///UPDATED, because I forgot Lincoln!///
Again, this is a mixture of newly released and... newly discovered. This post is long overdue.
Least Annoying Supernatural Teen Romance Flick of the Past Few Years, Although That's not Saying Much
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Lena: Ethan promise me one thing; it will be a perfectly normal human date.
Ethan: I swear. I won't even call you after the date.
What do I remember about this? It's a supernatural teen love movie (ever heard of one of those?), which proves yet again that most British actors can't do good American-South accents. In this one it's the usually magnificent Jeremy Irons (who plays the teen witch's scenery-chewing dad), although I think the award for all-time worst southern accent goes to Charles Dance in China Moon (1994). With an impressive cast featuring Viola Davis, Emma Thompson and Eileen Atkins, the actress who plays Lena is Alice Englert, who happens to be Jane Campion's daughter. She's engaging and beautiful but not cookie-cutter, and I so wish she had been cast in the next movie I saw...
Movie Most Supportive of the Notion That When Something is in a Different Language, I cut it a lot of Slack
En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair, 2012)
Based on the true story of the love affair between the wife of Christian VII of Denmark (1749 – 1808) and his doctor, this movie provided us with the most oohs and aaahs as we delved into our iPhones after the movie had ended. So much of it was based on history that I knew nothing about. That was interesting. Obviously it's a period movie, and it was stunningly art directed and filmed. But Alicia Vikander as the queen was cast obviously for her lovely face and her wan expression. I wish an actress like Alice Englert had been cast instead, someone with some range and fire. I think Vikander's blandness would have translated even worse had it been in English. Sometimes the removal of a different language and an unknown history lends a certain alluring mystery to something that otherwise would appear fairly ordinary. And on that note...
Most Pleasing Depiction of Piercingly-Blue-Eyed, Tanned, Almost-Naked men Laying Around and Squinting into the Relentless Sun
Torstein: Why are you feeding the sharks our tomato soup?
Well, let me explain right off the bat. Kon-Tiki was filmed simulataneously in Norwegian and in English. So each scene was shot twice. This move was apparently made to secure international funding. I would never watch a dubbed movie (ironic purposes or drinking games aside) but this wasn't dubbed. However, I wish I'd had the option in Toronto to see it in Norwegian and subtitled. I can't help thinking that, for the lead actor, especially, it would have provided a little more emotional range. That actor is Pål Sverre Hagen and he played Thor Heyerdahl (1914 - 2002) who sailed his famous balsa-wood raft from Peru to Polynesia to support his theory that those islands were settled from the east and not from the west.
The production values are fantastic. Brooklyn of the 1940s is depicted with great care and obviously a great amount of money went into this. No wonder the producers wanted serious international backing. There are many heart-stopping moments (I was with my mother and grasped her hands many times, squealing in terror), and also plenty of delicious ones, as toned, tanned Norwegian or Swedish men, named Bengt, Erik, Thor and Knut (love those names!) lay around in the sun-baked doldrums of the Pacific Ocean. Truly, this film gives a great insight into the very fears they must have faced alone with no modern technology in the middle of that vast water. I highly recommend this film, in English or Norwegian.
Second-Whitest Makeup Used on an Actress
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Byer: Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg.
I can't agree. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne was the iceberg. Jeremy Renner does a great job following up an unforgettable portrayal and the movie retains most of the stylish, timeless thriller atmosphere. A relief that David Strathairn is in it as my dad and I have a running gag about how we love it when he comes into the ops room or whatever and demands a 20-block lockdown. Also, David Strathairn is my secret boyfriend, just as Rachel Weisz is my secret girlfriend, and she's the female interest in the movie (but has some seriously overly white make-up on in the first few scenes at her house). Okay, so Jeremy Renner might not have taken off his shirt quite as often as a certain dear friend indicated to me (I'm looking at you Ms B!), but it was still nice when he did.
Most Eagerly Anticipated Movie of the Spring Which Got Ruined by Lousy 3D Side Effects
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
G: Yeesh, no more 3D for me!
Oh, how I wish I could you tell you more! Eagerly, I ordered my tickets weeks in advance, going for the 3D option. How excited we were as the cinema filled on opening night last Friday! How queasy we were not too far in, from the camera movement and the 3D lousiness! My companion M had to leave for a few minutes to settle his stomach. I had to take off my 3D glasses and watch the second half in blurriness. I think it was a really good movie, although it lacks the sweet surprises of discovering the new cast that we enjoyed in the previous film of this iteration. Sigh. Can't really say much else, except Benedict Cumberbatch is as strong as he always is. I might see it again to catch what I missed. Or I might not.
Most breathtaking art direction
Lincoln: Hmm. I reckon it's the speed that's strange to me. I'm used to going at a deliberate pace.
I know my pace, and I know my sleep patterns and how much snooze I need. But when, after a fantastic big Chinese meal, my friend suggested that we were certainly not too old to attend a 10:30 p.m. viewing of a movie, I was up for it! Except, I sort of wasn't. Chinese food + a dark, comfortable cinema = nap. Three naps. So I didn't see all of Lincoln. What I loved: THE CAST. Look them up - they were all superb. Also, the art direction was stunning. It didn't fall into the old Merchant-Ivory trap of making everything look the way we wished it had, the way we might imagine a previous time through our own romanticized glasses. I had a great sense of truth in the look, apart from the golden glow that always seemed to be shining in through drawn curtains, but that is a small detail. And all the other small details were brilliant, including - of course - Daniel Day Lewis's make up. Between that and his acting, it was an eerie recreation. My only quibble in the movie was the saintly aura in which Lincoln seemed to exist, and - with that brilliant makeup - it made him seem slightly apart. This might have been purposeful, but I didn't enjoy it. I relish a portrayal that is warts-and-all, one which shows the faults against which truly great people have to do their own personal battles. Of course, maybe that was in the movie and I slept through it. I'll see it again some time.
Most Friendship-Affirming and Most Likely to Make me Still Want to Live in a Repurposed Space
The Station Agent (2003)
Finbar: You said you weren't going to talk to me if I sat here, Joe.Joe: I haven't said anything in like twenty minutes.
Joe: You timed me?
Joe: That's cold, bro.
I always think this movie just came out about a year ago. I've been meaning to see it since it came out in 2003. It's scary how that time flew. This is a rare movie that I will want to see repeatedly. It's about the unexpected friendships and unexpected places that we might call home. In this case, an abandoned railway station. I've always harboured a dream to live in a home that has been repurposed from some other use. This movie is a gem.
Most Worth the Wait... But why did I Wait so Long???
The Producers (1968)
Roger De Bris: Ah, Bialystock and Bloom, I presume! Heh heh, forgive the pun!
Leo Bloom [to Max] What pun?
Max Bialystock: Shut up, he thinks he's witty.
Yes, it's taken me this long to see it. What can I say? Brilliantly funny, with a cast that I can't imagine being excelled. Zero Mostel's great sad eyes and lugubrious face are such a perfect foil to Gene Wilder's neurotic twitchiness. I loved it. Last Sunday PBS aired a special on director Mel Brooks' career as part of the American Masters series. It was fascinating. The man is incorrigible, and so achingly funny. If you can catch this documentary, it's a great insight into the tortured, driven pysche of a true original. And it never occured to me that the bean-eating, farting scene in Blazing Saddles really paved the way for the vulgar humour that was to follow in film. Thanks, Mel! No, really, thanks. :) Of course he is much more than that. Young Frankenstein remains one of my top twelve.
Movie That Most had me Expecting Less Than Nothing, but Caused me to Come Away Pleasantly Surprised.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Gandalf: I'm looking for someone to share an adventure.
I was miffed to discover on opening night (I had tix all lined up with my three good movie pals), that The Hobbit had been made into three movies, which reeked to me of a cash grab... and that the extremely high-resolution film of this first instalment actually showed up the flaws in the sets and props. After a fun dinner at our favourite Giorgio's, we got in line for The Hobbit - and I had a great time! Yes, it's a bit slow, but there's lots of interesting stuff to look at. Yes that final chase scene in the caves was ridiculous and overlong but I'll be back to see the other two instalments, hopefully with the same little movie gang.
Most Unexpected and Haunting Sci-Fi Action Thriller
Abe: This time travel crap, just fries your brain like a egg...
This is why I need to blog more regularly. I saw this many months ago. So, yes, I've lost a lot of detail, but it stayed with me more than most movies. I believe it's the first science-fiction film to open the Toronto International Film Festival, and I suppose that's saying something about it, something about its thoughtfulness and a certain unexpected demand of the brain. Time travel is tricky. How to make sense of the effects of time, of being in the same moment as yourself from the future, or the past. God... imagine if you could meet yourself from another time, which would it be? I'll think on that later, although my immediate response would be to meet myself from the future, to learn from mistakes I am most apt to make, to try and avoid them. I'm intrigued by time travel, and rarely miss an opportunity to indulge in the many filmic and literary fantasies that explore it. Looper has some major spoiler opportunities, so I won't say much, just that the concept is fascinating, the acting is sharp, Emily Blunt (one of this blog's favourites) is riveting, and fine prosthetic work on Joseph Gordon-Levitt's nose goes a long way to making the story work.
Best Movie of the Year to Reference the Icelandic Sagas (and therefore Wagner's Ring Cycle)... oh Hell, it's just the Best Movie of the Year - Period
Django Unchained (2012)
Django: The D is silent.
Another great Tarantino, in this case a passionate, funny, gobsmacking, brutally violent homage to the spaghetti western, complete with rapid zoom shots, cheesy 60s music and a cameo by Franco Nero. Jamie Foxx is relentlessly virtuosic and intense in the lead role of a slave searching for his wife. Christoph Walz is overwhelmingly charming as his German companion who buys Django's freedom. One of the best movies of the year and a powerful hero quest. Unless you can't handle any sort of violence, SEE IT!
Whitest Make-up Used on an Actress... Plus Movie I Most Didn't Expect to Like, but I did, but I Sort of Wish I Didn't
Black Swan (2010)
Beth: Perfect? I'm not perfect. I'm nothing.
I didn't expect to enjoy this. I had managed to avoid seeing it. Then it was on television one evening, and I started watching. Half an hour later, I was sitting on the edge of my sofa, transfixed. I'm not entirely sure why. None of the cast interests me (except for Barbara Hershey), and the dramas of strung-out ballerinas is overplayed for the most part in most depictions on film. But in all the neurotic overwrought hysteria, there is something viscerally gripping and morbidly fascinating about this film. Even as I type this, my lip is curling a little in distaste. But... there's nothing else quite like it in my memory. I'm glad I saw it.
Most Surprising, Moving, and Unexpected Animated Film
Mary and Max (2009)
Max (to Mary): You are my best friend. You are my only friend.
The screenplay by director Adam Elliot is magic: eccentric, heartfelt, deeply human. The stop-start animation (claymation I guess) is in a washed out, almost greyscale colour scheme. The voices are beautifully cast in this moving tale of a little Australian girl and a middle-aged New York man, who come together as pen pals and take us on a journey into their - and our - hearts. As for the soundtrack, I'll never again hear the Humming Chorus from Madama Butterfly the same way.
So? Did you see any of these? Come on - I have lots of readers, but most of you are kind of shy I guess. I'd love to know your opinions!
And one more: don't bother seeing or even renting Hotel Transylvania. It has its sweet moments, and I had such high hopes, but in the end it's 91 minutes I'll never get back.