2013 film reviews

2

Title: Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle)
Year: 2013
Language: French (Subtitles)

Plot: Adèle’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself. (IMDB, 2013)

Basic Review:

  • There is no way I can put the experience of watching this film into words. It didn’t win the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honored award (the Palm d’Or) for nothing.
  • I laughed, I sobbed, I had butterflies at times and felt tremendous tension at others. This film is truly an experience.
  • Profound acting, blissful cinematography, with a wonderful soundtrack and the most sensual (long and graphic) of love scenes.
  • One thing that really stood out to me were the intriguing conversations between the pair regarding philosophy and literature. These locked me in from the opening scene.
  • The protagonists are also beyond stunning as you will soon find out.
  • Please make it your new year’s resolution to see this film!
Food and Color Symbolism in Blue is the Warmest Color

(Note: May contain spoilers)

EDIT: thanks to those of you who pointed out the Lykke Li song wasn’t in the parade but the party. My mistake!

I finally got around to seeing this film, though I had been meaning to since it made a buzz at Cannes last year (thank you, Netflix!).

The two things that struck me immediately were color and food. In fact, for a movie that’s been hyped for its graphic lesbian sex scenes, there was very little sex compared to the amount of shots of Adele’s awkward mastication, and here tendency to eat everything in sight (literally, ha).

At first I was very off-put by the copious food porn (that’s not the kind I wanted!), and in particular Adele’s chewing. Not only did I find the way she ate noisome, I couldn’t fathom why the director chose to spend so much time on her boorish chomping. Was it foreshadowing for something more grave, like a food disorder? Or what?

As the film (and number of meals) went on, things began to click in a very interesting way. Prior to her interactions with Emma, Adele is shown to be a lover of cheap, fast, rich food. She loves her father’s Italian bolognese as much as she loves street food and desserts. The settings and food are all indicative of a blue-collar life; Adele is among the lower classes of French society, but she’s happy to be there. It’s her world, and she has a super healthy appetite, except she always seems to hungry for something more. Something she never knew she had the appetite for, but once she gets a taste of it, there’s no turning back…

I’m talking about oysters, of course ;) but Abdellatif Kechiche clearly has his tongue-in-cheek here. Not only does Emma open up a new dimension of sexual expression within Adele, she introduces her to a way of life. Adele immediately reacts to new, bourgeois things with a “No”, like seafood, but uncomfortably accepts and tries the things Emma throws her way.

Here, it’s important to bring up another symbolic dimension of the film: color. Of course, blue is a motif throughout the film, presented in fun, vibrant ways such that it can only be seen as warm. But, like the world of Emma, it harrowingly mutes out other colors surrounding Adele, like browns, or black. Perhaps Adele begins her coming of age tale just being naive about the racism and classism of the bourgeois around her. She grew up among diversity; the girl who first kisses her appears to have some kind of Arab or Middle Eastern backround. She joyously marches in protest with her fellow socio-economic class folk to the tune of Algerian-born Kaddour Haddadi’s “On lâche Rien”. But later in the film, she is much more half-hearted about marching in the Pride parade with, where she is surrounded by white, upper-class lesbians all dancing. It’s no protest, it seems more like a party. And Adele is as uncomfortable with it as she is with Emma’s artsy friends, including the pregnant bohemian Lise whom Adele notices Emma being a little too friendly with. The only one of the circle she seems to truly befriend is Samir, who is the only one to try and help her when she’s running around serving Emma and her friends. Emma complains that Adele could be artsier and more cultured, but doesn’t really seem to encourage or help her. She lets Adele be used, and uses Adele. Only Samir seems to actually see Adele.

I think Adele initially just doesn’t see race; she sees people. She hooks up with men of different races. There is a scene where she takes her students for a field trip at the beach, and stops the students from burying a fellow student in the sand. The buriers are white and male. The buried is black and female. Slowly, as she spends more time with Emma, I think she begins to see socio-economic and racial disenfranchisement of herself and people around her at the hands of the bourgeois who do nothing but take from the lower classes. And how odd the two classes are: the lower class embraces diversity but shuns LGBT, while the upper classes embrace LGBT but mercilessly scorn the lower classes. And Adele is caught in the middle.

But the people of Emma’s world represent something oppressive, sad, and uncaring. So the blue motifs in the film darken, like Adele’s dress at the end. Emma’s hair by this point is blonde and conservative again; only Adele is blue. She comes of age through heartbreak; not just because her first love is gone, but because she begins to truly understand the world around her for the first time.

8

Much Ado About Nothing (2013) - dir. Joss Whedon

A little over a decade ago Kenneth Branagh did a terrific job of adapting Shakespeare’s play into a film. So why all the hubbub about Joss Whedon’s version? It’s in black-and-white, so its artsy. It’s Whedon and he’s immensely popular. It’s got an indie cast so you have to take it seriously. But it’s Whedon, so it’s supposed to be funny. 

I think Much Ado About Nothing works better as a title for all the hype. It’s an interesting effort, but pales even to Romeo + Juliet in imagination. Clark Gregg is terrific, but he couldn’t hold my interest throughout a story I’m already familiar with. I’d rather watch Branagh’s film… or better yet, just read the play.

3.8

Man of Steel, Man of Tomorrow.

It has taken me months to do this, but I am finally ready to put my thoughts into words.
After seeing Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” in the cinema, I wanted to rush home immediately and write a review, expressing my love for the movie and explaining why I believe that this interpretation is truly a brilliant modern reinvention of the character. But instead I came home and read several reviews and was utterly disheartened and sickened at the ignorance, impatience and idiocy I found in these articles. 

I remember a time when a critic actually watched a movie and gave a balanced account of what they had seen, whilst expressing their own opinion on the matter with grace. Instead, what I read (and I read a large number) were just petty, closed-minded fanboys that refused to look past what they were comfortable with and professional critics who seemed to see the film, but not watch it. 

I’m not saying that all moviegoers need to analyse and scrutinise movies frame for frame, I’m not even saying that you need to pay a great deal of attention, but if your job requires you to specifically do that, then I damn well expect you to do it.

But that’s only the critics I’m talking about there. Let me now address the comic book writers and artists who expressed their views. Many of them having actually worked on the character. Notably, Mark Waid. 

Waid is a writer that I respect and admire greatly. His work on Superman is actually my favourite to date. Superman: Birthright is the ultimate Superman origin, in my opinion. It is a perfect testament to the spirit of the character with a brilliantly logical and amazingly paced story. I worked at a comic book store for half a decade and whenever I was asked to recommend a Superman title, it was always this. It’s great and you should go buy it now. 

Waid also wrote a wonderful series called Irredeemable. It is essentially an Elseworld Superman story, but published by Boom! Studios. It detailed the mental breakdown and complete descent into madness of a Superman style character called The Plutonian. I won’t spoil the story, but it is an incredibly brutal and horrific tale that culminates in an excellent and poetic ending that gave me shivers. 

So when the man who wrote these impeccable Superman stories published his review, it was my first port of call and I was so disappointed to read what I read. How could the man who reinvented Superman (twice, technically) really feel so strongly against “Man of Steel”?

Now, I totally agree that this movie isn’t perfect. If I’m honest, it is not the Superman story I would have written. But that’s the problem. I’m so fixated on the character and his history that I’d have just ended up rehashing a story I loved or mixing and matching my favourite bits of many stories into one story. This is what most writers would have done and I’m pretty sure that if they did, this movie would have failed completely. It would have been either a bloated, fanboy pleasing homage to the comics and not a rounded, logical story, or it would have been a camp and colourful homage to Richard Donner’s Superman and it’s sequels (much like the infuriatingly tame and often tongue in cheek disappointment that was Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns”).

I think in order to really understand this movie, we need to address the major concerns that viewers had with the movie.

1. There was not enough character development.

2. The supporting characters didn’t get enough screen time.

3. There was too much action and destruction.

4. Superman was too human.

5. Superman and Lois have their first romantic scene in the wake of mass destruction.

6. Superman kills Zod…

In front of children.

The only thing there that I genuinely agree was a problem is number 2. The supporting characters didn’t get as much screen time as they deserved. But on the other hand, this is the first movie in what was clearly being established as a series. So who cares? We’ll see them when we need to and let’s not forget, this movie was about Superman. Establishing who he is, what he can do and why he does it.

So let’s think about this - We see Clark as a child struggle with his abilities and we see Clark almost expose his abilities around this time. His father tells him that the world ins’t ready and Clark trusts him so much that he lets his father die rather than expose himself. We see the toll this takes on Clark and the fact that he clearly considers this inaction as a mistake, but he understands what his father meant and trusts that he meant only to protect his son from the potential horrors he may face if the world knew how different he was. We then see Clark discover his history and learn this potential. We then see him try to control his abilities, something he has great difficulty with, but which he is clearly capable of honing in time. He is then thrust almost immediately into battle with people as strong as he is, who also happen to be highly trained soldiers of his lost world. He has only just taken his first baby steps and is forced to run. He is only peripherally aware at this point just how powerful he really is. In a fit of very human rage, whilst protecting his mother, he causes some pretty major destruction. From that point on, the destruction element is almost entirely out of his hands. He is only one Kryptonian against many. He is unrefined and out of his element. So of course, there would be destruction and lots of it. There would not be any time to prevent buildings from falling and it would be impossible to save everybody whilst simultaneously holding back the attacks of these enemies who mean to harm him and the planet around them. 

To me this took absolutely no concentration to understand and accept. It makes perfect sense that at this point, he has no idea what the hell to do and what measures he would need to take. He is punching blind, because it’s the best he can do. 

So then the Kryptonians set their terraforming World Engine into motion. Ad they are above Metropolis when they start this, Metropolis takes the hit. On this side of the planet, Superman is literally powerless to do anything about this, so he flies around the globe and pushes himself to his limits to destroy a machine that is weakening him every moment he is near it. He wins and on the other side of the globe, Dr Hamilton and Lois Lane get the phantom zone up and running and are willing to sacrifice themselves to send the Kryptonians into it. Lois survives by the kind of happy coincidence that makes movies what they are and then in the wake of all the destruction, she and Clark kiss each other. This bothered some people and to those people I say, get real. Do you think that in the wake of tragedy people do not embrace? Do you think that when surrounded by death, people will not do something impulsive to affirm their life? The only problem with that scene was the dialogue shared between the two after the kiss. It was awkward and goofy. But hang on… Clark Kent is supposed to be a little bit awkward and goofy. So that’s really not a big deal.

The big deal is the following battle. Zod is not in the phantom zone and now there is nowhere to put him. So Superman has only one option - 

Win. 

So they fight. Zod is clearly a hell of a lot better at this than Superman, but Clark has had his whole life to adjust to Earth, so what he lacks in skill, he makes up for in experience and will-power. There’s more destruction, but at this point you will notice that Clark is more focused and is ducking and weaving far more, because he has one goal now and this is something he has more hope of handling. 

The fight goes on for a while and I admit, it does feel a little too long. Then they crash into a train station and Zod threatens to kill the people there. He uses his heat vision while Superman has him in a headlock. Now imagine you have somebody in a headlock and they’re stronger than you are. He can’t just pick him up and fly him to the moon, because one way or the other, the moment Zod is out of his grip, the fight just goes on and on and on until who knows when? Would they even get tired? One way or another, this fight ends with one of their deaths. It is the only reasonable way for this struggle to end. Clark begs him to stop, because it’s all he can do. Zod won’t stop, of course he won’t, he no longer has anything to lose and only wishes to destroy.Clark could cover Zods eyes maybe? But the moment his grip is loosened Zod kills the children and most likely escapes. Fight continues. Maybe he could lift Zod out of the building? But Zod is stronger, we see Superman tug on him, Zod’s going nowhere. 

So then comes the only viable option. Twist hard and twist quick. End it or let the children die. 

So he does it. He kills Zod. And with the amazing acting abilities of Henry Cavill, we instantly see the massive emotional toll that this takes on Superman. He had no choice. It was Zod’s death or more innocent death. Who would do any different? Or is that the problem? Do the viewers want a fantasy where every problem has a clear diplomatic solution? Are people really that naive? 

I am a huge Superman fan. I adore the character through bad and good, because I believe that he stands for the best in us regardless of where he comes from and what he can do. But being the best of us, does not mean being better than us. To make Superman relatable he needed to learn hard lessons the hard way. 

We are going to see more movies with this character now and it is totally moronic to just assume that this Godlike creature would not kill for no reason. He now understands the cost. He knows exactly why he needs to better himself and consider options. He has learned the importance of being prepared. But most importantly, he has learned that when faced with a terrible choice for the greater good, he must always do what is necessary.

It makes sense in a comic book, because the colourful pictures give you a soft detachment from reality that allows you to accept that a falling building can be caught in one piece by a single man, or that there is an impenetrable prison somewhere that could house a creature capable of cracking a planet in two. But nobody accepts these things in film anymore. You need to have an understanding of reality to make unreality more tangible. 

The character needed a reinvention that made him more human and relatable. People have been begging for specifically that for a long time and Zack Snyder and David Goyer really have delivered that. Keep in mind that this is only the beginning. Just because he killed once, doesn’t mean that he will kill again. Soldiers don’t generally come home from war and shoot anybody that crosses them, many are traumatised for life and learn to value life in a way they never would have previously considered. 

As for the children watching Superman kill Zod. I believe Brian Michael Bendis commented on how much he disliked this. But come on… really? If a child knows he is about to be killed and someone swoops in and kills their attacker, do you really think that the child would hold that against the hero? That child and his family are now alive. They have seen a terrible thing, but at least they are alive to comfort each other in the aftermath of tragedy as opposed to being another mark on the death toll. 

So what have I detailed there? The character development was clear and didn’t choke up a superhero movie with too much human drama, which could easily have been the case. Then we addressed the necessity of the destruction to explain his lack of skill and need to learn. This also covers the need to kill the villain in front of children, as it gives the character more depth for future stories and will act as an explanation for him trying harder and being a better example. Superman was very human, but anything less and we’d be back to square one with an un-relatable, too-powerful God-creature instead of a hero. The kiss made sense, even if the dialogue was a little corny. Most importantly, whether or not the story was nice, it all made sense. Stop condemning the story because you read in a comic that Superman doesn’t kill and consider that just because he doesn’t, that doesn’t mean he never will. There have been many Elseworld stories where he has been lethal and in those cases, it was purely to shock and make him “edgy” and had nothing to do with logic or proper storytelling. 

But analysis aside, why does everybody condemn this story for having the hero kill the villain when nobody batted an eyelid at the complete and utter hypocrisy of the Dark Knight Trilogy? Don’t get me wrong, I love those movies and will defend them for all that is wrong with them as I have defended this, but look back at Batman Begins. In that movie, Batman doesn’t kill the villain, but lets him die. Willingly, completely consciously, lets the villain die. A villain who is only a man. A man that could be incarcerated in a prison or otherwise immobilised temporarily. This is a very non-Batman thing to do, but we let it slide because it made sense and because it’s Batman, right? He’s dark and mean and kind of unhinged, so yeah, why not let Batman be totally heartless and let a man die? 
Like in The Dark Knight, when homicidal lunatic, chaotic terrorist and all around criminal genius The Joker falls from a building and dies.

Except he didn’t. Because Batman saves his life. And why? Because life is precious? No. To prove a point. To prove that he isn’t as bad as The Joker. He would rather let a complete monster live in order to prove a point TO THAT MONSTER than just let him die and never have to deal with him again. Keep in mind, this is not a terrorist who is an idealist that truly believes his actions will help build a better world, like R’as Al Ghul. This is The Joker, a man who WANTS the world to be a chaotic and hideous place.

But Superman killing a man who could destroy the planet in a moment of extreme pressure and with only seconds to spare? No, that’s just stupid.

Now I’ve explained myself enough, I think. I may not change anybody’s opinion on the movie and that’s fine. I just want people to actually think about what they’re watching before they open their mouths. Stop screaming “BUT SUPERMAN WOULDN’T DO THAT!” because it’s ridiculous. He’s a fictional character that has needed to be adjusted for decades and Snyder and Goyer did it. They really have made a Superman for the modern generation and good for them! And good for us. Maybe now we can look at out heroes and understand their struggles a little better. Maybe now we can put away our ideals of a goody-two-shoes boy scout who is always there to save the day and open our minds to a more human and realistic character that messes up sometimes. Who is incredible, but far from perfect. Because that’s what “Man of Steel” is; Incredible, but far from perfect. 

I have watched it repeatedly now, trying to feel what other people feel, thinking that I was biased and closed minded. I respect every negative criticism, because on the surface, they’re fair. But just think about why these things were done for just a little while. Join the dots and see the bigger picture. Zack and David, like Superman himself, did the right thing.

Despite it’s flaws, and it does have many, “Man of Steel” was a sigh of relief for me. It was a genuinely great, new and original take on a character that I love dearly but who had long been stale and far too tame. It had astounding action and visuals all the way through and was completely gripping. Although I would have liked to have seen more of Lois Lane and her relationship with Clark/Superman, I think what we got was wonderful. Amy Adams has a natural charm that makes her cute and likeable, but she shows a lot of backbone and strength that gives her the perfect balance to play Lois Lane. It would have been nice to see the Daily Planet staff a little more, but given that the story ends with Clark getting a job there, I’m sure we will see plenty of that in the future. Michael Shannon was a phenomenal Zod. He brought all the piousness and righteous insanity from Boardwalk Empire and gave the role a wild and almost Shakespearian tenacity. Antje Traue was sadly underused, as her character was fascinating and her poise and beauty were elegantly utilised in making her a cold and deadly killer and yet she oddly had some heart. She made you believe that she believed, which gave her a lot of dimension that was sadly underused. Costner and Lane as the Kents were wonderful, I don’t think I can imagine two people playing those roles better. Again, it’s unfortunate that we only get a small helping of them, but it’s enough to savour, at least. Russell Crowe was excellent in his role of Jor-El. He played it totally straight and made what could have been campy scenes that much more real. The supporting cast as a whole were brilliant. The plot could have been a bit meatier, but I understand that the team involved had to be very careful and delicate about what they included in the story so as not to over-encumber it and make it too bloated and convoluted. The action could have been thinned out and replaced with a little more character interaction, but a patient moviegoer will accept this if the sequels provide more of what this story lacked. Despite its controversial decisions in the progress of the story and the sometimes frustrating emphasis on violence, the plot tied together nicely and in a fashion quite common these days in movies, novels and television, it confirmed that even the big, bold fantasies aren’t fairytales. 

Now, praise for the man himself, Henry Cavill. There is not a moment in this movie that I would have had him act any differently. Any flaw and imperfection in this film stands separately from Henry. He was a sweet, mild and humble Clark Kent and a bold, confident and intelligent Superman. He embodies everything that Superman needs to be and even if you hated this movie, tell me that this man isn’t Superman. 

It’s a 10/10 movie for me and despite a lot of apprehension I have for the ambitious casting flurry of the sequel, I genuinely cannot wait to see what they are going to do next.


My Top 20 Films of 2013

This was a really hard list to do. It didn’t feel fair to rank these movies when they are from all different genres, but I do enjoy making these lists and it’s a great way to wrap up this really great year for film.

I don’t leave a reason for why each film is on the film because I want anyone reading who hasn’t seen one of the movies here to go into watching it open minded. There was a lot of incredible independent films that came out this year that should be watched.

These are 20 movies that I thought stood out the most for me. Honourable mentions will be at the bottom of the list. Enjoy!

20. Computer Chess

19. This is the End

18. Frances Ha

17. The Wolf of Wall Street

16. Spring Breakers

15. The Kings of Summer

14. The Way, Way, Back

13. Blue is the Warmest Color

12. Blue Jasmine

11. Inside Llewyn Davis

10. The Spectacular Now

9. 12 Years a Slave

8. Gravity

7. Drinking Buddies

6. Fruitvale Station

5. The Place Beyond the Pines

4. Before Midnight

3. Mud

2. Short Term 12

1. Her

Honourable mentions: Dallas Buyers Club, Wrong, The Act of Killing, Enough Said, Upstream Color and of course, Sharknado.

Movie I wish I got to see before making this list: Nebraska.

I’ll be writing reviews for 2014 released films I see. I also have plans to open up my own Film Website sometime this year with some help. 

Do you agree or disagree with this list? I’d like to hear what you thought was your favourite movies of 2013 were.

#118

The Place Beyond The Pines

Directed by Derek Ciafrance


I’m a little late to this one…

The Place Beyond The Pines is an honest attempt at depicting a theme, but a sadly contrived bit of story telling. The film connects three sets of storylines in order to depict the sins of the fathers handed down to the sons. The film is ambitious and every actor on screen (including Eva Mendez) gives a emotionally powering performance, yet I have to say that the film does not work.

Ambition doesn’t make up for open failure. I really wanted to love Place Beyond the Pines but contrivance upon contrivance made the film hard going. Too many unwarranted character motivations and too much going on in general made the film feel like a 8 episode mini series edited down to two hours  and thirty minutes of cinema.

The final scene of the film where Ryan Gosling’s son rides off on a motorbike into the auburn terrain of an upstate new york fall, matched up with Bon Iver’s The Wolves (Act I & II) gave me goosebumps but I have to say that the film was a huge disappointment.
It just made me realize that people who live in upstate New York are bound for misery….. RIDE YOUR MOTORCYCLE OUT OF THERE!

I’m still waiting for the first great film of 2013!

Score 6.2/10

5

2013 in Review: My Top Five Photographs

     In the last year, I have grown immensely as a photographer and as a documenter of the world around me.  Looking back over my work, an undeniable theme emerges: moments.  Moments of circumstance, moments of feeling, emotion, fragility, intensity. These are the moments I live for–that I sometimes pine for, but usually just happen upon.  The moments that 2013 would leave behind, lost amid accomplishments, births, deaths, things deemed more important.  But when I capture something on film–a curious look, a bird resting upon a log, arms thrown up in excitement–it is not lost, it is remembered.    

     For 2014, I have only one resolution: to have no resolutions.  I want to follow a mood, follow a feeling wherever it takes me.  I will not be bound by any preconceived decisions, only bound to moments.  I want to extend my gratitude to everyone who has supported me on my first year on tumblr.  Stay tuned for more to come!

ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ | Films of ‘13

I had been set on giving this film four stars as I was half way through it. Halfway through I already knew the writing was great, the cinematography awesome, and the acting fantastic. But it hadn’t given me any deep feeling, that extra push that says “I deserve five stars!” but oh did it give me that. The hunt down scenes were incredible. My heart raced as I watched them play out. And all the while worrying thoughts ran through my mind. “This is all too easy. He’s gonna get away! He has some secret tunnel and he’s making his getaway already! They’re not going to get him!" Which, of course, were silly thoughts because I already knew how this would end. But it was those silly thoughts, the racing heart, and the unpleasant nervous feeling in my tummy that gave 0 Dark 30 that extra spark I looked for.

FILMS OF 2013

Rather than hierarchize a list of films that released this year, which would inevitably take me excruciating hours on end trying to organize, instead I’ll select what I thought were the year’s best films, and a short description of why they stood out. Here goes:

External image

Best Stylized Thriller / Stoker (dir. Park Chan-Wook)

Stoker is the epitome of ‘no such thing as being over-stylized’, as Chan-Wook takes control over a mildly suspenseful, incestuous, and murderous drama, and puts it in the middle of a beautiful arrangement of cuts, editing, music, camera work, and overall captivating, moody aesthetic.

External image

Best Intense Drama / The Hunt (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)

This film from Denmark about a man accused of molesting a young girl is fraught with ambiguity and tense performances. The story is less about justice and determining the verdict of his guilt, and more about the moral complexities and profound implications of such accusations, on a man’s conscience and the lives of the community he lives in. 

External image

Best Real Life Romance / Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)

The passion and charisma between the two leads has not dissipated in the least, and Before Midnight proves that the most intellectual and stimulating conversations are enough to captivate an audience (and consequently, lead to one of the most interesting, nuanced, and genuine characters ever written for film–in a span of 18 years). 

External image

Best Teenage Romance The Spectacular Now (dir. James Ponsoldt)

Maybe there isn’t any way to view this movie objectively, without being affected by your own high school/romantic experiences, but even if this is a matter of perfect timing with my own life, I still believe The Spectacular Now works because of its natural leads and because of a script and director that is able to see through the perspectives of teens, see right through them, and then also observe empathetically on the outside, all at once. It’s magic.

External image

Best Familial Drama with Twists and Turns / The Past (dir. Asghar Farhadi)

What Farhadi also does with painstaking precision, is he enters a story haphazardly in a seemingly random point in time, much like we do in people’s lives whom we’ve just been acquainted with. And along the 2 hour journey, revelations are revealed and the woefully enigmatic story takes genuinely surprising paths, so that the audience comes to appreciate his method of narration. It’s a mastery of nuance in the narrative, in the characters, in the actors and actresses, and in the director’s vision. 

It’s a terrible, terrible shame–let me repeat: TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE, SHAME–and sincerely a huge failure on the Academy’s part, in its exclusion for the Foreign film short list this year. With Blue is the Warmest Color unable to contend this year, The Past should’ve been a clear winner.

External image

Best Technical Achievement and Emotional Storyline / Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)

No matter what anybody tells you, this film is not about Sandra Bullock floating in space, and it’s certainly not only notable for its triumphant cinematography and scoring. While it excels in those two directions, its understated narrative is ultimately what consummates its success as a film, and as a story about faith, hope, fear, adversity, solitude, and life. It’s not only one of the best films of the year–it’s one of the grandest movies in cinema.

External image

Best Intimate Portrait of Love / Blue is the Warmest Color (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)

Provocative, sensual, and captivating, Blue is the Warmest Color is an achievement in honest and fearless filmmaking. This is a film that addresses overt sex and sexuality as integral to life, and as an expression of a human truth. In retrospect, Kechiche, Seydoux, and Exarchopoulos’s commitment to this film and its explicit and intimate portrayal of love, is admirable and I respect so much the way in which Adele’s life is the most true, and the most accurate narrative of sexual fluidity, questioning, and passionate desire for love. This is a film that transcends its medium; transcends its actors; and transcends its director. This is a story, whose characters asks us not to be afraid or terrified by sex and sexuality, but rather to embrace the beauty when it’s regarded by love.

External image

Best Blockbuster with a Political Intent (and the better Lawrence performance) / The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (dir. Francis Lawrence)

Lawrence’s new direction of the Hunger Games trilogy is more steadfast and more incredible than its predecessor. The brisk pace and captivating action is in no small part due to its masterfully adapted source material. Jennifer Lawrence’s (and Jena Maloney’s, as well) lead performance is powerful, and this role highlights the vulnerability and evocativeness of her ability as an Oscar winning actress.

External image

Best Romantic Comedy about the Future (and of the human spirit) / Her (dir. Spike Jonze)

While simple in its premise, Jonze delves perceptively into the complex dynamics of love, humanness, emotion, sex, and the grandness of life, through one man’s relationship with his ‘computer’. It elicits a lot of laughter, which complements the melancholic philosophy that underlies the film. In 2 hours, Jonze lays bare the joys and turbulence of being in love—of living life. But surely, without a doubt, it is worth it. In its depiction about man’s relationship to technology, and the ever changing boundaries of friendship, love, and loneliness, Her opens up a profound conversation about how we relate to one another, whether human or not. For that, it’s the most affecting film I’ve seen in a long time. 

External image

Best Melancholic Musical / Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Ethan and Joel Coen)

Another definite and assured character account by the Coen brothers. Though it’s set in an older time, it’s a story about a type of person that is universal and transhistorical; the qualms of living for what you love. It features a talented breakout performance by Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis, who through the music we get inside, if only ever so sliightly.

External image

Best Hypnotic Animated Documentary / Is The Man Who is Tall Happy? (dir. Michel Gondry)

This animated conversation between political radical and linguist, Noam Chomsky, and director Michel Gondry is fascinating and intellectually engaging. Although the art isn’t essential and proves tedious to follow at times, the documentary could be listened to as a podcast and still remain just as enlightening.

External image

Best Insane and Sensational Performance and Great Direction / The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Corrupt, perverse, and charismatically virulent, the destructive biography of Jordan Belfort is a despicable one; one that doesn’t elicit much ambivalence: you’re either enamoured by the outrageousness of his wealth, or you’re disgusted by his depraved nature. And make no mistake, Wall Street isn’t a character study about how a poor man becomes immoral when he assumes the status of a millionaire with unimaginable money—it’s more of a study of how the nature of such immorality in men come to light when circumstances, of money that is, allow those men to believe they’re invincible. Belfort was clearly a man of high octane thrill and materialistic fascination right from the start—or so Scorsese and DiCaprio depict him to be. If you can forgive the film for its 3 hour duration, you’ll recognize the enormity of DiCaprio’s all out, sex crazed, heavily drugged performance that anchors nearly every second of the film. Scorsese also directs Wall Street with a comedic flair and a truly cinematic, sensationalized intensity, that somehow makes seeing 4 different kinds of orgies on screen worth your while. 

P.S.: As I catch up on the rest of the year’s documentaries, dramas, comedies and what have you, I may or may not edit this list to include major ones. For now, these are the films, stories, performances that I’ll remember from this memorable year (that consisted of more than a few great nearly 3 hour films!).