Best Films Of 2014 (So Far)

1. The Raid 2: Berandal (dir: Gareth Evans)

2. The Double (dir: Richard Ayoade)

3. Mistaken For Strangers (dir: Tom Beringer)

4. Boyhood (dir: Richard Linklater)

5. Neighbors (dir: Nicholas Stoller)

6. Enemy (dir: Denis Villeneuve)

7. Only Lovers Left Alive (dir: Jim Jarmusch)

8. Under The Skin (dir: Jonathan Glazer)

9. Godzilla (dir: Gareth Edwards)

10. Edge Of Tomorrow (dir: Doug Liman)

Coming Soon: Frank, Listen Up Phillip, Song One, The Guest, The One I Love.

6 More Films I’m Looking Forward To from Sundance ‘14

I managed to catch 22 movies during my 6 days at Sundance but with hundreds of movies playing, it’s impossible not to end up missing out on some things. I think I did a pretty good job of seeing some of the most buzzed about films at the fest but didn’t have a chance to see everything I had planned on, including a few films that ended up getting squeezed out for time, sleep or scheduling conflicts. Not including films that already premiered at other festivals which I’m already dying to see (“Blue Ruin,” “Locke,” “Only Lovers Left Alive”) or films that I already had on my Most Anticipated Of 2014 list (David Wain’s “We Came Together”), here are 6 more films that played the fest that I’ll be looking forward to checking out hopefully in the near future. 

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1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle) Unfortunately I missed out on the Opening Night film about a drummer (Miles Teller) and his hard-ass music teacher (J.K. Simmons) which took home both major awards and quietly became the most talked about film at the festival.

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2. Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre) Jenny Slate stars as a 27 year old Brooklyn comedian confronted with an accidental pregnancy (abortion jokes!). I actually tried to get into a press screening of this and was shut out.

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3. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent) Terrible title aside, this Australian horror film about a bogeyman haunting a mother and son picked up great reviews from the midnight crowds. And the teaser looks pretty good too.

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4. Life Itself (Steve James) Documentary about the most influential film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, played extremely well in a room full of film critics. I’m sorry I missed it.

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5. What We Do In The Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi) Apparently hilarious horror mockumentary starring “Flight Of The Conchords” Jemaine Clement as a member of a clan of vampires in New Zealand.

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6. God Help The Girl (Stuart Murdoch) Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch wrote and directed this musical about a Glasgow trio that decides to form a band. The film received mixed/tepid reviews but I’m still curious.

Sundance 2014 Wrap-Up

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This was my fourth year attending the Sundance Film Festival and due to a flight cancellation that left me stranded for an extra day, I packed a record 22 films (plus one screener) into 6 very full days. As usual, I concentrated mostly on the U.S. Dramatic and Premiere categories which means I missed a ton of smaller films and docs that I’ll probably be catching up with throughout the year. Though I say it every year, this year seemed especially great not just for the films I saw but the time I spent bumping into friends and talking to strangers. (Shout out to Sue, a woman I had never met who offered me a place to stay after my flight was cancelled!) One of these years, I may even make it to a party. For now, here in descending order are my favorites from Sundance 2014.

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1. The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Evans) Not as perfect as the original but still a goddamned great time. The theatre applauded after every big fight. Epic.

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2. Boyhood (Richard Linklater) Filmed over the course of 12 years, this unassuming epic tracks one boy from ages 6-18. Quietly moving and cumulatively rewarding.

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3. Frank (Lenny Abrahamson) Michael Fassbender is a musical genius with a giant paper mâché head. A fucking weird, wild comedy, a complete original and a must-see for anyone who’s ever been in a band.

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4. Listen Up, Phillip (Alex Ross Perry) Acidic, idiosyncratic mix of Wes Anderson & John Cassavetes. Jason Schwartzman’s best role since Rushmore.

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5. Song One (Kate Barker-Froyland) Lovely, low-key love story feels emotionally & musically authentic. Great chemistry between Hathaway & Flynn.

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6. The Guest (Adam Wingard) Cannon, Cameron & Carpenter. Imagine a young Tom Cruise cast as The Terminator instead of in Risky Business. Fun! Read my review.

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7. A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn) Understated spy yarn, handsomely produced but neither a thriller or a character study. Accents distract. Read my review.

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8. I Origins (Mike Cahill) Hipster scientists set out to disprove God. Lots of big ideas, silly at times but that ending gave me goosebumps.

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9. The One I Love (Charlie McDowell) Small scale high concept exploration of relationships is simple but effective. Elizabeth Moss can do no wrong. Read my review.

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10. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (David Zellner) Strange, sad character portrait of a lonely dreamer on a quest. Moody, melancholic & cinematic.

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11. 20,000 Days On Earth (Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard) Inventive Nick Cave doc mixes fantasy/reality & gives a glimpse into his creative process circa Push The Sky Away. Read my review.

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12. Hellion (Kat Candler) Authentic portrait of 2 brothers growing up in rural Texas doesn’t strike false note until 3rd act. Heavy Metal soundtrack rules.

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13. Cold In July (Nick DamiciMullet C. Hall stars as a meek husband who stumbles onto a dark conspiracy in this retro-flavored genre-bender.

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14. Life After Beth (Jeff Baena) Aubrey Plaza is easily the best thing about this disappointing zombie comedy. Lacks motivation, metaphor. Read my review.

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15. Laggies (Lynn Shelton) Admirably flips the gender on Apatow man-children but not even a game Keira Knightley can save this uneven comedy.

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16. The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson) Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig do wonders with difficult material as suicidal siblings in this dark dramedy that ultimately feels too slight and Sundance-y. Read my review.

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17. Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg) A great cast & setup but there isn’t quite a ‘there’ there in this improvised drama that feels more like a rehearsal than fully realized story.

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18. Killers (The Mo Brothers) Disappointing serial killer pic from the Safe Haven VHS2 crew. Long & ultraviolent but with a few strong sequences.

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19. Young Ones (Jake Paltrow) Post-apocalyptic sci-fi western fantasia better on paper than in practice. Deadly slow, overwrought. Small Naps.

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20. Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff) Zach Braff tackles faith & family in this overlong & very uneven comedy. Starts strong but gets very soggy. Read my review.

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21. God’s Pocket (John Slattery) 70s-set dour, tonally inconsistent dark comedy about a small town murder. Fargo is a lot harder than it looks. Read my review.

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22. The Sleepwalker (Mona Fastvold) Chamber piece stretches thin premise to 85 minutes. Awkward staging, stilted acting & obvious expository dialogue don’t help.

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23. Jamie Marks Is Dead (Carter Smith) A murdered teen returns to haunt an acquaintance in this bleak drama. Too dreary & slow with nowhere to go.

My Most Anticipated Films Of 2014

imageAnticipation so often leads to disappointment that writing a Most Anticipated list is really a fool’s errand. I know this from experience (see: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009). Looking out from January 1st and the year looks to be all promise and possibility. In reality I’ve learned, it’s likely that only a handful of these picks will end up being worthwhile and the rest will rank among the year’s most miserable disappointments. But that’s part of the fun, I think! So with naive enthusiasm for all that 2014 might hold, here are the films I’m most looking forward to this year.

image1. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson) Joaquin Phoenix stars as a pothead private eye in this 70s set Thomas Pynchon adaptation. The film co-stars an impressive ensemble — Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Martin Short, Maya Rudolph and Joanna Newsom(!) — but let’s be real, you had me at PTA. (TBD)

image2. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) Matthew McConaughey leads a group of explorers (possibly including co-stars Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain & Casey Affleck) through a wormhole into other dimensions. An ambitious sci-fi epic shot partially in IMAX and directed by the finest blockbuster filmmaker working today? Yes, please. (Nov 7)

image3. The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Ewans) If you haven’t seen the original film, you’re missing out on the best balls-to-the-wall action film of the past half decade. The sequel picks up right where the original left off but they’ve upped the scale and scope in what should be a truly epic follow-up. (Mar 28)

image4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) As a former W.A. superfan who’s been increasingly disappointed by his last few efforts, I should really know better by now but dammit if his latest — about a rakish concierge (Ralph Fiennes) at a European hotel inbetween World Wars — doesn’t look really good. (Mar 7)

image5. Gone Girl (David Fincher) Ben Affleck stars as a former journalist whose wife (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on their anniversary in this adaptation of a popular novel. Synopsis sounds fairly generic but always trust Fincher to elevate his material (see: the Facebook movie). (Oct 3)

image6. Noah (Darren Aronofsky) At first glance this retelling of Noah’s Ark (feat. Russell Crowe as the titular shipbuilder) might not catch your interest but with “Black Swan” director Aronofsky at the helm, you can guarantee this will be a much weirder ride — the script supposedly features 6 armed, 11 foot tall angels — than the trailers are letting on. (Mar 28)

image7. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller) Based on the autobiography of an Olympic Wrestling Champion (Channing Tatum) whose brother (Mark Ruffalo) was killed by a paranoid schizophrenic (Steve Carell), this chilling true-life drama was almost released last month until it was bumped to a less crowded 2014. (TBD)

image8. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach) After an uncharacteristically pleasant detour, Baumbach returns to more familiar territory with this dramedy starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as an uptight documentary filmmaker and his wife who befriend a younger couple (Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried) and chaos presumably ensues. (TBD)

image9. Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer) Scarlett Johansson stars as an “alien seductress” looking for human prey in this arthouse thriller which has been compared to the work of Nicolas Roeg and Stanley Kubrick. The teaser looks weird and great. (Apr 4)

image10. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu) This was not the film I expected as a follow-up to “Biutiful,” “21 Grams” and “Babel” but that’s probably the point. Michael Keaton stars as a washed up actor best known for playing a superhero in this ensemble comedy co-starring Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis. (TBD)

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My Top 10 Films Of 2013

imageIt may have gotten off to a slow start but by the time the curtain fell on 2013, it was clear that it was one of the strongest years for film in recent memory. Though there wasn’t one film that knocked my socks off quite the way that “The Master” did last year, the sheer quantity of great films from great filmmakers was simply overwhelming. This year I saw a record 133 films in the theatre (with 100+ of them being new releases) and saw 40+ of those at Sundance, SXSW, TIFF and NYFF. I also had a chance to revisit nearly every film in my Top 10 and found that many played even better on second viewing, allowing me to accept their flaws and further appreciate in their accomplishments without the burden of expectations. 2013 was such a good year that it’s the first time I can remember where I wasn’t invested in the awards race simply because the frontrunners are all so good: McQueen, Cuaron, Scorsese, the Coen Bros., Jonze, O. Russell. Whoever ends up on top, I think most cinephiles would agree that we already won. Here are my favorite films from 2013.

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1. 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen) Back in September, when the lights first came up after the TIFF premiere of “12 Years A Slave,” I didn’t know I had just seen the best film of 2013. I knew I had seen something powerful but it wasn’t until the dust settled a few months later that it became clear it was the only choice for #1. A beautiful, brutal, emotional portrait of the horrors of slavery, this film absolutely gutted me both times I saw it. With just his 3rd film, visual artist turned virtuoso director Steve McQueen proves he is the real deal by his unflinching portrayal of the era. I was brought to tears not just by certain scenes but by certain images — like the overhead shot of Solomon and his fellow kidnapees stacked up against one another on a truck bed — that were just too overpowering to process. And I’ll probably never forget the film’s final minutes which were accompanied by audible sobbing from my entire auditorium (as well as my own lip quivering tears). A second viewing allowed me to appreciate the film on a more technical level, admiring the structure, its judicious use of flashback, the beautiful assemblage of each searing montage and the powerful simplicity of Hans Zimmer’s score. Images of Solomon’s journey have been brandished into my subconscious: men gathered in the field, a plate with some blackberries and a crumb of biscuit, the skin of someone’s back lashed to fraying ends, a black body swinging in the summer breeze. McQueen uses both picture and sound like blunt instruments. He doesn’t want you to forget and with this film, he has truly left his mark.

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2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) Each year the multiplex is full with films that are supposed to inspire awe and wonder with each spectacular CGI-assisted set piece but despite this bigger-bigger-bigger, more-more-more insistence on showing audiences the impossible, we’re so rarely thrilled by these sequences. Why? Because 99% of the time, we know it’s all CGI and once the magician shows you his hand, you have a harder time believing in magic. Leave it to Alfonso Cuarón to make us all believe in the magic of the movies again with “Gravity,” his minimalist space epic. Just watch that dizzying, 17 minute opening shot of the astronauts slowly orbiting into frame and it’s impossible not to feel your own feet leaving the ground. From there Cuarón slowly and confidently raises the bar, with each successive scene designed to make sure your jaw never leaves the floor. So why the hell don’t you get that feeling during “Iron Man 3”? Because Cuarón understands how important it is not just to show you something impressive, but to make you truly believe it. To pull this off, he and his crew spent 5 years making the film inventing the technology as they went and hoping it would be ready by the time they needed it. (Compare that to the standard 18 month rush to meet a release date of most would-be blockbusters and the difference is clear.) But the gamble paid off. The film isn’t perfect — admittedly I didn’t connect to the emotional journey of Sandra Bullock’s despondent astronaut as much as I wanted to — but it is a landmark and an awe-inspiring reminder of why we all go to the movies in the first place.

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3. The Wolf Of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese) It occurred to me at some point during Martin Scorsese’s debauched 3 hour epic “The Wolf Of Wall Street” that Leonardo DiCaprio is the most important movie star alive. He’s the only A-list actor making only the films he wants to make and yet he’s somehow managed to keep both his box office appeal and artistic integrity in tact without compromise. This makes him the perfect, if not the only, actor who could’ve brought Jordan Belfort to life (which is to do as much with his clout as with his talent). But oh, what a performance. After a decade of furrowing his brow for a variety of tortured characters, DiCaprio finally gets to cut loose and looks he’s having the time of his life. Spastic, comic, charismatic, despicable, overcranked and utterly fearless, he gives the best male performance of the year and possibly the best of his career. At 3 hours the film flies by and somewhat brilliantly sidesteps the typical third act of these kinds of narratives where the morally corrupted lead gets what’s coming to him. His punishment here is so inconsequential that many have wondered if the film is indicting Belfort at all rather than celebrating him. But rather than slap the character on the wrist to let the audience off the hook, the film’s final shot puts the indictment back on the audience itself, the one who just went along for the ride. While I’m not sure ‘Wolf’ sits on the top shelf of Scorsese’s filmography next to “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas” or “Raging Bull,” that’s hardly a slight. It’s a great film whose mixed reception only proves that it will stand the test of time.

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4. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley) It’s no coincidence that the rise of digital filmmaking over the past decade has coincided with the rise of documentary films. Most docs fall into a few basic categories (political, narrative, entertainment) and one’s interest in the film can usually be gauged based on your interest in its subject. But every so often a documentary comes along that seems to break the form wide open and reminds us of the limitless possibilities that the format provides. Enter Sarah Polley’s lovely, magnificent “Stories We Tell,” an autobiographical doc that examines the filmmaker’s own tangled family history centering on her mother, an actress whose big personality left an indelible mark on everyone she was close to. On the surface this would seem to be an exercise in extreme navel gazing, but what may have begun as a family photo album blossoms into an exploration of the fleeting nature of memory and how the truth may be a little bit different depending on who’s telling it. While the events that occur in the film are interesting, the way that they unfold is unforgettable. Through interviews, old home movies, newly staged voiceover and a few other surprises, Polley follows the story through its many unexpected twists, uncovering secrets she hadn’t set out to expose and uses the structure of the film to reflect and underline the themes of the story itself. It’s a truly rare doc where the story being told is enhanced so dramatically by the way in which it’s being told. Polley may have happened into the twisty nature of her film by accident but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant.

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5. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton) Rejected from Sundance, “Short Term 12” went on to become a mini-sensation at SXSW and currently sits at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with over $1m at the U.S. box office (more of a milestone for indie film than you think). It’s really the little movie that could and should be the success story of the year but you probably haven’t seen it maybe for the same reasons that I skipped out on it: it sounds like it’s going to be an after school special. In the film, Brie Larson plays Grace, a worker in a foster care facility who has dedicated her life to helping the kids who have slipped through the cracks and if you’ve seen enough indies, you’ve probably seen a dozen films like this veer into the obvious, the dire, the cloying. Admittedly I walked into the film a little bit skeptical but that cynicism quickly vanished as the film walks the tightrope and miraculously manages to get everything just right. Writer/Director Destin Daniel Cretton has experience working in these facilities which helps the film avoid the pitfalls commonly made by outsiders. The film is funny, warm and utterly human and over 96 short minutes I was completely swept up in this world. The kids are all wonderful and there is such a tremendous empathy for these characters that it extends beyond their fictional representations. But the true anchor is Larson — a former child sitcom star and recent scene stealer in “The Spectacular Now” and “21 Jump Street” — who gives what should be a star making performance as Grace, the complicated but compassionate young woman who is the beating heart of the film.

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6. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine) The opening scene of “Spring Breakers” is a grotesque menagerie of bikini bodies, writhing to the sounds of Skrillex. It’s ugly and hilarious and immediately a warning that, despite some MTV-friendly promos, this is not going to be the escapist fare you probably had in mind. I first saw the film at its raucous SXSW premiere and like most of the crowd, was alternately thrilled and bewildered by it. It’s wild and chaotic, occasionally a little boring but never less than beautiful to look at thanks to Benoit Debie’s neon-lit cinematography and Harmony Korine’s eye for the absurd. With this film Korine brought his outsider art to the mainstream by co-opting celeb teen princesses and MTV imagery for this subversive-corruptive-hilarious-fever dream that looks like a Hype Williams video but feels like a neon nightmare. It plays less like a traditional narrative and more like a 94 minute montage of recurring images and sounds. (Korine said he was inspired in the editing by EDM.) The centerpiece of this experiment is the now infamous gonzo Britney Spears sequence which begins at the piano with James Franco’s Alien warbling the words to “Sometimes” and is continued by Ms. Spears herself over a montage of complete insanity. Coming in a close second is the "Look at my shit!" speech, the robbery and the dark fairy tale finale which offers no resolutions or retributions. But the thing I love most about the film is that it’s going to scar a generation of tweens looking for something fun and a little dangerous and will find something much more subversive staring back at them. Spring break foreverrrr.  

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7. Her (Spike Jonze) Who knew that a decade on from his two Charlie Kaufman-scripted collaborations “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” that they would turn out to be the most commercial films in Spike Jonze’s still young career? Just compare those with his most recent pair of films, his “Where The Wild Things Are” adaptation and “Her,” his sci-fi romance (both scripted or co-scripted by Jonze), and you’ll see that left to his own devices Jonze is a much looser and bolder filmmaker than most people had given him credit for. His latest, probably the strangest and most effective love story since “Punch-Drunk Love,” is dividing audiences who either connect deeply to the central character’s longing for connection or find its heart-on-a-sleeve narrative too emo or affected. I thought it was a fascinatingly messy film whose brilliance (Jonze vision of the future, his desire to ask questions without answering them, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, etc.) far outweighed its shortcomings (it feels a little long). Though his earlier features were more polished, there is something utterly singular about his more recent films. There are few filmmakers unafraid to bare their emotions quite like Jonze has lately and as much as I adore his collaborations with Charlie Kaufman, with “Where The Wild Things Are,” his 30 min short “I’m Here” and “Her,” it’s great to finally see Jonze’s voice onscreen. There’s nothing else like it.

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8. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Bros.) Throughout the 80s and 90s, the Coen Bros. had an unimpeachable track record but seemed to lose their way in the aughts through work-for-hire jobs, comedies that missed the mark and adaptations where their unique voice felt muted. As much as “No Country For Old Men” felt like a successful step outside their comfort zone, it also felt like the Academy had rewarded them — four Oscars including Picture, Director & Screenplay — for not being themselves for once. And while I enjoyed ‘No Country’ I’ve felt a much stronger affection for their recent character studies “A Serious Man” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” for being the most distinctly them of their career. Like the aforementioned ‘Serious Man,’ ‘Llewyn Davis’ is a droll, hyperspecific comedy about the randomness — or is it earned? — cruelty of the universe and the daily suffering endured by a man just trying to live his life. In this case the man is the titular folk singer (portrayed to perfection by Oscar Isaac) and his universe is Greenwich Village in 1961 where his every decision will come back to haunt him. The film has a brilliantly circular narrative and tugs at a half dozen story threads it never bothers to tie up because it has no interest in doing so. Loosely based on a biography of mostly forgotten folk legend Dave Van Ronk, what separates the Coens from most of their peers is that rather than adapt it into another lame biopic, they’ve cherry picked the best details as inspiration for something wholly original and infinitely more satisfying. As close to perfect a film as I’ve seen this year.

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9. Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro) I know what you’re thinking and yes, I am aware that “Pacific Rim”’s central conceit is kind of ridiculous, the script is built on cliches and Charlie Hunnam is a bland lead with a questionable Fauxmerican accent. But I just don’t care, because Guillermo del Toro’s robots vs. monsters epic was easily the most fun I had at the movies all year, which is ironic because prior to its release, I had not been especially been looking forward to it. So while I went into the film fairly skeptical, somewhere around the 40-minute mark, with a giant smile plastered across my face, I had an epiphany that put everything into perspective: maybe del Toro just isn’t an “A” filmmaker and maybe he never will be? Unlike some of his contemporaries who sought to elevate genre material into something more respectable, with “Pacific Rim” del Toro made one of the biggest “B” films of all time that just happens to look like the most beautifully realized “A” movie you’ve ever seen. Del Toro’s passion for the material, silly as it may be, bleeds through into every joyous frame. While I’m not generally a fan of CGI or 3D, this film proved to be quite the exception: a beautifully stylized world that I just wanted to spend more time in which may explain why I ended up seeing it 3 times in theatres, more than any other film this year. So while I can’t really argue with anyone who couldn’t see past their issues with the film, if you didn’t shriek with delight when that fucking monster sprouted wings, I just don’t know what to tell you.

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10. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery) A little over a decade ago, in the midst of my cinematic education, I began visiting a message board with a small group of other budding cinephiles. Most of us were in college, many in film school and prior to Twitter and Facebook, it was really the best way to find a group of like minded movie geeks and argue about whatever you were discovering that week. Cut to a decade later and I’m seated for the World Premiere of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” an outlaw romance starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Keith Carradine, written and directed by my old message board buddy, David Lowery. Because of the talent attached, expectations were high but I needn’t have worried. A 1970s influenced, intimate drama with great performances and cinematography that would make Gordon Willis proud, ‘Saints’ was one of the most rapturously received films at the Sundance that year and the best thing I saw at the festival. Though it may be impossible to extricate my feelings of pride for the author with my feelings about the film itself, that doesn’t stop this from being one of my favorite cinematic experiences of the year. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

11. Afternoon Delight (Jill Soloway), 12. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater), 13. This Is The End (Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg), 14. Pain & Gain (Michael Bay), 15. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen), 16. American Hustle (David O. Russell), 17. About Time (Richard Curtis), 18. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Adam McKay), 19. Nebraska (Alexander Payne), 20. The Kings Of Summer (Jordan Vogt-Roberts).

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My Favorite Overlooked Films of 2013

image2013 has been without a doubt one of the strongest years for film in recent memory giving us new efforts from Scorsese, Jonze, Cuaron, O. Russell and the Coen Bros. among others. But with a half dozen of the same films cropping up on list after list (including my own), that doesn’t leave room for much else. So assuming that you’ve already seen the films on my Top 10 (coming soon), I wanted to shine a light on some more of my favorite films from this year that just missed my Top 10. Like last year’s list, I saw almost all of these at a festival, most of them are indies and all are absolutely worth seeking out. Here are 10 of my favorite overlooked films of 2013.

image1. The Kings Of Summer (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) A few years ago, a film like “The Kings Of Summer” would’ve been a big summer sleeper hit for someone like Fox Searchlight, so it’s a real shame that in 2013 after a raucous reception at Sundance, it came and went virtually unnoticed. Three young teens run away and attempt to live off the land in this hilarious, oddball mix of early Amblin films, Terrence Malick and “Bad Boys 2.” Read my rave from Sundance and watch this ASAP. Available on iTunes.

image2. Afternoon Delight (Jill Soloway) Perpetual scene-stealer Kathryn Hahn (“Girls,” “Step Brothers,” “Wanderlust”) finally gets a leading role she can sink her teeth into in this dark comedy from “Six Feet Under” vet Jill Soloway. The logline – a Silverlake couple take in a stripper to be their nanny – isn’t as important as the tone which mostly plays it real but still leaves enough room for improv genius Hahn to fire imaginary lasers out of her crotch. Read my review. Available on iTunes 1/28.

image3. Crystal Fairy (Sebastian Silva) Between the return of “Arrested Development,” his amazing cameo in “This Is The End” and a pair of indies with Sebastian Silva, 2013 was the year we welcomed Michael Cera back into our hearts. If you haven’t yet, you need to see “Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus” where Cera plays against type as a dickish type-A American on drug fueled road trip in Chile. Mostly improvised, completely hilarious and unexpectedly poignant. Read my review. Available on Netflix Instant.

image4. The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt) Based on the popular teen novel about a hard partying teen whose life changes when he meets a shy girl, “The Spectacular Now” is yet another film that deserved to find a much bigger audience. It’s a heartfelt, extremely intimate coming-of-age story unlike really any other, featuring a breakout performance from Miles Teller and strong support from Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chanlder and Bob Odenkirk. Available on iTunes.

image5. 20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville) This moving documentary should be on every pop music aficionado’s must-see list. “20 Feet From Stardom” shines a light on some of the great backup singers in pop music history and features interviews with many of the superstars they’ve assisted over the years. A sequence featuring Merry Clayton and Mick Jagger listening to her isolated vocal track from”Gimme Shelter” literally sent chills up my spine. Available on iTunes.

image6. Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg) Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson have crazy palpable chemistry together as co-workers at a Chicago brewery in this low-key but incisive relationship comedy. What makes the film really pretty special is that where most films traffic in the black and white — He’s right for you! She’s not! — “Drinking Buddies” explores the gray area between friendship and relationships. Available on iTunes.

image7. Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) It might be unfair but I usually look at actors stepping behind the camera with a skeptical eye. So color me extremely impressed by “Don Jon” the directorial debut from Joseph Gordon Levitt (who also wrote the script) and stars as New Jersey bro not quite looking for love in this surprisingly assured debut. A little darker than you’d expect but funny and ambitious. Available on iTunes.

image8. Rewind This! (Josh Johnson) Affectionate documentary about the rise of VHS and the home video revolution should be a must-see for all cinephiles that came of age during the VHS age. Both a history lesson and love letter to a bygone era, the film features interviews with many of the low budget pioneers that benefited from the innovation as well as the film geeks who loved them. Available on iTunes.

image9. About Time (Richard Curtis) About once a year my gf & I will take a chance on a romantic comedy and this year it was “About Time,” a charming time travel fable from writer/director Richard Curtis, who is responsible for literally every British rom-com you can think of, yes, including “Love Actually.” Sure it’s cutesy at times but Curtis really knows how to hit you in the heart and this film is no exception. Bill Nighy will probably make you cry. Available on iTunes 1/21.

image10. The East (Zal Batmanglij) Thriller about an operative for a private intelligence firm who goes undercover to infiltrate a band of political activists is silly at times but damned entertaining. It’s also a perfect companion piece to “Sound Of My Voice,” the previous collaboration between director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij and co-writer/actress Brit Marling, which made my Overlooked Films list last year and featured cults, rituals and questions of identity. Read my review. Available on iTunes.

The Worst Films I Saw In 2013

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Recently there has been some discussion online as to whether a Worst Films list can truly serve any real purpose other than to shaming films like “Die Hard 5” or “Movie 43” that most people probably already know to steer clear of. But because I already avoid those films, my list will be a bit different because I had expected each one to be good! Of the 133 films I saw theatrically this year (over 100 were new releases), 9 received “D”’s and only 1 film earned an “F,” 7 out of the 10 worst films I saw at festivals (where rolling the dice is the only way to roll), 3 have yet to be released and all of them I had at one time expected the best from*. Here in descending order are the 10 worst films I saw in 2013. You’ve been warned.

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1. The Canyons* (Paul Schrader) Okay, that wasn’t entirely true because most people assumed pretty early on that “The Canyons” would probably be some kind of train wreck. Starring a tabloid fixture and a porn star and written by “American Psycho” author Bret Easton Ellis and directed by “Taxi Driver” scribe Paul Schrader, the film was billed as a bold new kind of “cinema for the post-theatrical era.” At the very least it could have been campy fun, instead it was badly acted, poorly shot and — the last thing you might’ve expected from the aforementioned crew — completely boring.

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2. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn) Refn and Gosling’s previous collaboration (and my favorite film of 2011) “Drive” was a minimalist masterpiece, taking an all-too-familiar story and stripping it down to its raw essentials. But that film had an actual screenplay to pare down and “Only God Forgives” starts with barely a script and tries to strip it down even further until there’s practically nothing left. The film looks beautiful but its all empty stares, affected poses and shots that linger for an eternity hoping something interesting might happen. It never does.

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3. Haunter (Vincenzo Natali) You know it’s bad when a pumped midnight SXSW audience is completely silent for the entire film as was the case for this lame haunted house cheapy from filmmaker Vincenzo Natali, previously responsible for cult hits “Splice” and “Cube.”

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4. The Rocket (Kim Mordaunt) Winner of Best Narrative Feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, this Laos-set film centers on a boy thought to bring bad luck to everyone around him who enters a rocket building competition and was generally well reviewed for reasons that remain elusive to me. Other than its exotic setting, there wasn’t much here to distinguish it from countless other cloying coming-of-age tales.

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5. You Are Here (Matthew Weiner) The big-screen debut of “Mad Men” mastermind Matt Weiner is a hugely disappointing misfire. Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis star as Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis types in this uneven dramedy that aims for James L. Brooks (“Broadcast News”) and ends up more as James L. Brooks (“How Do You Know?”). Let’s never speak of it again.

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6. The Truth About Emanuel (Francesca Gregorini) This is what people who don’t come to Sundance think Sundance movies are. That is not a good thing.

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7. Mama (Andres Muschietti) Historically beginning of the year is generally a dumping ground for studios with sub-par genre efforts to unload though that perception has changed somewhat in recent years. I had hoped that this Guillermo del Toro-produced horror film might be an exception but unfortunately, the lovely Jessica Chastain and one or two creepy moments aside, that was not the case.

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8. I Give It A Year (Dan Mazer) A painful attempt to send up Richard Curtis (“Love Actually,” “Four Weddings & A Funeral”) style British romcom’s from “Borat” and “Bruno” co-writer Dan Mazer, this anti-comedy strands a talented cast including Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall and Stephen Merchant (who gets off probably the only real laughs in the film) in a story that clumsily tries to have it both ways and instead has it neither.

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9. Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez) As a huge fan of the original film, I’d been skeptical of this slick remake but when I sat down for its SXSW premiere, still hoped for the best. Not only does it fail to live up to the original, it fails as a horror film, period, misunderstanding even the basics of tension and release, anticipation and delivery and basic horror grammar. Featuring truly shocking levels of violence but none of the wit or fun of the original, rarely has a film this gory been this boring.

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10. Can A Song Save Your Life (John Carney) With his 2006 breakthrough, the indie musical “Once,” Carney captured lightning in a bottle but here he tries to manufacture that chemistry with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo and the results are utterly false and manufactured. Knightley could have a convincing career as a singer but Carney may be a better songwriter than screenwriter. The Weinstein Co. picked this up after TIFF so beware 2014.

My Favorite Albums Of 2013

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image1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City (Hannah Hunt, Diane Young, Unbelievers)

image2. Arcade Fire - Reflektor (Afterlife, We Exist, Reflektor)

image3. The National - Trouble Will Find Me (Humiliation, Pink Rabbits, Don’t Swallow The Cap)

image4. Lorde - Pure Heroine (Team, A World Alone, Buzzcut Season)

image5. Kanye West - Yeezus (New Slaves, Blood On The Leaves, Black Skinhead)

image6. Beyonce - Beyonce (Drunk In Love, Blow, Partition)

image7. Phoenix - Bankrupt! (The Real Thing, Oblique City, Trying To Be Cool)

image8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away (Jubilee Street, Higgs Boson Blues, Mermaids)

image9. Queens Of The Stone Age - …Like Clockwork (I Sat By The Ocean, If I Had A Tail, I Appear Missing)

image10. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium (It Was My Season, Down Down The Deep River, All The Time Every Day)

image11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito (Slave, Sacrilege, Mosquito)

image12. Haim - Days Are Gone (Days Are Gone, Don’t Save Me, The Wire)

Runners-Up: Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe, Atoms For Peace - Amok, The Strokes - Comedown Machine.

Listen to my Best Of 2013 Mix on Spotify.

Listomania: My Top 5 Favorite Horror Films 2010-2013

It’s October again which means I’ve spent the entire month watching as many Horror movies as I could make time for. Seeing that I’m occasionally asked for recommendations, because it’s been a couple years since I’ve done a proper list, I thought it was time for a little update. Some of these straddle the line between horror and something else and most are obvious but they’re also honest. If you’re looking for something to watch (or rewatch) over the next few days, you could do a lot worse. Here are my favorite horror films from the last few years.

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1. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky) Natalie Portman gives an Oscar-winning tour-de-force performance as a ballet dancer driven to the brink in the best psychological horror film that Roman Polanski never made. Aronofsky combines the go for broke theatricality of The Fountain with the intimate scale of The Wrestler for the best-of-both-worlds. [Rent on iTunes]

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2. Attack The Block (Joe Cornish) Edgar Wright-produced sci-fi/horror/comedy focuses on a group of young teens in South London fighting off an alien invasion. A natural blend of the 80s cinema of John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg, for once these influences feel lived in and genuine, as if they’d been absorbed naturally rather than studied. [Rent from Netflix, Buy on iTunes]

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3. Cabin In The Woods (Drew Goddard) A group of teens awake an ancient evil in this smart, playful stab at horror films made by and for those that love them. Though it works better as a comedy than as a horror film, it’s also a ton of fun that only gets better with repeat viewings and the last act is every horror nerd’s wet dream. [Stream on Netflix]

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4. Kill List (Ben Wheatley) Don’t read anything, just watch it. [Stream on Netflix]

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5. The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne) Lola asks Brent to the school dance, he politely declines, she kidnaps and tortures him. Violent but it’s not gratuitous and definitely for the adventurous, the film goes to some extremely fucked up places — when you figure out what the title is referring to, you can’t help but smile. [Rent from Netflix, Buy on iTunes]

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Honorable Mention: Safe Haven (short, Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto) A small documentary crew goes inside an Indonesian cult and all hell breaks loose. From the director of “The Raid,” at 20 minutes long, this short from mixed bag anthology V/H/S/2 is still the best horror film I’ve seen all year. Fingers crossed he’ll do a feature. [Stream on Netflix]

Runners-Up: The first half of Insidious (James Wan), The Conjuring (James Wan), Frozen (Adam Green).

See Also: Listomania: My Top 10 Horror Films of The Decade, Listomania: My Top 10 Horror Films of All Time, Listomania: My Top Horror Films of All Time (Runners Up)

NYFF ‘13 Wrap-Up

imageI was out of the country for the bulk of the 51st New York Film Festival (my 9th year attending) so unfortunately I didn’t get to see as many films as I would have liked — “All Is Lost,” “The Immigrant,” “Bastards,” “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “The Wind Rises” were probably my most noteworthy omissions — but on the plus side, my hit-to-miss ratio was much higher than it has been in previous years. I enjoyed all the films I saw this year to varying degrees with the top choices certain to land high on my year end list. Here, in descending order of preference, are my favorites from the 2013 NYFF.

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1. Her (dir: Spike Jonze) Probably the strangest (and most effective) love story since “Punch-Drunk Love” is a heart-on-a-sleeve romance between a man and his operating system. As much as I adore his collaborations with Charlie Kaufman, with “Where The Wild Things Are,” his 31 min short “I’m Here” and “Her,” it’s great to finally see Jonze’s voice onscreen. There’s nothing else like it.

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2. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir: Coen Bros.) Low-key character study features a career-making performance from Oscar Isaac and feels like a spiritual cousin of 2009’s severely underrated “A Serious Man.” The Coens track record has been spotty in recent years but ‘Llewyn Davis’ can stand alongside that and “No Country For Old Men” as their finest of the aughts.

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3. Nebraska (dir: Alexander Payne) Well observed father-son story is a big step back in the right direction for Payne after the milquetoast “The Descendants.” It may move a tad slower than I might’ve liked but the bench of supporting players is deep (Bob Odenkirk, Buzz from “Home Alone,” etc.) and it pays off big time emotionally in the final act.

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4. Captain Phillips (dir: Paul Greengrass) Not a film I need to see again but an effective true life thriller whose finale undercuts uplift with raw emotion and elevates the entire film which preceded it. Hanks doesn’t have a ton to do here (outside of the strangely awkward opening with Catherine Keener), but his final scenes do haunt. 

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5. Blue Is The Warmest Color (dir: Abdellatif Kechiche) The coming out/coming-of-age story that took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes contains some potent stuff (particularly in the first 3rd) but there is no reason on Earth that it needed to be 3 hours. Extended running time lingers on scenes that go nowhere and skips potentially huge dramatic developments. Its infamous sex scenes betray the previously earned dramatic emotion.

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n/a. The Age Of Innocence (dir: Martin Scorsese) Lured by the promise of a Winona Ryder appearance that never came I was inadvertently tricked into seeing Scorsese’s 1993 romance, also the next-to-last narrative film of Scorsese’s that I hadn’t seen yet. (If you’re curious, the last one is (“Boxcar Bertha.”) Damn you, FilmLinc!

TIFF ‘13 Wrap-Up

imageI took my 3rd trip to TIFF last weekend, saw 10 films, one Live Reading and caught up with friends over 3 jam-packed days. It was great. Here’s a quick rundown of all the films I saw best to worst.

image1. The Double (dir: Richard Ayoade) I was a big fan of Ayoade’s debut “Submarine” but was even more impressed with his sophomore effort which is equal parts “Brazil”, Kafka and Ayoade’s own wicked sense of humor. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a corporate drone forced to contend with the appearance of his doppelganger in this nightmarish comedy that should be a cult classic/midnight movie for years to come.

image2. 12 Years A Slave (dir: Steve McQueen) Based on the true story of Soloman Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery, this is a beautiful, brutal and overwhelmingly emotional portrait of the horrors of slavery. Visual artist turned virtuoso director McQueen is unflinching in his portrayal of the times and I was brought to tears more than once. A powerful, wrenching story that needed to be told and needs to be seen.

image3. Gravity (dir: Alfonso Cuaron) It’s odd to watch a film so masterful — it truly sets the benchmark for visual effects — and still feel a bit let down. Though I didn’t connect to the emotional journey of Sandra Bullock’s despondent astronaut as much as I wanted to, Cuaron’s tale of survival in space is breathtaking spectacle that deserves to be seen in 3D on the biggest screen you can find. 

image4. Dom Hemingway (dir: Richard Shepard) A dark British comedy from an American writer/director casts Jude Law as a notorious safe-cracker and irascible cunt just released from a 12 year stint in prison. Surprisingly vulgar (the film opens with him monologuing to camera about his manhood) and surprisingly sweet (he wants to reconnect with his daughter, Emilia Clarke), the film was mostly just a pleasant surprise.

image5. Bad Words (dir: Jason Bateman) Jason Bateman knows that it’s impossible to dislike him, so for his directorial debut, he casts himself as a real bastard just to see if he can get away with it. In the film, he stars as a damaged 40 year old who enters a national spelling bee meant for grade-schoolers to work through some unresolved issues. As a director, he’s on a learning curve but as a “Bad Santa”-esque lead, he shines.

image6. Labor Day (dir: Jason Reitman)
Give Reitman credit for trying something different but his adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel just doesn’t entirely work. Centered on a convict (Josh Brolin) who takes up residence with a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her teenage son, the film treads on some really tricky tonal territory that might work on the page but doesn’t convince onscreen.

image7. Green Inferno (dir: Eli Roth) After a 6 year hiatus, Roth returns for this cannibal horror tale, oddly his most amateurish effort to date. The film centers on a group of college student activists who get kidnapped by cannibal villagers while in Peru. Iffy acting, TV grade digital look but sick fun when shit starts to hit the fan. Read my review.

image8. All Cheerleaders Die (dir: Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson) This had all the elements of a great self-aware horror movie: cheerleaders, witchcraft, the undead, what more could you want? Unfortunately the film doesn’t really deliver on its premise and in a mixed blessing, the last few minutes seem to open the door for a (more exciting) sequel.

image9. Can A Song Save Your Life? (dir: John Carney) With his 2006 breakthrough, the indie musical “Once,” Carney captured lightning in a bottle but here he tries to manufacture that chemistry with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo and the results are utterly false and manufactured. Knightley could convincing career as a singer and Carney may be a better songwriter than screenwriter.

image10. You Are Here (dir: Matthew Weiner) A hugely disappointing misfire is the big-screen debut of “Mad Men” mastermind Matt Weiner. Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis star as Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis types in this uneven dramedy that aims for James L. Brooks (“Broadcast News”) and ends up more as James L. Brooks (“How Do You Know?”). Let’s never speak of it again.

imageBONUS: Boogie Nights live read (dir: Jason Reitman) Jesse Eisenberg as Dirk Diggler, Dane Cook as Reed Rothchild, Olivia Wilde as Amber Waves, Dakota Fanning as Rollergirl, Jason Sudeikis as Buck Swope and Josh Brolin as Jack Horner. Yes, it was as strange as it sounds. Check out my review at The Playlist/Indiewire.

See also: 6.5 More Films I’m Looking Forward To from TIFF ‘13

Best Films Of 2013 (So Far)

We’re now halfway through 2013 already which means it’s time for a temperature check on the cinematic highlights so far this year. I’ve seen 78 films in the theatre (about 20 of which were repertory screenings) and many of those at Sundance and SXSW which comprise a great deal of this list. Not all of these titles have been released yet so you should keep an eye out for them when they do arrive while some you may have already missed. There may be some further shuffling of this order as the year continues but for now, here are the very best films I’ve seen so far this year [some of which have reviews!]

image1. Stories We Tell (dir: Sarah Polley)

image2. Short Term 12* (dir: Destin Cretton)

image3. Spring Breakers (dir: Harmony Korine)

image4. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints* (dir: David Lowery)

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5. Before Midnight (dir: Richard Linklater)

image6. The Kings Of Summer (dir: Jordan Vogt-Roberts) [Read my review]

image7. Afternoon Delight* (dir: Jill Solloway) [Read my review]

image8. Mistaken For Strangers* (dir: Tom Beringer)

image9. This Is The End (dir: Seth Rogen + Evan Goldberg)

image10. Pain & Gain (dir: Michael Bay)

Notable: Crystal Fairy* [review], Don John’s Addiction*, The Spectacular Now*, The East [review], Twenty Feet From Stardom, Rewind This!* [review], Drinking Buddies* [review].

*not yet released

13 Films I Am Probably Definitely Going To See This Summer

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1. Man Of Steel (June 14)

2. Only God Forgives (July 19)

3. The Bling Ring (June 14)

4. Star Trek: Into Darkness (May 15)

5. Elysium (August 9)

6. The Great Gatsby (May 10)

7. Pacific Rim (July 12)

8. This Is The End (June 12)

9. The World’s End (August 23)

10. The Heat (June 28)

11. The Grandmaster (August 23)

12. Now You See Me (May 31)

13. Monsters University (June 21)

Also: I’m So Excited (June 28), The Wolverine (July 26), The Lone Ranger (July 3), The Hangover Part III (May 24), Blue Jasmine (July 26), World War Z (June 21).

Ten Films I’ve Already Seen (And Highly Recommend): Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (August 16), The Kings Of Summer (May 31), Twenty Feet From Stardom (June 14), Crystal Fairy (July 12), The Spectacular Now (August 2), Before Midnight (May 24), Frances Ha (May 17), The East (May 31), Stories We Tell (May 17), Drinking Buddies (August 23).

My SXSW 2013 Wrap-Up

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1. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine) Korine brings his outsider art to the mainstream by co-opting celeb teen princesses and MTV imagery for this subversive-corruptive-hilarious-fever dream that looks like a 90 minute Hype Williams video but feels like a neon nightmare. Spring break foreverrrr.

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2. Twenty Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville) Moving documentary shines a light on some of the great backup singers in pop music history. A sequence featuring Merry Clayton and Mick Jagger listening to the former’s isolated vocal track from”Gimme Shelter” literally sent chills up my spine.

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3. Rewind This! (Josh Johnson) Documentary about VHS and the home video revolution is an affectionate tribute to a bygone era. Both a history lesson and love letter to a format which should prove to be a must-see for all cinephiles that came of age during the VHS era.

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4. Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg) Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson have crazy palpable chemistry together as co-workers at a Chicago brewery in this low-key relationship comedy. What makes the film really pretty special is something it actually doesn’t do but hard to say what that is without spoiling.

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5. Downloaded (Alex Winter) Documentary about the rise and fall of Napster won’t uncover too much new information for those who lived through it but still fascinating to revisit. Recent interviews with Napster founder Shawn Fanning show that the failure still stings.

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6. Mud (Jeff Nichols) Two teenage boys help a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) evade capture and reunite with his lost love. As with Nichols’ last film “Take Shelter,” there’s a lot of good stuff here but like that film, it’s about 30 minutes too long.

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7. Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green) Two hander featuring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as road workers who spend the summer together. Hirsch is amusing as a dimwit but it’s so sleepy at times you want to check for a pulse.

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8. You’re Next (Adam Wingard) I’d been looking forward to this home invasion horror film since it first premiered at TIFF 18 months ago and though it’s not the film’s fault it couldn’t live up to the hype, even without it this would’ve been a total flatline for me.

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9. Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez) As a huge fan of the original I’d been hoping the new incarnation would stand-up on its own as a fun update (a la “The Hills Have Eyes” or “Dawn Of The Dead”) but unfortunately that was not the case. Featuring truly shocking levels of violence but none of the wit or fun of the original, the new “Evil Dead” is mostly a dud.

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10. I Give It A Year (Dan Mazer) "Borat"/"Bruno" co-writer Mazer attempts to subvert the Brit-rom-com but falls way short. I still love Rose Byrne though.

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11. Haunter (Vincenzo Natali) You know it’s bad when a pumped midnight SXSW audience is completely silent for the entire film.

Films That Were Nominated For Best Picture (1963-2013)

Les Miserables, Lincoln, War Horse, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Avatar, The Blind Side, Precious, Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, The Reader, The Queen, Letters From Iwo Jima, Crash*, Finding Neverland, Ray, Seabiscuit, Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, Chicago*, Gangs Of New York, Gosford Park, Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, American Beauty*, Elizabeth, Shakespeare In Love*, Life Is Beautiful, As Good As It Gets, Titanic*, The Full Monty, Babe, The Postman, The Fugitive, In The Name Of The Father, The Remains Of The Day, Howard’s End, The Crying Game, Bugsy, The Prince Of Tides, Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Driving Miss Daisy*, Working Girl, The Accidental Tourist, Rain Man*, Hope And Glory, A Room With A View, The Mission, Children Of A Lesser God, Kiss Of The Spider Woman, A Passage To India, Places In The Heart, A Soldier’s Story, The Killing Fields, Tender Mercies, The Dresser, Missing, Gandhi*, Tess, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Norma Rae, Heaven Can Wait, The Goodbye Girl, Julia, The Turning Point, The Towering Inferno, A Touch Of Class, Sounder, The Emigrants, Nicolas And Alexandra, Fiddler On The Roof, Airport, Hello Dolly!, Anne Of The Thousand Days, Oliver!*, Funny Girl, A Lion In Winter, Rachel Rachel, Doctor Doolittle, The Sand Pebbles, Alfie, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, A Man For All Seasons*, A Thousand Clowns, Ship Of Fools, Darling, Zorba The Greek, Becket, Tom Jones*, America America, Cleopatra, How The West Was Won, Lilies Of The Field.

*Best Picture Winner

See also: Films That Weren’t Nominated For Best Picture.