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2013: My year in film

A list seen this year in Australia, Austin, New York and San Francisco, hence some 2012 releases making it in.

Warning: I rate films too highly. Take it as a relative measure. I begrudgingly preface this post every year with the same message, in various word lengths.

In alphabetical order…

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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Quite simply, everything works. A character-driven, brooding, complex, Malick-esque romance.

All Is Lost
A near-wordless marvel! Robert Redford’s physical, nuanced performance commands admiration. The score and sea, worthy allies.

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story
An unbelievable true story that grew off the screen into a once-in-a-lifetime, shared experience at SXSW, with the man himself being there.

Before Midnight
The perfect ending to the perfect trilogy on love.

Blancanieves
The lighting, the symmetry, the composition. Just, wow. One of the most beautiful looking films I’ve had the pleasure of watching.

For Those in Peril
There’s no way a debut has any right to be this good in nearly every respect. Haunting, assured filmmaking, with an ending that’s hugely rewarding, yet ambiguous. I do remember screaming “FUCK YEAH!” I had the same reaction to ‘Take Shelter’.

Gravity
If cinema is about the moving image, this embodies it to its fullest. Like nothing I’ve seen. Cuaron and Lubezki are gods.

Her
Thank you, Spike Jonze, for an utterly brilliant, exploratory look at our future, and the collision of humanity and technology. Joaquin Phoenix confirms yet again that he’s one of the best actors going around. Scarlett Johannson’s voice acting, a joy.

Inside Llewyn Davis
My favourite character and performance of 2013. Oscar Isaac is a revelation. I felt hopeless and sad.

Saving Mr. Banks
Very, very special. No expectations going in, floored on every count. Hit me harder than anything this year.

Upstream Color
Incredibly thought provoking, visceral and hypnotic. Carruth’s writing, score and direction are all stunning. The sound design melds right in too. The film that stuck with me most.

What Maisie Knew
Emotionally turbulent in the best possible way. Onata Aprile gives a most captivating performance.

Zero Dark Thirty
A remarkable, gripping achievement in storytelling. A rollercoaster through Jessica Chastain’s head and a quietly devastating ending.

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Her

‘Her’. Thank you, Spike Jonze, for an utterly brilliant, exploratory look at our future, and the collision of humanity and technology. Joaquin Phoenix confirms yet again that he’s one of the best actors going around. Scarlett Johansson’s voice acting, a joy.

Writing feelings on behalf of other people, programmatic feelings, faking feelings. This runs throughout, begging the question of what an authentic feeling is, and how much of a one-way, need-based thing it is at times.

And from a purely HCI perspective, ‘Her’ makes me a believer in voice interactions. It’s a deceptively simple take on technology that’s not constantly in your face via pieces of different size glass. No radical Minority Report hand-waving dominating here.

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Inside Llewyn Davis

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’. My favourite character and performance of 2013. Oscar Isaac is a revelation. I feel hopeless and sad.

The ending hit me hard because of all the brilliance before it. I was immersed inside Llewyn Davis’ world and had no idea what was happening. The writing, looking back, could be accused of putting him in predicament after predicament, but all I felt was sorrow, only questioning it briefly while watching. The world’s a cruel enough place, and as much as I love the character, he doesn’t have a lot of karma going for him.

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Man of Steel

‘Man of Steel’. The complexities of Clark Kent presented in a beautiful, emotionally rich manner. A super ensemble, score and vision.

Getting to see so much of Krypton brought forth sheer delight. The opening is stunning, creating a real sense of wonder. The first time Clark takes flight, all that wonder comes flooding back.

Inter-cutting flashbacks of Clark’s early childhood while he wanders the world alone searching for answers totally works from a storytelling standpoint. I could have asked for no greater exploration of the struggles of Clark Kent/Kal-El. Henry Cavill certainly looks and suits the many identities he takes on.

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For Those in Peril

There’s no way a debut has any right to be this good in nearly every respect. The visceral direction, cinematography, editing and sound design all reminded me of Shane Carruth’s ‘Upstream Color’. This has a lot more menace to it. Paul Wright takes you inside the head-space of an outsider who is suddenly even more so, coping with loss in an increasingly self-destructive way.

The surrealism of marching in a parade as Death, or igniting that red flare in the room are burned into my mind in vivid detail.

The ending. It can be looked at in many ways. To me, it’s an afterlife of sorts, where the boy enters the beast after he has lost (through death, being separated when sent to a mental home, a lost chance of love) everyone to be reunited with them, mirroring the fable we hear.

It’s the kind of emotionally rewarding, yet ambiguous ending that screams “FUCK YEAH!” I had the same reaction to ‘Take Shelter’. I absolutely adored it.

Haunting, assured filmmaking.

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SXSW Film 2013: An Unreal Dream

You know what makes a film festival special? Watching the unbelievable true story of a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife, spending 25 years in jail essentially coming to terms with his situation and accepting it, then finally being set free by saints that relentlessly fought for him.

OK, no, that’s a darn good story. What makes it special is the man himself, Michael Morton, walking on stage with John Raley, the attorney that worked pro bono for 7 years, and the director of this story, Al Reinert. The audience stood clapping for a good five minutes, tears flowing from basically everyone. His spirit and attitude to forgiveness during the Q&A was something to marvel. Being part of that moment, with those people, is an incredible feeling. It elevates a film to an experience, and that’s what film festivals are all about.

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2012: The year in movies

A list seen this year in Australian cinemas, at SXSW, and the Sydney Film Festival. I group this list by star-rating, and alphabetically within the groupings. It’s too difficult to rank linearly.

I’ve seen a lot this year, and a lot of old films too! 110 in this list plus at least 30-40 oldies. I’ve even tried my hand at filmmaking through the awesomeoness of Kino Sydney, and made two really bad short films; ‘Tearjerker’ and ‘Swings & Roundabouts’.

As to the ratings, I overwhelmingly loved and/or connected with each and every one of the films I’ve given 5 stars to, for many different reasons. If there were faults in them, I did not see them. So yeah, it’s all relative, and stacked top heavy. I rate them as soon as I see them, to avoid any normalising and brain hurting come end of year.

I thought about including original tweets, but looking back at them in retrospect, they’re too uneven, so unless I start writing seriously about every single film, at least the 5 and 4.5 star ones, I’m keeping it as just a list. All my ratings and extended thoughts are on Flixster or against the movies tag on this blog.

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