Wednesday, January 01, 2014

10 Best Films of 2013 (Ann and Stan)

This is Ann's "10 Best Films of 2013 (Ann and Stan)and Stan's  "10 Best Films of 2013 (Ann and Stan)."

 10 Best Films of 2013 (Ann and Stan)

Ann and Stan doing yet another look at films.  2013 wasn't a very good year for films.  We saw a dogpile, for example, on "Zero Dark Thirty" by people who supported torture (Senator Dianne Feinstein) and people who didn't (Debra Sweet).  Their arguments were with one another, somehow they tried to make them about the film.

Supposedly Sweet, Michael Ratner and many others were opposed to torture.  Yet when NBC embraced torture -- openly and clearly embraced and endorsed --  with the TV show "Ironside," only Ava and C.I. seemed able to point that out.  Suddenly, the crowd that had trashed Kathryn Bieglow and her film for months had nothing to say.

Then there was the other stupidity.  Racism gets ignroed in "Django Unchained."  This was a blacksploitation film made by a White man.  Jane Fonda, we expect a hell of a lot more from you then you're lying that it represents the finest statement on slavery.  It was a dumb action film where the most evil person was an African-American man.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

A number of us called those statements out.  But it was left to Betty to serve Jane:

 Keesha asked, I read.  Read for yourself:

[Jane Fonda:] There’s a scene in “Django” where Kerry Washington is lashed with a whip. I told Quentin that it was the first such scene that I actually believed. I could feel every lash. Kerry seemed to be receiving each lash on behalf of her ancestors, all those who had experienced that, all the ghosts of the slaves on the actual plantation where they filmed. Kerry really got to me and I cried. I asked if it was a hard scene to shoot and he said that the one where Jamie Foxx has to get down on his knees before a white man and beg him not to whip his wife was perhaps even harder. “I filmed that myself with a hand held camera,” he said. “I was crying and my tears filled the camera lens and it fogged over and I couldn’t even see exactly what I was filming. I just pointed the camera in what I thought was the right direction.” “Did you actually use that footage you shot yourself?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered, “That’s the footage in the film.” It’s an important film, as is “Lincoln.” I have read about and heard people say after coming out of “Django,” that they’d never realized before what slavery was really like.

What a load of s**T Kerry Washington is beaten in the film and Jane's praising Kerry's acting and asks Quentin about that scene.  Was it hard to film? Not as hard as it was to film Foxx begging a man not to beat Kerry. WTF. Does Jane Fonda not know how many women in this country are beaten and raped? She wants to claim to be a feminist -- at least right now, like a daffy lightbulb she flickers on and off with feminism -- but she doesn't even register what Quentin just said. Quentin has problems directing the scene where a man has to beg.  That was hard for him. Poor baby.

And that should be the final word on that crappy, racist and sexist film.  It wasn't hard for Tarantino to film Kerry Washington being beaten with a whip but that Foxx had to beg for the beating to stop, that really ripped Tarantino's little world apart.

For Jane Fonda and others it was 'real.'  For these two African-American bloggers, the whole film was bulls**t and racist.

And though every film in 2013 wasn't racist, so many were, in fact, bulls**t.

This was an awful year for film.

The relationship films are largely gone.  They were too adult for the cinema.  Instead we have the same damn story of super hero men -- men (go read Third's "Movies: Are they all the Invisible Woman?") -- told over and over.  How they overcome Daddy issues and manage to put on a cape or metal or whatever.

Superman and Spider-Man are now Brits and Wonder Woman's going to be an Israeli.  Wonder Woman's going to be played by a woman who fought in the Israeli military.  That should really help the box office for that film ("Superman vs. Batman") in the Arab world.

Meanwhile Paull Rud -- of the comedy films -- is 44-years-old and gearing up for his action lead as Ant-Man.

It's all so sad and disgusting.

We long for an Alan J. Pakula to emerge.  A Sam Peckinpah.  A Billy Wilder.  A Norah Ephron.

Instead, we live in a year when Spike Lee had to fight like never before with a studio and he lost.  And yet the critics cut him no slack.  We happen to love "Old Boy" (Spike's version) but we damn well wouldn't have written some of the garbage that made it into newspapers mocking Spike or questioning his vision when we knew the studio controlled how that film ended up, how Spike's vision was completely disregarded.

It was as though a lot of people had been waiting for the day they could rip apart Spike.

It's amazing that so many White actor rushed to defend the White director making a mockery of a painful episode in Black history but Jane Fonda and others didn't rush to defend Spike, didn't blog about how the studio should have let Spike have final cut on his own film.

They strip 35 minutes from his film and 'critics' want to whine about how they couldn't follow this or didn't get that?

We're sorry but we think if a studio tried to strip 35 minutes out of Martin Scorsese's cut of his own film -- or even a lower grade director or 'director' like Robert Redford -- that this would be celebrity news and actors would be expressing their outrage.

2013 found no artistic outrage and damn little art.

Our picks for the ten best films of 2013 are based on any film -- drama, comedy, action, documentary, concert -- that came out on DVD, BluRay or streaming in 2013.

1) "The Wolverine."  Yeah, it tops our list.  Yeah, it's a comic book movie.

We're actually burned out on comic book movies -- especially bad ones.  "The Wolverine"?  It's actually an incredible film.  You've got some great new characters, it's set in Japan and it's Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Does it get better than that?

Yes, it does.  Famke Janssen appears throughout the film as Jean Grey.  And that adds a special richness to the film -- both due to Jansen who really is a one of a kind performer and due to Jean Grey, the most complex woman the comics have ever created.

The film reteams Jackman with director James Mangold.  One of Jackman's earliest great non-X-Men films is Mangold's "Kate & Leopold" which teams Jackman with Meg Ryan.

There are surprises and plenty of thrills and the root of the story revolves around the invulnerable Wolverine being effected by bullets, not immediately healing from injuries.  A great film with an amazing look.

2) "The Heat."

This was the funniest damn movie of the year.

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy team up with director Paul Feig for this Katie Dippold scripted comedy.  Sandra's the straight laced FBI agent, McCarthy's the more rough around the edges police detective.  Their chemistry is amazing and they've got to be reteamed -- for a sequel or a different comedy, they've got to be reteamed.  They're just too good together.

And they've got a great supporting cast with especially strong turns by Marlon Wayans and Jane Curtain.

How good was this film?  It's 2013's biggest comedy at the box office with $159 million in ticket sales..  "We're The Millers," the second biggest comedy in the US this year, sold $150 million in tickets

3) "Oz the Great and Powerful"

Stan: I was at work talking to some friends and heard a sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" was coming out next month.  I thought this had to be a joke and something awful.  I call Ann and ask, "Have you heard about this?"

Ann: And I'm like five months pregnant and have only just gotten over puking every morning and I have no idea what's coming to the movies.

And we talk and agree that only two directors could possibly pull that off today: Tim Burton or Sam Raimi.  And, lucky for this film, it had Raimi.  "Oz" is a masterpiece.  It's only going to become more so each year.  James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Bill Cobb and Tony Cox have created memorable characters.  And as much as you appreciate the film the first time you see it, it's months later that you realize you love the film so much more than you thought.  In fifty years, this will probably be considered the best film of its year. 

4) "Zero Dark Thirty." Like "Oz," you can use the term "epic" here.  The two films really are epics.  Kathryn Bigelow had already won the Academy Award for Best Director with "The Hurt Locker," but this is her finest film so far.  It is also her biggest box office so far.

Jessica Chastain leads the cast as Maya.  She's determined to locate Osama bin Laden. The cast also includes James Gandolfini in what Betty rightly hailed as "his career topping role" playing CIA Director Leon Panetta.  And Chastain and Gandolfini are part of an amazing cast which also includes Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Chris Pratt, Reda Kateb, Jason Clarke and Edgar Ramirez among others.

The film was attacked by people who hadn't even seen it -- Debra Sweet organized a protest against the film she hadn't seen, Michael Ratner and Michael Smith wasted about 10 minutes trashing the film that, oh, by the way, they hadn't seen yet.

Their petty bulls**t has no place in the arts.  This is an important film and, yes, an epic. 

5) "Stoker"

This may be the best film pretty much no one saw.

Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska star in this film directed by Park Chan-wook (directed the original "Old Boy") from an amazing script by "Prison Break" actor Wentworth Miller.  Is it a horror film or a thriller?

That'll probably be argued as people discover this film and they should.  We can't tell you anything about it without risking spoilers.  You'll want to enjoy the shocks, the twists, the turns without anyone tipping you off.

5) "Skyfall"


Did they just kill James Bond off at the start of "Skyfall"?

Yes, in the same way they did on "You Only Live Twice."

This is the best Bond of the Daniel Craig period.  And that's saying a great deal because all three of Craig's Bond films stand up.

Daniel Craig has been an amazing Bond.

And the set pieces of this film (especially the train and the subway) are among the best Bond moments.

6) "The Family"

When this mafia comedy came out at the theaters,  we weren't crazy about it.

We felt Michelle Pfeiffer was amazing but that the film wasn't.  We're still not crazy about Robert De Nero and the same performance he's recycled for about 20 years now.  He's become a "Saturday Night Live" parody of himself.

But Pfieffer and Tommy Lee Jones give performances that startle with the freshness and richness the two bring to the screen.  And Luc Besson's direction grows on you.  The film probably should have come out in November or March.  Far away from summer because this isn't a summer comedy film.

7)  "Celeste and Jesse Forever."

This is another film that very few people saw.

Celeste and Jesse are married and they divorce in the film.  In fact, we know they're divorcing at the start of the film and it ends with their divorce being final.  So maybe that kept people away?

Or maybe they thought it was going to be "Forget Paris"?

What it is is a really funny film starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in the title roles -- a really funny film that explores what happens when the marriage is over but the friendship isn't?

Rashida Jones finally gets the perfect film role and, to get it, she just had to co-write it herself (with Will McCormack).

8) "Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive" (tie) "Joan Rivers: Don't Start With Me."

Aziz's comedy film is a Netflix exclusive.  Joan's aired on Showtime in 2012 (and came out on DVD and BluRay at the start of 2013).

These are concert films.  So don't expect to be blown away by some sweeping tracking shot or similar cinematic business.  With a concert film, the focus is the main performer.

And Aziz and Joan are hilarious.  They're also doing humor that people may not be able to handle.  For example, Aziz muses on stage that he may have been so good looking as a youngster that he intimidate child molesters.  He talks about the boys molested at soccer camp and explains that an old man forcing him to perform oral sex would have been a "deal breaker"  and he creates a conversation where his mother is telling him he has to go to soccer camp and he explains why he is not going back. He also does a lengthy routine on men who send pictures of their penises to women they know.

 For some, that may be too much.  For others?  They're probably feeling like Joan, "Just lighten the f**k up, these are just jokes, assholes."

Joan's concert film continues and expands on the theme of her 2012 best seller I Hate Everyone Starting With Me.  She works her way through the audience, group by group.  For example:

Blind people are so f**king selfish It's all about them. When was the last time a blind person gave you a compliment, think about it. 'You look great, have you lost weight?'  Never happens. They're always talking about themselves.  'Is the train coming at me?'

These will both leave you laughing.  Mike praised Aziz's special noting, "This is a hilarious performance.  There are a lot of blow job jokes and other things so you've got your warning if you're looking for, I don't know, Bob Newhart.  Aziz is hysterical.  I have not laughed so hard in so long."

10) "Star Trek Into Darkness"
We share Zoe Saldana's dismay (see photo above).

This film really demonstrates how awful cinema has become in the US.  The 'rebranding' is nothing but the promotion of ignorance, the rejection of wisdom.  'Let's redo ____ but with a young cast!  We'll call it a reboot!' But what happens after the reboot?

This is the follow up to the reboot and yet the film is acing as if Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) has actually gotten dumber since the 2009 reboot.

We like Chris Pine.  We're not talking about his acting.  We're talking about the lousy script.

And Pine's performance as well as the performances of Zachary Quinto, Saldana, Leonard Nimoy, Karl Urban (Bones is the only one who comes off well in the script, by the way) and John Cho are the only reasons this made it into our top ten.

If Zoe Saldana's Uhura is sidelined again like she was in this film, we'll have a quite a bit to say.  Uhura is the only African-American in the films currently and she is also a pioneering character -- so much so that when Nichelle Nichols was planning to quit the TV series, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself asked her not to leave, pointed out how important her character was.

So, J.J. Abrams, understand right now that you can work on your Daddy issues all you want and we don't care.  But if you don't stop screwing up Uhura, you're going to have to deal with the Black community.