"There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can’t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.”
A little late coming, but due to the oscars being tomorrow it is also right on time.
The Not-Sure-When-It-Came-Out Category
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines is a fuzzy memory to me, straddling the edge of 2012/2013, and making year end lists on both despite technically coming out in 2012. For the confusion, I award it an honorable mention regardless, as I found Cianfrance’s latest to be affecting in a grand way that the intimacy of 2013’s bests lacked. I went into the movie more or less blind, so when (spoilers) Gosling dies halfway through the movie, my expectations of what the movie would be ended. The second half then was total treat, tracing genes and tacking questions of nature v. nurture that are usually less involved with their subjects. Dane Dehaan, if not already proved, will be the next great actor, and watching him tackle teenage life in raw, unassured type of way was incredibly frustrating in the best way. The movie bully comes to mind, and Cianfrance should be commended on portraying the plight of youth in a way that feels just like a story out of the aforementioned film. The ability for the whole piece to exist in broad strokes as well as small ones makes this film stand out still above at least half of the movies on this list, but again, due to technicalities, I don’t necessarily feel comfortable including it.
This movie is very personal to me, as well as it’s kin Tiny Furniture, in that I too am a floundering twenty-something. However, I found Gerwig’s character grating and overall just wanted to watch Tiny Furniture again for the tenth time.
To watch someone indiscriminately love people was such an incredible breath of fresh air and overall uplifting experience that I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who thinks the world is going into the shitter. Overall, the film itself is satisfactory, and one’s enjoyment of it will rely fully on their degree of engagement with Rocky (who isn’t very hard to love).
Favorites of 2013
(with #1 being my favorite)
10. 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave strikes me the same way Django Unchained did last year. Not because they tackle the same subject matter, but because, as far as the craft of film is concerned, these movies are nearly impeccable. The cast of 12 Years falls into their roles perfectly, the tale of Solomon Northrop told with a respect to the character, taking no niceties in portraying those that didn’t deserve any. To many, this is the best film this year, and as far as I am concerned, it is certainly the best.
Where I take issue with it is that it seems to take no chances in a year filled with risky experiments and intriguing aesthetic interventions. In light of these, I can’t help but call 12 Years “standard”, even though that rings of bitterness and hate.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street
I love watching great men fail because it means that they were, most importantly, just men. The titanic deeds of one can be instantly undercut by a motorcycle accident, leveling one onto the same plane as he who simply spends his whole life dreaming. The Wolf is an interesting case, because his sort of greatness is of the enviable and contemptible kind. Our ability to watch or not watch him is part of the power of Wolf, the idea that we may remove ourselves from this reality should we choose to disagree with it, but that it still continues on. The gaze in Wolf is not a subjective one, Jordan’s antics inspire any perceived subjectivity as they are indeed lurid, but Scorsese maintains his cool to never fully indulge, choosing rather to show wider, not closer. Your own tolerance for sex, drugs, and general hedonism alters how you view the movie. Rachel Syme in the New Yorker (all of their articles on this film have been great) points out that wolf is essentially Gatsby from Tom Buchanan’s point of view. Neither infatuated with the scene like Caraway or with proper distance like Daisy, we are guided only by Belfort. A devil he is, and that he may show us how to get away with murder and make money in the process. Wolf is a barometer for your own contempt, a mirror even in its last minutes, that assaults you and leaves you for its next, just as Belfort would have had it.
in the early days of high school I fell madly in love with a girl that I don’t think ever really cared about me. I also don’t think I ever told her as much - I hid my affection behind my interest in her, both feigned and prepared, so that I could spend our shared time amassing moments that would eventually be looked back upon. I saw no future in us, yet I held on. Every day we would talk on the phone for hours, from the time I got home from school until the time one of us had to leave for “real” life. My days in school were spent looking forward to us talking, to hear her voice and to listen to her tell me about everything going on in her life. Thoughts of her completely occupied my mind.
Only thoughts though.
We never met in person until months after we first started talking (though we exclusively texted for a week or so prior to that. she was the reason we upgraded our data plan to unlimited). This filled these days (nearly dreamlike) with infinite hope, with no sense of what was real between us and what was an act. I was both eager and cautious, she aware and beautiful - I thought many times that she was playing me but the earnestness to her voice and the way she called more often than I indicated, at least to my premature mind, that there was something there.
The lacking physicality was a problem though, as much as we thought to downplay it. I could talk to her infinitely, but reality meant that when the phone hung up she was gone. This is not a lacking in terms of sexual fulfillment, but one of actual presence. I was unable to share moments with her of simply being. Never was I able to look at her from across the room and watch her just exist. I was able to listen and hear intimately of her day and goings-on, but I never knew her, never knew what it was like to truly be with her.
Her speaks to this, a want for natural want for compassion, but with no way to satisfy it when everyone seems preoccupied with something else. The solution, for the time being strange but something I soon expect to be the subject of civil rights protests, works for Theodore. I don’t agree with the assertion that this movie holds some great insight into our current state of solitude despite infinite connection, but rather that it acts as study into human emotion, relevant in any age. Theodore wants for love and takes it where he can get it.
7. Short Term 12
I wrote about this film here
6. Computer Chess
The marketing material for this movie turned out to be far stranger than the film itself, but I think what they chose to use for promotion did a good job of orienting the viewer on what they were about to see. The second time I sat down to watch, I was joined by one of my parents, who I don’t think was ever fully convinced that this movie wasn’t an actual documentary, just something shot to look like one. This is obviously to be credited to the guiding hand of Computer Chess’ director, Andrew Bujalski, who creates a seamless view into a time when punk rock looked like short sleeve polos and loose jeans.
5. Blue Jasmine
Despite it often veering into territory that would possibly be more at home on a stage, I found Blue Jasmine wholly enjoyable in a way something like American Hustle wasn’t. Both centered on characters and the situations that surround them, Jasmine exists in a realm where actions have consequences. Hustle, on the other hand, has completely unchecked boisterousness that instead of having meaning devolves into a “happily ever after” tale. The final shot of Jasmine, alone on a park bench, does more to convey emotion and character than any of Hustle’s loud, long winded attempts, and makes Blue Jasmine be what I believe to be the most well-acted movie this year. Nods also to Jasmine’s sister and her boyfriend, who can go completely toe-to-toe with Blanchett’s screen presence.
4. Spring Breakers
Telling people that I loved Spring Breakers usually elicits two responses. First, I get a look of distaste and an eyeballing up and down, as if they are checking my character for something wrong. Secondly, I’ll get a confused look when they realize I’m being serious, accompanied with some variation of the phrase “You liked that movie?” my follow up question is always then “Did you see it?” and then, nine times out of ten, I get “No it looked really dumb.”
Which is honestly the best answer I could get and Harmony probably gets a little star next to his name in the film hall of awards every time someone says that phrase. There is a lot to say about this, especially in light of backlash to Kanye’s “Bound 2” video, where people seem to assume that artists/creators are unable to see what they are making or somehow lack perspective in their own work. It’s what I call, somewhat affectionately, “Grandma Syndrome.” Grandma Syndrome assumes all possible seriousness all the time, in that irony is unable to exist, i.e., artist intention is eschewed in favor face value. In relation to Spring Breakers, these people are Korine’s targets. The ones that see it as “too dumb” will be turned away, and rightfully so, as Korine’s critique would not penetrate them (Spring Breakers only draws in the ripest). The ones who see the movie as a total indulgence in the vein of a modern Salo approach it magnetically (though likely come away feeling alienated).
Spring Breakers isn’t about the lifestyle or the parties or the act of escaping normalcy, it is about a struggle to stay alive. Like a Beckett play, the words “Spring Break” are repeated over and over and over as if not being constantly reminded of existence in a time a place would lead to the total evaporation of everything, a dissolving of the veneer of experience. So these words are spoken over and over throughout the film, building and building the idea of this place as something, anything, other than what it may actually be. As each girl become disillusioned they stop chanting with the whole and head back into the real. At the end, with only two girls left, Alien dies and Candy and Brit continue into total fantasy. The idea that they built has become stronger than the one Alien supports, and in their reality, Alien has no place. It is only them, forever chanting “Spring Break” just to stay alive.
3. Drinking Buddies
Watching Drinking Buddies is like watching a reality TV show that isn’t purposefully populated with the worst people in the world. It holds that same urgency of life and is filmed as such, and just as we still all enjoy watching reality shows, I find this movie totally compelling. Swanberg made it on very little script, letting the actors and actresses do all the work, and what is created in the process is something that feels almost completely real. Where can the line be drawn between when these characters are acting and when they are simply being the people who are acting them? I like to think this movie is both the portrayal and actual occurrence of emotion among this cast over a period of time, and in all ways impossible to tear your eyes away from.
2. The Act of Killing
I wrote about this film here
1. Blue is the Warmest Color
I have never seen a movie that more truthfully portrays a modern romance more accurately than this one. The closest before this, Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, showed a beautiful unraveling but left something to be wanted in the case of establishing the relationship in the first place. This Blue has it all. The characters firstly are characters in and of themselves - not defined by their love for each other but rather who they are as people. They each have other friends and hobbies that they continue to engage in even once finally meeting each other. Their relationship has a dynamism that also doesn’t allow their still not fully socially accepted relationship to exist without consequences. However this also isn’t a movie about that, as what issues that may have is also just an accessory to their relationship with each other, which is beautifully shown in its rise and fall.
What both this and Blue Valentine have taught, that may soon be the norm but we may relish it now, is that great movies about love are not about grand gestures (though these can surely indicate love and be beautiful), but that love develops in the corners, in the dark spaces, in the smallest aspects. This is also the case in Her, we see Theodore fall in love in the movie in a very “movie” way, yet these gaps (how does Samantha sound when she enters a room, what does her hair look like when touched by a branch, where does she place her hands when she stands next to a table?) define their relationship in that they will never be filled, and these gaps are where the real falling in love is done. We see Adele and believe her to be fully in love with Emma, but the moment she begins to doubt it we know as well – we are in full synchronization with her in a way I don’t think I’ve ever been with a character before. We do not know her fully, but we know how she acts, where she looks, when she’s lying, when she’s happy, when she’s sad, etc. We know Adele (with much thanks to Adele Exarchopoulos), but we do not know her the way Emma does. Emma knows everything we know and more, and what Emma sees in Adele that we can’t see is why they fall in love.
“By using more multi-frequency options, more of our minds, voices, eye contact, gestures – all these things – I think we will have a happier mankind if we can use more of that without having to go and fly all over the place all the time. With VR, 3D spatial sound, the awareness of your own body, that projected through a networked simulation onto somebody else – then we have interaction patterns that connect to our brains on multiple levels. And at some point, you’re just in The Matrix.”
this bmw i8 though…