Saturday, August 24, 2013

2013 in Film So Far

No one ever mentioned to me that being an attorney would involve a lot of work.  I feel like this information, if previously known to me, would have impacted my decision to enter this field.  In the law-firm set USA show Suits (my guiltiest pleasure of all guilty pleasures (seriously, please don’t judge me for watching this)) the main characters get to run around downtown Manhattan all day, swinging eight-figure deals and kicking major transactional-law ass, all while gulping $2,500 bottles of swanky champagne and delivering some of the most clever, biting one-liners in TV history.  Life should really be more like that.

It was inevitable that my recent long hours at work would eventually force some collateral damage, and thus this blog has faced some serious neglect.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’ve been toiling away like a depression-era sharecropper, but 90% of the time when I get home from work these days, the mental capacity required to do anything further than eat, drink, and watch The Daily Show is fairly out of the question.

Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy in the incredible Before Midnight.
The good part is that I’ve still managed to squeeze in a few flicks from this year over the past few months.   So just to catch everyone up with where I’m at so far this year, I thought it would be good to give a rundown of everything I’ve seen, as we enter the fall season which promises to be excellent (well, I always think that, but still).  I’m disappointed in the amount of films I’ve seen so far this year, especially concerning the summer blockbusters (no Pacific Rim?  No Elysium? ), but I hope to circle back around to many of these in the coming months.   

You might be thinking to yourself: “What? He’s just going to write about the films he’s seen so far this year? What a lazy-ass idea for a post.”  And I’m not even going to defend myself against those comments, because you know what? You’re probably right.  Whatever.  Soon enough it will be September, and I can really start kicking into high-gear on the blogging again.  Until then, here’s 2013 in a nutshell for me, so far:

Spring Breakers:  Not style over substance, but rather, style AS substance, is how I’d describe this latest film from Harmony Korine about a group of criminally-inclined college co-eds who end up in a trippy spring break vacation in Florida.  Its message gets a little lost in music-video aesthetic, and I think that’s sort of the point, but I can’t say I walked out of the theater knowing exactly how I felt (and again, that’s probably sort pof the point).  7.5/10.

To the Wonder: An underappreciated marvel that I wrote about here, Malick’s Wonder continues to stir my heart as I consider it, even now four months since my initial viewing.  I’ll spare you more prose, but please do check out my review here. 9/10.

The Place Beyond the Pines: The latest from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, Pines unfolds its sins-of-the-father-themed story like as though it were a piece of classic literature, with its multi-layered characters and ideas given ample room to develop over the course of the 140-minute runtime.  It packs an unexpected emotional punch, and contains a career-best performance from Bradley Cooper.  When the credits rolled at the theater, I leaned over to my wife and said “If you don’t think that was amazing…it’s going to be really *bleep*-ing awkward between us for the next few days.”  (For the record, she agreed with me, and that’s why she’s awesome).  8.5/10.

Upstream Color: This new sci-fi thriller from writer, director, actor, editor, composer, producer, cinematographer, and probably a host of other “-ers” Shane Carruth is absolutely gorgeous to look at, is painstakingly crafted, and is probably a way smarter film than I could ever understand in order to give it due credit.  Its insistence on distancing the audience from its characters ultimately brings it down a notch or two for me, but I should probably give it a second look at some point.  7.5/10.

Star Trek: Into Darkness: Fun, harmless, and Benedict Cumberbatch doing Benedicty-Cumberbatchy-things.  I don’t get all the hate this movie got. 6.5/10.

Behind the Candleabra: The first of two Soderbergh films from this year, this HBO movie had no right being as good as it was (which is how I feel about most Soderbergh movies), but Michael Douglas’s portrayal of Liberace and the amazing-as-always direction made this an absolutely absorbing film to watch. 7/10.

Oz: The Great and Powerful: I thought this would be a great mindless Redbox movie for one of those nights where I didn’t want to think too much.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong about anything. Terrible special effects, terrible performances, terrible script, and sadly, terrible direction from the normally-great Sam Raimi.  3/10.  

Before Midnight: At some point in the year, when it is released on DVD or something, I’m going to give this film a proper review.  I’m not quite sure I can write about it in any objective sense.  Regardless, I’m fairly certain I could make the argument that the “Before”-trilogy is one of the most unique treasures in the history of film.  This one is the best of the three. 10/10.

Side Effects: A little pharmaceutical thriller fluff containing some fun performances by Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, this was a fun, well-made, if forgettable film by Soderbergh. 6.5/10.

This is the End: Hilarious and fun just to hang out with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill and others for a couple of hours.  7/10.

Man of Steel: SO much wasted potential here. Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe are game, but a poor story and ineffective vision by director Zach Snyder weighs them down so much they rarely get a chance to breathe.  Awful, awful visual effects.  5/10.

Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen’s latest is also his best since Crimes & Misdemeanors in 1989 (I would know, I’m the charter member of the under-30 Woody fan club).  A career-best performance from Cate Blanchett. 8.5/10.

Mud: Finally, a little film I wish I would have caught in theaters from Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols. More than just a coming-of-age film, this story of two adolescent boys who attempt to reunite a lost man with his true love does conjure a sense of Stand By Me or other similarly-situated 80’s films.  Ty Sheridan gives one of the better child performances I can remember from anyone not named Quvenzhane Wallis.  8/10.