*If you don’t mind hyperbole, but if you do it is according to Milan Matejka.
While I could go into very silly amount of detail as to the highs and lows of the year, I rather stick to what I know best: being late to the party, destroying 2014’s decor and bring up the past like if I were in a drunken stupor. To kick it off so late in the game (‘If the Oscars can do it, so can I!’ shouted Milan, pretending the bouncer was an Oscar), as I have not seen as many films this year and feel woefully prepared, here’s some observations from my very limited scope on 2013 in film.
Underrated: The Lone Ranger (d. Verbinski, 2013)
Do not misunderstand me, this is not a perfect film, and certainly does not touch my top ten. A discombobulated mixture of adventure, revenge, horror, political commentary, history lesson, slapkick and Johnny Depp, the film lacks in a simpler clarity and narrative focus, it makes up with frenetic verve and brimfuls of ideas. Great set-pieces, spirited performances from the main duo, it is unwieldy romp with two of the best action sequences of the year as book-ends, it is a sad case in which people misinterpret what it means if a film flops in reflection to their quality.
The true recommendation, for those still very cautious about this film, is it’s final ten-twenty minutes of the film. It simply outshines the rest of the film as it is one of the best sequences this year has brought, and even validates the rest of this messy film. Racked to a masterful reorchestration of The William Tell Suite by Hans Zimmer, the sequence makes up for the lull and depressing antics that happened a few sequences before, and would have been a film event of the year if people had bothered to see it. The music is the key aspect, as its constant swelling and building, descending and rising is truly magical, bringing true weight to the entire proceedings and amps up the entertainment value. The music follows dueling trains zip and zag across Texan landscapes, multiple villains fight the duo across distances and close quarters, the stereotypical damsel in distress, cars full of people and bullets flying everywhere. This is the ultimate Western shootout taken to such silly heights, that is truly unleashes the inner child that Pacific Rim tried to attempt. This sequence is a film in itself that aside from some plot confusion, could easily be exorcised and presented as a film in itself a la D. W. Griffith on steroids.
Runner-up – The Great Gatsby. It is glittery, it is bombastic, it is emotional, it is hollow, it is a great adaptation as many of its criticisms are actually its strengths. I liked it okay, it’s shiny melodrama that while it celebrates excess, it brings out a strong eye into the contradictions and the underlying sadness in every character. Runner-up best sequence? The bar fight in The World’s End, as while the film does not match its predecessors comedy and heart, it does have the ingenuity and entertainment factor, which comes through in an incredibly well-edited brawl.
Documentaries do not need to reinvent the wheel, but while this film is emotively engrossing, it certainly felt over-extended with its subject matter, never going deep enough to present an argument that was intellectual rather than just strongly emotive. It flounders from the start as the court case that makes the story’s spine doesn’t drive the film nor the debates it presents, but instead relies on just a few moments and sequences, that while rightly should be praised, but at times highly manipulative and episodic. It presents SeaWorld as the ultimate evil that needs to be defeated at the end of the video game, rather than question the nature of man’s relationships with these creatures, never mind other historical cases of the same abuse. This is activist film-making at its purest, which is not a problem, but its scope is too small. This film is a perfect case of interesting and noble topic, but just not that well constructed… but not badly constructed enough to not make an impact however a la The Cove, I’m not heartless.
Runner-up – Room 237. How am I supposed to focus on any theory if it is mixed around together with similar monotone voices narrating over the same parts of footage? It is an interesting concept of a film, but almost feels like we are supposed to be in a delirium listening to these theories, as the theories are not treated normally and we never really engage with their points fully (or even the filmmaker’s point of view on anything). And why it is documentaries that I am most disappointed with this year? I’ll have to ponder as everyone talks about the plotholes in Star Trek Into Darkness, or the nihilism of Man of Steel, and how I’ve gone to my zen like place where these are now immaterial because I wrote an essay on it and cannot talk about it any longer! (‘Til later this year when the newest shiny things come out)
The Worst Film of the Year! A Good Day to Die Hard
I’m tempted… okay, I’ll do it. I am going to write my summary of this film with the same amount of effort that they put into the film:
- It’s boring.
- The CGI is horrible.
- Bruce Willis needs to find better action directors, with better scripts. He was on a roll with Looper and Moonrise Kingdom (Note: not an action film) last year.
- I do not mind colour correction, but it seems to have gone through a lab accident.
- It’s boring. You had a problem with Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard)? I didn’t. I enjoyed it in spite of its cheesy flaws.
- You call that a father and son relationship? I’m surprised they’re even related.
- ‘I’m on vacation’ *The audience stands up, ‘WE KNOW’, and sits back down, ever hoping that cinematic Bruce Willis would be listening to them* ‘I’m on vacation!’ *GROAN*
- Incoherent editing.
- It’s boring. Die Hard 4.0 had TIMOTHY OLYPHANT.
- Die Hard need to go to space and then the circle is complete.
- It’s boring.
Runner-Up – After Earth – Will Smith should know that there is a different between wooden self-seriousness and charismatic, as the film is infected with it, as Jaden Smith is taught that to make a film truly awful, you have to learn that conquering fear will leave you as emotive as an IKEA warehouse. *Honestly, I wish more people would have seen this so that I could have an in-joke with them, as a way to say I survived it as well, all involving the delivery of the line ‘TAKE A KNEE’*
Best Performance: Amy Seimetz – Upstream Colour
The most quintessentially important part of Shane Carruth’s return to cinema is completely reliant on having a great anchor that ties each of its arty pieces, or it would have crumbled under the weight of precocious pretentiousness. Amy Seimetz’s Kris, the main character, brings a raw visceral edge, as while her journey can be read multiple ways (more on that later), what she exhibits is almost any entire human’s soul, that while affected by the events in the film, configures and reconfigures into the familiar and into the unknown, all the while reflecting a raw intensity that seems to reflect life itself. Love, loss, anger, sadness, joy, her performance tells tales of experience and innocence in relation to memory, identity and in an odd way, the circle of existence.
Runner-Up – Will Forte – Nebraska – His role could be described as underrated, as while he is called supporting, he is truly a co-lead. While Bruce Dern’s performance is justifiably brought oscar attention (and my choice, by the way), Forte’s subtly allows for the emotions to run through the bland, black and white landscape that acts as the perfect contrast to Dern’s father figure. As he grows in his own arc, he becomes the traveler in what he could call his ‘native’ land, an outsider to his own family’s plot in life, as while he investigates his father’s life, and in so doing, learning to respect and love his father unsentimentally.
Worst Performance**: Mila Kunis – Oz: The Great and Powerful
While the film isn’t as bad as everyone would like it to be, Mila Kunis was stuck with an unfortunate role that did not give her any favours. It is simplistic in the most extreme sense, while aiming at bombastic at times, and wonderment in others, it comes off as hollow in the worst pantomime fashion, that even threatening disbelief to go into howls of ‘oh, please’ as bad make-up and costuming do not allow it to escape cliche.
Runner-Up – Anthony Hopkins – Thor: The Dark World – Phoning it in, maybe the deleted scenes may tell us what exactly happens, but this is just sad case of paycheck please. This is not really a slating, but really, I know he can do great things, and just to see not only his character played down, he seems to be upset even being there.
** Of course, excluding the aforementioned Worst Films. They’d win, hands down. WAY DOWN.
Part Two is coming soon.