The Top 10 Films of 2013

12 Years a Slave

12YAS-Poster-ArtSteve McQueen’s third film (following Hunger and Shame) and a bona fide masterpiece, 12 Years is an unflinching, uncompromising look at slavery in the American south. It’s painful and emotionally harrowing, and makes no attempt to make anyone feel good about not only this history but the long-reaching effects of it, which we’re still feeling today. 12 Years is not The Help, congratulating white people for ending racism in 1962. Instead it holds up a mirror to an ugly, unavoidable truth and asks only that we accept it and then figure out how to move on from there. It’s a beautiful film, almost lyrical at times, even for all the ugliness it contains. And with a central message of hope and survival in the face of soul-crushing despair, it’s one that, even though there are no easy answers, doesn’t give up on the possibility of healing. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a necessary one. Continue reading “The Top 10 Films of 2013”

Holiday Movie Review Mash-up

Here we go with capsule reviews of a bunch of stuff coming out just in time to distract you from dealing with your families during the holidays.

American Hustle

american_hustleI enjoyed American Hustle way more than I did The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. In some ways, it feels like those movies were just warm-ups for this one, from culling the right mix of actors to perform in his ensemble to nailing the proper tone and style to match his story. But he got the recipe right and American Hustle is hugely entertaining. It’s heavy on the Scorsese influences, definitely not a copycat or even really an homage so much as a love letter to Scorsese’s heyday of crime films, all covered over in a shiny, post-modern gloss. The 1970’s details are terrific and provide a lot of funny sight gags just because irony, but there is also some wear and tear and grime for authenticity. The story is actually pretty straight forward, about criminals who get caught and have to try to, essentially, talk their way out of trouble. It’s all greed and politics and corruption, which is really one of the oldest stories in the book. But it’s fun to watch and this group of very talented actors (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence) are all on top of their game. Continue reading “Holiday Movie Review Mash-up”