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Added by sellis on 4 Sep 2013 05:27
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best of 2013 (so far)

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Starts revolutions in my mind. Hello, future of independent filmmaking. Carruth, I will drink your Kool Aid.

Her

A love which tells us everything we don't know about loneliness //

The best, most balanced combination of emotional and intellectual power I've seen in a very long time. Beautiful cinematography, vulnerable performances, extraordinarily imaginative vision of the future. Complex but ultimately hopeful examination of loneliness. Perfect.
Fathers and sons, cops and robbers. Cause and effect, decision and responsibility. //

Wow. Derek Cianfrance, welcome to the exclusive, elite group of American filmmakers whose potential is infinite. I've never seen a movie's genre and tone evolve so organically, with such precision and grace. The performances, every single one of them, are incredible. This method of capturing the naturalistic mannerisms of the actors creates a beautifully authentic film.
People are worth it //

Small and slight, dry and observant. The most interesting faces and idiosyncrasies, assembled like stanzas in an epic poem. Grand and insignificant all at the same time. What is the central theme then? Which idea do these people worship the most? Skewed senses of justice and morality. What then do they unite on? Football. Many unforgettable moments in this, the Mt. Rushmore scene in particular. Also, the perfect amount of Bob Odenkirk.
Love redefined AGAIN. //

Washed down after a painful 2 1/2 hours of Superman. The simplicities of life reintroduced into my state of being. The simplicities revealed to be so complicated. This is what romance turns into. But somehow, even in those achingly painful moments, those suddenly sober and bleak visions of reality that interaction allows us... It somehow always seems worth it. These two people, constantly fighting on behalf of love, their decisions and behavior only to demonstrate what they believe it should be. And the script, written by the director and two lead actors, becomes so incredibly authentic and messy and complicated. But somehow, always thorough in its examinations. What is the central theme of the film? One scene, in fact, discusses this very notion. Is it perception or time? Who says we have to choose? Time and circumstance can cloud our vision over what we've fighting for this entire time - LOVE. How can we forget such a simple truth? Hold onto it. Do whatever it takes. Nothing is worth it more.
Love redefined again. //

None of the words or phrases you could use to describe this would be surprising, but not one of them actually encapsulates the feeling. Awe-inspiring. Real. These moments are what it feels like. Poetry. The way we experience. This is universality in expression, the opposite of a globalist mindset defined by Baudrillard. This is that which can be understood on every level, in every facet present. Once again, it is Malick's existential intentions that are most spellbinding. What does he want to mean? What are the thoughts or feelings behind these, that suggested these images? Is he so collaborative with the world around him that he cannot be fully defined? How can a review, or any attempt at expression, communicate this experience to its entirety? It must be felt, in all its evocation, sensation, ambiguity, complexity, elusively metaphorical, textural, infiniteness. It cannot end inside you if you let it in.
Lies, identity, and the inevitable //

It's like Woody Allen's Nights of Cabiria + We Need to Talk About Kevin. First off, man is Cate Blanchett great. No actress has been as deserving of a Best Actress who will actually get it in recent memory. She's the kind of person who monologues to herself in her speech anyway - I've known so many people like her. She's hurt and hopelessly aggressive about it. The flashbacks tie in wonderfully with the present tense narrative. Sally Hawkins is the perfect counterbalance to her in ways you wouldn't necessarily expect at first. There are things about both sisters we admire (well, perhaps less about Jasmine) and criticize. Sally Hawkins is kind and fierce - always searching for a better version of herself so she doesn't get shafted by men, life. Jasmine, poor Jasmine. She lies, even when she doesn't realize it. The past will never let go of her, and she will never let go of it. Unforgettably perfect last shot.
Au Hasard Solomon //

Yes, the execution of the idea makes all the difference in the world. Steve McQueen's emphasis on cinema, capturing complicated emotions in semi-typical slave era situations. Oh, and every performance in this is understated and profound. Even the in-your-face Michael Fassbender/Sarah Paulson scenes. Unsurprisingly, I never want to see this movie again. Like every one of McQueen's movies thus far.
The art of being yourself. //

A movie that feels so improvised and sharp at the same time. Although it may be a slight bias, I believe my personal experience knowing him does not affect my initial input on the stance that Zene Baker's editing truly ensures this movie's success as a comedy. Because of it, his timing and confidence polishes something likely so disassembled and rough around the edges -- fantastic work. And the characterization is nothing but a stroke of brilliance. Feels like a spoof movie, but in the end, these guys are really only spoofing themselves. This is the mark of comedy. Everyone is amazing comically, but for some reason, this feels like Craig Robinson's strongest work besides The Office. Michael Cera steals the entire movie, however.
A jazz of faces and feelings //

The second most coherent display of direction from David O. Russell. Sometimes, he's only just a little bipolar. This is very cinematic though, creating lovable characters in a very short amount of time and circumstance. Amy Adams, though beginning to show her age, is impossibly beautiful. Those eyes. There's such a wisdom to her, a soulfulness. Bale is great too, the greatest he's been in a while. For as showy as his exterior is, the character demands a reservedness. I actually liked Bradley Cooper also, though his character is simplified by comparison to his peers. Too many unanswered questions or amorphous details. Jennifer Lawrence is merely okay at first, then really comes into her own. The plot finds a necessary demand for her. Renner and Louis CK are effective and add a nice balance to the others. But, man, I just can't get Amy Adams out of my mind. That, and Russell's buffet of visuals. Those extreme push ins. The camera watching the hands as they talk, as we witness the swindle before our eyes. Really brings you back to the theory of those New Wavers. As they used to say: the camera thinks.
To possess in the physical world. //

EXCELLENT, thematically rich, incredible performance-driven biopic that does everything it sets out to do exceedingly well. What a difficult tone to have achieved. Perfect pacing, and the impossible balance between exaggeration and honesty. Salud, Mr. Soderbergh.
To acquire more. //

Really great. Terrifying and hilarious. It's the comedy version of Bully. Coppola has a lot of fun. She knows what "cinema" is, and creates a complex formula of it here. At times, it is The Informant, Paranoid Park, Elephant, Jacques Tati, Millennium Mambo, and Sofia is having fun the entire way. But deep down, this is a relentless nightmare criticism of my generation. And it's spot on.

Mud

To grow up by watching others.
Life as a narrative. //

"And now there's a fly buzzing around me as I write. It will buzz around for a while, looking for food and, once sustained, it may seek a mate. It will never know why. It's just simply been sentenced to follow the demands of millions of ancestors. For that fly, the word 'why' does not exist. Yes, that's it. Just accept the sentence. I will go on."
Essay, thought, and feeling //

Adele is one transfixing face. She's the essence of a great cinema actress - absent yet constantly boiling, contemplating. The narrative makes a constant effort to keep the themes flourishing throughout the 3 hour long running time, and that's what works best. Some things do not work as well for me, however. The 3 hour long running time, for instance. There's just too much that could be edited according to the tools that cinema allows. More montage, a better communication of time. The sex scenes, also. The first hour or so leading into the first lesbian sex scene was so great, the tension successfully heart pounding. And then it just goes straight porno. No emotion. We lose track of Adele's psychology. Then it has to scramble to get back on track. But still, as my score indicates an accurate representation of my satisfaction post-viewing experience -- 90% of this is beautifully acted, well written, well directed, and well shot cinema. I engaged with it in my own personal life, as it acts as a sort of essay film on true love, both the birth and sustainability of it. And also sex and pleasure, of course, as the legacy of the film precedes it for most who will see it. One of my favorites of the year, though I cannot see myself revisiting it any time soon.
To lose touch. To value the comfort of your addictions more than the complexity of reality. //

Excellent. Not fully realized perhaps, but adequately dedicated to its rarely explored themes. Terrific performances by all involved.
Rawness of tragedy. These feelings made no political statement in the moment. //

I don't know if it's a great movie or if it just really affected me emotionally in the end. Sometimes it doesn't matter. Plenty of eye-rollingly sentimental and unsubtle moments in the first half, but once the core story event develops, there's an emotional unflinchingness that is brutal and cold. A traumatic experience for anyone with memories of unexpected death.
Coming of age, happening too late. //

Too relatable, too real in parts. Terrifying. You can alternate between empathizing with and hating Frances's decisions. But the dialogue is once again very snappy and fast. Baumbach's talent lies in capturing that in-between tonal state, a smidge lighter than bittersweet. This is like a brutal, French new wave version of Happy-Go-Lucky.
Obsession and seduction.
Those terrible dollars //

Goodfellas-esque dissection of the richest 1%. The sense of (im)morality is sharp and clear, ensuring that the anti-hero of the story is as accessibly unlikable as he's supposed to be. The constant voiceover works with the fast pace of the narrative. But there are still long stretches about 2/3rds through that kill the momentum and benefit nothing. The comedy is efficient and this is infinitely better than Hugo. Much more deserving of any Oscar attention.
A hero in disguise //

Greengrass is a great technician. His vision is vivid and outstanding. Hanks gives what I would call his best ever performance, as he has a sense of "being" unseen in his previous roles. I immediately empathize with him because of the work he's done, confident and invested in his character's personal. Keener's one scene was surprising but enjoyable. Barkhad Abdi is outstanding, however. A once-in-a-lifetime role and performance.
Haunted house freak show machine.
The suffering artist //

Another beautiful entry into the Coen canon, though I had my share of preferential disagreements with it. I would not call any of problems I had with it "flaws," as it seems it has all been designed by directorial choice. Things I love and have come to expect from their work: absurdist universe, eclectic assortment of idiosyncratic characters. Oscar Isaac's performance is excellent - a nice balance of cynicism and beaten-down artist. One of the missed possibilities in Llewyn's life (all of which are by choice, a strong point in the script) is so fleetingly melancholy, it deserves to be considered as an iconic Coen moment. But there are just too many details I would consider as "loose ends;" rich with emotional possibility, yet disappearing from the movie after the first mention. And I don't necessarily agree with the structure of the movie, though, again, it's by design. There is no "point A" or "point B" in Llewyn Davis's life. He tries, he suffers, he gives in. He'd rather resign than to settle. He'd rather disappear than be a mediocre version of himself. There will be no "great decision" for him. I'd like to have at least for a moment felt his potential be greater than it really was.
A lot more positives than negatives (no pun intended). The emotional spectrum is just a little too simplified in that Erin Brockovich sorta way (no offense Soderbergh), but at the same time, this is what gives it any of the power it earns. Jared Leto and Bradford Cox, though. And the editing is 95% some of the greatest stuff of the year. But then, ending on a zoom in to a freeze frame, then fading to black? Wooooow.
ZOMG cinematogs. //

Middle of the road WKW that just happens to turn what could have been average kung fu sequences into expressionistic testaments to the beauty of motion, sense, and time.
To feel like you're there when it happens. To know what it feels like. //

Video Game: The Movie. First half hour is excellent, although shown almost entirely in the trailers. But I've been a fan of the marketing campaign for this - selling the experience. Also a huge fan of the director and George Clooney. Not a fan of Sandra Bullock, though she does just fine. I love the way this experience is crafted - stripped down to each texture of suspense. Time and space utilized, and can be felt more than most films. And, in theory, the psychology of Bullock's character makes sense, but it didn't work for me. I just didn't care about her past. Wasn't thematically essential enough to move me more than the basic survivalist story already was. But, can't complain too much. Movies like this, on this kind of scale, do not come around very often.
Character as concept successfully achieved again.
Occasionally smart entertainment, aware in its design of what we normally expect from big budget blockbusters. The neural bonding stuff is pretty cool, often more interesting than the central characters' relationships. There is one great flashback sequence, made organic to the story due to the neural connectivity plot element, but other than that, Kikuchi and (especially) Hunnam are flat out terrible. Hunnam gives actually one of the worst performances I can remember in recent memory. But it's not to say his character is written ineffectively. Does it come from the actors? Does it come from the direction? Does it come from a complete misunderstanding, or disregarding, of the characters' psychology? It's hard to diagnose. But that being said, Charlie Day shows a surprising amount of range for his comedic role. And Ron Perlman does the most scene stealing. The action is pitch perfect. Shot, choreographed, pre- and post-visualized with a constant sense of awe. The last big set piece is visually incoherent at times. Perhaps this was just me, however. Overall, promising. But just a little too unintentionally hollow or over the top during the human moments.
Incredible cinematography and score. First half is genius. Second half falters after Selena Gomez exits (never thought I'd say that). Just not enough access to understanding the characters, not enough slower-paced, organic, human scenes between the actors. It becomes a tedious, ineffective montage reiterating the same nothing over and over again, revealing its true shallowness. Could have easily been edited into a 30 minute short, or into a Romain Gavras music video.
By the numbers structurally until late in the second act, when it is abruptly transformed to an above average storyline. The constant wit sustains the narrative's fast pace for the entire duration. But its themes are just too generic and watered down. Brave feels far superior, and Brave feels far inferior to WALL-E and Up. I'm not sure where Pixar is headed, but their work is still respectable, at the very least.
Almost-- great? How!? The fact that this had so potential is the most impressive thing. There's a certain point where it hits you - this movie is really only pretending to be about Wolverine. It's constructed entirely around a Japanese family's legacy. Which is pretty cool. And there's often a truly effective use of perspective and rich, focused themes abound. But then the action sequences are incomprehensible. Besides one cool one on a moving train. But still. It's not impressionism - it's nonsense. I can't tell what's going on. Just chill out. There's nothing intense about not knowing who is punching who. Just watch Kill Bill and try again. So overall: At first I was like, whoa, I really care. And then I was like, whoa I really don't. Roll credits.
Great craftsmanship here - Edgar Wright has turned into an talented technician with loads of visual potential. You almost always feel like you're in the hands of a master. But the story this time feels very lazy. Cut and paste the most prominent story elements of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and you get exactly this movie. The only thing new is the last 10 minutes - a verbal essay on new technology and the decline of modern civilization which is both arbitrary to the fulfillment of the actual plot and played on the screen as the most dull and dead moments of the film. It feels as if Wright, or whosever idea it was, knew he'd have a worldwide audience attentive in the seats so he could bombard them with his opinion on humanity. There's nothing inherently wrong with these intentions, but it could have done more subtly, more integrally the story and characters, and (most importantly) more cinematically. Comparatively, a disappointment from Wright and Pegg & Frost.
Neither completely authentic nor completely thematically focused. In fact, it erratically bounces between these two poles, making it difficult to fully feel for the well-performed characters. Indeed, the actors give it their all, and there are a few scenes of wise & bold formalistic decisions. But it's just too slight and inevitably bland to leave a lasting affect. Actors deserved a better story.
Forgettable zombie storyline. By the numbers. Annoying performances. Except Brad Pitt. He's the only redeeming part.
Creative gore shock visual moments. Terrible everything else.
One of the most under utilized big budget casts in recent years. Too much plot and sleight-of-hand nonsense, not enough emphasis on the great personalities on screen. Also, the anti-capitalist set pieces incoherently say nothing loudly. Cool attempt. Some nice visuals every once and a while. But overall -- watered down vomit.
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