Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pamela Zoslov's Year in Movies 2013

By Pamela Zoslov

Dear reader, by now your eyes are tired, so tired, of reading “Year End” lists. So many lists! I am, too, particularly because I disagree with so many of them. How can everyone else be so wrong? Critics and reviewers (not the same thing, by the way) have a way of gushing about movies I didn't like and dismissing movies I loved. Oh well!

Here's a quick rundown of films I liked, wanted to like, loved, felt sorry for, or just plain hated in 2013.


Crème de la Crème

I've heard critics dismiss Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA, maybe because it just seems too “easy,” or too corny, or too rural, or something. I don't get it. For me, the story is not the narrative of an old man who thinks he's won a big sweepstakes prize, but the space between the lines of dialogue, the things not said, the barren Plains landscape and the people shaped by it. With its flatland simplicity, stark monochrome cinematography and finely shaded tragicomic screenplay, I think it epitomizes the Great American Film. I wasn't all that fond of Payne's films that followed his coruscating 1999 ELECTIONcared little for SIDEWAYS, even less for THE DESCENDANTS. NEBRASKA, though, is a revelation. Payne, a very humanistic director, helped shape Bob Nelson's fine screenplay into something transcendent. Payne's deep sympathy and his preference for casting non-professionals in smaller roles gives the film a quietly moving authenticity. I don't envy Academy voters having to choose Best Actor in a field as crowded as this year's. In an ordinary year, the prize would unquestionably be Bruce Dern's.

Also masterfully done, with superb performances: FRUITVALE STATION; DALLAS BUYERS CLUB; AMERICAN HUSTLE; MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB also hasn't gotten the attention it deserves; I loved its gritty style. MANDELA, which is exceptionally well made, has been damned with faint praise. For example, a New Orleans Times Picayune reviewer named Mike Scott, reprinted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, sighed and pronounced it “like homework.” Well, Mike, some people need to do homework.


Documentary Bliss

I love documentaries, and this year's crop was pretty rewarding. My favorites: THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI; HERMAN'S HOUSE; 56Up; A BAND CALLED DEATH; GOOD OL' FREDA; 20 FEET FROM STARDOM; NO PLACE ON EARTH



Almost Great

BLUE JASMINE; LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER


Underrated, Overlooked or Unfairly Maligned

SHORT TERM 12; THE WAY WAY BACK; WHAT MAISIE KNEW; THE SPECTACULAR NOW, 42 (the Jackie Robinson movie); PHILOMENA


Overrated and Overpraised

12 YEARS A SLAVE; ALL IS LOST; INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS


Flawed But Interesting

THE GREAT GATSBY; ENOUGH SAID; THIS IS THE END; BLACK NATIVITY; THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES; AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY; GREENWICH VILLAGE: THE MUSIC THAT DEFINED A GENERATION; BEFORE MIDNIGHT


We Expected So Much More

GIRL MOST LIKELY; THE FIFTH ESTATE; ADMISSION


It Doesn't Get Much Worse

THE HANGOVER PART III; THE BIG WEDDING; IDENTITY THIEF; AUSTENLAND; THE COUNSELOR; THE INTERNSHIP


Guilty Pleasures
Dumb, dumb stuff that I turned my brain off and enjoyed:
JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA; ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES


1 comment:

  1. Reading this list just reminds me how many films I wanted to see and didn't get to. And yet I still saw a lot of good movies mixed in with the crap. I probably wouldn't have such a dim view of the past year if most of the grown-up movies hadn't all been saved for the last 2 months.

    Nice to see 'Bad Grandpa' mentioned, too. There were better comedies this past year, but I probably laughed the most at 'Grandpa'.

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