Friday, December 27, 2013

Middle Ten 2013

No one seems to do these but the middle is the largest part of the year's curve for most regular moviegoers. Once I tried to go to a new film at the cinema once a week. It worked for a few years in a row until I looked back and realised that most of what I'd seen was at worst maginificently OK. Here they are now, those that held wonderful things in small packages. I should say that I'd rather see all of these again in a row than any of the Bottom Ten. It's not about mediocrity but rather that which verges on greatness.

A Field in England - Ben Wheatley's fourth feature goes further into its own territory than Kill List did. I like the lack of compromise (and then there's that roped slomo walk from the tent!) I just don't know that I love it.

The Hunt - Thomas Vinterberg co-ignited Dogme 95 and influenced a generation of filmmaking for the better in the 90s and 00s. His Festen (Dogme #1) remains an extraordinary feat. Here he is more conventional but with no loss of power.

Antiviral - Cronenberg Junior makes a Cronenberg Senior story and almost gets away with it. After an exciting first act stuffed with wow ideas the development sags and grows samey. A sprint to the sobering final image cleans that up, though. More please.

The East - Here rather than in the main list for not going as far as it should. Still, if Britt Marling and co can keep these scenaric punches coming they might rescue an idea-starved Hollywood.

Magic Magic - A lot of mild daring going on here with some really strong results but do I love it?

How I Live Now - Clean lines and good performances but was there enough of everything after the midpoint? Potentially an effective answer to the beautiful but botched The Road but couldn't quite break through.

Elles - Middle class and middle aged Parisian journalist allows the surprise of the young prostitutes she interviews for a story have a kind of grass is greener appeal which leads her to question her own life's order. Terrific acting and some fine setpieces but doesn't quite reach all the way for me.

Upstream Color - Maker of one of the best ever time travel movies ups his game in production values but also obscurity as we must connect a lot of information that doesn't appear to lock. It's in this list because it does eventually make sense .... afterwards. I'd rather say that of a film than leave with an easy answer. I Just wish I'd enjoyed it more.

The Place Beyond the Pines - Strong performances and some very fine passages cannot lift a fable that is too mechanically ironic.

The Spectactular Now - A good tale of the difficult breach birth of responsibility given substance by some very good performances is allowed to get too warm 'n' fuzzy when it might have gone a little harsher to better effect. I missed the substance of the first two acts in the third.

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