Lili Reinhart is one of those actresses who I could watch act in literally anything and think that the movie/show and Lili herself, were the best things to ever be created. She could be the lead actress in a breakout romantic comedy, dead girl number #3 in a slasher film, or promoting a knockoff brand of Doritos in a YouTube AD and I’d still support and cheer for her like she was about to win a freaking Academy Award. I love her that much.
The pre-code era was a period lasting roughly between 1929
to 1934 in which Hollywood censors was a thousand times more lax. Of course,
the naughtiness is not the only thing which makes pre-code Hollywood
interesting, as these films coincided with the advent of talkies and the
cynicism brought on by the Great Depression. Many of them featured social
commentary on the economy, the changing role of women in society, the sexual
double standard, the lingering traumas inflicted by World War I, abuse of power
within politics, and religious hypocrisy. If you’ve never delved into this
period, here are some films I would recommend to get you started:
Baby Face (1933)
Barbara Stanwyck plays a destitute young woman who sleeps
her way through the business world hierarchy in order to grasp power and money,
the bare essentials of the American Dream—but does this guarantee happiness or
even a stable future? A great introduction to just how much pre-code Hollywood
could get away with as well as being a satirical look at the American values.
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Once banned for being “against nature,” this cult horror
film deals with science sans morality. The hot, sticky atmosphere and gross subject
matter allow the film to remain scary even to a 21st century viewer.
The Divorcee (1930)
A thorough take down of the sexual double standard. When her
husband casually cheats on her, a woman sleeps with his best friend to “balance
the books.” At that, her allegedly liberal husband shows just how backward he
is by claiming women are supposed to be better behaved than men, which leads to
a nasty separation and numerous sexual escapades on the part of the wife. Even eighty-seven
years onward, this film remains a mature look at marriage and sexuality, daring
for its time and still touching today.
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
Amidst civil war and treachery, an American missionary and a
Chinese warlord fall in love despite their differing philosophies (not to
mention the whole race thing). While the theme of miscegenation might not be
too controversial today, I imagine its heavy criticism of religion still would
be. (Alas, the film’s argument for racial tolerance is undercut by the casting
of the very white Nils Asther as the titular Chinese general, but it’s still a
good film to check out, one of director Frank Capra’s best movies.)
The Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
A musical about out-of-work chorus girls trying to nab
wealthy husbands. Aside from being very funny and naughty, the musical numbers
are all superbly choreographed by Busby Berkley, culminating in “Remember My
Forgotten Man,” a piece highlighting the plight of WWI veterans. (It also
features the best way you could ever call someone a ho: “As long as they’ve got
sidewalks, you’ve got a job!”)
Employees’ Entrance (1933)
Malcolm McDowell once said he felt movies before the 1970s
did not have truly evil characters in the lead. He never watched Employees’
Entrance, a movie where the central figure is a corrupt, raping, heartless,
tyrannical department store manager who not only never answers for his crimes,
but is even presented as something of a heroic figure in the context of the
Depression due to his opposing the insistence from the higher-ups that he lay
off his lower level employees. Complete with suicide (both attempted and
successful) and despair, this movie is kept from being unbearable with doses of
comedy and lively direction.
Cloaked - So without doubt this episode features my favourite of all Claire’s Parisian couture costumes - the Blueberry cloak/coat.
I just don’t have enough superlatives to express just how much I adore this outfit. Claire looks incredibly beautiful but also a little mysterious dressed in it too, perfect for La Dame Blanche. In fact she looks like she stepped straight out of a grown up version of Little Red Riding Hood, only in purple. The colour is divine, such a rich jewel violet, which is then brilliantly offset by the bright deep pink of the flower/leaf embroidery. Its just sheer perfection, a masterpiece of costumery.
And I am so proud of my copy - I do think it is one of the best recreations I have ever sewn.
Uncovered - This episode also featured the most exquisite reconnection of Claire and Jamie and it was so beautifully crafted. I love how it was filmed, bathed in blue light within the blue alcove.
(stills from pinterest)
And how bold and brave Claire is, going to Jamie in only her lovely yellow robe, which she slowly lets fall.
( with thanks to primrosesandrues16 for above image)
This follows their confrontation, in which certain truths were set forth and laid bare, and here in this scene, she lays herself bare for him, uncovers herself for him, to show how there *is* nothing separating them, that he can *find them* again if only he would try. And he does. And they do. And it is glorious.
Unbroken and 10 More Great Movies About World War II
Based on the best-selling non-fiction book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s acclaimed film “Unbroken” joins a long tradition of cinema’s interest in the intricate details of World War II.
Unlike many of the other films, however, “Unbroken" narrows its focus on the impact that one individual, USA Olympian and athlete Louis Zamperini, had on the hearts and minds of hundreds of other people in and around the war. For that reason, the film stands as an interesting look at one of the world’s most fascinating events and individuals.
With “Unbroken“ available on Digital HD now, and arriving on Blu-ray, and DVD on March 24, we’ve put together a list of 10 moregreat movies about World War II that you need to check out.
(Going forward with the understanding that miniseries like Kamen Rider 4 and Gorider count as movies) What are your favorite Kamen Rider movies? Can be a top ten, top five or general format.
As I am still riding the high from finishing Kamen Sentai Gorider (OMG SO GOOD SO GOOD) I won’t include it because that’s like asking someone what their favorite Star Wars movie is right after they get out of the newest one (for the record it’s still Empire Strikes Back for me though Rogue One is now second). I wonder how much better Gorider will be once I’ve seen the movie it ties into. I’ve been waiting for a proper Super Hero Taisen that wasn’t just a Kamen Rider movie with a glorified Super Sentai cameo since Super Hero Taisen Z.
Anyway, as to my favorite Kamen Rider movies, I am going to include both Heisei and Showa movies here and that weird in-between period that still gets lumped in with Showa because Shotaro Ishinomori was still alive for them. Let’s get started, shall we?
5. Kamen Rider 555: Paradise Lost
This is a weird one for me. I was not a fan of the strange, out of continuity early Heisei Kamen Rider movies. I felt they went places they shouldn’t or were utterly irrelevant to the TV series that spawned them. However, I still loved this movie when I first saw it and watch it again every now and then. This film is basically a worst case scenario for the TV show, where the Orphenochs have conquered the world and humanity is dying off and clustered together in tiny enclaves. Kamen Rider Faiz has been missing for years and it falls to the dickish Kamen Rider Kaixa to protect the remaining humans. I just really liked the designs for the two new, movie only Riders (Psyga and Orga) and the action was really well done.
4. Kamen Rider Hibiki and the Seven War Oni
Yes, this movie was made post studio meddling that pretty much doomed a promising, if slow, series to a mediocre and unsatisfying conclusion. However, it’s basically a tokusatsu version of the Seven Samurai! It’s even set in the Edo period and features 7 different Riders (Oni) banding together to defend a small village against a monstrous force no one person could defeat alone. It also features the amazingly designed Kamen Rider Kabuki. That alone score it major points in my book!
3. Let’s Go Kamen Riders!
This was the 40th Anniversary movie and one of the crossover films ostensibly between the then current Kamen Rider OOOs and the few seasons past but still popular Kamen Rider Den-O. It was also the first time they used the now cliched plot of Shocker taking over the world thanks to time manipulation. It’s also the best time that plotline was ever used in my opinion. It’s a fun story though and ends with a huge gathering of every Rider up to that point fighting to restore history to its proper course through the power of kicking and punching evil monsters. It’s a celebration of everything Kamen Rider and for that, I can’t help but love it to death.
2. Kamen Rider vs. Shocker
This is the very first original Kamen Rider movie (the film before this Go Go Kamen Rider was a movie expansion of episode 13). This was the first movie of the original series I ever saw, long before I got my hands on the entire first series. It got me so interested in the old Kamen Rider shows made before I was born and before Super Sentai was even a thing. It was also my introduction to the amazingly evil Dr. Shinigami, one of my all-time favorite Kamen Rider villains. Here is the trailer:
1. Kamen Rider ZO
This was the first piece of Kamen Rider media I ever got to see in Japanese with English subtitles. I watched it because I was already a fan of its director, Keita Amemiya thanks to his Zeiram films. What ZO did was quite frankly blow my mind. The suit designs were spectacular, the action tense and brutal and the effects work imaginative and engrossing. The high point for me has always been the fight with the Spider Kaijin, the use of stop motion animation and just the completely alien design of the spider-thing sticks with me to this day.
This movie turned me from a pretty straight up Super Sentai fan into a broader fan of tokusatsu and tossed me head first into the awesome world of Kamen Rider. It remains my favorite movie in the franchise and not just for nostalgia reasons. It’s a great first film to show people as it is a one and done tale that combines all of the hallmarks of the franchise in a unique and engaging way.
A post wherein film writer Kimberly Luperi spotlights the career of beloved, although often overshadowed, acting great Claude Rains.
In my mind, Claude
Rains was sort of an “Invisible Man”: a marvelous performer who I’ve
felt was rather underrated and overshadowed by bigger stars, as character
actors often are. Rains even likened himself to one during a 1933 New York Times interview discussing THE
INVISIBLE MAN (’33): “I daresay it was the best thing they could do with
this face,” he quipped. “Now if they could keep it invisible, I might get by in
didn’t keep Rains concealed for long, but I’d say he got by pretty well in the
movies nonetheless. See: his string of compelling performances in classics like
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (‘38), CASABLANCA ('42), NOTORIOUS ('46) and
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA ('62), to name but a few.
extensively on the stage in England and America, the London-born Rains made the
leap to film late in his career. Technology of the time kept his expressive
voice hushed in his first screen outing, BUILD THY HOUSE (’20), but Rains’
brogue played a crucial role in landing his next picture 13 years later across
the pond, THE INVISIBLE MAN (’33).
famous for contributing FRANKENSTEIN ('31) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN ('35) to
Universal’s classic horror canon, took the reins on THE INVISIBLE MAN (’33). Though
one legend has it that Whale overheard Rains’ RKO screen test and exclaimed,
“I don’t care who that actor is, but I want that voice!” the fact is
that Whale was familiar with Rains’ tenure teaching at London’s Royal Academy
of Dramatic Art (where Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton were among his
students) and lobbied for Rains from the beginning. Luckily for the director, Universal’s
first choice Boris Karloff dropped out after producer Carl Laemmle Jr. repeatedly
pushed Karloff to take a salary cut, and Whale slyly dissuaded second choice
Colin Clive so Rains could step in. Though Laemmle objected to the casting of
an unknown, Whale prevailed.
MAN (’33) may seem an odd Hollywood debut for a well-known stage star because the
lead receives mere seconds of screen time, but the picture made Rains
incredibly visible. The New York Times
praised Rains and noted that “no actor has ever made his first appearance
on the screen under quite as peculiar circumstance,” while other notices hailed
the movie as “one of the best yet produced” and a “remarkable achievement.”
Indeed, Rains’ menacingperformance,
Whale’s masterful direction, R.C. Sherriff’s meticulous adaptation of H. G.
Wells’ novel and John P. Fulton’s cunning special effects unanimously earned rave
reviews and helped the film smash a three-year attendance record at New York
City’s Roxy Theatre. Though visual wizardry has progressed leaps and bounds in
the 83 years since its original release, THE INVISIBLE MAN (’33) still retains the
ability to awe and delight viewers today, in part owing to the scrupulous
balance between its visual trickery, drama and a “generous quota” of comedy.
Following THE INVISIBLE
MAN (’33) success, Variety reported that Universal
"figures the curiosity aroused by the first pic…will act as an effective
buildup” for Rains’ next outing for the studio, which would provide audiences
their first full view of the actor. But Paramount actually beat them to the
punch by releasing Rains’ CRIME WITHOUT PASSION ('34) in between those two
Universal pictures. Had Paramount held off, the aforementioned Universal film, THE
MAN WHO RECLAIMED HIS HEAD ('34), would have been an ironic, apropos follow-up
for the formerly invisible man.
Top of the deck is political drama House of Cards which is returning for its fifth run with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright still attached. Usually, that’d be your lot but brace yourself - it seems like May wills ee you cancelling many a plan: season two of both Master of None - Aziz Ansari’s acclaimed comedy series - and the Wachowskis’ mind-bender Sense8 are both being unveiled, as well as the third season of Ellie Kemper comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Then there’s the swansong of family drama Bloodline which will wrap up the story of the fractured Rayburn family spearheaded by Sissy Spacek.
If that wasn’t enough, May will see the long-awaited return of animated comedy F Is for Family from comedians Bill Burr and Michael Price following its debut in 2015.
Film-wise, it’s over to Brad Pitt whose War Machine will finally land. Directed by Davis Michod (Animal Kingdom), the thrilling black comedy co-stars Tilda Swinton and Will Poulter and follows a general who finds himself under attack when sent to Afghanistan to bring the war to an end.
5 May - Sense8 season 2
12 May - Master of None season 2
19 May - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 3
26 May - Bloodline season 3 / War Machine
War Machine | Teaser [HD] | Netflix
30 May- House of Cards season 5 / F Is for Family
6 May - The Kennedys series 1
10 May - Closer / White House Down
11 May - Hot Fuzz
12 May - Anne with an E season 1 / Sahara
13 May The Hallow
15 May - Bowie: The Man Who Changed The World / Louis Theroux: A Different Brain
Besting 'The Lego Movie': How Two Little-Known Animated Films Landed Oscar Nods
Song of the Sea
You don’t have to be living in Cloud Cuckoo Land to think that the Oscars’ snubbing of The Lego Movie is crazy. The Warner Bros. release was one of 2014’s most-loved and best-reviewed movies, and yet it failed to make the Oscars cut alongside other popular animated hits like Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls and How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Instead, the final two slots in the Best Animated Feature category — one of which might otherwise have gone to Lego — are occupied by a pair of little-known international imports, Song of the Sea from Ireland and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya from Japan. Incredibly, both films also came from the same distributor, GKids, an upstart independent company that in recent years has brought some of the finest examples of world animation to American shores. “I love The Lego Movie; I saw it twice,” says GKids head, Eric Beckman. “There’s this idea that Oscar voters get together as a cabal [and decide] who to snub and who not to snub, but I think it’s really a personal thing. People might say that [our films] are a surprise, but I think anyone who saw them aren’t surprised at all.”
Watch the trailer for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya:
If it’s any consolation, the two films that arguably leapfrogged over Emmett, Wyldstyle and Batman aren’t just good movies — they’re exceptionally good movies. Based on a centuries-old Japanese legend, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya hails from Japan’s premiere animation company, Studio Ghibli, the home of revered filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Takahata spent seven labor-intensive years making the hand-drawn Kaguya, and it’s likely to be his final film — a grand summation of a career that has also yielded such classics as Grave of the Firefliesand My Neighbors the Yamadas. Song of the Sea, meanwhile, is the second feature from Irish animator Tomm Moore, and draws on the Celtic myths about selkies — magical seals that take human form when they emerge from the waves — to construct a deeply moving story about childhood and grief. “These are two of the strongest films we’ve ever released, and to have them both in the same year has been really, really great,” says Beckman.
Watch the trailer for Song of the Sea:
Both films illustrate the still-young company’s ability to form strategic, fruitful relationships with overseas animators. GKids has enjoyed a strong partnership with Studio Ghibli since 2011, when they acquired the U.S. theatrical rights to select titles from the company’s back catalogue, as well as their newest release, From Up on Poppy Hill. And Moore’s debut feature, 2009’s The Secret of Kells, became one of GKids’s first success stories by bringing the studio its first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. At the time, Beckman and his partner Dave Jesteadt had just created the GKids distribution label. Rather than rely on costly trade ads, Beckman and Jesteadt mounted a small, but targeted campaign directed at the Academy’s animation branch. “The films have to speak for themselves, and that film spoke for itself,” Beckman says, adding that Kells earned high scores on the 1-10 scale used by Academy voters during the nominations process. “We were a really small company back then, and put a lot of blood and sweat into that film.”
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Since 2010, GKids has built an Oscar track record that rivals some of Hollywood’s bigger, better-funded animation houses. In 2011, they received another double-nomination for the French film A Cat in Parisand Chico & Ritafrom Spain. And last year, the whimsical French fantasy Ernest & Celestinewas in the Oscar mix alongside studio blockbusters like The Croods and Frozen. Both Beckman and Jesteadt credit the quality of the films themselves for making the final cut, but they’ve also honed their Oscar strategy over the years. “This is the first year we’ve had films actively positioned around the awards [season],” explains Jesteadt. “We placed Princess Kaguya in the fall right against movies like Whiplash and The Imitation Game and all these other Academy contenders.”
Both movies can also benefit from the publicity an Oscar nomination brings. Princess Kaguya has been playing in theaters since October, while Song of the Sea started its run in late December and will have a major expansion towards the end of January. “The Oscars are a great platform to get the word out to an audience that are clearly very curious about what the films are.”
Even though they remain winless on Oscar night, GKids has carved out a niche as a go-to company for international and independent animated features that otherwise might remain unseen in America. And they’ll likely be back among next year’s nominees, with Studio Ghibli’s latest (and quite possibly last, as both Miyazaki and Takahada are retiring) film, When Marnie Was There, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, which will be released stateside later in 2015. “After The Secret of Kells, people could have assumed that it was a fluke, but [we’ve got] six nominations now,” says Beckman. “The films themselves have to be worthy of the attention they’re getting. Once the films are there, we just have to figure out how to share what we love about them with other people.”
Artists, writers, and creative types, keep this image in mind from the b-movie classic Robot Monster when you’re stuck trying to make something and hit a slight obstruction, agonizing unduly over the creative decisions.
On the surface, this seems like one of the laziest design choices ever: hey, we got a gorilla suit, but the title of the film is Robot Monster, so – oh, look, space helmet! Sweet! DONE.
This is literally the equivalent of rummaging through a closet and pulling out the first random things you lay hands on. Robot Monster writer and director Phil Tucker was twenty-five when he made this film in four days for $16,000 in 1953. There was no budget for a 'real’ costume that made some – any – kind of sense. And guess what?
Dumb and bizarre as it is, sixty-plus years later, people are still talking about this image, long after they’ve forgotten about other creations that were the result of a much more painstaking process with more talent involved..
People and critics shit all over the movie, and call it one of the worst ever made – and truthfully, it might be hard to argue otherwise – but it did gross over a million dollars in its initial release, and people love it specifically for its oddball warts … which is more than a lot of mediocre films that had higher artistic standards and ambition but for that fact, were ultimately forgettable and don’t appear on any lists, best or worst.
The audience can’t call you a mad genius or just plain insane if they never see the finished product. Slap on your gorilla suit and space helmet, call it a Robot Monster, and keep the cameras rolling.
History will sort it all out later, that’s not really going to be for you to decide. Your job is to just set the mechano-primates loose on the world.
Bad or good, movies nearly always have a strange diminishing effect on works of fantasy (of course there are exceptions; The Wizard of Oz is an example which springs immediately to mind). In discussions, people are willing to cast various parts endlessly. I’ve always thought Robert Duvall would make a splendid Randall Flagg, but I’ve heard people suggest such people as Clint Eastwood, Bruce Dern and Christopher Walken. They all sound good, just as Bruce Springsteen would seem to make an interesting Larry Underwood, if ever he chose to try acting (and, based on his videos, I think he would do very well … although my personal choice would be Marshall Crenshaw). But in the end, I think it’s best for Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie, Ralph, Tom Cullen, Lloyd, and that dark fellow to belong to the reader, who will visualize them through the lens of the imagination in a vivid and constantly changing way no camera can duplicate. Movies, after all, are only an illusion of motion comprised of thousands of still photographs. The imagination, however, moves with its own tidal flow. Films, even the best of them, freeze fiction - anyone who has ever seen One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and then reads Ken Kesey’s novel will find it hard or impossible not to see Jack Nicholson’s face on Randle Patrick McMurphy. That is not necessarily bad … but it is limiting. The glory of a good tale is that it is limitless and fluid; a good tale belongs to each reader in its own particular way.
Written by Irving Berlin, “White Christmas” has become one of the most famous Christmas songs ever recorded. It made its’ debut in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, where Bing Crosby sung it as a duet with Marjorie Reynolds. This is the version found in the final cut of the film. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, becoming a huge hit, and it still remains one to this day.
Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is a truly remarkable film. The movie is one of the best coming-of-age stories that we’ve seen - outfitted with a wonderful collection of great actors, iconic performances, and one of the most endlessly listenable soundtracks we’ve heard – and it still remains as fresh and entertaining as ever. It’s a feature that never really needed a sequel, “spiritual” or otherwise - but somehow Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! - which just premiered at the SXSW Film Festival - still manages to feel like a project that we’ve been eagerly anticipating for the last 23 years.
Set in the fall of 1980 – giving the film a distinctly different flavor than its predecessor while possessing a similar vibe – the story centers on college freshman Jake (Blake Jenner), a baseball player who arrives at his Texas-based school and immediately finds himself mixed in with the ridiculous group of guys who will be both his teammates and housemates. In the days leading up to the first round of classes, Jake quickly assimilates with the tight-knit group of guys, bonding over girls, drinking, smoking weed, and playing ball. There’s no high-drama or strict script structure to speak of – instead playing as more of a “three days in the life” story – but with an eclectic ensemble of fun characters and a large collection of fantastically funny set-ups and situations, it hangs together as a great bit of cinema.
Because of the loose way in which it’s put together, appreciation for Everybody Wants Some!! almost entirely hangs on the audience’s feelings about hanging out with the gang of college baseball players at its center – but this is far from challenging, as you gain an immediate appreciation for their specific brand of rambunctiousness from the opening moments (which involves a ceiling nearly collapsing under the weight of a newly-filled waterbed). It’s a large ensemble to follow – with more than 10 characters playing integral parts in the narrative – but it’s made manageable just because of the wide variety of weird and great personalities that are thrown into the mix – including the disturbingly competitive McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin); the borderline insane Jay Niles (Juston Street); the bad gambler Nesbit (Austin Amelio); the epic pothead Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), and the southern-fried Billy Autrey (Will Brittain). Not only do they stand out as individuals, but just like with Dazed and Confused, there is a legitimate simple pleasure in watching the rambunctiousness of youth, as they constantly find themselves in circumstances ripe for antics and shenanigans.
Ultimately it’s the film’s period setting that legitimately gives it that “spiritual sequel” feel, and just like how Richard Linklater perfectly encapsulated the mid-1970s with Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! is a fantastic trip back in time to 1980. The aesthetics are all fantastically on-point, from the various feathered haircuts to the various bars and nightclubs the ensemble frequents, but once again Linklater has also put together a soundtrack that movie-fans will be listening to for decades. Featuring tracks from Van Halen (naturally), The Sugar Hill Gang, The Knack, Foreigner, and even a punk version of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, there is an incredibly mix of diegetic and non-diegetic songs that the writer/director utilizes brilliantly to create a specific and special atmosphere.
In the two-and-a-half decades since Dazed and Confused was released, Richard Linklater has ventured into a wide variety of different genres and visual styles, but Everybody Wants Some!! has the filmmaker prove that you sometimes can go home again. Like his 1993 film, the movie is a celebration of the fun and freedom of youth, and it’s simply in capturing this spirit that makes it succeed.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).