At the Mediascape Blog, we like to think the movie year ends with the Academy Awards. To mark this year’s Oscars, editors Matthias Stork and J.M. Olejarz present their Top 10 lists for 2013.
10. American Hustle
High-caliber acting and tremendous production design, with smart dialogue and excellent close-up camerawork…it is too long, however, and moves at a slow, too deliberate pace.
9. Inside Llewyn Davis
With wonderful music and a star-making performance, the Coens craft yet another intricate character study about how we continuously process failure.
8. Upstream Color
I cannot fully explain it. In fact, I can hardly explain it. But it does evoke a legacy of mind-bending cinematic and literary exercises that cannot but fascinate. This is a film that made me reevaluate how I watch movies. Continue reading
When I first put my arbitrary list of the Top 10 Movies of 2013 together, I included Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street. The decision didn’t come lightly; I’ve had a very odd and ongoing conversation about this film. It had been my most anticipated film of the year by a country mile, but the experience of watching the movie drained me. It is too long, filled with shots and scenes that serve no real purpose except to keep telling us things we already know, shocking us with continued depravity or reinforcing the excessiveness and repetitiveness of Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) drugs-and-sex compulsiveness. Was it satire? Was it condemnation? Was it, as so many people claimed in various critiques, a glorification of rampant immorality? I had many conversations with colleagues about the goal of this film following that initial viewing. These conversations opened the film up as an ambivalent, outraged work about the failure to prosecute the finance sector, channeling its anger into gross satire. On a second watch though, The Wolf of Wall Street reveals significant political problems that can’t be ignored. Continue reading
Hollywood has long placed, and hedged, its bets on history, from D.W.Griffith’s notorious 1915 blockbuster The Birth of a Nation (about the rise of the KKK) to last year’s less controversial but still factually challenged Oscar-winner Argo (about a CIA rescue mission in Iran). If this year’s Best Picture crop is any indication, the postmodern proposition that the further society recedes from physical reality the more it becomes obsessed with reclaiming it, has been borne out in spades. Six of the nine Best Picture nominees from 2013 deal with actual historical incidents—in varying degrees of verisimilitude. Continue reading
I’m not counting the comic book-inspired, CGI-enhanced, video game-fueled, super-hero-driven, transnational mega-franchises that hogged cineplex screens and dominated the box-office last year as they have for the past several decades. Nor am I referring solely to the recent trend in more thematically ambitious films that equate bloated running times with high-mindedness. Earnest films about corporate greed such as Promised Land, The East, and Dallas Buyers Club also take a back seat because their very earnestness forced the excesses of content to trump those of style. Front and center from 2013 are a critical mass of “prestige” films—one adapted from a literary classic; the other three, Oscar contenders—whose content and style self-consciously reflected as they helped perpetuate a zeitgeist of excess. Continue reading
Mark Harris, a magnificent awards season writer over at Grantland, raised a few hackles earlier this week by suggesting that the Academy Awards’ expanded Best Picture field, now five years old, has had the perverse effect of limiting Oscar voters’ imaginations and decimating the field of competition. As his argument goes, voters now favor Best Picture frontrunners heavily across the board: as evidence, the number of films nominated this year in the “Top Eight” categories (Picture, Director, the four Acting awards, and the two Writing awards) has dwindled to only 12, the lowest in decades. Apart from the nine Best Picture nominees, only Blue Jasmine, August: Osage County, and Before Midnight managed any nominations in the Big Eight categories. Continue reading
If beginnings and endings alone made a great film, then Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity would shoot to the top. The opening’s breathtaking—in beauty, intricacy and duration—long take not only marks a quantum leap in CGI (computer-generated imagery) but also, in its glorious wedding of cinema and outer space, reminds us how the two were made for each other from the start. Continue reading