As a follow-up to my list of this topic in 2011, I’m taking stock of the world of acting in the past year of cinema. Nearly every awards body gives out acting awards, but only a handful recognize a Best Cast or Best Ensemble of the year, as distinct from a more all-encompassing Best Picture. Two notable films from the year, Gravity and All is Lost, capitalize on their dual or solo protagonist(s) as the only characters, but nearly every other example relies on the interplay between recognizable stars, character actors, newbies, and extras. Effective ensembles of 2013 came under directors known for orchestrating, even indulging, an unwieldy stable of actors (David O. Russell, Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Woody Allen), as well as filmmakers more known for focused tone in both acting and visuals (Steve McQueen, Denis Villeneuve, Sofia Coppola). The year was also notable for some relatively sensitive coming-of-age films involving large casts of young people and fun entries in ensemble-heavy franchises like Fast & Furious and The Hobbit. Next week I will unveil my own choices, but until then please comment on your own favorites.
Browsing: Top Ten
The first and so far only documentary to win the Palm D’Or is as much a propaganda piece as it is a documentary. Moore sets out to dissuade voters in the 2004 US Presidential election from voting for incumbent President Bush. Not a pro-Kerry piece by any means, just an anti-Bush film that as reviled as it is in conservative circles, stands up to rigorous fact checking. Not as powerful now as it was 9 years ago (especially since Bush won re-election), but still some great filmmaking.
Writers, being often of a navel-gazing bent, have frequently turned their attentions on the act of writing itself. The first modern, Western novel, Don Quixote, devotes large parts of its second section to exploring the author-character relationship, and writers ever since have delighted in such meta-fictional exercises. Film writers are no exception, and a great many films feature writers as prominent characters. As someone with several half-begun screenplays under his belt, I find it unsurprising that a very common thread through writerly characters in films is how freaking hard it is to write. The catharsis that comes from openly working out problems with writing on screen has produced some memorable characters. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, so I’ve included some rays of sunshine in the mix. I did try to make sure that these characters were writers in more than name only – not that they have to spend every moment twirling a pen, but they should in some way engage with the writerly process. Lastly – as always, jump in with your favorites.
The Bard’s plays are taught the world over on educational syllabuses and academics spend their lives dedicated to the study of his works. Due to the constant popularity of Shakespeare’s works, there are theatre productions appearing in many transitional forms. The same can be said for the films that take their basic narrative structures from Shakespeare’s plotlines, but offer contemporary social issues and settings as their focus (10 Things I Hate About You). A common format of adaptation is a mixture of the original play script within a contemporary environment (As You Like It), using the language as it was first written. This is often almost compensated for by lavish sets and opulent drama styles (Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet). We’re now used to event screenings, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of Richard the Third starring David Tennant, being beamed into local cinemas offers an entirely new perspective on adapting for the screen. Here a live or recorded from live viewing of the play performed on stage is what we’re watching in the cinema, not necessarily a feature film as such. I’ve no doubt that Shakespeare’s works will continue to be adapted for film for years to come, but so far as those already released are concern, these make my top ten.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the latest in a long string of high-profile actors to opt for working behind the camera instead of in front of it, with his scriptural and directorial debut Don Jon hitting theatres September 27th. Ryan Gosling, currently working on his own project of the same nature, will shortly join him in the transition from actor to writer/director in 2014 with his offering, How To Catch a Monster. With Ben Affleck’s recent success at the 2013 Academy Awards, the road from actor to director is without a doubt a rocky one, but with rewards aplenty at the end when done right.
The advent and eventual dominance of color cinema around the world brought with them aesthetic challenges as well as rewards. While superficially bringing movies closer to “realism,” the use of color, like the use of sound, can also go beyond merely reflecting what’s in front of the camera and be adjusted for stylistic effect, from washing out into gritty dullness to amplifying into garish expressionism and every mode in between. Color cinematography has so become the go-to paradigm that many films don’t even consider strategies of light, shadow, and color in telling their stories; yet the great movies since the dawn of color make expert use of everything at their visual disposal. The power of color can come from the artistry and craftsmanship of many individuals: the production designer, the art director, the cinematographer, the costume designer, and of course the overall director orchestrating these elements into, ideally, a coherent whole. This list topic is the use of color in movies, highlighting my favorite color films of all time.
The advent and eventual dominance of color cinema around the world brought with them aesthetic challenges as well as rewards. While superficially bringing movies closer to “realism,” the use of color, like the use of sound, can also go beyond merely reflecting what’s in front of the camera and be adjusted for stylistic effect, from washing out into gritty dullness to amplifying into garish expressionism and every mode in between. Color cinematography has so become the go-to paradigm that many films don’t even consider strategies of light, shadow, and color in telling their stories; yet the great movies since the dawn of color make expert use of everything at their visual disposal. The power of color can come from the artistry and craftsmanship of many individuals: the production designer, the art director, the cinematographer, the costume designer, and of course the overall director orchestrating these elements into, ideally, a coherent whole. This list topic for the next Top Ten Tuesday is the use of color in movies, highlighting my favorite color films of all time, and I invite readers to submit their own lists and discuss in the comments below.
There is a fine line between concert films — the unadulterated presentation of raw concert footage — and music documentaries — a discursive yet comprehensive examination of music, with little emphasis on performance. In many lists and articles, these distinct types of film are collected as if there were no difference between the two. There is! This list deals specifically with concert films, and shall therefore not include some of your favourite music documentaries, such as Don’t Look Back (1967), Gimme Shelter (1970), and Buena Vista Social Club (1999). On the other hand, since many concert films will intersperse music with brief interviews or backstage scenes to flesh out the final product, I will include concert films with documentary underscores, so long as concert footage is the primary focus.
Summer 2013 was a wild ride. Kids are now headed back to school, and thus the summer movie season is coming to an end. This is one of those strange summers that depending on where you live – and what kind of access you have to movies – this could easily be a great movie season, or a terrible one.
Though there were plenty of fun films to see, keeping this list down to 10 was rather easy. This is a list of some of the best films that Summer 2013 had to offer.
With You’re Next finally getting released, it’s best to look at the subgenre that it’s a part of. After two years of sitting on a shelf at Lionsgate during a merge, You’re Next has patiently waited to come out to deconstruct the home invasion horror. Sitting around for two years though has caused some problems. Since then, studios have tried to capitalise on its success at Toronto International Film Festival by hiring people to write a similar film. If you even look at Twitter, there are a few accusatory tweets at it because of The Purge, which has caused (ignorant) people to declare their disdain for You’re Next for copying The Purge, even though it’s two years its senior. There was even a slight script slip where a group of filmmakers may or may not have tried to copy the film identically but failed.