It is the end of the year, and I still haven’t seen (“I” meaning Kelly — contributors Carmen Petaccio and Jenny Nelson are also back to put in each of their two cents, but for now it is Kelly) (hiiieeee!) many of the movies that, had I seen them, I would probably have chosen as some of my favorites of the year. (And yet I did see the second Thor movie and The Fifth Estate.) (Very funny, the ways we spend the very limited time we have before our bodies return to the dirt.) Last year there weren’t a whole lot of good movies, and this year there are too many. Will Hollywood ever get it right? Will filmmakers spread the 2013 wealth back to 2012 if they get the chance (time machine)? Will I ever see 12 Years A Slave and Blue Is The Warmest Color? Is Her as good as everyone is saying it is? I don’t know! Let’s get to the list!
The final installment of Richard Linklater’s trilogy follows Celine and Jesse, now a family with two young girls (and another young boy back in the states), on vacation in Greece. Although it contained more scenes that seemed mostly unnecessary and out of place (the overwrought dinner table scene, for example) than the previous Before movies, the addition of real conflict — something real and opposing to fight for in each of the character’s minds, outside of their own relationship — and Linklater’s ability to sympathize with both Celine and Jesse’s points of view, made this our favorite of the three. It’s great. Especially if you like to watch white people talk to each other!
“Like The Master last year, Upstream Color was every film critic’s favorite movie to review by not reviewing it. ‘I have no idea what it’s about,’ wrote the film critics, ‘the end.’ This brand of scared-to-raise-your-hand-in-class pussyfooting is a disservice to audiences and very great movies like this one. Here’s one take: Upstream Color is about how trauma robs a person of identity, and how love can help them reclaim that identity, or even forge a new one. That’s just one take! What’s awesome about this movie is the amount of takes you can have. Is it sometimes obtuse? Yes. Confounding? Duh. Concerned with piglet disassociation avatars? Certainly. But it’s all part of a kooky, gorgeous wonder unlike anything else on Netflix. What’s your take?!” -Carmen
Bruce Dern is so incredibly good in Nebraska, which follows his and Will Forte’s journey to Nebraska to debunk what Dern believes to be a million-dollar winning piece of junk mail. He is heartbreaking in a way that always deserves to break your heart — it never feels cheap and doesn’t take shortcuts. Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, and June Squibb are all wonderful — especially Squibb — but this is very much Bruce Dern’s movie, and my goodness did Bruce Dern do a good movie.
“In five or ten years, American Hustle will be playing on USA or TNT on a Sunday afternoon, and you will find yourself watching the entire thing, with commercials, not one bit upset. It has the messy mania of the infinitely re-watchable. Which isn’t to say it’s anything less than super wonderful in the present! Because it is! From the soundtrack to Bradley Cooper’s hair curlers, from the A+ script to Louis C.K., it’s a production ‘par excellence.’ See also: fat Christian Bale in the dry cleaning racks! J. Law dancing to ‘Live and Let Die’! The piecemeal ice fishing story! AND Jeremy Renner’s hair! In fact, everyone’s hair! Too much to exclamation point adequately. ‘Hustle’ to the nearest theater while you can!” -Carmen
Short Term 12
Brie Larson is recognizable from a lot of things — United States of Tara, The League, 21 Jump Street, the time when she was on Community — but seeing her in Short Term 12, which follows her as a supervisor in a foster care facility, makes you feel like you’ve never seen her before. That sounds like a junk quote that you’d see in the trailer for Short Term 12, but it’s true! (A more obvious way to describe it would be to say that her role in Short Term 12 is a “break-out role.”) She is powerful, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and always fully present. Keith Stanfield is also so, so good. Man. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should see this movie!
“(Please note that views expressed in the introductory clause of the following sentence in no way represent the views or opinions of Videogum.) As an individual who argued that Greenberg is a better than Citizen Kane, I was pleasantly shocked to find that Frances Ha is just as good of a movie. (“As good as Greenberg? Impossible!”-You) It’s true, and it’s all thanks to Greta Gerwig, who stars as the titular character and, more importantly, co-wrote the script with Noah Baumbach, and the result is an affecting, delightful character study of a human being in New York City as well as New York City itself. Best line: ‘He’s the kind of guy who says, “I gotta take a leak.”‘ Perfect.” -Carmen
The Place Beyond the Pines
“This movie was very sad, even before Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes went on a break — now it’s even sadder! Ryan Gosling is a sad bank robber/motorcycle owner, Eva Mendes is the sad mother of his child, Bradley Cooper is a sad police officer, and their children grow up to be sad teens. The words ‘tragedy’ and ‘epic’ can be misapplied to a lot of modern stories but both fit this movie, because of its duration and how many devastating plot points happen across multiple generations. This movie was extremely upsetting. But also, it was good!” -Jenny
“One of the worst aspects — if not the WORST aspect — of existing as a cog in the late capitalist machine is that every freaking new movie is three hours long. You can’t just ‘see a movie,’ you have to have an ‘experience.’ So a black hole opens up, sucks in your day, energy, and, ultimately, your enjoyment of the movie itself. Prisoners is the exception. For its nearly three-hour run time, you feel like the fringes of your clothes have been nail-gunned to the seat. It’s Lifetime movie child-kidnapping setup is offset by uniformly great performances (Paul Dano! Gyllenhaal with a neck tatt!) and an atmosphere of dread that closes slowly around the throat. One of the best black holes to be sucked into this year!” -Carmen
The Act Of Killing
In The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer asks Indonesian mass murderers to write, direct, and re-enact their horrific crimes as if they were in a film, and they do so with — at first — glee. Literally just explaining the documentary is, we think, enough of a “review.” It is absolutely mind-blowing.
Inside Llewyn Davis
“Inside Llewyn Davis may be the Coen Brothers’ bleakest movie; it’s also one of their best. It’s a cosmic joke two hours in the telling that comes at the very earned expense of its protagonist. Llewyn is an irascible grump whose irascibility and grumpiness are borne of loss, repression, artistic frustration, are thus v. human. It’s easy for a movie to give you feelings when bad things happen to good characters; it’s worlds harder to feelings-give when bad things happen to bad characters. This movie does that. It makes you empathize with those luckless stepping stones, most now sunk, that paved the way for genius: the Nicholson Bakers that got DFW’d, the Jobs’d mp3 developers, the Llewyn Davises who suffered so other artists could help us not to.” -Carmen
12 Years a Slave
Blue Is The Warmest Color
(Image via Shutterstock.)