The first half of the year is over and even July is slipping quickly through our fingers. I thought it would be cool to look back over the first six months of the year and try and talk about my favorite movies so far.
Since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on December 13th, 2012, Alison and I have decided to photograph all of our movie ticket stubs in an attempt to better remember what we’ve seen – we see a ludicrous amount of movies in theaters. So for the past seven months or so we’ve been accumulating ticket stubs and it was really surreal to look back through them all in preparation for this blog. Typically movie studios release their filler movies in the early part of the year and the big budget blockbusters take up much of the summer months, but every so often a gem or two will slip through the cracks.
As I thought about what movies to highlight I decided to keep my year-end top ten in mind and list any movies from the first half of the year that have a chance of ending up on it. This will be a weird year for that, however, as we are now seven short days from getting on a plane and moving to Hong Kong, putting me at the mercy of Asian movie release dates. So many of the movies that I imagine will be my favorites of the year (12 Years a Slave, Only God Forgives etc) may not come out soon enough to make my 2013 list. First world problems. We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.
For now here are SIX movies (in no particular order) that I’ve seen so far this year that have a good chance of ending up on my top ten. Check them out if you can/care/want to. They are great.
6 – STOKER (Chan-wook Park)
Ali and I saw this movie during our whirl-wind trip to New York City in March for our HK teaching job interviews. The trip was kind of a disaster but they movie was astounding. We had plans to go to the movie theater in Times Square and just see what was playing but in a storm of sleet and snow we ducked off the street into a little Mexican restaurant (which was AMAZING) and the waiter over heard our plans. “Don’t go there!” He said, “That’s for tourists… go to the one on Broadway instead” and after giving us directions and some amazing pork tacos we were back in the snow. The theater was amazing, the movie was amazing and the whole experience became unforgettable. Creepy, funny, scary and bloody Stoker gets under your skin and is hard to forget. I still can’t put on or take off my belt without thinking of it.
5 – NO (Pablo Larrain)
Gael Garcia Bernal stars in a movie about media and politics. It’s kind of like Mad Men set in the political hotbed of Chile in the 80’s. Shot with vintage TV cameras from the 80’s and dealing with a part of history I had never heard of, the movie was completely absorbing and life-changing. The subject matter and themes are extremely timely and relevant and the cast is superb. Even the aspect ratio was changed to feel TV-ish and it was a glorious film experience. This world just needs more Gael Garcia Bernal in it full stop.
4 – SPRING BREAKERS (Harmony Korine)
A controversial movie disliked by many. Most of my friends either rolled their eyes or gave us concerned looks after hearing we’d seen it. Apparently this movie currently has hundreds of one star reviews on Amazon.com with a record amount of comments submitted complaining there is no option to rate it zero stars. That should give you an idea of how this movie was received in some circles. But for all of its opposition there are lots of people out there who consider it a kind of bleak masterpiece. I fall somewhere in between. The theater we saw it in was full of squirrely teenagers who were there to fulfill some kind of lustful tabloid obsession or to see teen boobs, or both. We were there as fans of Harmony Korine’s “KIDS” and as fans of a movie that has something to say. I won’t call SPRING BREAKERS a masterpiece but I won’t call it trash either – it was … something. In some ways it was everything everyone who hates it accuses it of being – but in all the right ways. To us it was an indictment of the empty excessiveness of youth culture. It was a vivid and terrifying portrait of the boredom of youth pursuing pleasure into a moral vacuum. It was a movie that opens with colors and lights and bouncing breasts on a beach and ends by scratching away the superficial husk of gossip magazine beauty, the dangers of peer pressure, and the love of guns and violence. I thought it was really something. And I’m glad I’m not a parent.
3 – THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Derek Cianfance)
Have I mentioned how much I love Ryan Gosling? With very few exceptions he has a great track record for picking terrific roles and he just keeps doing really good work. Plus he’s damn good looking and charming and Canadian and we kind of view him as a bit of a national treasure. This movie made me love him even more. This movie made me start to kind of like Bradley Cooper. This movie cemented the incredible talent of Dane Dehaan who had jumped out at me last year in CHRONICLE. This movie confirmed the amazing talent of writer/director Derek Cianfrance who had used Gosling so powerfully a few years ago in BLUE VALENTINE. This movie is just so my kind of movie. Not a perfect movie – structured strangely and in a way that feels more like a novel than a film – but I was totally hooked from minute one. A movie about fathers and sons (which I love) starring a terrific cast and featuring some really unique cinematic moments – it is a movie not to be missed. And lucky for me it comes out in Hong Kong a few weeks after we arrive so I can watch it again.
2 – MUD (Jeff Nichols)
Matthew McConaughey is just terrific. This will definitely be the year he wins an Oscar – mark my words. If not for this, then for THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB which comes out later this year (and for which he lost like 50 pounds to play a man dying of AIDS). The guy just keeps blowing my mind lately. In a career shift of Ben Affleck proportions, McConaughey has turned the table on the romantic comedy leads that made him famous and has been all kinds of quirky with his choices. This movie is a slow burner, a southern set crime drama that is also about fathers and sons but in a way that I wasn’t expecting. A coming of age drama starring some terrific child actors and a really familiar and yet unpredictable screenplay. A good score and terrifically shot, this movie is something special even when it takes its time with the story. A movie well worth the investment.
1 – FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)
Co-written by the star and heartbeat of the movie Greta Gerwig (who should also be a shoo in for some awards love) FRANCES HA was one of the funniest and saddest movies I’ve seen this year. Feeling a bit like Woody Allen mixed with Lena Dunham’s GIRLS, the movie felt so painfully real and true that it was almost difficult to watch. The film is shot in simple black and white with conversational dialogue that felt almost improvised, and set to one of the quirkiest and most enthusiastic scores I’ve heard in a long time. The whole thing felt very old fashioned. Telling a story that’s been told a million times before, FRANCES HA was completely fresh and maneuvered through the tropes of the plot with a briskness and humor that only Gerwig could pull off. A woman entering her 30’s who fails more than she succeeds and who rides the waves of life with seemingly no control over her future or her potential is forced to grow up and take hold of her life. But Gerwig is so magical and so real that you really love her by the end and Baumbach achieves an emotional beat in the last scene of the movie so powerful and genuine that I was choked up with tears the whole way home. If there’s a bandwagon out there for Gerwig’s Best Actress Oscar, I’m on it.