Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top Ten Preview: Honorable Mention


I feel like I should have a bumper sticker for these films. 

My top ten list is going to drop Friday afternoon, but this is such a good year for movies that it was hard to whittle it down.  I am kind of cheating and releasing an honorable mention for the ones that didn't make the cut.  In alphabetical order.


Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring has stuck with me all year.  The true tale of stupid teenagers who use social media to rob celebrity homes is stylish and scary.  I couldn't tear my eyes away from this.  The performances all around were so vapid and seductive that I am glad I never met them.  I might have joined their clan to steal some shiny things for myself.  Katie Chang, Emma Watson and Israel Broussard deliver some great performances.


Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a dream team in The Heat.  I don't understand how anyone could dispute that statement.  If they only made buddy comedies starring these two until the end of time, I would be perfectly fine with it.  And you would too.  Don't deny it.


Speaking of female voices in movies, how about we continue with Lake Bell in In a World...  As a woman trying to break into the movie voiceover business (and get out of the immense shadow of her father), Bell delivers not only a charming underdog performance, but this is also her directorial debut.  And her feature film writing debut.  This movie allowed me to see some actors in a different light (Rob Corddry, Ken Marino), and now I want to see them in other things.  Oh, it's also pretty damn funny, too.


I didn't get a chance to write anything about Kill Your Darlings.  Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, and Jack Huston star as the members of the beat generation in this stylish and romantic thriller.  Radcliffe continues to stretch himself as an actor, and DeHaan just knocks it out of the park.  As Lucien Carr, DeHaan is a live wire, but at the same time he has a soothing, seductive quality to him.  It feels like a weird poetry driven version of The Talented Mr. Ripley.


How Joss Whedon hasn't taken over the world yet, I don't know.  

This guy directed The Avengers last year (you know, only one of the most profitable movies of all time), and then he follows it up with a modern take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  Pardon me?  Shot in gorgeous black and white, Whedon somehow manages to make this Ado incredibly romantic and fun and fresh.  I am always excited to see the Bard on the big screen, but this made me laugh out loud several times.  You can tell that his actors (in this case Amy Acker, Nathan Fillion, and Clark Gregg) are so at ease, and they make you forget you are watching and listening to something that made you fall asleep in high school English class.

Can someone please give him the keys to the kingdom?


Philomena surprised me when I thought I had it all figured out.  The marvelous Judi Dench stars as Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who begins a search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption fifty years ago.  Philomena's gentle determination and her chemistry with Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the screenplay) are great.  I could watch Judi Dench stare at countrysides for hours and never be satisfied.  What a beautiful actress, and what a beautiful performance she gives.


About thirty minutes into Prisoners, I realized that they showed almost everything from the trailer.  With two hours left, I had no idea where this movie was going to go.  Kudos to the advertising team must be paid.  Not knowing anything else about the plot, I was riveted the entire time.  This ensemble is fantastic.  Hugh Jackman delivers the complete opposite of what he gave us in last year's Les Miserables as a father who will stop at nothing to find his daughter.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays a cop who makes a promise he's afraid he won't be able to keep. 


I don't believe everything in Room 237, the documentary/conspiracy theory about the hidden messages in Stanley Kubrick's horror classic, The Shining.  Some people think Kubrick's thriller was a commentary on the massacre of the American Indians.  Others believe that it has to deal with the Holocaust, and one theory discusses the hidden sexual meanings.  Either these people are smart or they have way too much time on their hands.  Regardless, I was fascinated by how they presented their cases, and I guarantee that I will never look at The Shining the same way every again.


I could have watched Short Term 12 for days.  

Brie Larson stars as Grace, a foster center staff member who copes with the comings and goings of some of the kids in her facility.  You can feel this movie breathing; you could feel its heart and soul, and it mainly has to do with Larson's layered performance as Grace.  It's one of the most authentic and honest performances of the year.  Movies like this are something we should treasure.  Hunt this movie down.


Ah, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, an audacious, loud, offensive, hilarious movie.  

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who wades in excess in the 1980's.  It's not a rise to riches and then fall into the pits of despair tale.  No, no.  Belfort's reign as the wolf of Wall Street is almost a rite of passage taught by the men before him.  Corruption College, if you will, but it seems like the students weren't paying attention when they signed up for their credits.  

This might be DiCaprio's best performance.  Last year, I thought his villainous turn in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained was unlike anything I've ever seen him do before.  But this.  This performance is something to be proud of.  He's so gleefully sleazy, but his baby face and his charm are so rotten.  I couldn't tear my eyes away from it.  

So, there it is folks.  The honorable mention list of my year in review.  On Friday, the top ten films of 2013 will be announced.  Hopefully, some of the choices will surprise you.

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