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The Films I Watched In 2013 Awards

It’s that time of the year again, folks! Time for me to take a look at the movies I watched this past year and determine which ones were the very best in a variety of silly categories. Other bloggers do Best of 2013 lists and accolades. Me, I’m as always way behind on my viewing of 2013’s movies, so I focus instead on what I actually saw this year, regardless of when it was released.

Not counting rewatches, I saw a total of 145 films during these past 12 months. A sharp drop-off from last year’s 209, but an expected one. Work and budding interests in other hobbies took some time away from the movies, something that has also contributed to a lower update rate on this here blog. To quote Vonnegut: So it goes.

But 145 movies are still quite a bit, and most of what I saw was good. It has been a fine movie year indeed. One well worth commemorating with these highly prestigeous awards of mine.

If you want to go back and see the awards for 2011 and 2012, the links are right here and here.

On that note: on with the show!

2011_jiro_dreams_of_sushi_003Most Explicit Food Porn Award
Winner: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I’m not much of a fish eater, and I’ve never had sushi in my life. This movie could easily change that, because it makes the food looks absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious. And it’s all shot in intense tantalizing close-ups, too! Mmm…

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.48.51Most Surprising Director Award
Winner: Compliance

A seriously creepy based-on-a-true-story thriller featuring dark manipulation and sexual abuse, directed by… Craig Zobel, co-creator of kid-friendly web series Homestar Runner?

CA.1205.top.shots.Alpha Award for Best Opening
Winner: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Runner-up: Les Misérables

Certain opening shots in movies just have a way of hooking you right from the start. They make you wonder what it is you’re seeing, then why it’s there, and finally what you’re about to see next. Tilda Swinton floating around in a sea of people all drenched in tomato sauce certainly manages to do all that.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.51.12Omega Award for Best Ending
Winner: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Runner-up: Martha Marcy May Marlene

You might think that a romcom set during the last days before the end of the world can only end in one conceivable way, and perhaps you’d be right. What I didn’t expect from this film, however, was the emotional reaction I had to its conclusion. When I sat down to watch the movie, I was looking for something easy to go along with my hangover. What I got was something far more impressive. Martha Marcy May Marlene earns the silver medal by initially making me go “What!? This is where you end it? Just like that?”, but then making me question what the film was really trying to tell me, and subsequently sticking with me for days afterward.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.51.54Best Worst WTF-est Use Of Fried Chicken Award
Winner: Killer Joe

Scenes that leave you dumbfoundedly staring at the screen wondering just what the hell you’re seeing are rare. Even rarer is when they do this in a good way. William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe certainly manages this with its most infamous scene, featuring Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, and some fried chicken.

scarlett_johansson_1179511561Award for Excellence In Sexiness
Winner: Scarlett Johansson – Match Point

While not as overt or smoldering as previous winners in this category (the entire cast of Nine, and Clooney + J-Lo in Out of Sight), Scarlett Johansson’s turn in Woody Allen‘s infidelity thriller Match Point still has a ton of fire to it. Her pulling Jonathan Rhys Meyers into an affair with her certainly seems believable.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.53.51“What’s The Big Deal?” Award for A Beloved Film That Left Me Underwhelmed
Winner: Animal House
Runner-up: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Animal House is hailed as a comedy classic in most American writing I find online. I rarely if ever hear much reverence for it from Swedish writers. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I didn’t find much to like about the movie, other than a few John Belushi moments. But if I want Belushi, I’ll just stick to The Blues Brothers, thank you very much.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.58.28Masticating The Environs Award for Most Acting
Winner: Keira Knightley – A Dangerous Method

Nobody tried harder on a screen I found myself in front of in 2013 than Keira Knightley in David Cronenberg‘s psychosexual drama slash biopic. Whether her chin-jutting and high-strung performance fully works is most definitely up for debate, but she certainly gave it her all.

11168823_800High Concept Award for Best Premise
Winner: Timer
Runner-up: Grabbers

Irish horror comedy Grabbers features invading monsters averse to alcohol, necessitating that the protagonist townsfolk stay drunk all the time. This is such a brilliant and obvious idea for the genre that I’m surprised I haven’t come across it before. But the best idea I saw this year was in Timer, a sci-fi romance set in the future where someone has invented a timer that counts down the seconds until you first meet your soul mate – but it only starts counting once they too get a timer. It might sound gimmicky, but to its further credit, the movie plays the premise for all its worth, exploring different angles of it right up to its logical yet surprising conclusion.

MORNING GLORYGrumpiest Old Man Award
Winner: Harrison Ford – Morning Glory

Veteran TV journalist Mike Pomeroy used to cover wars, politics and other high prestige stories. In Morning Glory, he finds himself having to host a breezy morning news show. This does not exactly sit well with him. Harrison Ford plays him almost like a parody of Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino character, where every word is delivered like a raspy grunt. “Are you drunk?” Rachel McAdams‘ distraught character asks him before a broadcast. “Insufficiently”, he replies.

the-50-greatest-movie-fights-ever--46-420-75Brains Over Brawns Award for Smartest Fighter
Winner: Paul Newman – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Sometimes, all you need to win a knife fight is some swift thinking and an even swifter kick to the groin.

catacombsShannyn Sossamon Award for Best Shannyn Sossamon Performance
Winner: Shannyn Sossamon – Catacombs

Shannyn Sossamon continues to dominate this category, taking home the award for the third year straight. Her work in humdrum horror flick Catacombs is hardly career-best stuff from her, obviously, but she does make for a fairly effective state of distress protagonist. It’s just a shame that the movie is still terrible.

pi_a_jeho_zivot_foto_01Best 3D Eye Candy Award
Winner: Life of Pi
Runner-up: Gravity

In 2013, Life of Pi became the first movie I ever paid to see more than once in theater. Part of the return trip was to watch the story unfold while knowing where it’s ultimately going, but the chief reason was simple: a film as gorgeous as this deserved to be seen on the big screen more than once.

ddb7e022b292016cf2b46f33ce5d609cBest Underwear Award
Winner: Sightseers

Because hasn’t everyone always wanted to type the phrase “knitted crotchless panties” at some point in their life?

sleepwalk-with-me-e1361469729824Most Forgettable Award
Winner: Sleepwalk With Me
Runner-up: Employee of the Month

The only thing I remember about Employee of the Month is that it had a bunch of twists near the end. This is more than what I recall about Sleepwalk With Me, which was one of those movies that showed up on Netflix and a lot of bloggers ended up watching for some reason. My scorecard tells me I gave it a decent score after watching it almost a year ago, but I remember nothing about it today.

les_miserable-people-singA Swede Loves This Movie Award
Winner: Les Misérables

As you may recall, I crushed pretty hard on this movie when it arrived in theaters here back in the early parts of 2013. My love for it hasn’t diminished since then, and I still rewatch it on Blu-ray every other month or so. It’s not the best movie I saw last year, but there is no movie that spawned such an obsession in me in a way that honestly no other movie has ever done. For that, it deserves a special award.

gravity-movie-review-sandra-bullock-shiopBest 2013 Film So Far Award
Winner: Gravity
Runner-up: Before Midnight

For sheer visceral power and physicality, no 2013 film seen by me could top Gravity this year. It has left nearby theaters by now, and I’m kicking myself for not rewatching it while I had the chance. It’s that kind of movie. I’m not ruling out the possibility that runner-up Before Midnight could surpass it when revisited on home media, though.

texte-fff13-03-04Worst 2013 Film So Far Award
Winner: Upstream Color
Runner-up: The Purge

The Purge squandered an intriguing idea by employing it in a repetitive and tired home invasion horror flick. It wasn’t very good. That said, Upstream Color takes the prize here for being a film that I just couldn’t wait for to be over. I know there are plenty who like the film, but it just wasn’t for me.

U2190P28T3D3314520F329DT20110522234015Best Swedish Film Seen By Me In 2013 Award
Winner: The Girl
Runner-up: Winter Light

With Winter Light, Ingmar Bergman came close to repeating the victory in this category that Persona brought him last year, but ultimately, I was more moved by Fredrik Edfeldt‘s story of a girl trying live by herself for a summer. The Girl is a touching and thoughtful movie, and one deserving to be seen by more people outside my country.

limousineWorst Film Seen By Me In 2013 Award
Winner: Cosmopolis
Runner-up: Valhalla Rising

I’ve described Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising as a Bergman film without any of the things that make Bergman films interesting, but it does at least have some striking cinematography going for it. What does Cosmopolis have? Nothing.

shame-2011-movie

Best Film Seen By Me In 2013 Award
Winner: Shame
Runner-up: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I think I died a couple of times while watching Shame, and I didn’t even care. A spellbinding movie with amazing acting, fully deserving of all the praise it got upon its release. Could Steve McQueen take home this award again next year through 12 Years a Slave? Time will tell.

What’s the best film you saw in 2013? And what did you think of my picks here?

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Posted by on 8 January, 2014 in Year End Awards

 

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Monthly Report: May + June 2013

I didn’t do a Monthly Report last month. The reason why is that the number of new movies I saw in May was a less-than-impressive 1, and making a blog post on just that seemed silly. Fortunately, June proved a bit more fruitful. My movie interest is perking up again, it would seem. It’s just a shame that these two months didn’t have more really great films to offer than they did, but what can you do.

Breakdown (Jonathan Mostow, 1997)
Solid thriller, albeit with no real stand-out quality. Nothing worth going out of your way to check out.
3/5

Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, 2012)
Zzzzzzzzz…
1/5

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End of Watch (David Ayer, 2012)
The story is barely there. Just two cops doing their thing, presented partially found footage style that adds little to the proceedings. What makes the movie work is the convincing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, as well as the many brief yet poignant insights into what it’s like to be a police. The movie manages to take familiar situations and tropes and show them in a way that make the implications of them really sink in for the first time. If that makes sense. This one’s worth checking out.
4/5

Kung Fu Dunk (Yen-ping Chu, 2008)
I was hoping for something similar to Shaolin Soccer. This one kind of was, only not as good. One problem was that the martial arts stuff felt shoehorned in and not played to full comedic effect. Even worse was the way too mushy and overly long ending. The early goings of the film did offer some giggles, but not enough to outweigh the bad.
2/5

Descent (Talia Lugacy, 2007)
Not to be confused with spelunking horror film The Descent. This is one of those movies that’s more interesting to think about afterwards than it is to actually watch. In its effort to keep the effects of rape “real”, it internalizes everything to too high a degree. The result is a viewing experience that keeps the viewer at too much of a distance. There are some interesting directorial choices here, and Rosario Dawson‘s performance is a strong one – that her character’s motives are kept somewhat in the dark seems to be the director’s choice – but once you realize what the movie is going for, you realize that it’s not enough to sustain its running time.
2/5

For a Good Time, Call… (Jamie Travis, 2012)
Not all chick flicks are bad. This one kind of is though, or at the very least “meh.” It’s generally a bad sign that when the end credits start rolling, you realize that nothing has really happened. Nothing has changed, there has been no real character growth, and there have been no laughs either – although some of the cameos are smirk-worthy. This film is also proof that dirty language alone is not enough to spice up a film.
2/5

incendies

Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2010)
A movie very much about its story. It’s full of intrigue and is told well – dual timelines can be tricky, but are pulled off without a hitch here – and I found myself more and more hooked as it went along. Sprinkled in are scenes of stark emotions and shocking violence, almost like interpunctuation. Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a tale with plenty of unexpected turns.
4/5

Hit and Run (David Palmer & Dax Shepard, 2012)
I really liked the dialogue here. The conversations and arguements, particularly the ones between Shepard and Kristen Bell – fiances in real life – had a way of drifting from the personal to the general that I dug like hell. Like, they’d start talking about who’s right, then it becomes about what’s right, then they take themselves out of it completely and try to see everything from the outside looking in. It’s hard to describe properly, but it stood out to me as something movies rarely do. The fact that it’s the same kind of conversations I often end up in myself might have something to do with my fondness for it here. Anyway, the rest of the film was cool too, with a story that hasn’t been done to death and fun characters. Could have done with tighter action scenes, perhaps.
4/5

The Dictator (Larry Charles, 2012)
Nowhere near as good as Borat or Bruno. Felt more like an excuse for Sacha Baron Cohen to try out a new accent for 80 minutes. I did like the helicopter scene and the climax, though.
2/5

A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001)
I’m not convinced the movie need to go on for as long as it did; the ending did drag a bit. Overall, though, this was a fascinating story, helped along by two great performances by Russell Crowe (never better) and Jennifer Connelly.
4/5

Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)
This was fine. The acting is decent enough – I was particularly impressed by Andrew Garfield – and the story is a cool and unique one. I would highly recommend reading the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro instead, though. That one is superb.
3/5

kyss-mig18595221

Kiss Me (Alexandra-Therese Keining, 2011)
Not as good as that other Swedish movie about lesbians, but still fairly decent. As much of an infidelity drama as a gay romance, this one struggles a bit with an occasionally flat story – remove the homosexuality and marvel at how humdrum the whole thing would seem – but the two leads (Ruth Vega Fernandez and Liv Mjönes) have good enough chemistry and put in strong enough performances to carry the film to a passing grade.
3/5

eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)
I don’t get it.
2/5

Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011)
Just four talented actors doing what they do best, with Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly in particular providing stand-out turns. The end felt a bit abrupt, but then it always seemed to be headed that way, so it’s not a huge drawback.
4/5

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh, 2012)
Cool and clever film through which I was never sure what was going to happen next. Strong cast too. After In Bruges and this one, McDonagh is certainly a director to keep a close eye on.
4/5

The Campaign (Jay Roach, 2012)
Not the most subtle of satires I’ve seen, to say the least. There are some funny scenes here and there, but a lot of the humor just feels forced and hamfisted. I’m a fan of both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, but neither manages to do much with what they’re given here. The ending is really damn weak, too.
2/5

Total # of new films seen: 16
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the months: Seven Psychopaths
Worst film of the months: Cosmopolis

 
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Posted by on 1 July, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: January 2013

I have no idea how this happened. I thought December was very movie-intense at 30 new films seen. Well, in January, I saw 42. Plenty of good stuff was at hand, including two terrific Best Picture Oscar nominees that stuck in my head for days and required multiple trips to the cinema. I did quite a bit of last minute catching up on documentaries and foreign language films of 2012 for award nominating purposes, too. Gotta love Netflix. February will have more work on its plate for me, so I expect there to be less time for movies. Then again, you never know…

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)
Fitting choice to open 2013 with, don’t you think? This is a more accessible and to me far more enjoyable film than what Miike tends to put forth. The first half is decent enough talky set-up; it’s nothing mind-blowing, but it does what it’s supposed to. The second half is the real gem here though, featuring some of the most badass samurai action I’ve ever seen. Just tremendous stuff, and a great way to kick off movie year 2013.
4/5

All Good Things (Andrew Jarecki, 2010)
I’m not sure why this film has to exist, or why anyone should have to see it. It’s not bad or anything; in fact, there are scenes that are quite impressive, especially the ones focusing on the central characters’ relationships towards each other, which are more complex than what one first suspects. The actors all put in solid efforts, too. It’s just that the story as a whole, despite being based on true events, doesn’t really feel like it’s anything special. There is some awkwardness to the way it jumps around in its timeline. It’s a watchable movie, but by no means a must-see.
3/5

ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, THE SECRET OF THE UNICORNThe Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg, 2011)
Oh, this was a joy to watch. I grew up with the Tintin comics, so this had a lot of nostalgia value for me. It’s way more than just that, though. It’s a hilarious movie, with Captain Haddock providing the lion’s share of laughs, but pretty much all the humor is right on the mark. The animation is teriffic and offers such beauty that it made me wish I had seen it in theater. The action is cool and imaginative, with the astounding “long take” chase scene being just the crown jewel of a big old pile of gold. What I found most impressive was how well Spielberg utilizes the animation format, smartly employing angles, shots and effects in cool ways that would have been tricky to pull off in live action. All in all, this is a teriffic film. The 2015 sequel can’t get here soon enough.
5/5

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Posted by on 31 January, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2005

Just as the 2006 list featured plenty of comedies, this one has a surprisingly high amount of another genre: documentaries. Four of them appear on this list of ten, which, while not dominating, is certainly disproportionate if one looks at the amount of fictional and nonfictional movies I’ve seen from that year. Does this mean that 2005 was a weak year for “normal” movies? No, not really. The documentaries that made this list are all excellent and would have had a good shot of making the top 10 no matter what year they’d been released in. It just so happens that they all got clumped together in 2005. The ten films here are all 5/5 in my book, which is more than I can say for most other years.

I’m perfectly fine with this. Documentary films are often overshadowed by their fictional brethren, and I know some people who don’t even consider them movies at all. Which is ridiculous. Of course they are movies. They have the same power to move us, thrill us, shock us and make us laugh and think as any other genre of film. They deserve as much attention as anything, so I’m happy that four of them have found their way onto this list of mine.

As usual, this is 2005 as listed on IMDB.

10 – MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (LA MARCHE DE L’EMPEREUR, Luc Jacquet)

“There are few places harder to get to in this world. But there aren’t any where it’s harder to live.”

What always strikes me about this documentary is how much work it must have taken to shoot it. Showing the remarkable mating cycle of the emperor penguins of Antarctica, a lot of time was spent to capture every phase of the long process in a truly inhospitable climate. The result of the crew’s labor is a wonderful documentary that’s both informative and charming. The English-language version also plays the trump card of having Morgan Freeman as its narrator (though the Swedish one with veteran comedian Gösta Ekman behind the microphone is nothing to sneeze at either).

9 – THE WEATHER MAN (Gore Verbinski)

“Nothing that has meaning is easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.”

Here’s an oft undervalued film that Gore Verbinski put out inbetween the two first Pirates of the Caribbean films. Nicolas Cage plays a Chicago weatherman who’s unhappy with his life. His flaws are twofold: he takes no pleasure in his work, and he tries too hard to patch things up with his family. He can’t get over his ex-wife (Hope Davis), his kids struggle with weight issues and drugs, and his father (masterfully played by Michael Caine) is quietly disappointed by his son. It’s a comedy of the glum kind, where the laughs have to fight hard to break through the clouds but feel well-earned when they do. One of Cage’s best and most overlooked performances of the decade.

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Posted by on 23 November, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Review – Crash (1996)

(Note: This Crash is David Cronenberg‘s 1996 film, not Paul Haggis‘ one from 2004 that would go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. The two films have nothing to do with each other.)

Crash is a good example of a film that immediately grabs attention with a unique premise, plenty of sex and nudity and impressive visual flair by director David Cronenberg. It is thus disappointing that the story comes to a screeching halt a mere third in and then refuses to budge. This is a film that could have been really good but doesn’t quite get there.

The subject at hand is people who are aroused by car crashes, which takes various expressions throughout the film. Some want to be in real traffic accidents. Others stage reenactments of famous crashes, such as the one that killed James Dean. They sit around and watch foreign documentaries on crash test dummies as though they were pornos. Some are entranced by the mere sight of a scar or injury suffered in a car crash. They go cruising through the streets in hopes of coming across real accidents. And they have sex. Lots and lots of sex.

There are five central characters in Crash, and the lead is arguably James Ballard (James Spader). We learn early on that he’s in an open marriage with Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger). During the day they have sex with other people, then compare notes about their experiences at night. One day Ballard gets into a head-on collision while driving. The driver of the other car dies, but his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) survives. Ballard and Helen briefly encounter one another in the hospital, then meet up again later on. Neither seems very perturbed by what has happened. He offers to drive her to her work, but on the way they almost get into another accident. When they arrive at their destination, they have impromptu sex in the car. Sensing a connection between their arousal and the near-crash, they find other likeminded individuals, including the intense Vaughan (Elias Koteas) and Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette), who wears restrictive steel braces on her legs after an accident.

Throughout Crash, these people have sex in almost all possible pairings. Most of these scenes come more as a follow-up to witnessing a car crash rather than in direct contact with them, so there’s nothing particularly weird about them by themselves. But are they arousing? No, not really. There’s nothing cold or distant about the way they’re shot, and the soundtrack is suitably fitting. But there’s no escaping the fact that the traffic accidents is what gets them off. This isn’t a simple matter of it being a weird fetish that I don’t share, but that it stems from destruction. People are injured and die in crashes. This never seems to faze any of the people in this film (most strangely with Helen, who one would think would be kind of upset that her husband died). Nobody ever voices any concerns about any of this in the movie, with Cronenberg instead leaving it up to the viewer to insert his or her own thoughts on the matter. We’re merely shown the situations and how the characters react to them. It’s a clear disconnect.

The problem here is that none of it goes anywhere. Once Ballard and Helen meet Vaughan and Gabrielle, there’s no further plot development. Instead, we’re just shown the various ways in which they explore their kink. The characters don’t develope any further, and their relationships with each other are all set. It’s just crashes and sex, crashes and sex. Once it’s established that none of the persons are in a monogamous relationship, none of the sexual pairings seem surprising. This in not an automatic problem, as there are a number of good films that take a more observatory approach towards its characters and subject. But I struggle to see what Cronenberg is trying to convey here. A connection between sex and violence? Yes, it’s there, but why? Perhaps part of the blame belongs to the actors. They’re all talented people as we’ve seen in other films, but the only one who’s impressive to any degree here is Koteas, who finds a raw and striking streak in Vaughan and plays it for all its worth. The others feel uninteresting; Arquette’s character is nothing at all, Hunter is surprisingly bleak with the occasional stroke of eagerness, Unger delivers every line in the same hoarse whisper and Spader is just bland. I can’t read anything in any of these people.

Crash isn’t without merit. There are scenes that effectively set up and visualize the eroticism the characters see in the car crashes, such as an early part where we’re treated to a zoomed in shot of Helen caressing the mangled grill of Ballard’s car. A leter episode in a car wash also feels fresh due to the interesting camera angles Cronenberg utilizes. The music is also above average and lends the movie an eerie dreamlike atmosphere. But taken as a whole, the movie is an unsatisfying experience. An intriguing first half hour doesn’t amount to much when the rest of the film plays like a void.

Score: 2/5

 
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Posted by on 21 November, 2011 in Reviews

 

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