Archive for February, 2014

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My 2013 in Film

February 21, 2014

I’ll keep it brief here because I have nothing to actually say. First up are the best new-to-me films that I saw in 2013. These do not include movies from 2012-2013. Why? Because [reasons]. The end of the ranking got really awkward as I tried to cram movies into it, so I opted to have a bunch of categories to give said movies mention despite their exclusion. I’m cool like that, my mum tells me. After all this are my 2013-premiere favourites as they sit for now (having not seen virtually every major film: The Immigrant, Stray Dogs, Under the Skin, and so on), including performances I dug, and notes on the year’s cinematography because apparently that is of particular interest to me (?). The only pieces I wrote all year were this Bastards review and this one on James Gray. What else? Breaking Bad and Bunheads destroyed all other TV, Gone Home was more moving than any film, and the only book I can recall finishing is The Invention of Morel. Music is cool too I guess.

  • Best Animated: Perfect Blue (1997, Kon)
  • Best Horror: The Exorcist III (1990, Blatty)
  • Best Australian: Dead Heart (1996, Parsons)Clay (1965, Mangiamele), Crawl (2011, China), One Night Stand (1984, Duigan)
  • Best Documentary: Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003, Wang), Public Housing (1997, Wiseman), Nostalgia for the Light (2010, Guzmán), Bovines (2011, Gras)
  • Best TV film: Someone’s Watching Me! (1978, Carpenter), Something to Remind Me (2001, Petzold), Homecoming (2005, Dante)
  • Best Short: Never Weaken (1921, Newmeyer), The Professional Man (1995, Soderbergh, also TV)
  • Best Ad/Music Video: The Work of Director Jonathan Glazer
  • Further Best Musical: At Long Last Love (1975, Bogdanovich), Cabin in the Sky (1943, Minnelli)
  • Further Best Western: The Indian Fighter (1955, De Toth), Decision at Sundown (1957, Boetticher), Tennessee’s Partner (1955, Dwan), The Hanging Tree (1959, Daves), Apache (1954, Aldrich), Ride in the Whirlwind (1966, Hellman)
  • Further Best Action: Hard Target (1993, Woo), Drive (1997, Wang), Police Story (1985, Chan), U.S. Seals II (2001, Florentine), Torque (2004, Kahn)

Top 40:

40.  Sleepwalk (1986, Driver)
39.  Au Revoir Taipei (2010, Chen)
38.  Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, Cimino)
37.  Art History / The Zone (2011, Swanberg)
36.  The Step (1985, Rekhviashvili)
35.  The Marrying Kind (1952, Cukor)
34.  That Old Dream That Moves (2001, Guiraudie)
also No Rest for the Brave (2003)
33.  The Sterile Cuckoo (1969, Pakula)
32.  Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998, German)
31.  Picnic (1955, Logan)
30.  Landscape Suicide (1987, Benning)
29.  Double Team (1997, Tsui)
28.  The Long Voyage Home (1940, Ford)
also Donovan’s Reef (1963)
and Two Rode Together (1961)
and The Quiet Man (1952)
27.  The Wife (1995, Noonan)
26.  The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943, Manning/Renoir)
25.  Duo Sang (1994, Wu)
24.  The Thief of Bagdad (1924, Walsh)
also The Big Trail (1930)
23.  Love is Colder Than Death (1969, Fassbinder)
also The American Soldier (1970)
22.  Raw Deal (1948, Mann)
also T-Men (1947)
and The Man From Laramie (1955)
21.  Le Grand Amour (1969, Étaix)

20.  Nighthawks (1978, Peck)
19.  Kamome Diner (2006, Ogigami)
18.  The Manxman (1929, Hitchcock)
17.  In the Family (2011, Wang)
16.  The Mortal Storm (1940, Borzage)
15.  Golden Eighties (1986, Akerman)
also Nuit et Jour (1991)
14.  Great Day in the Morning (1956, Tourneur)
13.  A Girl in Every Port (1928, Hawks)
12.  Crippled Avengers (1978, Chang)
11.  Applause (1929, Mamoulian)
10.  Running on Karma (2003, To/Wai)
also A Hero Never Dies (1998, To)
09.  Spetters (1980, Verhoeven)
also Flesh + Blood (1985)
08.  A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929, Asquith)
07.  The Ballad of Narayama (1958, Kinoshita)
06.  The Oyster Princess (1919, Lubitsch)
also The Wildcat (1921)
05.  Koridorius (1994, Bartas)
04.  The White Meadows (2009, Rasoulof)
03.  House By the River (1950, Lang)
also Die Nibelungen (1924)
and The Tiger of Eschnapur / The Indian Tomb (1959)
and Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
02.  The 8-Diagram Pole Fighter (1984, Liu)
also The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
01.  The Heiress (1949, Wyler)
also Dead End (1937)
and The Letter (1940)
and Dodsworth (1936)
and The Little Foxes (1941)
and Detective Story (1951)

Best 2013 Premieres:

  1. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
  2. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang-ke)
  3. Blind Detective (Johnnie To)
  4. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
  6. The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
  7. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
  8. Bastards (Claire Denis)
  9. Top of the Lake (Jane Campion)
  10. Our Sunhi (Hong Sang-soo)
  11. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (3D, Tsui Hark)
  12. The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski)
  13. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
  14. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  15. The Last of the Unjust (Claude Lanzmann)

Best scene:  Love dance — Tip Top (Serge Bozon)

Favourite Performances:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Simon Pegg (The World’s End)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
  • Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)
  • Michael Cera (Magic Magic/Crystal Fairy)
  • Dolph Lundgren (The Package)
  • Paulina García (Gloria)
  • Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) suck it

Notes on 2013 Cinematography:

The uncategorisably unique achievements this year were Computer Chess (Matthias Grunsky) on vintage tube video (this year’s No)—infinitely fascinating to look at—and Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki, Arri Alexa/one scene 65mm) which wasn’t to my eyes one of the year’s best looking films, and raises some reactionary skepticism as to its faux-camera/lighting cinematographic “authenticity”, but is a technical marvel requiring probably the deepest involvement between cinematographer and post-production artists to date.

Film:

  • The World’s End (Bill Pope, 16mm/35mm): Rationally mixes gauges and spherical & anamorphic lenses, the lattermost causing the invaders’ blue orifice light beams to span the width of the ‘Scope frame for maximum stupefaction (and prettiness).
  • Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Ian Lagarde, 35mm): Dat grain, dem blacks, dat painterly precision. Chilly.
  • Paradise: Hope (Edward Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler, Super 16): Pretty much the above but for the blacks, and the grain porn is twofold. SYMMETRY.
  • The Spectacular Now (Jess Hall, 35mm): Seriously, Panavision C- and E-Series lenses. Such lovely texture.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel, 35mm): What a palette. Blurring software transforms grain into a RED-esque “bloom” as Delbonnel himself puts it. The jump from dailies to post-DI image must be staggering.
  • The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd, 35mm): Soft, shallow focus. Dense elemental texture.

Digital:

  • Mother of George (Bradford Young, RED Epic): Long lenses oppress (a la The Yards) Adenike within the already insular Nigerian community of New York, her dilemma fully felt in suffocating isolation. The design touchpoint here is the Wong Kar-Wai of In the Mood for Love and 2046, they too fetishisations of lavishly textured garments and surfaces of bright colours thrown into darkness. Custom subverted as visual oppression.
  • Prisoners (Roger Deakins, Arri Alexa Plus): My goodwill started with its being a Hollywood flick that didn’t default to 2.35:1. Its refreshingly expansive frame finds a myriad of light sources and reflections amongst droplets of rain and bokeh, curiously busy at all depths. The highway emergency charge, and the candlelit vigil and its ensuing footchase are especially lavish setpieces.
  • Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael, Arri Alexa): I’m surprised, too! The trailer & Academy praise for its visuals to me indicated little more than a black-and-white-therefore-reputable fallacy, a shot-in-colour grey bore of adequate medium shots. But here it is, frequent long shots in deep focus, compositionally immaculate graphite drawings. In most cases these setups allow us to engage a character’s gait within the barren, wintry surroundings.
  • White House Down (Anna Foerster, Arri Alexa Plus): Refreshing in the midst of painfully overlit Hollywood movies. As well as being handsome, it smartly uses cameo lighting to direct one’s eye to faces in a shot that matter (as they will spout important bits of exposition) while others are draped in shadow, quite useful for a sprightly film so loaded with plot.
  • A Teacher (Andrew Droz Palermo, RED Epic): The revived Lomo lenses (see Starlet) warp bokeh and the world in line with the teacher’s irrational subjectivity.
  • Bastards (Agnès Godard, RED Epic): Not a noir painted with light to cast shadows, rather a smart use of digital’s sensitivity to near-eradicate its world of light. In all that murkiness, skin tones reign.
  • This is the End (Brandon Trost, RED Epic): Trost, a DTV & shorts DP and FX assistant miraculously landed Crank: High Voltage and Zombie’s great Halloween II in 2009, and has since made studio comedies look much better than they need to. In his best work to date, the RED diminishes all colours, conflating them into gold, ruptured beautifully by Trost with pink lens flares.
  • The Bling Ring (Harris Savides, RED Epic): The filmic loveliness of L.A. in Somewhere now the pearl-like sheen & eerie stillness of the city here, as fitting to its own subject, its increased ambivalence.
  • Legacy (Felix Wiedemann, Arri Alexa): Long-ass lenses and a soft palette recreate the 70s period look sans grain.

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