The Top 10 Movies of 2013: Editors’ Picks

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.


Matthias Stork:

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 “The Top 10 Movies of 2013: Editors’ Picks” »

Oscar Analysis: “Dallas Buyers Club” Sells out the Truth

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 “Oscar Analysis: “Dallas Buyers Club” Sells out the Truth” »

THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE: A SMALLER CIRCLE OR A BIGGER TENT?

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 “THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE: A SMALLER CIRCLE OR A BIGGER TENT?” »

Historical Representations Weigh Heavily on Best Picture Nominees

Every year, it seems we try to ascribe some great meaning to the Academy Awards. Beyond superficial debates about what is the best (or how we might even go about defining “best,” a task that feels reductive to the nature of personal reaction and opinion), I appreciate more the arguments about how the Awards stand as a “cultural touchstone,” a reflexive means for the industry to communicate how they want to be perceived. The Oscars may themselves be an industry, replete with full-page Variety ad after full-page Variety pushing a studio’s most touted project. Regardless of whether you still consider them culturally relevant or rich people aimlessly rewarding each other, the Oscars can help us inscribe meaning on a year. The films they group together tell us the kinds of characters and screenplays and the styles of directing that a very large voting body coalesced around. While there are plenty of 2012 releases that didn’t get a single Oscar nomination—The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?—focusing on the ones that did can perhaps tell us something important about the cultural moment of 2012. Continue reading “Historical Representations Weigh Heavily on Best Picture Nominees” »

The Cabal of 2012: 19 Actors Who Have Been Secretly Running the Last Year in Movies

Editors’ note: This week we’re featuring two posts on the 84th Academy Awards. We had hoped to run them closer to the awards ceremony taking place earlier this year, but technical issues delayed the Blog’s launch until recently. Nevertheless, we think both posts have some interesting things to say about the last year or so in movies, so we’re running them now.

A bit of idle musing on last year’s Oscars a month before the triple crown of Venice, Toronto, and Telluride kicks off a new awards season. For those steeped in Oscars lore, the 84th Academy Awards were memorable for a few things:

• The Best Picture nomination for The Tree of Life, joining Grand Illusion and A Clockwork Orange as among the Academy’s most audacious picks
• The overdue nomination for Gary Oldman and the unlikely one for Melissa McCarthy
• The awards phenomenon that was The Artist: for being mostly silent, all black and white, the first French production to win Best Picture, and the first Best Picture winner about the film industry

However, what fascinated me the most about last year’s Academy Awards struck me last September while watching The Ides of March. At the time, I casually noted how funny it would be if Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and Philip Seymour Hoffman were all to wind up nominated—for other movies! Namely (and respectively) for Win Win, The Descendants, Drive, and Moneyball. Only one of these four gentlemen landed a nomination, but two of the other films did wind up with a nomination in January, and across all of last year’s movies a LOT of familiar faces popped up. Here are the actors I spotted in multiple Oscar-nominated films this year: Continue reading “The Cabal of 2012: 19 Actors Who Have Been Secretly Running the Last Year in Movies” »

Mutual Admiration Society

Editors’ note: This week we’re featuring two posts on the 84th Academy Awards. We had hoped to run them closer to the awards ceremony taking place earlier this year, but technical issues delayed the Blog’s launch until recently. Nevertheless, we think both posts have some interesting things to say about the last year or so in movies, so we’re running them now.

The Age of Freedom Fries is over, at least in Hollywood. The 84th Oscars ceremony served up more than a soupçon of cheek-kissing, from both sides of the Atlantic.

While the French-made Best Picture winner, The Artist, was a love letter to Old Hollywood (and the only major nominated film shot entirely in Los Angeles), the American-made co-top awards-getter, Hugo, proffered a valentine to the French pioneer of special effects, Georges Méliès. Baguetted in between was Woody Allen’s Best Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, whose Hollywood screenwriter’s romance with the City of Love derives as much from the American expatriate artist colony of the 1920s as from the allure of the present-day French capital.

More than nostalgia, or a fanciful rewriting of history, is at play here. A key to the phenomenon was voiced by Artist director Michel Hazanavicius, a Frenchman of Lithuanian Jewish extraction, whose acceptance speech concluded with three thank-yous—not to his mother, his agent, and Harvey Weinstein, but to Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder. Continue reading “Mutual Admiration Society” »