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2013 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year

February 16, 2014 1 comment

Rush - Chris Hemsworth

FINALLY! The moment I’ve been building up to for far too long! It’s been a busy month… and a half… for me, but I’m finally done, and this is my last of my 2013 in Review articles! (Consequently, while none of these are exactly final reviews, many of them may as well be and portions of what is stated here may show up in a future review. For the sake of my sanity and my time, however, I’ve decided to present what I felt the need to write without very many edits!)

The format I’ve chosen for my annual Year in Review articles is a bit insane, I know, but while it’s time consuming, its also quite fun, and it’s just as much about sharing all the films released in the last year (or at least most, as I probably missed some in the sections where I went over films I didn’t get around to seeing) as it is about me locating films that you and I have both overlooked, which is also why a lot of the films I didn’t see this year made repeat appearances, as I couldn’t resist the urge to watch them, and it’s not like I’d be able to do another year in review for them, too, you know? This year, one of those movies I didn’t see at first but did during my writing these articles even made it onto this list, My Top Films of the Year!

The Wolf of Wall Street - Jonah Hill, Marching Band

So why don’t I call it “The Best Films of the Year”? It’s simple, really – it’s subjective, yes, but it’s also because even I switch around the order at times. I guarantee you that at some point in the past and future, I might have ordered these films differently. It took some time and thought, and this is ultimately what I felt comfortable enough with to publish, but I’ll tell you that this was a hard process, particularly in the top 10.

All of this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominees are on this list. Seriously – I’ve even decided to mark the Oscar nominations this year. They were all very good and justifiably nominated, and while I might have my preferences as to who should win, they’re all remarkable, worthwhile films if you should ever consider watching them. Some of the other movies on this list, however, are also quite awesome, some of which I like better than the films that were nominated, and one of which I’m still very annoyed didn’t at least get the tenth vacant slot in their nominees list, just out of principle for how awesome it was. (I’m just going to tell you now, that movie is Inside Llewyn Davis.) How annoying!

The World's End - Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan - beer

So what of the rankings? Lists like these tend to demand them, so I include them, and I do think they are helpful in making priorities in our very busy lives as to what to see first and give preference to. Since the rankings are so subjective and sometimes even arbitrary, my main rule is to go with my gut on these things. Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a mixture of favoritism, enjoyment, entertainment, and, yes, the actual skill behind the scenes and within them. As such, films that were without a doubt brilliant masterpieces that will go on to receive tons of accolades and be remembered forever may be outranked by flash-in-the-pan popcorn films that have very little to say except, “Hey, look at this awesome thing we did!” but were also very skilled at doing so and are films that I will revisit time and time again whenever I want to be entertained. It’s hard to rank films of these sorts against one another, and if I felt that I could be that much more objective about these things and take out the entertainment factor, I would probably top load this list with all the heavyweight dramas and such. But I don’t think I can, so I don’t put up any airs of being able to do so.

But, you know, I think that’s alright. Variety is the spice of life, you know, and to say that dramas should be exalted at all times above the comedies and action films is, I think, false doctrine when it comes to film criticism and lessens the true value of joy and wonderment that isn’t always found in those serious dramas – so long as that joy and wonderment is done very well, of course.

So, with that all in mind, I feel I’ve prepared you for this eclectic list of my picks for not just the best films of the year, but also the ones that are my favorites, the ones I find most enjoyable, and the ones that blew me away with their spectacle. Read more…

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REVIEW: From Up on Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から)

November 13, 2013 1 comment
From Up on Poppy HillDirected by: Goro Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa (screenplay)
Edited by: Takeshi Seyama
Cinematography by: Atsuhi Okui
Music by: Satoshi Takebe
Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Sarah Bolger, Junichi Okada, Anton Yelchin, Keiko Takeshita, Christina Hendricks, Jun Fubuki, Jamie Lee Curtis, Yuriko Ishida, Gillian Anderson, Takashi Naito, Bruce Dern, Shunsuke Kazama, Charlie Saxton, Teruyuki Kagawa, Beau Bridges, Rumi HIiragi, Aubrey Plaza, Emily Osment, Goro Miyazaki, Ronan Farrow, Ron Howard
Based on the manga by Tetsuro Sayama and Chiziru Takahasi
Year: 2011 (Japan), 2013 (US)

 

A friend of mine pointed out soon after he read this review that it’s important that I specify that I watched the English dub — not due to the dub’s inherent inferiority (it is very good), but due to a stylistic choice in the English dub’s voice casting of a character during a pivotal dream sequence. I will not spoil it here, but after having this brought to light, I feel it is necessary that I point this out. I actually really like the thematic depth the English dub adds, whereas he did not. Either way, my rating stands.

I’m normally an admirer of his reviews, but I must say that it’s a shame that Roger Ebert regarded From Up on Poppy Hill as a disappointment, especially as he was such a notable fan of Studio Ghibli’s, and this would, sadly, be the last film of theirs that he would ever review. While it may not reach the same sort of visual spectacle of the studio’s more fantastic and popular films – Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind among the studio’s most notable – From Up on Poppy Hill is no less a visual masterpiece and is one of the more touching, quieter films that have come out of the studio. It may not go on to be their most memorable or most favorited film among the studio’s throngs of fans, but as director Goro Miyazaki’s second film after the disappointing Tales from Earthsea, which actually was more like what you would expect from an anime studio, to criticize this dramatically superior but more intimate film for being something that it never aspired to be in the first place feels like doing the film a disservice. Read more…

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