Tag Archives: Oscar Nominee

Amarcord (1973)

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We all have stories from our youth. Their veracity is usually up for debate, but the stories are there, napping in the shadowy parts of our brains. Amarcord — a Northern Italian phrase for I remember — is Federico Fellini’s story. It has a small town, and fascists, and befitting the frenzied concupiscence of teenage boys, a coterie of beautiful women serving as little more than objects. Looking backwards in time is a finicky venture, and for Fellini bears out all manner of misremembrances in service of his dark comedy, which is often about the way those inevitable misremembrances make our stories better.

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2013’s Top Nine

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So here they are, my best of 2013. I’ll allow my two-month demurral and the list’s incompleteness (who does a top nine?) to speak for the sort of year I had in the theaters. Still, I saw enough to have an opinion and I’m going to share it with you.

Enjoy.

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American Hustle (2013)

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I just don’t have much to say about American Hustle. Not for lack of trying, but the film hasn’t given me much to think about since I saw it a week ago. It’s a perfectly okay movie built on a mildly interesting true story that has a few things to say about the follies of greed, and includes a pair of knockout performances. But more than all that, and first, it’s a film that reminds you how utterly flaky Academy voters can be.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967 – 2014

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The strangest thing about dealing with an actor’s death is that you have to keep reminding yourself you didn’t know them. I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman because I know Phil Parma or Scotty J. I didn’t know him because of the interviews or the speeches. I did not know him. Over the next few hours and days and weeks the news of his death will slowly leave me, until I only truly grieve when he pops up in a film I’m watching — when PTA releases something and there’s no PSH to be found. It’s hard to pretend that a grief so fleeting could be the truth.

But there is truth in it, as evidenced by the sweeping anguish found in so many film lovers. And whether it’s thanks to a true connection with the artist through his work, or simply the reality that losing a genuine talent like Philip Seymour Hoffman is an objective sadness, today is hard.

It’s a certainty that Philip Seymour Hoffman had many more remarkable performances in him, and that loss is certainly incalculable, but for those of us who have always quietly understood that Phil was one of the greatest of all time, one of the reasons that movies can be called art, it’s hard to know what to think. A talent who moved millions was here yesterday and now he’s dead, and…for a moment I was going to write, and he’ll never move anybody again, but that’s not true is it? He will continue to move us for years to come, in fact — every time we watch one of his films. And I suppose that’s the minor consolation we can take: Hoffman is gone but never forgotten, because film allows those who are gone to keep on living.

Film allows those who are gone to keep on living.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014

 

12 Years a Slave (2013)

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Steve McQueen probably hated Django Unchained. Where Tarantino’s Django Unchained toyed with history’s facts to make the horrors of slavery a plot point, 12 Years a Slave is a film about a torture perpetrated on millions of black men, women and children. McQueen’s third feature isn’t interested in the audience’s comfort or catharsis, and tells a story full of vicious, hard violence and fractured souls. McQueen brings you as close as he possibly can to the horrors of antebellum slavery, not shying from bloody truths, and ultimately reminds us that far, far too often, history’s mad men and their ugly horrors go unpunished and unredressed.

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Her (2013)

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Superficially, Her is striking because it’s entirely plausible. From the Apple-tinted future tech to the subtle revisions to fashion to the utter solitude found in a crowd, the film has a great deal to say about the near future, and the world we’re in the process of creating. And yet, Her isn’t about the science fiction. It’s not about predicting the future or scaring us straight. It is, simply, a love story in a different time than ours, with a different set of rules and the same expectations. Had he wanted to, Writer/Director Spike Jonze could have explored the futurist angle — there’s ample evidence that he designed his world far past what was necessary for the story he’s telling — but that’s not where his interests as a storyteller lie. They lie with people, and the connections between people, and the unexplored places to which these connections can take us.

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The Best Film of All Time?

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Way back in 1982, Vertigo debuted on BFI’s Sight & Sound Poll of Best Films at number 7. Since then it has slowly ascended, finally summiting the list in 2012, displacing the oft-thought irreplaceable Citizen Kane. No list is gospel, but the collaborative nature of the Sight & Sound, along with its tenure and visibility within the world of film lend the list a weight that few can counter. Which makes Vertigo a legitimate contender for the throne—the protean, elusive, much debated Best Film of All Time. Except, here’s the thing: it’s not.

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