erik lundegaard

Movies - Lists posts

Friday January 17, 2014

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

“This river brings a lot of trash down it,” says Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon) to his nephew, Ellis (Tye Sheridan), in Jeff Nichols’ “Mud.” “You gotta know what’s worth keeping and what’s worth letting go.”

So with the movies. I talked about the trash earlier. Here are some of the keepers.

2013 started out awful (“The Last Stand,”A Good Day to Die Hard,” “Olympus Has Fallen,” rahhrrrr), but that's typical. But it didn't get much better over the summer (you should've been better, “Man of Steel,” “World War Z,” etc.), while fall brought a slew of critically acclaimed but thin portrayals that left me appreciative but lukewarm (“Aint Them Bodies Saints,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Short Term 12”).

Then came December.

I had trouble with Nos. 1 and 2. I kept switching them in my head. “American Hustle” is the tighter film, and it almost never stops being fun, but I had more to say about “Wolf of Wall Street.” It kept reverberating in my mind. The controversy helped in this regard. I keep having to return to it to defend it. Plus it challenges us more. It challenges our notions of the American Dream.

I actually left a screening of “Inside Llewyn Davis” somewhat disappointed, but it’s worked on me since. The work began almost immediately with the Salieri connection. Leaving “Kapringen (A Hijacking)” during SIFF, I felt the opposite, blown away, devastated, and “Captain Phillips,” the other Somali pirate, only made the Danish film seem that much better. I really don’t get the lack of attention for “Philomena.” Well, I guess I do. It’s a straightforward story with a surprising midway turn and a good ending. I think it’s underrated. I think Judi Dench is being taken for granted. Stop it, you.

I reviewed more than 100 movies in 2013 and 80 of them were 2013 movies. These are the best I saw.

10. MUSCLE SHOALS

Having grown up hearing how white performers made a mint off of, or stole outright, black music, it’s fascinating to see just who was backing some of the great black performers of the 1960s. Wilson Pickett on “Mustang Sally”? White dudes. Percy Sledge on “When a Man Loves a Woman”? White dudes. Aretha on “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”? The same white dudes, a group of guys from or near Muscle Shoals, Ala., called the Swampers. In this doc, they’re variously called “funky,” “groovy,” and, courtesy of Aretha, “greasy” with a z, but the best description comes from a man who never played with them. Bono, U2’s frontman, calls them “a bunch of white guys who looked like they worked at the supermarket around the corner.”

Muscle Shoals

9. MUD

“Mud” is an adventure story about two teenage boys who stumble upon a charismatic outlaw on an island in Dewitt, Ark., but it’s also a very specific type of coming-of-age story. It’s about how life, if you pay attention, keeps pushing you away from childhood absolutes and toward complexity and relativism. Ellis (Tye Sheridan), 14, lives along the White River with his taciturn father, Senior, and a mother who wants a divorce. She wants to move away from the river, which is how Senior makes his living. It’s also all that Ellis has known. Neither man is happy about it but Senior accepts it; Ellis refuses. Or he deals with this coming instability by searching for stability. He finds it in the unlikeliest of places: in a boat in the trees

Matthew McConaughey in Mud

8. PHILOMENA

It isn’t perfect. Coogan, who wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pope, pushes the differences between the two characters to an unnecessary comic degree. He turns Sixsmith into too much of a Steve Coogan character and makes Philomena more daft than she probably is. But Dench is perfect. We get several scenes from the 1950s to demonstrate what Philomena lost, but these, to me, are almost unnecessary. We know what Philomena lost. You just need to watch Judi Dench act.

Philomena

7. NO

What does the title refer to? It's obvious, right? In 1988, international pressure led Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet to hold a plebiscite on whether he should remain in power. Vote YES for Pinochet, vote NO and real elections follow.That's what NO means, and our hero, René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal), the son of a leftist and ex-husband of a leftist and a former exile himself who now works in advertising, agrees to advise the NO campaign. But might the title also be referring to René Saavedra? Is the movie actually saying “No!” to its hero?

Gabriel Garcia Bernal in NO

6. KAPRINGEN (A HIJACKING)

On the cargo ship, a few of the men get closer to a few of the pirates. It’s an unequal relationship, of course. One side is always this close to being humiliated, or this close to being killed. They run out of food, catch a fish, sing “Happy Birthday.” The one song everyone knows. But as the days grind on things get bad. Mikkel isn’t shot but he is psychologically abused. A skinny pirate follows him around, keeps placing the barrel of a gun on his neck, keeps pulling the trigger. Click. Remember the “Mao mao” guy from “The Deer Hunter”? Like that. We want to kill the guy. Mikkel goes the other way. He breaks. Pilou Asbæk gives a stunning performance. In the beginning, in his gregarious stage, he reminded me of a scruffy, bearded Joshua Jackson. By the end, with his thousand-yard stare, I kept thinking of Michael Shannon. Either nobody’s home or the person that’s home is curled up in a corner in the basement. And be careful about ringing the doorbell.

Kapringen

5. THE ACT OF KILLING

How much do the movies inure us, blind us, unite us with the powerful onscreen rather than the powerless? To what extent do we take the lies of Hollywood from the theater and try to recreate them in our own lives? And is that what the various movie gangsters, including Anwar Congo, did in 1965 and 1966 as the aided an Indonesian military coup? Did they see themselves, even as they killed, even as they became death-squad leaders, as the heroes in their own Hollywood movie? However the movies worked upon the mind and soul of a man like Anwar Congo, it was acting in a movie, this one, that helped him find empathy. So does “The Act of Killing” ultimately redeem movies? Or does it only redeem acting?

The Act of Killing

4. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

“Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” Llewyn sings in the beginning, and for the rest of the movie the Coens come close to doing it. Do Llewyn’s travails make him a better performer? That would be the easy way out of the story. That’s what most Hollywood movies would do. Llewyn is on this odyssey, often with Ulysses the cat, and he comes back a wiser man, and that wisdom leads to success. That’s the lie Hollywood often tells us, because it’s the lie we often tell ourselves, because otherwise why all this? Why travails, and pain, and sorrow, if it doesn’t lead to something? But here Llewyn’s travails lead to Bob Dylan’s success.

Inside Llewyn Davis

3. LA GRAND BELLEZZA (THE GREAT BEAUTY)

Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), 65, wise in his age, bemused in his stance, idle with his time, is on a sort of search. He’s not searching for meaning so much as a reason to keep going. At one point he says, “I can’t waste any more time doing things I don’t want to do,” and this is just before he disappears rather than look at the naked photos of a beautiful woman, Orietta (Isabella Ferrari). So: high standards. At another point he sees a giraffe, a beautiful giraffe staring down from on high and surrounded by a half-circle of ancient Roman columns; and the two, Jep and the giraffe, stare at each other until Jep’s magician-friend arrives and explains the giraffe. It’s part of his act. He makes it disappear. And Jep leans close and asks, “Can you make me disappear?” That’s when we realize the extent of Jep’s ennui. He shows the world a bemused face, but inside, particularly in the morning light after another party, he’s desperate. 

La grand bellezza (The Greaty Beauty)

2. AMERICAN HUSTLE

“American Hustle” earns the “American” in its title. It’s big, brassy, energetic, corrupt, and has great cleavage. It’s a movie that never sits still. It also earns the “Hustle” in its title. It’s about people hustling/striving to get ahead and people just hustling/conning everyone else. Usually the two go together. You’ll hear a lot about the acting, but it’s not in the weight Bale gained nor in his elaborate combover nor in Bradley Cooper’s perm. It’s in the eyes. The con, and then the concern, in Irving’s, the need in Richie’s, and the fear, the dizzying fear, in Sydney’s. It’s the death stare of Victor Tellegio, delivered as only De Niro can deliver it. It’s in the officious blankness in Stoddard Thorsen’s eyes. A small favorite moment: After all that Richie puts him through, there’s no vindictiveness in Stoddard’s eyes in the end. His eyes remain blank and officious. Like he’s simply wondering when he can go home.

American Hustle

1. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

There’s been controversy over the movie. The raunch. The debauch. The misogyny. One side says “Wolf of Wall Street“ glamourizes this life and makes a hero of its villain. The other side, including Leonardo DiCaprio, says, no, it’s an indictment of that life and that man. Well, it is and it isn’t. That’s why the movie’s great. Jordan Belfort is an ass but he’s also the American id, acting out, and stirring the suppressed id within each of us. The movie is both lesson and blueprint. It passes the test of a first-rate film: it holds two opposing ideas in its head at the same time and entertains. It informs us and challenges us. ”See, an IPO is an initial public offering, the first time ... You know what? You’re probably not following what I’m saying." That. 

Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

Honorable mentions: 12 Years a Slave, 20 Feet from Stardom, All Is Lost, Anchorman 2, Blackfish, The Bling Ring, Blue is the Warmest Color, Dallas Buyers Club, The Deep, The Gatekeepers, her, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, The World’s End.

Movies I haven't seen yet but will soon: The Past, August: Osage County, The Hunt, The Grandmaster, Cutie and the Boxer, Frozen.

Until next year, kids.

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Posted at 07:30 AM on Jan 17, 2014 in category Movies - Lists
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Tuesday January 14, 2014

My Top 10 Movie Lines of 2013

One day I hope to do a better job of accumulating these lines during the course of the year rather than simply searching for them at the end. I always think I’m doing it. I think I’m putting them in a bin in my brain that says “Great Movie Quotes” but that bin—I’ve discovered—has a leak at the bottom. Like so many other bins in my brain. I go to it and it’s empty. So I search.

Let me know what I’ve missed.

10. “If you have $10 million, or if you have a billion dollars, why do you need that little bit that I have?”
-- A Calpin geothermal plant worker in the Robert Reich documentary “Inequality for All.”

Reich’s doc is about the growing disparity between the rich and poor in the United States, about the 30-year class warfare waged by the rich on the poor. He’s actually more polite about it. Smarter, too. One of my favorite moments is when he breaks down where the money goes when someone buys an iPhone. You think it’s to the U.S., where Apple is headquartered, or China, where the iPhone is assembled, but nope. Try Germany and Japan, whose skilled workers make the iPhone's advanced components. The above line is one of the doc’s most poignant moments. The worker at the plant has had her pay cut by $12 an hour to increase the profits of the company that increase the pay of the CEOs and CFOs and MOFOs of the company, and this is her question. It deserves an answer.

Inequality for All

9. “Let’s boo boo.”
Various in “The World’s End.” Screenplay by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

It's less the line than the derivation. Five mates, Gary, Andy, Steven, Peter and Oliver (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Martin Freeman—helluva cast) reconnect for a pub crawl through their old hometown and discover that the place has been taken over by aliens. Right, but before that they use this leftover phrase from their school days. It means “Let’s go,” and it began when they studied Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” in school and laughed at the stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” That became “Exit with Yogi Bear” and eventually “Let’s boo boo.” All of which is so British and so pop-culturey and so smart. Put it this way: the characters in most Hollywood movies wish they had that kind of backstory.

The World's End

8. “When you’re in love like that you become utterly selfish. Nothing that’s happening to anyone else matters at all ... ”
-- Harry Gulkin in Sarah Polley’s documentary, “Stories We Tell.”

The selfishness of love is something we don’t talk about much in our love stories, but when I was young and in love I certainly felt it. It was like the rest of the world dropped away. Only she mattered. It was work to care about anything else. The man who says the above, Harry Gulkin, is a Canadian producer (“Lies My Father Told me”), whom director/actress Sarah Polley is interviewing as she sorts through the stories that make up her. And what makes up her in the end—or the beginning? The love Gulkin is describing, which was between Polley's mother and himself. Here's to selfishness.

Harry Gulkin in Stories We Tell

7. “Black ... black ... black ...”
- Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” Screenplay by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

The first half-hour of this movie had me breathless with laughter—dangerous in an asthmatic—and the above quote is an example. It’s 1980, and Ron Burgundy and company, new to New York and 24-hour cable news, meet their new boss at WGN, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). Burgundy, flummoxed, as supremely awkward as only Will Ferrell can be, can’t get around the fact that she’s black, so can’t stop annunciating this fact. It’s the only word in his head so it keeps coming out of his mouth. It’s a Homer Simpson moment. It also feels exactly right. A post-racial America? Where we don’t see color? Sometimes it seems we only see color.

Anchorman 2

6. Philomena: Do you believe in God, Martin? Martin: Where do you start? I always thought that was a very difficult question to give a simple answer to ... Do you? Philomena: Yes.
 --Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) and Martin Sexsmith (Steve Coogan) in “Philomena.” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based upon the book by Martin Sexsmith.

The underrated “Philomena” has some of the best exchanges in movies this year (“Oh, it’s a series”), but I’ll go with this one because it crystalizes the difference between its two main characters. Not who does or doesn’t believe in God but how they express themselves. The uneducated Philomena is plainspoken, like my mother, while the overeducated Martin Sexsmith is, well, more like me. It's not often I see us onscreen.

Philomena

5.  “To choose is to commit yourself. And to commit yourself is to run the risk of failure, the risk of sin, the risk of betrayal. But Jesus can deal with all of those. Forgiveness he never denies us. The man who makes a mistake can repent. But the man who hesitates, who does nothing, who buries his talent in the earth, with him he can do nothing.”
-- Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) in “To the Wonder.” Screenplay by Terrence Malick.

You’ve got to give Terrence Malick credit. Most dramatists spend their days figuring out ways to keep the lovers apart (so they can have a “happily ever after”), while Malick, the masochist, actually begins with the “happily ever after,” in Paris no less, then takes us through the long slog downward. Too bad the movie is a disappointment—Malick's first. He gave us too much of the couple. I wish he’d focused more on Father Quintana, who was going through a spiritual crisis, and who actually had something to say.

 Father Quintana in To the Wonder

4. “We have to show ... this is who we are. So in the future people will remember.”
-- Anwar Congo in Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary, “The Act of Killing.”

Anwar Congo is a grandfather, a national hero, and a death-squad leader responsible for the torture and murder of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, after a military coup in Indonesia in 1965. The people he helped stay in power are still in power so there hasn’t been a lot of soul searching, national or personal, since. Then Joshua Oppenheimer, a Brit-American by way of Texas and Copenhagen, arrives. Congo and his friends aren’t shy about what they’ve done. The opposite. Didn’t they save the country? From communists? And aren’t they beloved as a result? And aren’t they being filmed now? So aren’t they like the Hollywood heroes they've always loved? Oppenheimer gets the men to not only talk about their crimes but reenact them for the camera, which is when interesting things begin to happen. The above line is spoken early but even then it’s steeped in irony.

The Act of Killing

3. “See, an IPO is an initial public offering, the first time a stock is offered for sale to the general population. As the firm taking the company public, we set the initial price then sold those shares back to .... You know what? You’re probably not following what I’m saying.”
--Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Screenplay by Terrence Winter.

How will America end? Not with “1984” but with “Brave New World.” That’s what this line means. We are amusing ourselves to death and we can’t be bothered with anything too difficult. IPOs? We don’t want to hear talk about that. If we did, there might have been no global financial meltdown. That was on us. Still is. I know a lot of smart people who object to the way director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Terrence Winter rub our faces in all this but I feel the opposite. I feel when you get an American audience together, who have been so pandered to for so long, why not rub their faces in it? You might even wake them up a little.

The Wolf of Wall Street

2. “You’re 53, with a life in tatters like the rest of us. Instead of acting superior and treating us with contempt, you should look at us with affection. We’re all on the brink of despair. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. Don’t you agree?”
-- Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) in “La grande bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”). Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contrarello.

Jep says this to Stefania (Galatea Ranzi, bottom right) on his terrace overlooking the Colosseum in Rome, so it’s hardly a life in tatters. Jep has friends, women, wine, but his life is still winding down and he never really did what he thought he would do with it. “Everyone dies frustrated and sad,” They Might Giants once sang, “and that is beautiful.” Jep, throughout this beautiful movie, is trying to see the beauty rather than the frustration and sadness. Sometimes he does. Later, he and  Stefania dance and he asks if they've ever slept together. “Of course not,” she responds. “That’s a big mistake,” he says. “We must make amends immediately.” Yeah, that one almost made the list as well.

La grand bellezza (The Greaty Beauty)

1. “I have written in sand.”
-- Torgny Segerstedt (Jesper Christensen) in “The Last Sentence” (“Dom Över Död Man”). Screenplay by Klaus Rifbjerg and Jan Troell, from the book by Kenne Fant.

I know: The line’s almost a cliché. But in this 2012 biopic of Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt (Jesper Christensen), the editor-in-chief of Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, who was one of the strongest, most strident, and earliest voices against Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, the line hit home. Segerstedt, by the way, may know about Fascism but that doesn’t make him a nice guy. There’s something severe in his manner, and he’s awful to his wife, conducting, as he does, an affair with his female publisher in plain view. But he’s uncompromising in a way the rest of Europe, sadly, was not. Still, at the end of his life, even as the Allies begin to sweep the Nazis out of Europe, it all feels rather purposeless. The thousands of articles he wrote ... to what end? The Nazis still came. Europe still fell. He's still dying. “How quickly it passed,” he says. “I have written in sand,” he says. Last year's favorite line was about confronting an Ozymandias figure. This one is about realizing we're all Ozymandias.

The Last Sentence

Until next year.

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Posted at 06:08 AM on Jan 14, 2014 in category Movies - Lists
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Monday January 06, 2014

The 11 Worst Movies of 2013 Representing the Five Worst Trends in Moviemaking

I try not to go to bad movies. Really I do. I’m not reviewing for anyone so there’s no one to tell me to see, say, “National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers” or “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever,” as there was several years ago when I was a backup critic at The Seattle Times. Sadly, I did the below all on my own.

But that’s why movies like “Grown Ups 2” or “Movie 43” didn’t make the cut. I never saw them. Why would I? Why would you? Did you? Why did you?

Here are my choices for the worst movies, and the worst movie trends, of the year. Your results better differ.

5. Pacific Rim (71%) and After Earth (11%)
You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you, etc.
Why did Guillermo del Toro’s movie get a 71% Rotten Tomatoes rating while M. Night Shyamalan’s only managed 11%? Because “Pacific Rim” is .... good? Because it has giant robots battling giant monsters, which is totally kick ass, while “After Earth” stars Will Smith drained of all charisma? Because critics like del Toro, don’t Shyamalan, and review the director as much as the film? Obviously I lean toward this last reason. Both movies were painful to me. They’re also symptomatic of the big-budget, post-apocalyptic world that Hollywood keeps dragging us into. This year alone we saw the end of the world as we know it in “Oblivion,” “World War Z,” “Elysium,” “This is the End,” “Ender’s Game” and “The World’s End.” Pause. I rather liked “The World’s End.” It's time to cancel the apocalypses already.

Pacific Rim screenshot

4. Before Midnight (98%) and Frances Ha (92%)
If you’re going to make a dialogue-heavy movie, make sure the woman in it is uninteresting or annoying as hell. Or both.
OK, dialogue-heavy movies starring women will never be a trend in Hollywood, so this is more coincidence than trend. But critics, c’mon. Just because a movie passes the Bechdel test doesn’t make it good. These two wound up on many year-end 10-best lists. Linklater’s film often topped them. Seriously? I don’t get it. Neither movie taught me anything. Both forced me to endure long periods with completely unlikeable people. Right, so do “Blue Jasmine” and “Wolf of Wall Street” (to name two), so why do I like those movies and not these? Maybe because Jasmine and Jordan and their respective journeys were always interesting to me. Frances? She goes from self-involved and stuck on an unworthy friend while pursing an impossible dream (dance) to self-involved and stuck on an unworthy friend while pursuing a possible dream (choreography). Thanks for that, Noah. And while many critics, viewing “Before Midnight,” saw a sad, revealing discussion between two adults in midlife, I saw a discussion between a flawed, patient man and A COMPLETE LOON. Céline associates herself with all oppressed women everywhere and associates her husband with both the Bush administration and the Nazis? And he still tries to win her back? And critics found this meaningful and lovely? It’s enough to make a man write an open letter to a movie character.

The Mayor of Crazy Town: Before Midnight

3. Olympus Has Fallen (48%) and G.I. Joe: Retaliation (28%)
More liberal messages from liberal Hollywood.
I was hoping we were past the era of the Teutonic, testosteronic, monosyllabic apeman carrying guns and right-wing messages but we’ll never be over that. There’s too much easy money there. As for the messages? Well, in “G.I. Joe,” the president isn’t really the president (knew it!), and he’s encouraging nuclear disarmament but only to make us all weak (knew it!) so he can bring out his new ZEUS weapon and COBRA can take over the world! Mwa-ha-ha-ha! And then COBRA raises its flag over the White House (bastards!). “Olympus” does the flag thing, too. It opens on the U.S. flag unfurling within the movie’s title (salutin’, bro!), but when North Koreans take over the White House they totally toss aside our bullet-ridden flag like it’s garbage (bastards!). Plus in the Middle East, they burn the flag in celebration (towelheads!). But we get them. Our hero gets them. And what’s the last shot of the movie? Fuckin’ American flag flapping over the fuckin’ White House, fuckers! Yep, just another liberal message from liberal Hollywood.

G.I. Joe: Dwayne The Rock Johnsonson

2. Upstream Color (85%), Spring Breakers (65%), and Only God Forgives (39%)
Taking exciting genre flicks and turning them into dull art-house fare.
I’ll get dinged for this, I know. Hell, I might even ding myself. Ten years from now I might think “Upstream Color” is brilliant, and “Spring Breakers” is groundbreaking, and “Only God Forgives” is brilliant and groundbreaking, but right now, this year, I merely saw a paranoid thriller, an exploitation film, and a martial arts flick turned into unwatchable, art-house mush. The men behind these movies are obviously talented but they could give a crap about story or audience. Only “Upstream Color” came close to revealing something that felt like it mattered about what it means to be alive ... but then writer-director would cut to the pig farmer. What I wrote last summer about “Only God Forgives” applies to them all: It’s not just a matter of style over substance; it’s ponderous style over almost no substance at all.

Upstream Color's pig farmer

1. The Internship (35%) and Identity Thief (19%)
Because there’s nothing funnier than a massive social anxiety.
These are two of the most tone-deaf movies I’ve seen in a long while. A hardworking man gets his identity stolen by a fat, lazy, self-pitying woman, who uses his money to further her fat, lazy, self-pitying lifestyle, and the joke, for most of the movie, continues to be on him. Haw! Everyone else finds her sympathetic and him a jerk! Hee! For 90 minutes! Whee! And is there anything funnier than career obsolescence after the global financial meltdown? Am I right, kids? So why not take two guys so clueless they don’t know selling watches in 2012 isn’t still a viable option and stick them ... wait for it ... at Google! Ha! Where they can learn lessons! And technology! And find love! And win back careers! It’s wish fulfillment, see? The real-life situation may be awful and true, but the cinematic solution is awful and fake, and so there’s no way—no way—we would leave the theater sick to our stomachs. Because Hollywood made the problem—ping!—disappear like that. Hooray for it.

Internship at Google

Getting off easy this year: “Admission,” “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Populaire,” “Salinger,” and “Pain and Gain,” which was so awful I couldn’t even finish it.

Right, so what did I like? Stay tuned.

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Posted at 07:09 AM on Jan 06, 2014 in category Movies - Lists
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Tuesday September 03, 2013

What are the Best Movies of 2013 So Far?

I was at a wedding the other day and a friend asked me what recent movies I'd recommend and I came up blank. I mentioned some of the movies from 2012 that skittered through Seattle in spring, like “No,” “The Gatekeepers,” “Rust and Bone.” But recent movies? In theaters?

I mean, these are my reviews of 2013 movies and only a few stand out and nothing really stuns the way “Rust and Bone” stuns. I know. We'll get those later. Hopefully.

Anyway, here are the 2013 movies I liked well enough to say I liked them. The first six I recommend highly:

  1. Muscle Shoals
  2. Mud
  3. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
  4. The Bling Ring
  5. The Trials of Muhammad Ali
  6. 20 Feet from Stardom
  7. Man of Steel
  8. Blue Jasmine
  9. Fruitvale Station
  10. Dirty Wars
  11. 2 Guns
  12. The World's End
  13. The Great Gatsby
  14. The Spectacular Now
  15. Warm Bodies
  16. World War Z
  17. The Way, Way Back
  18. 42
  19. The Heat
  20. Lee Daniels' The Butler

Four of my top 6 are are documentaries. It's the Year of the Documentary.

Of the top 6, “Mud” got the widest release, 960 theaters, and grossed the most, $21.5 million. Then “Bling Ring” (650, $5.8), “20 Feet” (147, $4.2), “We Steal Secrets” (25, $166K), and “Trials of Muhammad Ali” (1, $3K). “Muscle Shoals” is getting its close-up at the end of the month.

The first wide-release film on my list is “Man of Steel,” about which I have reservations, but it still makes me smile. Ditto “2 Guns” on the strength of the Denzel/Markie Mark chemistry. Ditto all of these, really, with greater reservations the further down we go.

The rest, below, blow. They're ranked within each category from best to worst, or worst to downright insulting. Apologies for this method, but it was just too difficult to parse the disappointment I felt for movies like “To the Wonder” and “Only God Forgives” with the absolute horror I felt from movies like “Olympus Has Fallen” and “Identity Thief.”

Your results will vary.

Dude, what happened? Your last movie rocked:

It's the end of the world as we know it ... and I feel deja vu:

Spare a cup of testosterone?

Way to shit all over a classic, Hollywood:

Superheroes?

Comedies?

Again, results will vary. A few critics liked “Only God Forgives” while “Frances Ha” is beloved (93% on Rotten Tomatoes). Plus I have yet to see a few movies that are supposed to be good: “Before Midnight,” “The Conjuring,” “Much Ado About Nothing.” Not to mention “The Act of Killing.” But mostly it's been a godawful movie year for me. And I didn't even see “Grown Ups 2.”

Anyway it's nice to know it's not my memory.

Some of the best movies of 2013

The few, the proud, the worthwhile.

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Posted at 06:43 AM on Sep 03, 2013 in category Movies - Lists
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Tuesday August 27, 2013

Netflix Gets It Wrong

More than five years ago (have I been doing this that long?), I wrote a post called “Netflix Gets It Right” in which I lauded the online DVD service for changing the default listing of its movies from alphabetical to chronological. I'm a chronology guy. It's how I see the world. You could say it's how I live through the world. You, too.

Now, five years later, Netflix has changed it up again. Go to the Woody Allen page or the Martin Scorsese page and their movies aren't listed chronologically or alphabetically; they're listed by user rating.

I get the idea. Why not let someone who doesn't know Scorsese or Allen see their best first rather than their most recent?

If it's their best. That's the problem. The highest-ranked Woody Allen movie, for example, is “Woody Allen: A Documentary” by Robert Weide, which is good, but I assume even Weide would be embarrassed by that ranking. Second is “Antz.” Third, “Radio Days.” “Annie Hall,” one of the great films, one of the great romantic comedies, turns up sixth.

Scorsese's aren't bad. “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “No Direction Home,” “Hugo.” Not bad. “Taxi Driver” is 16th but what are you going do? “Raging Bull” is 25th, behind “The Aviator” among others, but what are you going to do?

The bigger problem is the clutter. The seventh-best Scorsese movie is “Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends.” You think, “I didn't know Scorsese made a doc on Bennett,” and he didn't. Bruce Ricker did. It's from “American Masters.” PBS. Scorsese is a talking head. So Bruce Ricker directed the seventh-best Martin Scorsese movie.

Other movies in the Scorsese section?

  • The Song of the Little Road (a doc on Satyajit Ray)
  • Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (also ahead of “Raging Bull”)
  • Quiz Show
  • Shark Tale
  • Clockers
  • Hollywood Uncensored
  • Cannes: All Access

IMDb sorts by function: writer, director, actor. Would be nice if Netflix allowed this option. Or any option beyond its default option.

It's not bad for laughs, though. Bill Murray's best movie is “Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010,” then “Zombieland,” then “Space Jam.” Brad Pitt's best is “Legends of the Fall,” while his fourth-worst is “The Tree of Life.” Orson Welles' best movie is “The Muppet Movie.”

Netflix's users highest-ranked Orson Welles movie

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Posted at 09:11 AM on Aug 27, 2013 in category Movies - Lists
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