, The Social Network, & True Grit (and probably some others, too. Sorry.)