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Friday, April 4, 2014

Best films of 2013

It’s that time of the year again, or at least it was back in January. Ever since I started this blog I have posted an end of the year top 10 list of films of the year. Last year my favorite film was “Cloud Atlas” and the year before that was the final chapter of the “Harry Potter” films. This year my choice of films is interesting to say the least. I have powerful character films, romanticized Disney stories, swelling action thrillers, and romantic comedies. A truly spectacular year for film as there are many films that would have been worthy of the list had there not been so many to choose from. There will be many honorable mentions at the end to showcase what other great films I liked but fell short of my top 10. Bear in mind that I haven’t seen every film that came out so it is likely that a few great films have escaped me.

10 “Dallas Buyers Club” 

I never particularly liked either Mathew McCaunaghey or Jarred Letto, but they do bring their A-game in this movie. It is surely a performance driven piece although the writing does do it a lot of favors. It doesn’t take many risks but it is an entertaining film. Watching the lead character trying to smuggle drugs across the border by pretending to be a man of the church made the film for me. If do watch this film do not expect to listen to a “30 Seconds to Mars” song the same way again.

9 “Elysium”
The follow-up to “District 9” takes many notes from it and shows us that perhaps Neil Blompkamp will not after all be forgotten, he will not be a one hit wonder, and he will not lose control of his creativity after one film. Blompkamp has his own style and from now on I will count on him to deliver films like this that I enjoy. I would like to see him tackle something other than science fiction next time however, perhaps a fantasy, or even a horror film.

8 “Captain Phillips”
Perhaps the most impressive story of the three films on my list that are based on true events, “Captain Phillips” is like 2012’s “Argo” in that they both fall into the unbelievable-but-true category of entertainment. There might not much else than that propelling the film aside from the performances but it is enough to make it to my list and it is a great film without any of the pretentious attempts that other films like it tend to go for.

7 “Star Trek Into Darkness”
It is hard to write about this film because it’s not entirely clear to me what I liked about it. The Addition of Benedict Cumberbatch to the mix playing “John Harrison” was brilliant and brought back the archetype of villains that I have missed from most recent movies. This sure was a fun time at the movies and made me feel as if I had been a Trekkie all my life. It is one of only three Star Trek movies I have ever seen but it is my favorite, and the one that I will be watching many times.

6 “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
A major improvement over the first installment, this exciting film is the one that surprised me the most. After a good, but not great, first chapter based on a bloody incredible book, I was skeptical about the film based on the second less interesting book. Thankfully everything it could, it did better than its previous film giving me hope for the next two films which are based on the weakest of the three books. We can only hope.

5 “Blue Jasmine”
Props to Woody Allen for discovering the perfect actress to play the great role of Jasmine. Allen’s scripts are always amazing but sometimes it is very hard to connect with them if the cast doesn’t click. If it was possible Allen would always play his characters but he has gotten too old to play the characters he writes and when it comes to women it’s really a toss of a coin. Luckily Cate Blanchet is more than satisfactory in the role. She carries half of the movie’s weight in her eyes and the other half in between her fingers with a drink. Seems fitting that the title of the movie is a literal interpretation of the majority of this film. It is about a woman named Jasmine who has got the blues.


4 “Her”
The unconventional romance of this film is not what makes it great, it is what makes it interesting. What elevates this film above “clever rom com” to amazing love story is the beauty that director Spike Jonze injects into the story. He uses colorful sets, unusually bright and warm camera filters for a science fiction movie, poetic music infused with synthesizers that sound like the arias of computers. This is a movie with great style and plenty of eye candy even though Scarlet Johanson is never seen.

3 “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Scorcese, doing what he does best, crafts a fast paced three hour festival of debauchery and id feeding that has so much energy it could power New York for a year. The cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and briefly Mathew McConaughey, powers through the lightning charged script with the force of a stampede. Is it Scorcese’s best film since “Goodfellas”, or am I just forgetting how good “The Departed” is?

2 “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
This year Middle Earth gets bumped up a spot and takes the runner up spot. I still consider the Hobbit an unfinished story and therefore cannot exactly comment on the entirety of the production like I can with the Lord of the Rings. All I know is that so far the two installments have done everything I have hoped for and it seems like I will eventually hold it in equal ground with the Lord of the Rings. One more Middle Earth adventure for us to enjoy.

1 “Gravity”
There has never been a film more nail biting than this one. The experience of watching “Gravity” on the big screen in 3D can be likened to being on a rollercoaster that is slowly loosing most of its nuts and bolts and you know that any second the entire thing might collapse. Many times I have wished that I can have the same reaction teenage girls have when watching horror films, squirming in their seats and clenching their fists in anticipation but I just do not get that feeling all too often. To see a film however that does that to me with almost every scene is something unprecedented and I don’t expect it will happen again that soon. Gravity is the best film I have seen all year and is a strong contender for my favorite film of the entire decade so far.

Here are some of the many films that I liked a lot but just not enough to make it to my top 10. In alphabetical order.

"American Hustle"
"Ender's Game"

"Kick-Ass 2"

"Only God Forgives"
"Pacific Rim"

"Saving Mr. Banks"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tribute to Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Is it better to burn out or fade away? It seems like all too often we are given examples to help answer that question. Marylin Monroe died at the age of 36 capturing her image and immortalizing it. History will always remember her as the beautiful blonde woman who sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. Had she not died, today she would have been an 87 year old has been who once was known for her beauty; history would have eventually forgotten her.

So is it a curse or a blessing that Phillip Seymour Hoffman should die at the age of 46 during the highest point in his career? We all die, but only some of us become immortal. Hoffman certainly will go down as one of the bests actors of his generation and whether he lived another 40 years that would not have changed.

I was very surprised to read that he was only 46 years old. I assumed that he was at least in his mid fifties, not based on his looks but based on the, impressive to say the least, body of work he had. There have been films I’ve watched where I was surprised to even see him in and still sometimes forget he was even in them. “The Big Lebowski” is a good example of that. In that film he showed so much versatility in playing the all too polite butler of the eponymous character, showcasing a great deal of talent for background roles that SHOULD be forgotten at the end of a film. In another film “Scent of a Woman” he played a student who pulls a prank and sets in motion the events of the film. He plays it calm and is not very concerned about his fate or even about the fate of anyone involved including the innocent students. Then of course in an excellent thriller called “The Talented Mr. Ripley” he played a small but important role whose job was to push the protagonist over the edge and do something rash. In all three films he did one of the most difficult jobs an actor of his caliber can do; he held back. He knew that the show wasn’t his to steal; he knew that his character was fully fledged and he didn’t need to bring anything to the film that his character didn’t already do. He respected his characters so much that some of his best work will be forgotten.

I have never seen a film were he didn’t give a great performance. Even in films like “Along Came Polly” or “Patch Adams” where it is so easy to lose control of everything, he remained a positive force for the films and performed his character like he should have.

I for one think he will definitely be missed in Hollywood as now there is one less actor we can fully trust working in the field, and that is why I am truly upset about his passing. Hoffman could have lived to the age of 100 and still have burned out when he died. He would have never faded away.

Thank you for your patience with me reader. I know it has been a long time since my last post but hopefully now that the ball is going again I will be able to deliver. Soon I should be able to post a list of my favorite films of last year, do not miss it.