Summarizing the year of film has been challenging, but film editors Rhea Cinna, Tom Nixon and Jay Sizemore attempt the impossible and are joined by some of our other editors, in this year’s roundup.
Wong Kar Wai, The Grandmaster
Rhea Cinna, Senior Film Editor
“Don’t tell me how well you fight, or how great your teacher is, or brag about your style. Kung Fu – two words. Horizontal. Vertical. Make a mistake – horizontal. Remain standing and you win. Isn’t that right?”
My choice for film of the year 2013 is a selfish one. Selfish not necessarily because the film itself or its maker do not deserve praise, on the contrary, but because to me it’s more a sentimental choice than a purely rational one.
Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (the story of Ip Man, the legendary martial artist) had been in the works for years and the careful planning of the story as well as the technical preparation that went into the making of the film are visible from the get-go. I had been worried that the scope of the production would turn the film into another Ashes of Time (WKW’s extraordinarily crafted yet widely misunderstood film), but it feels as though the director has taken extra precautions in grounding the storyline of The Grandmaster. Still, presenting it as a martial arts film is a little misleading, considering that despite featuring several fight scenes and focusing on Ip Man, the film goes way beyond the genre and delivers a brilliant and sensitive display of human development and emotion.
True to its creator, the film abounds in lyricism, and within the carefully constructed and perfectly choreographed scenes, every frame is beautiful. Tony Leung becomes Ip Man and gives the kind of nuanced performance only he can muster for a typically poker-faced character. Zhang Ziyi completes the tableau with wonderful complexity and her chemistry with Leung is as palpable as ever. In the end, The Grandmaster is a Wong Kar Wai film through and through and as a fan, getting to experience it was a delight. I am certain, however, that even those unfamiliar with WKW’s work would find this film as mesmerizing and engaging as I have if they were to give it a chance.
Alain Guiraudie, Stranger By The Lake
Tom Nixon, Film Editor
Alfred Hitchcock continues to cast a long shadow over 21st century cinema. Brian De Palma’s typically lurid games of power and artifice translated to the Digital Age with telling ease in Passion, Francois Ozon’s In the House examined voyeuristic pleasure through a playful meta-textual conceit, while Park Chan-Wook elevated a muddled Freudian screenplay into the rapturous Shadow of a Doubt shrine that is Stoker. Each of these films brimmed with visual and stylistic charms, but none married them to Hitch’s psychological intensity as effectively as Alain Guiraudie’s queer thriller Stranger by the Lake, wherein a succession of beguiling widescreen images inhabit the cracks between desire and death like few since Vertigo.
There are penises galore in this thing – Guiraudie captures the gay experience with unexclaimed candor and eroticism (the sex is hardly censored nor simulated) – but it’s the Adam’s apple of lead protagonist Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) that steals the show. That thing is EVERYWHERE, jutting from his parched mouth, swelling and pulsating as he gazes with unchecked yearning toward moustachiod hunk Michel (Christophe Paou), one of the handsomer strangers within this insular anti-Eden where lonesome men congregate to cruise.
Much to Franck’s dismay, Michel’s in the company of a possessive partner upon their first meeting. But as he gazes upon the couple’s twilight swim from a vantage point amid the whispering trees of Blow-Up, he witnesses Michel forcing his companion down under the water, and not for a blowjob. Alas, the experience only further kindles Franck’s devouring lust, and each new day is announced by his car rolling slowly in; he can’t keep away from the lake even as it begins to resemble a deep, dark ocean. As Guiraudie amps up the dreamy menace alongside the inner turmoil and sexual ferocity of his characters, neither can we.
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Jay Sizemore, Film Editor
I make my pick for film of the year with the following disclaimer: I have not seen all the movies released in the year, especially not all of the ones released during award season which are supposedly of higher caliber than ones released during the summer. Most notably, I have not seen Her, or The Wolf of Wall Street, which are sure to be to my liking. Having said that, I honestly don’t think I will like any movie more than I liked Gravity. Gravity was a movie that truly elevated itself beyond its own medium, by not only being a breathtaking achievement in visual and technical finesse, but also by telling a multi-layered story centered around the human experience, but also a metaphor for all of creation and our place in the universe. There is not a moment in this film that lets your attention wane, or simply can be taken for its face value. The performances are solid, and Sandra Bullock gives a stellar turn in the lead role, the anchor of the whole thing, which is another reason to love it, as it is such a huge film, and headed by a female character instead of a male. This movie is a work of art, made with intent to be more than just popcorn entertainment, and it succeeds on every level. It will not only most likely be the best movie I have seen this year, but also one of my favorites for many years to come. Coming in at a close second of the films I watched this year, was 12 Years a Slave. That was a powerful lesson in history and human nature, that needs to be seen by everyone.
Anthony C. Ferrante, Sharknado
Aaron Grierson, Senior Articles Editor
Without a doubt this movie is, within some circles, the most infamous release of 2013. Released by Asylum Films, known for such “mockbusters” as Transmorphers and Titanic II , even before I saw the trailer I knew this movie would was on my ‘have to watch’ list. A curiosity about the trailer is that it aptly summarizes the entire movie: there are sharks in a tornado that comes in off the ocean and wreaks havoc amongst the city and the protagonists.
Now, this movie isn’t for everyone. There’s a lot of gore and a lot of death. There’s also a fright should one dare to examine the quality of acting. It’s also advisable to ignore the weather, as in one shot can be raining and the next, two seconds later, can be bright and sunny. But if you like sharks, or increment weather situations, or bad movies in general, then there’s a bright side!
While not up to the level of Zombieland in terms of kill creativity logic, it’s possible to cut an airborne dive-bombing shark in half with a chainsaw, and not break a single bone. Another possibility is shooting hundreds of metres with a handgun and landing a headshot.
For all that’s wrong with the movie, if you’re at all familiar with Asylum, then you know that horrible is what they aim for. It’s the sort of movie one should watch amongst friends and be prepared to laugh at how entertaining the movie can be one moment and how exquisitely painful the next. Besides, the movie is even equipped with pool sharks.
I give it one saw-halved fin up. Sharknado entertains and stands out because it’s almost original, entirely absurd, and almost looks like genuine effort to be more than funny, and be more than Asylum’s typical overgrown animal/monster movies. However, there’s just not enough shark, although Jenna Marbles might find her God here.
Jane Campion, Top of the Lake
Mahnoor Yawar, Deputy Articles Editor
Okay, so perhaps picking a miniseries is cheating, but in the Age of Netflix and the Year of the Binge Watch, who can tell the difference anyway? Besides, this 7-part epic premiered during the Sundance Film Festival in January this year, and was aired in one sitting with a single intermission and break. So much for complaining about the length of Bollywood movies, eh?
Jane Campion brings us this riveting, heartbreaking story of a pregnant 12-year-old girl who goes missing, and the investigation into her disappearance. Set in small town New Zealand, the investigation is headed by detective Robin Wright, home to look after her ailing mother. As she tries to uncover the truth about young Tui Mitcham’s rapist, she must uncover uncomfortable truths about the past she worked so hard to escape. Meanwhile, the Mitcham patriarch finds his own domain violated by a women’s refuge that pops up on Paradise, and butts heads with the leader GJ, played by Holly Hunter.
While this year was never short on series where the investigation into an underlying mystery exposes the seedy underbelly of society, there was none that presented as stark a contrast between the dark ugliness of the theme with the absolutely breathtaking visuals. Moss delivers a staggering performance as the tormented protagonist, bringing nuance to the somewhat trite “strong woman” trope with a quiet, calm dignity. Besides, where else would you find a commune of damaged women looking to heal, in a series with a woman investigating the horrors perpetuated on another woman? It’s a Bechdelian triumph, and definitely one to watch.
Francis Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Ghausia Rashid Salam, Articles Editor
I’m not a big movie person, but every now and then, Hollywood spits out a movie that I can’t resist. I’m not a film geek like our brilliant Sr. Film Critic Rhea Cinna, or the equally geeky Marcus Nicholls, film critic, so most of the movies I watch are mainstream Hollywood, with occasional cult flicks that pop up on my radar or are recommended by my friends. Catching Fire counts as one of those mainstream movies for sure. Even though I’m not much of a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, having come across too many stupid things she’s said to see her as the messiah of feminism, I do love her acting, so her playing the role of Katniss Aberdeen, the symbol of anti-authoritarian resistance is something I absolutely cannot miss. There’s so much to love about this movie; the crazy-ass monkeys chasing Katniss and Peeta (although I must admit, I had my face buried in my friend’s arm throughout that scene, constantly shrieking in terror) the tragic death of adorable Mags, the mockingjays driving Katniss and Finnick Odair mad, and more importantly, the snarky, catty, and downright wonderful Johanna. The sight of her stalking out on the beach covered with blood is my favorite scene from the whole movie, and it’s a relief to have read the books, and know what the third part holds for my favorites. I normally don’t like having books turned into terrible movies (Peter Jackson will never be forgiven for thrusting Legolas into The Hobbit) but for once, someone’s done a half-decent job of bringing the novel to life rather than putting it on a screen and murdering everything good about it. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out. Its definitely one of those must-watch movies of the year.
Jonathan Levine, Warm Bodies
Maryam Piracha, Editor-in-Chief
I know Gravity is going to be on someone’s list for the best film of the year and admittedly, I haven’t seen as many films as I’d have liked and there are a few that might make it to a close second (hello Prisoners), but I enjoyed Jonathan Levine’s nuanced zombie apocalypse film Warm Bodies. Though the film was released on Valentine’s Day in the US, it isn’t a rom-com although perhaps it could be interpreted as one by about as much as the director’s 50/50 (2011) was.
The film is narrated by R (a very capable Nicholas Hoult who’s come a long way from his About A Boy days), a zombie who can’t remember what his full name is, other than that it began with R, as he makes his way through empty towns searching for his humanity. The novel is, of course, an adaptation of the novel penned by Isaac Marion published in 2010 by Atria Books. I’m not going to pretend to have read the novel, but I did enjoy the performances in the film. The parallels to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are there – Hoult’s R and Teresa Palmer’s (I Am Number Four) Julie share namesakes and death-defying consequences for striking up a relationship – any sort, really.
Perhaps Warm Bodies isn’t the best movie in the conventional sense of the word, but it does contextualize the year for me. There is nothing necessarily politicized about it – it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a zombie movie with heart and pleasant performances. The film isn’t perfect – it does have the tropes of the genres it serves – but what more can you ask in a film, but an experience that takes you away from your life for a little bit of heartwarming laughter (thanks to scene stealer Analeigh Tipton playing Julie’s cynical best friend), solid SFX, and a bearable amount of action… zombie pace duly taken into account of course? Think of 2009’s Zombieland with a little less ha-ha humor, more somber lighting, and darker humor. John Malkovic rounds off the cast portraying part-foil, part misunderstood softie.