Sunday, 22 December 2013

Films of 2013

The Village Voice has a great new category in the best-of lists that will start raining down on us like volcanic pyroclast until Dec. 31: “Movie Everybody’s Wrong About.” They list 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Nebraska and give no further details. But I admire the attempt to include dissident views about what Kontemporary Kulchural Wisdom has declared.

The Voice, which once upon a time was a newsmagazine and looks destined to sink into obscurity as another boring cultural website, says the critics it consulted thought these were the ten best films of the year:

10 Blue Is the Warmest Color
9 Frances Ha
8 Gravity
7 Upstream Color
6 Leviathan
5 The Act of Killing
4 Before Midnight
3 12 Years a Slave
2 Her
1 Inside Llewyn Davis

These voters are clearly arthouse critics, not your USA Today mass-market reviewers—there aren’t more than a couple standard-fare blockbusters on the whole list.

Of those that are, I’ll grant Gravity’s ooh-ahh appeal and extraordinary creepiness although no one seems to have noticed that the writing stank.

I do not at all get the appeal of Before Midnight, a vapid exercise in faux-profundity. (The Past, the latest from Iran, probes adult relationships in a far more credible and challenging way.)

If you take the allegedly hot lesbian sex out of Blue, it’s an excellent portrayal of the obsessive pull of erotic love and only lasts 2 ½ hours instead of the tiresome 3.

The Act of Killing deserves all the attention it gets and a lock on the documentary awards. The unsatisfying 12 Years a Slave, although an improvement on the usual cinematic treatment of slavery, doesn’t probe human evil-doing at all by comparison.

Great that people in the film business can endorse a weird-as-shit item like Upstream Color. I’m also struck by the placement of Inside Llewyn Davis so high up as it’s hard to imagine this extremely satisfying but Woody Allen-ish minor-key portrait getting much enthusiasm from audiences. I guess that’s why we have art critics in general, to make us stop and take a second look at things that don’t speak to us at first glance. Maybe it’s crap, or maybe we’re just not on to what it’s trying to do.

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