Thursday, January 2, 2014

Year-End Roundup 2013

Since I started doing this, I have posted a recap of the year in films, usually in the last week of December. That wasn't entirely doable this time around, but it's ready now.

Once again, I'm sticking to the unusual categories that I came up with - at least until someone suggests a good alternative. Bonus: DJ's own 2013 recap will be up roughly 30 minutes after mine. I'll see you on Sunday for my weekly Reviewing with Others post.

Best New Movie (that I actually saw) - Upstream Color - Well, Shane Carruth knocked me on my ass again. DJ's review covered it quite well, but I will write about it also, as soon as I can. It's very complicated, and several people I know had issues with it, so I can't quite say what I want to yet...

Best Out-of-the-Blue Release - Due to my off-site indie film reviews for Man, I Love Films, I get exposed to movies that I didn't expect to see. At the worst, I have a little notice that I will receive a particular set of movies. Some films, I choose because I like the premise or the actors. But I'm also lucky that Ben, my distributor contact, has exceptional taste - and, if he really likes a picture, he'll recommend it so strongly that I end up playing the DVD, sooner or later.

This time out, Ben wasn't responsible for sending me to view Short Term 12, the hands-down winner. My review explains it all, but Ben did send me The History of Future Folk, and Bonsai People, which rate quite highly, as does Sushi: The Global Catch. I recommend ST12 above all, and then the rest in descending order. Just keep in mind that the last 2 are documentaries, whereas the rest are narrative films...

Most Internal-Conflict-Causing Film - Django Unchained was the biggest contender for this spot. I hate seeing slavery, religious persecution, sexual assault, and the Holocaust, and it doesn't quite matter what the format is. Over a decade ago, I saw an exhibit on torture devices of the Inquisition, and it both gave me a lot of food for thought while also filling me with disgust.

But, as much as I hated its final moments, and as much as I hated all the racism on-screen, I was not conflicted as to whether DU was a good movie or not. That spot fell to Iron Man 3.

There were a lot of reasons for me to feel conflicted by IM3, but I've expressed those pretty well in the review I linked to.

Worst Movie - The Words was, hands-down, the worst picture I saw this year. I suppose I was lucky, as I saw it shortly after the new year began, and none of the many movies I've seen since were anywhere near as painful as tW. I was very proud of the review I gave it, so please check it out; I hope it makes you laugh a lot. Great review aside, joyful mockery was the best thing I got from the experience...

Best Theatrical Re-release - This spot was meant to go to the classic 70's horror film, Black Christmas, which I was supposed to see at Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinemas on December 6th or 7th. Sadly, those plans buckled like a belt, and so this entry must go empty this year. I do look forward to watching BC sometime in the near future, tho...

Best Re-watch - Hot Fuzz. I watched this movie for the 4th Anniversary of this site, accompanied by one of my roommates. I enjoyed HF so much, as I did during the two times I saw it in the theater. And, though it took me a long time to actually write a review for Edgar Wright's fine film, I did eventually get the job done. Go, me.

Best I-Should've-Seen-This-Before - The House I Live In showed up on my radar in a big way, back in 2012 (yeah, remember that year?). Aside from the promise of an in-depth doc on the War on Drugs, I was intrigued by the glowing reviews it received. Alas, as with so many other pictures, I wasn't able to catch it during its theatrical run - which made me all the happier when I learned that it had been picked up by the distribution company that supplies most of my RwO entries.

What I got instead was a picture with the emotional backdrop of a man trying to learn why his honorary black family was so disproportionately-wounded by narcotics and the government's judicial war on them. Married to this motivation was a deeply-intellectual look into how society is responsible for and has contributed to this problem. The conclusions drawn by the documentary are both thoughtful and downright chilling. And I was left as happy that I had watched it as I was impressed that it fiercely grabbed the attention of my housemates and their guests.

Best Unanticipated Rental - Save the Date gets a special place here. It's one of only a handful of movies that I have rented over cable. And, as last year's posts will show, I really expected to catch this one in theaters. Little would I know that it would be in and out of movie houses in record time.

Regardless, I had looked forward to this indie pic and I was not let down when I saw it. I had a great time with the pic, and I couldn't recommend it more strongly. On a related note, I have an MRQ coming that will deal with a bunch of unexpected surprises from 2013 - all of them rentals - but that post is coming in January or February of 2014, and StD deserves all the attention it gets.

Biggest Vicarious Disappointment - Well, I want to say that Star Trek Into Darkness was the worst vicarious disappointment... I want to, but I suspected it would suck from the moment I heard that JJ Abrams would stay on to direct the sequel.

As such, the de facto biggest vicarious disappointment has to be Man of Steel. Like with STiD, I expected MoS to suck because I have no faith in the director's grasp of story and character. And yet I could never have predicted that it would be so stupid, nihilistic, and moronic as it ended up being.

It may be true that I'm relying on anecdotes and second-hand reports, but I know that the end has lots of urban destruction and mass-slaughter, capped off by Superman killing his nemesis - then flying into the air with a triumphant "everything's good now" smile, which completely undermines all the "epic" death and destruction.

So I'm willing to stand by that pre-judicial attitude for any film by Zack Snyder. As with 300, I just know that I'll leave Z-Snyder's work feeling that I have just flushed my time and money down a particularly-filthy toilet. Like that one in Trainspotting, but more "epic"...

Most Embarrassing Moment - Last year, I was lucky to have reviewed a film called 6 Month Rule. Not only did I enjoy the movie, but I became friends with the director/lead and some of his acquaintances. I had an objective opinion about the film, but I was happy that we stayed in touch as the months passed.

So I was extra-happy to be invited to the premiere of Mr. Weaver's next film, Favor. It was showing at a nice theater in the East Village, and I was excited to see it and catch up with my pals.

So I felt pretty stupid for needing extra time to eat before the film began, returning home from a 12-hour workday to change into nicer clothes. And thus I found myself racing up several flights of escalators, only to spot Blayne himself on the stairs. He had left the theater to recharge his cell phone, while I showed up at the top of the escalator and had to sheepishly ask him how long the movie had been playing.

His answer? "About twenty minutes." It was matter of fact - he was happy to see me, and he clearly wasn't bothered - but I felt annoyed and embarrassed. On one hand, I could have eaten more quickly and arrived on time - or fed myself better while at work. On the other, missing the first 20 minutes means that I cannot possibly review the film until I get to at least see what I've missed.

While I am not paid to write about films (yet), I do hold myself to professional standards. And though it's true that $ would have made me manage my time even better (I had to log a lot of hours with a law firm that day), I still arrived late enough to miss all of the set-up, as well as most of the moments that created the main tension for a thriller.

Only the after-party, where I met many people and talked for a long time about cinema, Mr. Weaver, and life, picked up my spirits and made me feel like I didn't royally screw up...


Well, ladies and gents, that is the Year-End Roundup for 2013! I chose these odd-ass categories years ago and have yet to be informed that I should change them. As such, I hope that you give me some suggestions if you find these specific listings to be boring or trite. 2013 was a great year for myself and for this blog, and I hope that you've followed along and enjoyed the hard work that I and DJ have put into the site.

As the 5th Anniversary of Net-flixation approaches, I can only promise that I will approach film (and, sometimes, TV) with the same passion and depth of thought, if not more so. I'll try to play with my writing style a bit more. There will be more reviews of my past favorites, as well as new films and new little gems to laugh at.

Thank you all for reading!

PEACE! (on earth)
Half a Film Student

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