January 5, 2014

The annual retrospective season is finally over

The end of the year in the press features a lot of top ten lists, but the high-end guys strive to provide more than bullet points: they labor to explicate the thematic common denominator, the profound message about the state of the world in this year's list of the top ten dubstep tracks, point-and-shoot videogames, or movies. For example, poor David Denby explains in The New Yorker in "The Best Movies of the Year:"
... this fine movie year was propelled by many stern and responsible—O.K., important—American films. America is in trouble (no kidding), and many of the best movies this year, intentionally or not, embodied the national unease, the sense that everyone is on his own, that communal bonds have disappeared in a war of all against all, or the indifference of all to all. (A recent study suggests that hard-heartedness as a social sentiment goes up—not down—in periods of greater income inequality; we don’t want anyone else to get something we don’t have.) “Blue Jasmine,” “Gravity,” “All Is Lost,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” “The Bling Ring,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” are all powerful movies that touch on the national loneliness and despair. That they are also such strong movies is, at the same time, a defiance of misery.

Furthermore, we must not overlook the urgent apprehensions about the state of the American consciousness that unite and illuminate World War Z, Lee Daniel's The Butler, The CroodsThis Is the End, and Pacific Rim.

Not by Vermeer
Seriously, there are no doubt things that actually do unite movies released in 2013 that will be obvious a generation from now. But almost by definition we can't see the forest for the trees at this point. Recall the Dutch con man in the 1930s, Han van Meegeren, who painted many fake Vermeers, trading one to Goering for hundred of real Dutch paintings. Today, they look like badly done publicity posters for Greta Garbo movies, but back in 1937 they were perfectly convincing because they were so 1937ish: of course a missing Vermeer would look like this: Vermeer was a genius, far ahead of his time, our contemporary!

65 comments:

Reg Cæsar said...

I need more sleep. At first I read that as "The anal retrospective is finally over."

On the other hand, it seems to fit. As does "umbilical"…

Anonymous said...

"All Is Lost" is an allegory of the downfall of European man as a result of globalization, naked capitalism, and open borders.

Redford--asleep at the wheel, complacent in his material luxury--wrecks his sailboat while at sea against a shipping container full of cheap tennis shoes from Asian sweatshops.

The resulting gash in the hull and flooding signify the swamping of European nations via mass immigration.

An atomized individual, all of Redford's grit and ingenuity in trying to survive is in vain because he is disconnected from his fellow man. Imposing and inhuman commercial ships are heedless of him as they bustle past along international trade lanes.

Ultimately, he perishes.

Anonymous said...

http://www.slantmagazine.com/features/article/the-25-best-films-of-2013/P5

Another list.

Anonymous said...

http://www.avclub.com/article/the-best-films-of-2013-200655

Anonymous said...

An atomized individual, all of Redford's grit and ingenuity in trying to survive is in vain because he is disconnected from his fellow man.

There is a lesson there.

Anonymous said...

The only film I caught in the theater was GRAVITY--to check out the 3D for the first time--, and it was one of the most mind-blowing experiences ever.
I can't imagine any film this yr coming anywhere near it.

I did catch some others on dvd.
WORLD'S END is an instant classic. It defies so many rules of cinema and gets away with it. A supreme juggling act. This is what Tarantino should be doing.

GREAT GATSBY was bad beyond bad and I only saw 30 min.

OBLIVION has cool effects, and that counts for something..

ROOM 237 is loony tunes but thought-provoking about the psychology of how we relate to the power of cinema and cult of personality.

PASSION by Depalma was a horrible remake of a decent French film. Could only stand 20 min of it.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT was well executed but the characters were just smug and painful. Enough already. Turned off after an hour. Just couldn't take it anymore.

WORLD WAR ZZZZZZZZZ.

SPRING BREAKERS... Turned it off after 20 min. OK, I get it. People are morons.

BLING RING. Interestingly made film about terribly uninteresting people. The satire is built into the material and too easy. Even trite. Still, it was worth watching twice.

CONJURING may be ridiculous but it was genuinely scary. And well done.

TRANCE has a great opening scene but downhill from there. The mulatto woman was not convincing as psychoanalyst. Turned off after 40 min.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES is lurid art film porn... yet its attempt at Walter Hill-ism was stunning in part..

BULLET IN THE HEAD has a very likable Stallone. Asian guy is a zero, and the violence is downright pornographic when it should have been funny. Walter Hill forgot how to be Walter Hill.
It aint 48 hrs.






Auntie Analogue said...


Forget "disconnected from his fellow man." Redford has actually long been disconnected from his tribe, upon most of whose members he looks down and sneers from upon his high (and definitely not electric) horse.

Anonymous said...

Recall the Dutch con man in the 1930s, Han van Meegeren, who painted many fake Vermeers, trading one to Goering for hundred of real Dutch paintings. Today, they look like badly done publicity posters for Greta Garbo movies, but back in 1937 they were perfectly convincing because they were so 1937ish: of course a missing Vermeer would look like this!

Man, I'm no art expert, but even I could tell immediately that that was no Vermeer. The faces in the fake are morbid and creepy looking. And it's too dark and gloomy. Vermeer liked to feature colors and light. And it's just poorly done overall. It's hard to believe he was able to con people. Maybe it was because visual media was less readily available back then. You had to go to museums to get a good look at paintings back then, no? Were there cheap books with glossy, high res pictures of artwork back then?

Dave Pinsen said...

Thanks for the spoiler.

Nanonymous said...

I have never seen anything as stupid as Gravity. An insult of one's intelligence.

There is a small indie movie from 2013 that IMO should be in the top10-20 of 2013: The Spectacular Now.

Anonymous said...

http://www.examiner.com/article/professor-accused-of-racism-for-correcting-grammar-capitalization

Next, correcting math will be 'racist'.

If Big Brother says 2 + 2 = 5, yes it is. If you disagree, you're a math Nazi 'racist'.

Anonymous said...

"I have never seen anything as stupid as Gravity. An insult of one's intelligence."

It's sci-fi and has to be taken on its own terms. But above all, the conception and execution were truly imaginative and brilliant. As technological feat, it is truly a landmark film, along with Tron Legacy.

This really is the golden age of sci-fi.

Anonymous said...

http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/01/grappling-with-holodomor/282816/

Mr. Anon said...

The best movie I saw in 2013 was "JAWS". It was released in 1975, and I saw it on DVD. The second best movie I saw in 2013 was "Collosus: The Forbin Project". It was released in 1970 (made in 1968), and I saw it on a 3x5 YouTube screen.

I gather that movies are still being made, but it hardly seems worth the effort to go see them.

Gene Berman said...

A lezzie from Holland (who called herself "Mike")
Asked what great Dutchman she particularly liked
Replied (with a sneer) "not Van Gogh nor Vermeer
But I love the little boy who kept his finger in the dyke."

Anonymous said...

Recall the Dutch con man in the 1930s, Han van Meegeren, who painted many fake Vermeers, trading one to Goering for hundred of real Dutch paintings.

The Wermacht provided a little payback to the Dutch for this brazen art fraud.

Anonymous said...

https://www.facebook.com/matt.z.seitz

Something icky about the mutual handjob among the younger breed of 'film geeks'. Social networking has made everyone want to belong and liked.
Film discussion used to be contentious. Now, it's schmoozy.

"Holy cow, it's cold and blowing out there! But Matt Zoller Seitz's WES ANDERSON COLLECTION was waiting for me, fresh from Amazon delivery, when I got home! Woot!

"Matt Zoller Seitz's review of "Beyond Outrage" is great."

"Mad props to Matt Zoller Seitz for this incredible bit of writing in his review of INTERIOR: LEATHER BAR."

"I remembered this article by Matt Zoller Seitz today. Looking back on it, it's one of those pieces of writing that had a tremendous impact on me -- I think it's the playfulness of imagination exhibited, as well as the canny directness of the writing style. Seitz makes you feel like a world where these films exist are -possible-, and that world is just beyond your fingertips. I hadn't even realized it until now, but when I created the 70s sci-fi novel and film "Neptune's Queen," with its potentially magical powers, for a story, I was borrowing from this piece. Thanks, Matt."

etc, etc.

Oprahesque film culture.

Btw, Ebert is dead but critics now write under his banner. Cult of personality, no?



chucho said...

Fun quiz on Vermeer & Meegeren:

http://reverent.org/vermeer_or_meegeren.html

Harry Baldwin said...

The point about the style of one's own age was made by art critic Hugh Kenner, as recalled by Joe Sobran in his 2003 encomium for his friend:

Hugh liked to tell the story of a statue that had been exposed as a forgery. In the nineteenth century, it had been passed off as an ancient Etruscan sculpture; but in the twentieth century a sharp critic had detected its recent origin. How? The forger had endowed it with the ancient Etruscan mannerisms he could see; but also, unconsciously, with the nineteenth-century mannerisms he couldn’t see. His contemporaries couldn’t see them either, so for a while the counterfeit succeeded. But as fashions changed, those nineteenth-century mannerisms “rose to visibility.”

As Kenner put it, “The style of your own time is always invisible.” This was a favorite moral of his. You have to be alert for the unconscious assumptions you share with your own era. Conservatives and radicals, thinking themselves opposites, may actually share the same prejudices without being aware of them.

slumber_j said...

If it gets a theatrical release anywhere near you, I would very strongly recommend paying money to see Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) on the big screen. It's not perfect--the botox session and the Church-bashing are boring, and I'm sure there's a lot of stuff in there that's just extraneous. But if you steel yourself for the occasional longueur and just let it wash over you, it's a remarkable experience--particularly if you're a fan of Rome.

Rollory said...

The best movie of the year - the best movie of the past several years - was Frozen. It is optimistic and happy, and this past weekend it got back to #1 at the box office.

He doesn't mention it.

Ed said...

Because of circumstances, I saw mostly the crowd pleasers and not the art films, but there actually were some common themes with the crowd pleasers. There seemed to be more superhero and particularly more sci-fi movies than I am used to seeing.

There were three mass-marketed sci-fi movies that portrayed dystopias (Oblivion, Elysium, and World War Z), and in two of them the survival of the human race itself hangs by a thread. Plus one of the superhero movies (Man of Steel) shows a dying planet and the survival of the human race also threatened.

Plus you had "World's End", which I agree with another commentator was probably the best movie of 2013.

"Oblivion" is somewhat odd, it was marketed as a sort of action movie, but its a throwback to the slow paced, thoughtful sci-fi movies of the 1970s and criticized as overly derivative of these movies. One of the superhero movies, "Wolverine" also didn't feel like a superhero movie, it seemed to be a movie about dynastic politics in Japan that had a superhero and a supervillan dropped into it.

jody said...

a lot of movies are in production for years, so once they finally get a wide release, they have no connection to what's happening at the moment. they are definitely not a commentary on the day.

of course, the full spectrum of movies released in a year do reflect the period somewhat, when taken on the whole. but it's pretty obvious we're in the comic book movie era. i don't have to look backwards on 2013 from 2033 to tell you, that we're in the comic book movie era. that's crystal clear.

no one trend describes everything happening in society at the time, so in 2033 a critic could look back at 2013 and say it was the zombie era, or the era of the serial sequel, or the era of the unnecessary remake, or the era of 3D. but it's beyond obvious, this is the era of the comic book movie.

comic book movies are sucking up all the talent, all the writers, all the directors, all the actors, all the budgets. it is hip, cool, mainstream, and credible. academy award winning actors are desperate to put on superhero costumes now. the biggest battles in behind the scenes hollywood today are over comic book movie rights, casting famous actors for comic book movies, and talent acquisition for comic book movie projects.

jody said...

now that david denby brings up the topic, i note that today there is much less examination of real world topics via film, than there was in the past. when i was growing up, these 5 topics DOMINATED film, and accounted for at least half of everything that was released:

1) looking back on the vietnam war
2) ominous ponderings on the cold war, now hotter than any time since the 60s
3) reflections on the violent crime rate in the US, now at crisis levels
4) exposes on the drug war and what to do about it
5) examination of the burgeoning wall street culture and emerging financial fraudsters

running concurrently with that was a gauntlet of science fiction. after star wars, it was considered a good financial risk, and productions greatly increased.

we don't have as much of that anymore, except for the science fiction, which is now a mainstream genre and moderately respected by the film elite. whereas before it was mostly ignored and not subject to the major awards. that acceptance of geek fiction by the cool kids, may be due in part to it now being obvious to everybody, that our world is pretty much inexorably locked into an oncoming techno future, and a widespread acceptance of that.

jody said...

there's much less examination of real world subjects in movies today than there were 20, 30 years ago. indeed, we now have by far the most out of control banksters in the history of man, with the federal reserve, and wall street investment banks and hedge funds, threatening the world itself, yet there is less examination of this issue in movies than there was in the 80s and 90s

few movies about the slow but steady sweep of islam across the globe. for obvious reasons. the movie makers are, rightly, afraid of too much attention to that.

the US just spent 10 years and 1 trillion dollars in iraq and afghanistan, yet there were few iraq movies, and almost no afghanistan movies. one bad day in somalia back in 1993 produced a better movie than all of the material on iraq and afghanistan so far.

little examination of the mexican invasion of the US and gradual transformation of parts of the US into a third world country, one of the most significant developments in US history. but as steve points out, mexicans are almost completely absent in the hollywood part of the global movie industry (which still makes up more than half of it). indeed, many american movies set in modern day california, barely even show any mexicans even as extras or background people. LA is 90% europeans in most hollywood movies. they show more africans than mexicans.

basically no movies about the rise of china (not interesting, doesn't sell), the decline of south africa (they won't talk about that for obvious reasons), or the various civil wars going on around the world right now (most of them don't involve poor widdle africans killing each other, so they're not award movie material).

surprisingly fewer homosexual themed movies than you would expect, considering how the culture war is going. hey, what can you say. even though hollywood culture warriors want to ram homos down all our throats, they know homos don't sell. as i've pointed out before, hollywood elites operate under a weird contradiction where they tell you homos are the greatest thing ever, then steadfastly refuse to produce movies where all the characters are homos or where they show homosexual sex regularly. even hollywood culture warriors can't afford to lose too much money. the absolute refusal to make homosexual sex the default sex shown in a wide release, money making movie, or to even put it in there at all, tells you all you need to know about the hypocritical liberal mind.

jody said...

in movies there is also no discussion of the new idea that a house is a financial asset and to create a bubble in house price values is the thing to do. but this makes it so that it becomes increasingly more difficult for younger people to afford to buy houses, and locks them out of the house market - over time, creating a situation more akin to europe, where home ownership is more generational. steve talks about this effect often - affordable family formation - but the mainstream news people only talk about it from the perspective of how good it is that a small house now costs a ridiculous amount of money in many cities, and how they'd like to see that continue to go up, up, and away.

this is a boring topic though, and probably exempt from a movie exploration. a humorous movie about flipping houses, in the style of kevin smith or mike judge, would seem appropriate here. how many funny used car movies have we gotten over the years, but no movie about hucksters trying to hustle crackhouses for half a mil to unsuspecting yuppies.

in the US, birth rates for europeans are now at their all time lows. in no small part due to this very effect.

Anonymous said...

That "Vermeer" looks more like a blue-period Picasso...funny.

"Gravity" was the dumbest movie I ever saw...it had all the character and narrative development of "To Fly."

Just Another Guy With a 1911 said...

I agree. We are living in the age of great (or, at least, amazingly rendered) sci-fi. It's always a kick to see one with my Dad, an inveterate fan of the genre, who grew up when a science fiction movie/show meant cardboard space ships suspended on visible strings with sparkler propulsion systems.

While it was a visually stunning and suspenseful movie, "Gravity" would have been better sans happy ending. For whatever reasons, writers and directors of American movies, or at least most of them, are content to swim in the shallow end. There is never any sense of the tragic.

Cuaron should have concluded "Gravity" with the Russian capsule rocketing through the mesosphere and stratosphere, ablative tiling slowly being ripped apart, consumed by friction, sweat and tears running down Bullock'ss aging, yet still stunning Teutonic face, as she sees Clooney's character one last time who smiles at her, while Lera Lynn's thunderous cover of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" slowly swells,and the screen fades to black on "how strange it is to be anything it all."

"Pacific Rim" absolutely made no sense whatsoever, but it looked great and I'm sucker for giant robots, called Jaegers in the movie's nomenclature.

Also, "Pacific Rim" had some iSteve stuff in it. The main protagonists/love interests and pilots of the Jaeger "Gipsy Danger" are played by Charlie Hunnam, a native of Newcastle, who has the dodgiest American accent you ever heard, and Rinko Kikuchi, a native of Japan. The two are teamed up because they "drift" well together. That is - they can synch their minds up to run the Jaeger.

It get's better: Rinko's character was adopted by the numinous and heroic head of the Big Mech task force (initially organized under UN auspices, natch,much like the Navy battle group in World War Z) played by the very British Idris Elba (the heroic Heimdell in "Thor", originally based by Kirby on Chuck Bronson; and the heroic Captain in "Prometheus").

Of course, the movie takes HBD and cultural issues head on when Mexico City is annihilated by giant monsters because it's Jaeger pilots (designed with a luchadore theme) were taking a siesta.

Anonymous said...

*SPOILER*

Uh, Redford is saved at the end of the film.

Anonymous said...

If someone composed a symphony and passed it off successfully as by Beethoven, he would be considered a great composer once the fraud was revealed. That an painting fraudster is considered just a fraudster suggests to me that "greatness" in the visual arts is mostly BS.

Power Child said...

I've heard other people say Gravity was stupid, too. None of them explain why they came to that conclusion, so I'm left to guess [beware, spoilers]:

-Clooney's character's death (a major plot point in the movie) hinges upon an obvious departure from the rules of physics followed so diligently throughout the rest of the film;

-Bollock's character has a rather contrived backstory about her daughter and some amateurish on-the-nose dialog emerges as a result;

-The general plot of the film doesn't bring the future of the whole world into jeopardy like many Hollywood/sci-fi movies do, just that of a couple astronauts and some space equipment;

-The film contains various unsophisticated and even childish references to stuff that's supposed to make it seem deeper than it really is;

But none of this has to do with the real point of the movie, which is its technical achievement, and its ability to transport the viewer into a novel and different experience. I liked Gravity for the same reason I liked Avatar, only more so.

Anonymous said...

"the sense that everyone is on his own, that communal bonds have disappeared in a war of all against all, or the indifference of all to all."

Wow. I always though that hard-won perception was exclusive to the middle-class. Maybe the author was impressed by a chat with one of his neer-do-well cousins last Thanksgiving.

Thursday said...

Han van Meegeren
Denis Dutton edited a book that took a detailed look at fraud in art and there were a lot of historical circumstances that contributed to his ability to get away with fraud. He was living in a confusing era, and, IIRC, there were problems with experts from other countries travelling to evaluate the paintings, so they were authenticated by a limited number of people.

Similarly, artistic reputations used to be far more unstable when you had to rely on the opinions of the few men who were able to afford trips to Italy or wherever. Now, it's a lot harder to be a neglected Renaissance artist when all someone has to do is put up some photos of your work on the web.

Anonymous said...

That "Not A Vermeer" painting - isn't that "Brian Eno, on realising the master tape has been wiped" ?

abcdefgh said...

I think Gravity ends on a positive note for the same reason Children of Men, another Cuaron work, does. Cuaron is one of the few artists who celebrates life.

Nanonymous said...

I think Gravity ends on a positive note for the same reason Children of Men, another Cuaron work, does.

It's not a positive note. It's a "happy end by any means." It's a wrong note.

ricpic said...

I think the sleeper of the year is Nebraska. I found that I had to gear down while watching it. This is because Nebraska is purposely anti-rhetorical, in the sense of movie rhetoric: scenes that quickly culminate in cathartic moments. This is quite rare in life but a moviegoer comes to expect climax after climax in a movie. Nebraska refuses that rhetoric, that stance. And so the viewer has to ratchet down his expectations in order to appreciate this truly fine meditation on ordinary life. If you can't do that, rev down, you'll probably be bored by Nebraska. But if you can you'll savor an experience.

Anonymous said...

People need to learn the difference between a happy ending and a satisfying ending. I mean by the standards of these posters Hamlet has a happy ending because Fortinbras successfully restores order to Denmark and Hamlet avanges his father. Hamlet has a a tragic but satisfying ending just like Gravity. Honestly, I hated the movie but this kind of oh so sophisficated act adopted by a few posters, who if we are honesty probably work data entry for Kaiser, is so tiring. Having Sandra bullock die would not have been more sophisticated and the ending isn't happy because her dear friend and colleuge who demonstrated himself to be a heroic and noble character is dead. The director ended it the way he did because he has the self confidence not to have to resort to cheap nihilistic endings popular in bad indie films. I'd argue with the premise that he celebrates life, but he is far too sophisticated to resort to cheap dark endings.


"Cuaron should have concluded "Gravity" with the Russian capsule rocketing through the mesosphere and stratosphere, ablative tiling slowly being ripped apart, consumed by friction, sweat and tears running down Bullock'ss aging, yet still stunning Teutonic face, as she sees Clooney's character one last time who smiles at her, while Lera Lynn's thunderous cover of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" slowly swells,and the screen fades to black on "how strange it is to be anything it all."

This is dumber than Horatio Sanz in Idiocracy.

Anonymous said...

in the 1920s an art dealer found a phillipi in perfect condition - it looked 'too new' and he put a brown varnish over it to look like old master paintings should look.

On the other hand some of the worst art vandals are art restorers who over-clean paintings and remove the final glazings- 'they' claim its just varnish and wave their degrees in the faces of real painters who know better.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

If someone composed a symphony and passed it off successfully as by Beethoven, he would be considered a great composer once the fraud was revealed. That an painting fraudster is considered just a fraudster suggests to me that "greatness" in the visual arts is mostly BS."

I have long maintained the same. Visual arts are, to a certain extent, a fiat art - any given work is great because critics say it is great. But great music is great on its own.

That being said, there is a distinction between the great works of painted and sculpted art of the past (up through the early part of the 20th century), which really were created by people of great talent, and modern art which is worthless crap produced by pretentious, talentless hucksters and hacks.

Mr. Anon said...

Next on All Things Considered: Alan Cheuse, Maureen Corrigan, and David Denby provide a retrospective of the years' retrospectives.

Mr. Anon said...

"jody said...

The absolute refusal to make homosexual sex the default sex shown in a wide release, money making movie, or to even put it in there at all, tells you all you need to know about the hypocritical liberal mind."

I think that Norm MacDonald provided a fairly on-the-nose illustration of this hypocrisy:

Gay Pride

Mr. Anon said...

(I particularly enjoy the highbrow film critics' attempts to find the common theme in the year's movies: "Like Twelve Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity and We're the Millers speak to our growing concern that ...")

Ha Ha. That was funny.

But seriously, "We're the Millers" speaks to our growing concern that Jennifer Anniston has not yet revealed enough of her body on film. "Horrible Bosses" was a good start, but we need more. Preferably, she would star in a Lars Von Trier film.

Anonymous said...

UPSTREAM is visual trance. That sort of thing works better as 'music' than as film; it's difficult to develop characters when everything is haze and mood. (It did work with CLEAN SHAVEN though). By turns, absorbing and annoying.
I didn't hate it like I hated SAFE by Haynes. It has some very arresting images and provocative ideas. But they are incomplete.
But the ending had an anti-hogocaust imagery, and that was nice.

Anonymous said...

"I particularly enjoy the highbrow film critics' attempts"

Are there high-brow critics left?

Simon and Kauffmann were the last ones.

Lots of critics discuss art film and such, but their attitude and sensibility are 'radical' or 'bohemian' or 'hipster' or 'geek' than high-brow defined by respectability and/or dignified seriousness. .

Anonymous said...

"I think Gravity ends on a positive note for the same reason Children of Men, another Cuaron work, does."

"It's not a positive note. It's a "happy end by any means." It's a wrong note."

Positive or negative, it doesn't matter.
Ending was, at once, spectacular and poetic. Stunningly executed. I thought she would burn up in the atmosphere, and that would have worked to in its own way.
But it ends differently and the final image, plausible or not, is one of those truly iconic images not only of cinema but the human spirit.

As mere story and script, it's simple, even trite. The symbolism is obvious. But there are things that only cinema can do, and from start to finish, GRAVITY was feast for the eyes and ears impossible to convey in any other medium.

And 3D justified itself not as gimmick or razzle-dazzle but as an expansion of cinematic space and demonstration of the nature of outer space with no up and down.

Rarely is a film a smash as crowd pleaser, mind-teaser, and heart-warmer.

Anonymous said...

"I've heard other people say Gravity was stupid, too. None of them explain why they came to that conclusion, so I'm left to guess [beware, spoilers]:"

They are a bunch of jerks. I oughta kick their butts.

"-Clooney's character's death (a major plot point in the movie) hinges upon an obvious departure from the rules of physics followed so diligently throughout the rest of the film;"

I thought about this too. Why would he drift away when the line was cut? But IF the ship on which the line was attached was spinning, then he would have drifted away due to centrifugal or some such force. Of course, we can't tell if the ship is spinning but that is the nature of space.

"-Bollock's character has a rather contrived backstory about her daughter and some amateurish on-the-nose dialog emerges as a result;"

Contrived yes but relevant to the theme of rebirth. It's an ageless theme. As in MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, it takes a great trial for the character to break out of her shell and learn to live again.

"-The general plot of the film doesn't bring the future of the whole world into jeopardy like many Hollywood/sci-fi movies do, just that of a couple astronauts and some space equipment;"

Actually, that makes it less dumb.
The story is personal than save-the-world. In the end, what matters most is her (re)gaining a sense of meaning of her own life.

When the film began with an explosion of a Russia satellite, I was sort of pissed cuz it seemed like Russia-bashing. But it didn't go in that cold war direction.

"But none of this has to do with the real point of the movie, which is its technical achievement, and its ability to transport the viewer into a novel and different experience. I liked Gravity for the same reason I liked Avatar, only more so."

You seem to have sense. You have the kind of butt that needs massaging than kicking.

Cail Corishev said...

"But seriously, "We're the Millers" speaks to our growing concern that Jennifer Anniston has not yet revealed enough of her body on film. "Horrible Bosses" was a good start, but we need more. Preferably, she would star in a Lars Von Trier film."

Twenty years ago.

Anonymous said...

"Gravity" was the dumbest movie I ever saw...it had all the character and narrative development of "To Fly."

-------

That's the dumbest crap
I ever read.

TO FLY is just a pictorial celebration of flight. Nothing more.

In contrast, GRAVITY is packed with suspense, thrill, horror, and fright. Also some of the most beautiful and sublime images put on screen. Rarely has a film been so frightening and breathtaking(in more ways than one).

Also, the entire film takes place in 90 min, and there is no time and energy for anything else but survival. Also, 2/3 of the film is single-character. So 'conventional character development' is out of the question--as in 127 HOURS.

Even so, the images and moods do convey so much about the character without spelling things out. It's like a painting can say so much about a person. A musical note can trigger so many responses. Similarly in GRAVITY, there are evocative images that suggest so much about the character without underlining or explaining what she is about. Bullock has a great face. When she resigns herself to dying and her teardrop floats in the air, it says so much about her state of mind, not just about the here-and-now but her grievance about life in general after having lost her child.

Take the ending of LA DOLCE VITA. We can't hear what the girl is saying, and yet the image says so much about her, the man who can't hear her, and us. Cinema has it own rules and need not be dramatic with its characters.

http://youtu.be/m0rTqAThMC8?t=23s

Your butt needs to be kicked--into outerspace.

Just Another Guy With a 1911 said...

"This is dumber than Horatio Sanz in Idiocracy."

Heh, sweet Jesus, everybody's a damn critic.

As to your case in chief, let me just say this: Bullock's character dying would not be nihilistic. Sad, yes, but not nihilistic or some pretentious indie movie statement on how meandering and meaningless life is, because, after all, life is a bloody wonder.

And people take it for granted or, like Bullock's character, shut themselves off from it, often with good reason, all the time. If, in the struggle to stay alive in the vacuum of space, she resolves to live in full but, despite her best efforts, still perishes -- well, then, a lesson to the rest of us fighting gravity's pull here on the ground to stop and pay a little more attention.

Also, correction: the character that Kirby based on Bronson was Hogun the Grim, not Heimdall. Gonna go turn in my geek card at the LCS tomorrow after my shift at Kaiser is over.

Anonymous said...

"The absolute refusal to make homosexual sex the default sex shown in a wide release, money making movie, or to even put it in there at all, tells you all you need to know about the hypocritical liberal mind."

Libs like the Father-Knows-Best version of homos. That way, they can focus on smiling happy homos and rainbow colors than penises entering into poo holes.

It's like naive kids like to think of war as all GI Joe heroics without taking into account what REALLY happens in war with mangled bodies and etc.

Homo is sold like milk.

Anonymous said...

Homo has been homogenized.

Power Child said...

"You seem to have sense. You have the kind of butt that needs massaging than kicking."

Hah, thanks, but I don't go for that sort of thing. Anyway:

-I don't think the ISS was spinning. The Earth stayed in place in the background. And even then, it looked like Bullock could have pulled him in. So, Clooney died needlessly.

-The rebirth theme is indeed classic, but that doesn't mean I like being hit over the head with a crayon-scribbled version of it. Anyway, this still was not anywhere close to bad or major enough to ruin the movie for me.

-I agree that the non-world-ending implications of the plot made the movie smarter! It's just that I can envision lots of people being disappointed by it because they've been primed by all the other sci-fi movies to expect differently: "What?! When does the satellite threaten to crash into a missile silo and unleash a nuclear holocaust so the Black President has to get up and make a dramatic speech that inspires everyone to get mobilized and then that rebel guy uses his slapdash space gizmo and his badassery to save the world from the evil space explosion chain reaction with the fireballs and the big boom noise? This movie sucks!"

What I said both times I was leaving the theater after the movie is, I'd have been perfectly happy watching the astronauts on a routine mission with nothing going wrong. I just enjoyed floating around in space with them, hearing and seeing and almost really feeling what it's like. The plot almost got in the way!

One item on my bucket list is to go to space, and after seeing Gravity I feel like I can put a half checkmark there. That's why it's such an awesome movie.

Anonymous said...

"As to your case in chief, let me just say this: Bullock's character dying would not be nihilistic. Sad, yes, but not nihilistic or some pretentious indie movie statement on how meandering and meaningless life is, because, after all, life is a bloody wonder."

I agree. I like GRAVITY cuz it could have ended differently and still would have made sense. It is a multi-faceted film, and I'm sick of people not liking it cuz it didn't give them the ending they wanted. Some stories demand one kind of ending, but other stories can go in any direction and still offer lots of meaning. Also, nihilism isn't without meaning either. It too is a philosophical view of life. While Bullock dying in space would have been more realistic, GRAVITY makes the ending work on its own terms.

I think, even in this age when visual medium is everywhere and literary types bemoan that people don't read books, a lot of people still don't have film sense. They still think in terms of literary storytelling with linear plots and character development. GRAVITY is linear in its element of time but ungrounded spatially and this makes for a kind of visual language that many are not used to. After all, even most space movies have perfect gravity in outerspace, especially inside space ships. Interestingly enough, GRAVITY makes us aware of the relation between time and space. Even though the time in GRAVITY only moves forward, the floating state of everything lends the sense that time is also suspended.

On stage, there's no editing or close ups. So, actors have to act it out and say a lot of words. Drama can convey powerful emotions, but we don't enter into the minds of characters. Film is different. Characters can say very little but thru close ups, editing, music, sound, and etc, we can enter into the mind-states of other characters. But a lot of people still prefer clearly etched characters who define themselves through talk. A film like PERSONA wouldn't work on stage but works on film with looming close ups and oddly framed shots. Identities meld and dissolve into one another. Only film can do this.

Also, a lot of people just focus on the action and effects in GRAVITY and ignore the use of gravity as a metaphor, which is crucial to the emotion of the film. In this sense, Bullock's backstory of the lost kid isn't merely a contrivance but central to the story or state of mind. There's a thing called emotional gravity. People are connected to others. Love, friendship, family ties, and etc all have gravitational pull, which is why people feel the tug of home during the holidays. Even when apart, we want to be together again. And maybe there is no greater gravitational pull than between mother and child. So, when someone near and dear dies, there is a sense of numbness, a kind of lack of emotional gravity, the limbo state in INCEPTION. Bullock is a good worker and expert in space and all that, but her emotions are like her state in outerspace. It's like she's trying to lose herself in work and data
to get her mind off her tragedy.

She is adrift and numb. The child she was so attached to is gone, so she feels there's nothing to hold onto. She is without the gravity of the heart ever since her kid drifted away into the other world. So, when things start to go wrong, her innerself is divided. Her animal self wants to survive as part of natural instinct. But her soulful self doesn't mind resigning herself to death. The image of the floating teardrop sums up her emotional state.
She's floating inside a womb of despair and must break through and be reborn into a new life.

Anonymous said...

Okay, hardly a new theme in storytelling, but it's a classic theme we never get tire of.
Clooney character is like Laura Linney in MOTHMAN PROPHECIES who helps Gere finally break out of his shell. The scene when she calls her on Christmas day is one of the most moving in cinema. Is it original? No, but it's done so well, and as everyone has lost someone near/dear and has been through such emotional states, it will never grow old. It's just part of the human condition.

Though there are lots of superhero stories drawing on myths, it seems that one of the most oft-used mythology recently is that of Eurydice and Orpheus. INCEPTION, SHUTTER ISLAND, MOTHMAN, and many others... and VERTIGO, the ultimate Eurydice/Orpheus tale was chosen as #1 by sight and sound. Even CITIZEN KANE, with its rosebud, has an element of trying to recover what was forever lost.
Though GRAVITY and TRON LEGACY is about parent and child than about lovers, they too have a theme of trying to recover(emotionally at least) either the child or the parent who is gone for good.

Maybe this myth is appealing cuz people have fewer kids. When there were lots of kids, if you lost one, you still had several left. But with so many parents having just one kid, every child is so precious. Lose him/her, and you lose everything.

And maybe love means more today than in the past. People were more family oriented in the past. So, if you lost your lover, you still had parents, uncles, nephews, cousins, brothers, and sisters. Connie in THE GODFATHER II still has a family to return to.

But a lot of kids today don't have cousins or brothers or sisters. And many move far away from home. So, their only experience of family is having a lover, so he or she becomes ever more precious. If he or she is gone, it can like everything is lost.

Anyway, sometimes only a shock will break one out of the gravityless womb of despair. It's like in BUBBLEGUM CRISIS part 5 when Priss loses her dear friend Sylvie. (Perverted fools have surmised that they were lesbian lovers, but what do they know?) Anyway, after Sylvie dies, Priss falls into a kind of state(in episode 6) that Bullock is in in GRAVITY. As with Bullock, Priss has to go through trial-by-fire to be reborn into a new life, and the episode ends with her greeting the coming of a new day, an image as unforgettable as the final image of GRAVITY.
And Priss has her own Clooney in the character of Leon the police guy.

Technically, GRAVITY is one of the landmarks in cinema, up there with CITIZEN KANE and 2001. It is also a works of timeless meaning.
Cuaron can be awful: GREAT EXPECTATIONS, or he can use good film-making to make a bad film: CHILDREN OF MEN. But with Y TU MAMA and GRAVITY, he got the good filmmaking in service of good stuff.

Anonymous said...

The continuous shot in the first part was amazing. If continuous shots look a bit forced in the conventional world--what in our world is so smooth or continuous?--it seemed like the most natural thing out in space where there is no up or down, where every square inch is as accessible as any other. Welles developed a camera style that seemed to defy gravity throughout CITIZEN KANE, but it was gravity-free view of gravity-bound people. GRAVITY is really 'radical' cuz everything is so spatially free. Though there were awesome space scenes in 2001, Kubrick relied more on framing and editing than a freeflowing drift through space. And while 2001 was entirely epic, GRAVITY managed to be epic and intimate--and formal and casual--at the same time.

It begins with us exalting in the total freedom of outer space. It's like every part of your body is like a wing. No weight, no drag. It's cool to be up here while everyone else is stuck down there. But when the movie is over, it's like the greatest 'there is no place like home' moment. We may be bound by the gravity of earth, but we have firm earth under our feet, and in the end, man or woman is not a bird, physically nor emotionally.

Those who can't appreciate need to be kicked in the butt into outerspace.

Anonymous said...

people not liking it cuz it didn't give them the ending they wanted

What is this thing about Gravity making people delusional? The movie is dumb throughout. There isn't a 15 seconds interval where it is not dumb or trite.

Reg Cæsar said...

Homo is sold like milk.

And vice versa in Canada and some border states.

Anonymous said...

"What is this thing about Gravity making people delusional? The movie is dumb throughout. There isn't a 15 seconds interval where it is not dumb or trite."

You're a blind.
Your criticism is like attacking a great rock song because it's 'trite'.
If you just read the lyrics(and ponder the literal meaning) of 'Gimme Shelter', 'Good Vibrations', 'Ticket to Ride', and 'Purple Haze', yes they are 'dumb' and 'trite'.
But a rock song truly comes alive with the beat, rhythm, power, thrust. Form is content. A song's true content is the fusion of all the elements. Its true 'meaning' is how it makes us feel. Only trite folks fixate on the lyrics or message as the content.

If one were only look at the script/plot of GRAVITY, it wouldn't amount to much. But that's not where its strength's at. It's in the visual design and conception, the execution, the power of imagery, the suspense, the beauty, moments of horror and moments of quietude. If you can't see any of that and only fixate on its plausibility or stated meaning, you are the visual equivalent of a tone-deaf person.

I'm sure any specialist in space exploration can find a 1000 things technically wrong about the film. But, as technically detailed as GRAVITY is, it's ultimately a work of imagination and has to be appreciated on that level.

One amazing thing about GRAVITY is that even though it is nominally sci-fi, almost all the technology shown in the film exist today and everything that happens could happen(even if unlikely). It goes to show that a truly special film doesn't have to wow us with outlandish effects--like light speed travel and laser weapons. Real things can be fantastic and extraordinary if used in extraordinary ways. GRAVITY mostly shows current space technology, but the effect is more far out than AVATAR or OBLIVION.

Similarly, Lucas's greatest work will always be THX 1138. No great special effects there but he used existing technology in striking ways. Since then, he chose the easy route with light speed travel and flying cars.

Those who know how to do magic can do wonders with simple props.

Anonymous said...

Watched WORLDS END again. Such an excellent work, a most unlikely great film.
Flawless. Everyone frame, every cut, every line, every moment are picture perfect and pitch perfect.
You don't need to go to film school. Just study this film for cues on editing, camera, screenplay, one, mood, sound, pacing, etc.

Esp amazing because the film is so utterly anarchic. Madness contained within precision and brushed with finesse.
Who but the British can pull this off, playing crazy, straight, vulgar, and witty at the same time without breaking a sweat?

Remind me of the Beatles. They took the rough chaos of American rock and roll and streamlined it into a thing of beauty and grace.

Britain is producing some formidable stylists: Rupert Sanders, Chris Weitz, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright.
They have the knowhow of Hitchcock, Lean, and Reed but also the hip-cool touch of contemp sensibility.

No wonder the Brit navy once ruled the world. They were experts at nimbly navigating through the roughest seas and toughest battles.


Anonymous said...

Maybe hispanics will take over film criticism.

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/her

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/american-hustle

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/liv-and-ingmar

http://www.slantmagazine.com/features/article/interview-brian-de-palma

The French New Wave began with critics with ideas.

It seems hispanics(at least white lib ones) are engaging more in arts and culture more than all of white conservative america. It might lead to a breakthrough like the rise of Italian American film culture in the 70s. Or maybe hispan white libs will just meld into swpl.

But swpl is more creative and inventive than swcl. by a lot.

Anonymous said...

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2013/12/scorsese_s_wolf_of_wall_street_starring_leonardo_dicaprio_reviewed.html

There's something disingenuous about the criticism of moral depravity in WOLF OF WALL STREET.

It seems like the ONLY problem that most people have with WOLF is that the guys are stinking rich.
After all, our culture 'celebrates', encourages, and promotes excessive, rowdy, crazy, and infantile behavior--at least in pop culture.

Recently, I tried to see BRIDESMAIDS and lasted 20 min. I laughed a few times but the gross out level was too much. And yet it was a big hit and even promoted as female empowerment--that they can fart and puke just like the boys.
What is more excessive and wild 'gay pride' parades? Or slut pride parades?
Or movies like AMERICAN PIE, ANIMAL HOUSE, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, OLD SCHOOL, SCHOOL OF ROCK, AND ETC.

And all these movies celebrate cheating and breaking the rules to get ahead or get even or both. Take CADDYSHACK's subtext of Jews vs wasps on the golf course. And HAPPY GILMORE. The golf wars.

http://youtu.be/TCCssEas6LE

http://youtu.be/CkM6bA6pDXE

And rock and rap culture is about partying and never growing up.

Belfort, in that sense, was living the American fantasy so romanticized in our pop culture that sneers at restraint and self-control as so cold waspy and repressed-50s.

So, why is he the bad guy?
Some might say the problem wasn't that he was rich but that he cheated to get rich.
But playing loose with the rules is among the most coolest things in pop culture. There is nothing lamer than being so straight and earnest. It's cool to be hip and jazzy and pull the con... like Gene Hackman in HEIST.

And don't Gates, Zuckerberg, Cook, and others play fast with immigration and globalist rules to rake in more billions?
Don't libs high-five one another about how they manipulated the media to ensure Obama's reelection in 2012?
Don't homos giggle with glee that they hoodwinked the nation not with reasoned debate and facts but with propaganda and psychological manipulation?
Then the congame is the name of the game.

So, Belfort was very much the living embodiment of our debased culture. It seems his real sin was he got caught.

Anonymous said...

It goes to show that a truly special film doesn't have to wow us with outlandish effects--like light speed travel and laser weapons.

Yeah, it just requires every freaking thing to be on the same orbit. You are a moron. There isn't a single minute in the movie where something physically impossible is not shown.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, it just requires every freaking thing to be on the same orbit. You are a moron. There isn't a single minute in the movie where something physically impossible is not shown."

Go read National Geographic and stop watching MOVIES.

I should kick your ass into outer space.

Ray Sawhill said...

I used to be a pretty big film fan, but since 2003 I don't think I've seen more than a dozen new feature movies. I don't enjoy what the medium has turned into. I'd rather watch older movies and documentaries, and browse the web.