Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Alex's Top 10 of 2013
It’s always been a pretty annoying concept that has only been exacerbated by the “EVERYTHING SUCKS” or “EVERYTHING IS THE BEST” tone that tends to rise to the top of all internet film discussion these days, as has been exhaustively discussed on this site and others.
It’s a copout, but I feel like pinpointing the precise legacy of a year’s worth of movies is always an exercise better conducted with the benefit of hindsight and time to digest the art. With that said, I had some fine times at the moviehouse over the past 12 months. I can’t shake the feeling that my list bears an eerie resemblance to most of those circulating the web pipes, but I’m really going to try very hard to refrain from peppering my list with quirky, off-the-beaten path selections just to be set myself apart from the masses.
10. About Time (dir. Richard Curtis) -- Okay, I said I would try to refrain. But seriously, among all the blatant award-season fodder (they will show up later) and genocide-laden popcorn flicks (they will not), the goofy and charming time travel fable from romantic comedy guru Richard Curtis kept a firm grasp on my mind and my heart.
The third installment in the ever-intriguing Rachel McAdams Beds a Time Traveler Series, Curtis only indulges in his gimmicky plot device in ways that feel really organic and in line with the whole rest of the narrative. About Time also pleasantly departs from the romcom tropes that put Curtis on
the map and presents a story that’s as much about family and wholeness as it is about romantic love.
8. Blue Jasmine (dir. Woody Allen) -- The hit-and-miss tendencies of the old master are well-documented at this point, but there was something so bold and brilliant about the trust he put in a never-better Cate Blanchett for this year’s installment in his iconic filmography. What momentarily seems like a heavy-handed rebuke of the perils of greed and 21st century capitalism is gradually revealed to be little more than the portrait of woman gradually losing her grip on reality. This is not to say there aren’t more complicated themes at work. There are, but it is the simplest arc of the film that has stuck with me.
7. Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass) -- I would come up with some snarky bullshit to chide Greengrass for not straying outside his well-worn comfort zone here if his execution weren’t so fucking flawless. The same goes for Hanks in the titular role, who is the picture of tranquility and resolve in the face of the chaos that befell the Maersk Alabama all those years ago, but whose true mastery of his craft came to bear in the movie’s final gut-wrenching scene. Greengrass has earned his repute as the overlord of persistently gripping tension, but was bested in that sphere by one notable behemoth this year...
5. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine) -- James Franco fellating a pair of silenced handguns, that’s what. I never feel comfortable asking people if they’ve “seen Spring Breakers.” I feel like the more accurate verbiage is something like “Have you let Spring Breakers happen to you yet, man?”
Patrick and Erika conducted a superb conversation about this movie back in the spring and I’d echo one of the main points they kept circling back to, which is to say that Spring Breakers is challenging without being frustrating. It’s complex and ambiguous without being incoherent. It’s like a ghost, everywhere and nowhere, urging you to do a beer bong and ponder Machiavellian questions about partying and the American Dream.
**I’m compelled to note that from here on out, the competition for the top spot was fierce and the films are mostly interchangeable, because I enjoy hedging on all decisions.**
4. Her (Spike Jonze) -- Just think about the basic mechanics of the plot for the newest joint from Spike Jonze, who has yet to make a bad movie (come at me, Where The Wild Things Are naysayers): In the vaguely nearby future, a man, recently spurned by his wife, falls in love with the hyper-sophisticated operating system of his phone, and learns lessons about life and humanity and love and human interaction.
There are just so many ways to make a terrible movie out of this, whether it leans to heavy on antiquated screwball comedy jackoffery or digresses into pseudo-philosophical gobbledygook about how technology is robbing the human race of its ability to feel anything. Jonze avoids the pitfalls and somehow manages to make movie that fits into precisely none of the equally eye-rolling categories I could chart out in my mind and delivering one of the smartest and resonant movies about relationships since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese) -- It bums me the fuck out that the legacy of this movie may very well be a reductive and stupid Internet conversation on the Martin Scorsese’s obligation to more harshly scold Jordan Belfort for his financial transgressions, fueled mostly by manufactured outrage. In a year replete with great movies, Scorsese’s latest opus stands among the titans. A clinic in pacing, The Wolf of Wall Street’s three-hour runtime speeds by as if you’re going backwards. All I wanted was for this movie to keep going, to have more, nothing was ever enough. Sound familiar? I’ve seen it twice and I still can’t get over the sheer audacity of it all, to make a comment about the themes of excess and addiction playing out in the screen through the very structure of the story and the reaction of certain audiences to that structure.
1. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen) -- The Coens’ foray into the dismal abyss that is the 1960s Manhattan folk scene is incredible, due in large part to how effortless their execution seems to be. There’s just a perfect smattering of deep emotional peril within Oscar Isaac’s Llewyn, which is peppered with all the offbeat weirdness that has come to typify the Coens’ careers.