Happy New Year! As I mentioned in my last post, 2013 was a fantastic year for film and television. Although I’m still catching up on some 2013 releases, today I share my favorite things about film in 2013.
The audacity of The Great Gatsby
When I first heard that Baz Luhrmann was adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 3D, I thought it was a terrible idea. But Gatsby proved me wrong on all accounts. I loved the edgy mix of hip hop and jazz. I loved the vibrant colors and over-the-top party scenes. I loved the passages from the novel floating on the screen. The excess in filmmaking to me mirrored the excess that Fitzgerald questions in his novel, and for that reason, this audacious 3D version a classic novel worked on every level for me.
While watching Gravity both times in IMAX 3D, I was reminded of my childhood passion to become an astronaut, and I cried and cheered along with Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone. But I also marveled at the technical achievements of this wonderful film. With its impressive visuals, Gravity is the epitome of spectacle cinema, but it’s more than a spectacle; it’s the most immersive film I saw this year, both visually and emotionally.
The mesmerizing power of Upstream Color
Out of all the movies represented on this list, Upstream Color is probably the only one I’m not sure if I actually like. But I know one thing: although I had to watch this on a small screen, I simply could not look away. This film drew me in like no other with its strange story of two lost people who find each other.
In Saudi Arabia, ten-year-old Wadjda wants to buy a bike, and in order to get the money, Wadjda decides to enter her school’s Quran competition for the prize money. As such, Wadjda‘s premise is simple, but it is a delightful and moving exploration of a modern girl in a conservative society. Wadjda was not only directed by a woman (Haifaa Al-Mansour) but also just so happens to be the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. These two elements make the film more than noteworthy alone – it’s a milestone, and, quite frankly, the Academy was wrong to leave it off their shortlist of foreign language films eligible for nomination.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Color me surprised when I enjoyed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire far more than The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I have mixed feelings about the Hunger Games franchise as a whole, but Catching Fire exceeded all my expectations with its balance of action sequences and quiet but tense moments. It is everything a sequel should be, raising the stakes for the characters and opening up the universe of the series. To cap it off, Jennifer Lawrence delivers yet another powerful performance, demonstrating the strength Katniss Everdeen, even when events threaten to break her down.
The quiet beauty of All Is Lost
All Is Lost is probably the quietest sound film I have a memory of seeing. For an hour and three quarters, we watch Robert Redford alone at sea. Other than an opening monologue and a handful of other utterances, Redford’s performance is entirely silent, making most of the film focus on his face as it grapples with his slow loss of hope for survival. Writer/director J.C. Chandor, whose first film Margin Call was one of my favorite surprises of 2011, has created a aeautifully shot and meticulously acted film that exemplifies the quiet power of cinema.
The honesty of The Genius of Marian
I caught this moving documentary about Alzheimer’s disease at the Tribeca Film Festival, and I found it a wonderful tribute to the unbreakable bonds of family. Director Banker White’s portrait of his mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s demonstrates how his family came together to support her and each other through the tough journey. It’s a deeply personal and beautiful film.
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Emotionally unstable and filled with notions of her own superiority, Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine slowly spirals out of control in Blue Jasmine, which makes for a compelling if difficult film. Through the use of flashbacks, director Woody Allen and Blanchett show how this woman has deluded herself from her past as a New York socialite through her loss of money and status, presenting us with a broken woman who doesn’t realize that she’s broken. It’s a tour-de-force that should guarantee Blanchett an Oscar nomination if not a win.
And for my final pick, I highlight the last movie I saw in 2013, though I can’t believe I waited until December 31st to see this delightful film. I only see animated films once in a while, but the raves for Frozen piqued my curiosity. And it exceeded expectations. Not only were the visuals and music stunning, but the story also features some diversions from the classic Disney princess stories. I just loved the two princess characters of Elsa and Anna, as well as the film’s affirmation of the power of sacrifice and familial bonds. Run, don’t walk, to the theater if you haven’t yet seen this one.
What were your favorite things about film in 2013?