Cinemaps' 2013 Year in Review

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Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

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?


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

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
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

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

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

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

Movie Magic
Pacific Rim
The Hobbit

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

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

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

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

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)

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)

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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1 Response to Cinemaps' 2013 Year in Review

March 13, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Well that's a surprise at the top! Documentaries rarely make my top ten lists, but that's mainly because I don't get to see that many of them.

As for Spring Breakers, we'll have to agree to disagree. I certainly believe there's more to it than meets the eye, but I couldn't get past how uninteresting and boring it really was.

Interesting to note that while you have many foreign films in your top ten, very few foreign-language performances made your acting list.

Nice to see you giving Oblivion some love in the visual departments. I thought it looked amazing, and it was such a shame it was all but forgotten at the end of the year.


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