Cinemaps' 2013 Year in Review

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Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
IT WAS THE YEAR OF ...

American Invasion: It was a really good year for the American films featuring American subjects and values. Two of the front runners for best pictures - 12 years a slave and American Hustle - told stories of American ideals and the struggle it had gone through (and continue to go through) to get there. There were also Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davis. And that's just looking at the Oscars best picture list!

Matthew McConnaughey, the thespian: Is he the new American face or what? He starred in not one, but three Americana pictures: Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, and Wolf of Wall Street (not to mention the TV series True Detective). How did someone who was known mostly for cheesy rom-coms and being shirtless become such an acting tour de force? I blame Soderbergh for that Magic Mike role. Or maybe Linklater for Bernie. Either way, what have they unleashed?!!

Frozen: The biggest runaway moneymaker nobody but your 6 year old niece talked about.

A film flavour for everyone! When it came to diversity, while 2013 was lacking in the people category, it made up with the number of different films to get behind or get your hate on. Hate Spring Breakers? Try Wolf of Wall Street? Can you believe how boring that Coen brother's latest film was? So on and so forth.

J. Law's Total World Domination: Boy did she ever get big! So big she's now retired. Well, "retired." For a year. That's what the "newspaper" says. I read it while waiting in line at the grocery store so it must be true.

Cate Blanchett Made It: In a different world than that of J. Law's fame (the respected actress world, that is), Cate finally delivered a performance so big, no other performance matched the heat it generated this year. And her little Woody film made money!

A three-way Oscar race: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity. In the years that I've started watching the Oscars, I've never seen a tighter front runner race. After the Oscars was over, I'm sure we can look at the winners and go "well, of course!" I'd just like to remind everyone who's not reading this blog that it was a lot harder than its outcome would suggest. That's my excuse for all my failures and I'm sticking to it.

The different technical marvel: While Pacific Rim and The Hobbit displayed some mighty impressive special effects, the audience was actually most taken with what went on in Gravity. Who knew something so simple as Space would still keep us most in awe, and not a talking dragon?

CINEMAPS' BEST OF

It's been a really strong year for films, especially documentary feature films, as you can see from this list. Amongst them is the first 5 star film I've rated in a long time, and the first documentary to top my yearly list of any year. I don't think I've learned more about the world through films as I have had this past year. And that world just gets darker by the frame. There's some hope. But, really, it's dark out there. And in here.


01. Jagal (The Act of Killing; Oppenheimer, Cynn & Anonymous) *****
I don't use the words "mind blowing" very often, but this film did just that to me. I felt, after watching its credits rolling and the number of "Anonymous" credits scrolled up, that I needed a purge. I needed to write and dissect, using all my psychological knowledge and experience, the state of humanity as shown, unflinchingly, through this ingenious and shocking marriage of film and reality. And I'm going to make that happen one day. I will. First, I need to purge.

02. La Grande Bellezza (The great beauty; Sorrentino) ****1/2
"My eyes were dancing in their sockets." I wrote that back when I saw it for the first time at TIFF. And I'm so glad it's getting some recognition as it should.

03. La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 (Blue is the warmest color; Kechiche) ****1/2
"See it, not for the long lesbian sex scene (well, if you must), but for the vicarious experience of falling absolutely, resolutely, carnally in love."

04. 12 Years a slave (McQueen) ****
An expertly crafted film on an ordinary life plugged into an extraordinary (and dehumanizing) situation - we've seen various versions of this theme before. I don't think it's ever been this clinical on this particular issue though. McQueen is the real deal.

05. Spring breakers (Korine) ****
Horrifying, gleeful, thoughtful, and absolutely riveting journey of a movie that dared to go a little crazy on its audience and captured so accurately the essence of a very sad, very shallow piece of pop culture and teenage dreams. James Franco gave his best performance by far, even if he lifted its incarnation from elsewhere.

06. Before midnight (Linklater) ****
Alternate title: Jesse and Celine, getting bitter. Julie Delpy is awesome in this, in spite of her character's "irritability" set to overdrive for some people. I recognize her in so many women I've seen. I feel like there's another chapter to be written here, and perhaps we'd get to revisit them as they hit retirement age, having lived it all with each other. Wouldn't that be something?

07. Poziția copilului (Child's pose; Netzer) ****
"At its core, here is a journey to redemption, which really starts with accepting responsibility and the pain that comes with it. Character-driven and naturalistic in its unfolding of events, Călin Peter Netzer's film boasts a handful of strong, unexpected performances." 'Tis an exercise in restrained storytelling that never loses its focus, or the beat that it's drumming to.

08. Al Midan (The Square; Noujaim) ****
The film follows the Arab Spring from the time of its explosion on to the world's consciousness to its current form, with subjects as brave and necessary to human progress as they come. Some of the footages were just astonishing. Looking at Ukraine today, one could see what this film meant to arrive at. I won't spoil the conclusion - I'll leave the reward to you, non-readers.

09. Cutie and the Boxer (Heinzerling) ****
You wanna talk art and feminism? This is just the right film for you! Ignore the synopsis of the film - i.e. the marriage life of two Japanese New Yorker artists - because it is much more engaging and accessible than it sounds. That's not to say it is cheap and cheerful - it's really depressing actually. Still, watch it for its most interesting subject pair, and see if you don't feel gooey about them.

10. Jagten (The Hunt, Vinterberg) ****
A beautifully shot, restrained, intelligent, relevant modern take on The Crucible rounds out my top 10 film worthy of your attention this past year.

Pacific Rim
Grin and Pulse
The most fun I had watching a movie this past year
American Hustle
La Grande Bellezza (The great beauty)
The World's End
This is the End
Pacific Rim

Director
Confident storytelling, with a touch of "wow"
Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, and Anonymous, The Act of Killing
Paolo Sorrentino, The Great Beauty
Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Călin Peter Netzer, Child's Pose
Jia Zhangke, A touch of sin
Sofia Coppola, The Bling Ring
Jehane Noujaim, The Square
Shane Carruth, Upstream Color

Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color
Performance
I feel you
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Cate Blanchette, Blue Jasmine

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
James Franco, Spring Breakers
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Robert Redford, All is Lost
Matthew McConnaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Writing
Create interesting, layered, cohesive universe; would make for a great read on its own
Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello, The Great Beauty
Călin Peter Netzer, Răzvan Rădulescu, Child's Pose
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
David O. Russell, American Hustle

The Great Beauty
Editing
Interesting, effective cuts and stitches that support and move the story visually
The Great Beauty
Upstream Color
Captain Phillips
The Square
Gravity

Cinematography
Takes my breath away
The Great Beauty
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Spring Breakers
To the Wonder

Her
Art Direction / Production Design
Transportive, impactful set design
The Great Beauty
The Great Gatsby
Her
Oblivion
The Hobbit

Effects
Movie Magic
Gravity
Pacific Rim
The Hobbit
Oblivion
Elysium


Sound
Amplify the visuals and enrich my sensorial experience
All is Lost
Upstream Color
Pacific Rim
Captain Phillips
Her (Scarjo!)

Score
Was it memorable?
Her
Only God Forgives
Oblivion
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Upstream Color

Uncharted  
Films I've yet to see that could make a dent on the top 10
Stranger by the lake
Prisoners
Nebraska
Short Term 12

Charted
*****
Jagal (The Act of Killing; Oppenheimer, Cynn, & Anonymous)

****1/2
La Grande Bellezza (The great beauty; Sorrentino)
La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 (Blue is the warmest color; Kechiche)

****
Cutie and the Boxer (Heinzerling)
Al Midan (The Square; Noujaim)
Jagten (The Hunt; Vinterberg)
12 Years a slave (McQueen)
Poziția copilului (Child's pose; Netzer)
Before midnight (Linklater)
Spring breakers (Korine)

***1/2
All is Lost (Chandor)
Upstream color (Carruth)
Mud (Nichols)
Fruitvale Station (Coogler)
Stories we tell (Polley)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen)
Her (Jonze)
American Hustle (Russell)
Captain Phillips (Greengrass)
Gravity (Cuarón)
Soshite chichi ni naru (Like father like son; Koreeda)
A touch of sin (Jia)
The conjuring (Wan)
The world's end (Wright)
Elysium (Blomkamp)
Blue Jasmine (Allen)
The bling ring (Coppola)
This is the end (Rogen & Goldberg)
Frances Ha (Baumbach)

***
Dirty Wars (Rowley)
Only God Forgives (Refn)
Dallas Buyers Club (Vallée)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Scorsese)
The hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Jackson)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lawrence)
Jack Reacher (McQuarrie)
The Wind Rises (Miyazaki)
Pacific Rim (del Toro)
World war Z (Forster)
Star Trek: Into Darkness (Abrams)
The Great Gatsby (Luhrmann)

**1/2
The Spectacular Now (Ponsoldt)
Mama (Muschietti)
Le Passé (The Past; Farhadi)
Oblivion (Kosinski)
Side effects (Soderbergh)

**
The Croods (DeMicco & Sanders)
Don Jon (Gordon-Levitt)
Iron Man 3 (Black)
To the wonder (Malick)
Oz: The great and powerful (Raimi)

* 1/2
Blood ties (Canet)

*
Hansel & Gretel: Witch hunters (Wirkola)
Moebius (Kim)
Kick-ass 2 (Wadlow)
We're the Millers (Thurber)
The host (Niccol) 

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Oscars 2014: The Show and The Awards Season

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Granted, Oscars 2014 is so last week. Literally. But we still haven't posted our thoughts on the season and the show (ok, mostly the show), so the fat lady hasn't sung yet 'til we do. Figuratively. Let's get to doling out opinions!

But before that, prediction tallies, and a few words about the season and the eventual winners:
• We both predicted correctly the big 6 categories - yay team! Griz won the best psychic contest between us though, with 19/21 categories predicted correctly! I'm actually very impressed that he was able to predict a complete shut out for American Hustle, and an amazeball 90.48% (19/21) correct predictions. I sucked at 76.90% (16/21). I blame my generous spirit for trying to spread the wealth around. I swear I did much better on my other (work) ballot - for example, I went with Gravity for both sound categories, and Her for original writing. And I correctly predicted all the shorts! You just have to take my word on it. I win in other ways. *nod*

• The Oscars should either move its nomination announcement back a month or move the ceremony up a month. The period between the two post marks was just too long - it really changed the complexion of the game. In any other year, American Hustle would've won way more than it did (not hard to do considering its shut out - shocking, actually). And Chiwetel Ojiofor would've posed a way bigger threat to Matthew McConnaughey than he did.

• I should've kept to some of the well known rules in predictions - such as, Supporting Actress = Young Ingenue, editing = film with possibility of winning Best Picture.

• Actor category was so crowded this year that Robert Redford didn't make it for his superbly natural performance in All is Lost. It would've been something something to see Redford sitting next to Pitt?

• Who would have thunk Matthew McConnaughey and Jared Leto would each get an Oscar for acting one day?

THE GOOD
Editor:
• Brad Pitt passing around paper pizza plate. He's just like one of us!

• The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Film. To think, just months ago, I'd only dared to hope that it'd be nominated, never mind winning the whole thing. Foreign Film category can deliver! Sometimes!

• Winners' speeches were exceptional this year. I especially loved the actresses' speech - they sounded rather Hanksified? "#SUCKITJULIA"! Who knew that was Cate?

• Ellen's best joke: "It’s going to be an exciting night. Anything can happen, so many different possibilities. Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists. And now please welcome our first white presenter, Anne Hathaway."

Griz:
• Ellen. She’s not riotously funny, but she kept things loose and goofy. I’m sure the selfie and the pizza moments were more planned out than we’d like to think, but at least they felt a bit more spontaneous than what we usually get out of A-list movie stars at the Oscars. The selfie photo she tweeted out was pretty priceless too, regardless of whether it was planned or not.

• Karen O’s performance of The Moon Song with that giant moon in the background was just a lovely, low-key moment. Bonus points for the shoes being off too, a cute little extra detail.

• Worthy winners. Even though there were hardly any surprises to speak of, it’s really hard to argue against most of those who won. A bit boring, but better that than unpleasant surprises.

• Spike Jonze and Alfonso Cuarón are now Oscar winners! As is Emmanuel Lubezki, one of the best cinematographers out there, who finally got to win one on his sixth nomination.

• Lupita Nyong’o’s speech, not only because of what she said but also because she was one of the few who actually seemed to show any kind of emotional response to winning an Oscar.

• Bill Murray sneaking in a moment to acknowledge his dearly departed friend Harold Ramis was a nice gesture.

THE BAD
Editor:
• American Hustle missed all categories. It was especially too bad about the acting categories, because those were its best bets (and most deserving).

• The writing for the show's introductions. They all sounded like they were cobbled together by a bunch of monkeys looking up words in the dictionary to impress their lady friends.

• Random montages. What was the point of reminding us of the horror experienced as a child of that monkey in Oz?

• Jimmy Kimmel's unfunny bit poking fun at folks at home making fun of celebrities at the Oscars. Excuse me, but not everyone has high end designers clamouring to get them to wear million dollar designer pjs while chomping down on cheesy pizza at home, aight?

• The Act of Killing lost to 20 Feet to Stardom. I have seen 4 of those documentaries and unfortunately did not see 20 Feet so I shouldn't really be talking. But I have a hard time believing it would be better than the one-of-a-kind Killing documentary. Having said that, I didn't think Killing had a chance in hell of winning considering how just out there it was. Biggest disappointment in terms of winners of the night for me.

• Frozen winning best song. What the heck is this Top 40 music?

Griz:
• Dragging Sidney Poitier, clearly showing signs of advanced age and/or Alzheimer’s, up on stage. He barely seemed to know where he was, let alone know what was going on.

• The speeches, overall. Leto, Blanchett and McConaughey were all extremely cool and well-spoken (to the point of being too cool and well-spoken), but they just went on and on and on, aided by the fact that they apparently don’t play people off the stage anymore. Darlene Love spontaneously belting out a song and shattering eardrums everywhere was also rather cringe-worthy, to be honest.

• The slow pace. They only managed to hand out one Oscar in the first 30 minutes of the show, all the while padding it out with unnecessary stuff like a random Wizard of Oz tribute and a post-In Memoriam song. Surely Bette Midler could’ve sung that song DURING the In Memoriam clip, like they usually do?

• No funny presenters. Usually there’s a duo of Will Ferrell, Jack Black and such to liven things up but no such luck this year, unless you count John Travolta royally screwing up Idina Menzel’s name a comedic moment.

THE UGLY
Editor:
• Whatever happened to Kim Novak??? Why???

• Why were there plastic Oscars on stage? Talk about a horror show. All that money and all they got were plastic dudes on the biggest stage?

• John Travolta renamed best song's singer. Though, I don't know, this may have spawned the funniest meme (name generator) since Angelina Jolie's leg making its appearance at the Oscars?

Griz:
• The plastic surgery butchery that all these older actresses are putting themselves through is just incredibly sad to witness. You’d never guess that was Kim Novak. Goldie Hawn isn’t as unrecognizable but still pretty bad. Compare with Sally Field, seemingly untouched by a scalpel, who is just as beautiful now as she was 35 years ago.

• Pharrell Williams’ hat. I hope for his sake he has a massive tumor on the top of his head and that’s why he keeps insisting on wearing that stupid-looking hat.

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Oscars 2014 Winners: It all came down to Gravity and Slave

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Just the meat of it (comments to follow in the next post):

PICTURE
12 Years a Slave

DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón

ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett

ACTOR
Matthew McConaughey

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong'o

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jared Leto

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Her

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
12 Years a Slave

FOREIGN LANGUAGE
The Great Beauty

ANIMATED FEATURE
Frozen

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
20 Feet From Stardom

EDITING
Gravity

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Gravity

PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Great Gatsby

VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity

SOUND MIXING
Gravity

SOUND EDITING
Gravity

MAKE UP & HAIRSTYLING
Dallas Buyers Club

COSTUME
The Great Gatsby

SCORE
Gravity

SONG
Frozen

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Oscars 2014 Winners Predictions! A three-horse race!

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It's time to DO THIS. I have very little time to prepare this year, so without further ado, here are my and Griz's predictions (Griz's comes after mine). Will it be a night for American Hustle, Gravity, or 12 Years a Slave? Or will the Academy spread its peanut butter love around? Time will tell! May the best psychic win!

PICTURE
12 Years a Slave
Alt. American Hustle

A month ago I would've said American Hustle. Now, I'm not so sure - the film's fun-ness may be fizzling out in voters' memory?

DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Alt. Steve McQueen

ACTOR
Matthew McConnaughey
Alt. Leonardo DiCaprio

ACTRESS
Cate Blanchette
Alt. Amy Adams

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jared Leto
Alt. Barkhad Abdi

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong'o
Alt. Jennifer Lawrence

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
American Hustle
Alt. Her

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
12 years a Slave
Alt. Before Midnight

EDITING
Captain Phillips
Alt. 12 Years a Slave

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Gravity
Alt. Nebraska

ART DIRECTION / PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Great Gatsby
Alt. Her

COSTUMES
American Hustle
Alt. The Great Gatsby

SOUND MIXING
Gravity
Alt. Captain Phillips

SOUND EDITING
Captain Phillips
Alt. Gravity

FOREIGN FILM FEATURE
The Great Beauty
Alt. The Missing Picture

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Square
Alt. The Act of Killing

ANIMATED FEATURE
Frozen
Alt. The Wind Rises

VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity
Alt. The hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

MAKE UP and HAIRSTYLING
Dallas Buyers Club
Alt. Jackass presents: Bad Grandpa

SCORE
Gravity
Alt. Her

SONG
Let it go, Frozen
Alt. Ordinary Love, Mandela


Griz's Predix:
BEST PICTURE:
12 Years a Slave
Alt: Gravity

BEST DIRECTOR:
Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
Alt: Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave

BEST ACTOR:
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Alt: Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave

BEST ACTRESS:
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Alt: Sandra Bullock - Gravity

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club
Alt: Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave
Alt: Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Her
Alt: American Hustle

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
12 Years a Slave
Alt: Before Midnight

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Gravity
Alt: Inside Llewyn Davis

BEST FILM EDITING:
Gravity
Alt: 12 Years a Slave

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
The Great Gatsby
Alt: 12 Years a Slave

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
The Great Gatsby
Alt: 12 Years a Slave

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:
Bad Grandpa
Alt: Dallas Buyers Club

BEST SOUND EDITING:
Gravity
Alt: All Is Lost

BEST SOUND MIXING:
Gravity
Alt: Lone Survivor

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Gravity
Alt: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
“Let It Go” - Frozen
Alt: “The Moon Song” - Her

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Gravity
Alt: Her

BEST ANIMATED FILM:
Frozen
Alt: The Wind Rises

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
The Great Beauty (Italy)
Alt: The Hunt (Denmark)

BEST DOCUMENTARY:
The Act of Killing
Alt: The Square

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