Category Archives: Andrew

Andrew’s Top Ten Films, Favorite Performances, And Other Bests of 2013

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Although in the past couple of years it’s taken me a few more weeks to see every film I’ve needed to from the year prior, 2013 was such an excellent year that I simply couldn’t wait for every film to come to me. And so I made my annual journeys up to Boston to see many of the films I was anticipating, even with the knowledge that they would be released where I live just a week or two later. What can I say? I’m an addict, and with my addiction comes the yearly, painstaking process of chopping my favorite films list down to ten. Doing so after a year that was particularly strong like 2013, especially in terms of independent film, has honestly never been more difficult. For 2013, a top twenty may have been more reflective, but I have to fit in and thus, only ten will do.

In addition to compiling my top ten, I’ve also singled out my favorite performances of the year, while also calling attention to those directors, writers, cinematographers and editors who I personally feel did the best work of the year. I’ve also decided to single out those movie scenes and shots that left an indelible mark on me when I left the theater. Also, while nine of the films in my top ten will not be ranked in any particular order, I will single out my favorite film of the year.

With 2014 now upon us and many new big-screen experiences to look forward to in the coming months, it’s always important to reflect on the year that has just past. Here’s hoping the year in film that was 2013 will stand the test of time as a great example of the eclectic tastes of the various members of both the Hollywood and independent film communities. Away we go.

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Andrew’s Most Anticipated Films of 2014

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With the year in film that was 2013 now a thing of the past (my top ten and year-end awards are coming soon), it’s now time to look ahead to those films set for release over the course of the next twelve months. While a few of my most anticipated films from 2013 will show up here after being pushed back, there will also be many other films to highly anticipate, which include new efforts from some of Hollywood’s most sought-after auteurs. Although it’s safe to say the process of getting down to just ten films was difficult, these are without question the films I am most anticipating in the coming months. Here’s hoping, when all is said and done, that 2014 is even half as good as 2013 was to us film enthusiasts.

Note: I have not included those 2014 releases I was fortunate enough to catch early at this past year’s Toronto International Film Festival. So no JoeUnder the Skin or The Sacrament to be found here.

Honorable Mentions: Ryan Gosling’s How to Catch a Monster, Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, David Ayer’s Fury, Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s 22 Jump Street, Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-man 2, Richard Ayoade’s The Double, Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn 

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

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If shown a single frame from any one of his films, you’d probably instantly recognize the signature of its author, Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel, his follow-up to 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, is Anderson’s eighth feature-length outing as a director and once again sports an incredible ensemble cast featuring many of the usual suspects. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are all there, supported by Anderson newcomers that include Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan and Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes plays Gustave H, a hotel concierge who becomes friends with a lobby boy, albeit while the theft of a priceless Renaissance painting sets chaotic events into motion. Using various aspect ratios and a truly Andersonian color palette, here’s hoping the overt quirkiness of the concept leaves enough room for the characters to breathe. I’ve been impressed with Anderson’s ability to really bring some really powerful human emotion to his last few films, so here’s hoping he brings more to The Grand Budapest Hotel. It hits theaters March 7th.

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The Academy & I: 2008

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After the exceptional year in film that was 2007, to see a fall-off in the quality of motion pictures the following year wasn’t all that unexpected. While 2008 certainly had its fair share of great films, you’d be hard-pressed to find many that were fairly represented at the following year’s Oscar ceremony. What the Academy did give us that year, however, was the last truly great Oscar host in Hugh Jackman. He took what is often-times an incredibly lackluster show and made it quite simply, great entertainment. It was, however, magic that we unfortunately haven’t seen in the ceremonies since. 2008 would also mark a notable shift in the Academy’s nomination process, as it would be the last year in which they would only get to nominate five films for Best Picture, but more on that in the next entry.

2008 was a year in which the Academy chose to frustrate my inner-cinephile like no other. Sure, there were many nominees and winners who were very deserving, but there were just as many head-scratching nominees and victors who would have been left out in the cold in any other year. It was a year that heralded the comeback of a once great screen actor, but also saw the loss of one of the industry’s most promising young thespians. It was a year that saw The Dark Knight take the critics and box office by storm, only to be shunned in most of the major categories by Hollywood’s greatest institution.

As I take a look back on the year in film that was 2008, I will delve into those films that I personally felt best represented the year, as opposed to those that were actually represented come Oscar night.

Best Cinematography

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2008, for all intensive purposes, was the year of Slumdog Millionaire. One of the film’s many wins on Oscar night was for the bright color-infused work by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. Known for his collaborations with not only Slumdog helmer Danny Boyle, but the crazy Dane himself Lars von Trier, there is no doubt Dod Mantle does solid work here, but it’s certainly not a career-best. Other nominees in the category included Wally Pfister’s work in The Dark Knight as well as that of Claudio Miranda in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While my thoughts on the film itself may not exactly match up with my declaration here, there is no doubt Miranda’s work with David Fincher on Button is exceptional. It’s interesting to note then that Miranda’s nomination was the first ever awarded by the Academy to a film shot entirely digitally. Although I am very much on the side of film stock when it comes to the raging cinematography debate, Fincher’s films continue to be the best example of digital cinematography, highlighted by Miranda’s work here. He would go on to win the Oscar for lensing Life of Pi just this past year, but it’s safe to say it doesn’t top his timeless work on Button.

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The Academy & I: 2007

 

 

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On November 5th 2007, the Writer’s Strike began and took Hollywood by storm. Fighting for increased compensation for their work, the members of the Writers Guild of America had officially decided to take a stand against the studios in town that had been turning a heavy profit from DVD releases, the Internet and other multi-media forms that used the writers’ works. Many feared the impending Academy Awards ceremony, set for February 24th 2008, would not go off as planned and without any of the individuals who they planned on awarding. These fears were all for naught, however, as the writers struck a deal on February 12th and the strike became a thing of the past.

While many remember this particular awards season for the strike, other cinephiles remember 2007 for being one of the finest years for film in recent memory. Not only did the year give us an exceptional new Coen brothers film, but it also marked the return of one of America’s infrequently seen auteurs, Paul Thomas Anderson, whose There Will Be Blood was about as bombastic a return-film as one gets. The year also saw the arrival of a new writing voice in Diablo Cody, while also sporting some of the finest acting performances many had seen in quite some time.

As I delve into this particular year in film, I will highlight nine of the categories of this particular Academy Awards ceremony and discuss how differently (or similarly) I saw the very same year in film.

Best Cinematography

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2007 was one of those years where film-goers were treated to such an embarrassment of riches when it came to cinematography. From the hauntingly barren old fields of Robert Elswit’s work in There Will Be Blood to the double-bill of visual splendor Roger Deakins provided in No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, you’d be hard-pressed to find a flaw in any of the Academy’s nominations. While Elswit deservedly won the Oscar for his work, seeing Deakins be the bridesmaid yet again on awards night was certainly a tough pill to swallow. Many would argue that his work in Jesse James is a career-best, and I wouldn’t disagree. For such a renowned artist as Deakins, it’s hard to believe he has yet to win an Oscar. Here’s hoping that changes sooner rather than later.

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The Academy & I: An Introduction

<> on October 19, 2009 in Santa Clarita, California.

Film buffs like myself live for this time of the year. Awards season contenders hit movie theaters every week and we scramble to see as many as possible in anticipation of compiling our year-end lists in order to hail our favorite films of the year and to impress our fellow cinephiles. It just so happens that today marks the occasion that we are officially just three months away from The Academy Awards, or as they call themselves now in an attempt to seem hip, The Oscars.

March 2nd is that fateful day when a group of industry folk pat themselves on the back by awarding little golden man statues to those they feel represented the best in film over the course of the previous year. With the nominations set to be announced on January 16th, it of course has gotten me thinking about those films and actors I want to be represented by their peers come March.

As is often the case when it comes to my particular taste, I rarely agree with the Academy’s choices. Sure, there are many worthy nominations handed out every year, but in my lifetime there has never been a Best Picture winner that was also my favorite film of the year.

Now among cinephiles, this is not a rare occurrence. That’s not to say that those winners of the most coveted Best Picture Oscar are not deserving, it’s just that within such an expansive industry and with such varied tastes it’s impossible to find one film or performance that every film buff agrees is the best.

So, its got me thinking. How exactly does my taste in film stack up against that of the hallowed Academy’s? Well, that is what I intend to explore.

Through a look at the Academy Awards’ recent history, from 2007 (the best year in film in recent memory IMO) to present day, I intend to compare my taste with that of the Academy’s in various categories. Essentially, I will take my favorite Cinematography, Film, Lead Actor, etc. from each year and compare it to those films and performances the Academy chose to award that same year.

So, if you’re interested in this incredibly self-involved experiment in which a film buff will put his taste up against that of the Academy’s, this series of blog posts is for you. This is The Academy & I.

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The List: Andrew’s Favorite Current Musical Acts

As it’s already been made abundantly clear by my posting history on this blog, it’s safe to say that I have my fair share of obsessions in both the film and television mediums. This post, however, will focus on yet another one of my obsessions and to say it’s been a long time coming would certainly be an understatement. This obsession is of course music.

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I grew up in a household obsessed with music, only highlighted by the fact that my father rarely went a week without purchasing a new album to add to his already exorbitant collection. From The Beatles to The Beach Boys to Eric Clapton on a seemingly endless loop, it’s safe to say that my knowledge of rock music from the 60s and 70s grew with each passing day. For the record, The Beatles are still my favorite band of all-time and that will never change. It may be a cliche answer, but it’s also the right answer. Trust me.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because for as long as I can remember, the music of the decades preceding my birth (1986) was all I knew. While my fellow classmates were obsessing over Green Day and frontman Billy Joe, I was obsessing over Billy Joel’s The Stranger. Eventually as I got into high school and subsequently college, my music taste became more varied as I began to realize that the music of my lifetime wasn’t too shabby itself. Although my film obsession always came first, I started to branch out when it came to music and would spend endless hours of the day just listening to the albums that I had missed out on. With these hours spent came many new obsessions, most of which I am still very much in the thick of.

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Andrew’s Journey Through TIFF 2013: Episode III

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The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the first stops on the journey through film awards season. This year, Andrew was fortunate enough to be in attendance and is now recapping the films and events he attended while at TIFF.

TIFF Day 6

With bright and early screenings now a thing of the past for my festival experience, I had the great pleasure of sleeping in on this day. I dreamed of what might occur if I was to meet my idol who just so happened to be the star of the next film on my docket.

David Gordon Green’s Joe

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Nicolas Cage. What else needs to be said? Some love him and some hate him, but the haters always seem to forget that not only does he have an Academy Award bearing his name, but when on he remains one of the most talented actors in the biz. Now I get it, his recent string of endless sub-par action films leaves a lot to be desired, but every once in awhile he chooses a role that truly lets his artistry shine. Thankfully, Joe just so happens to be the latest. Playing the titular ex-con with an underlying mean streak, Cage gives a nuanced and (for the most part) subdued performance. Youngster Tye Sheridan is every bit his equal as Gary, a kid new in town who is looking for work and who Joe takes under his wing. Gary’s father (Gary Poulter) is abusive and is constantly taking money from Gary to fuel his rampant alcoholism. Under the helm of David Gordon Green, who has already released one great film this year in Prince Avalanche, the film is visually stunning with his signature brand of cinematography. While the film loses its focus at times and certainly has its fair share of disturbing moments, Green and his actors make sure to ground the film in a dark reality that seems true to life in this small Texas town. Whether you love him or you hate him it’s hard to argue that this isn’t another great Cage performance, and while us fans would certainly love for him to keep choosing these interesting off the beaten path roles, somebody’s gotta pay those taxes. Long live The Cage.

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Andrew’s Journey Through TIFF 2013: Episode II

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The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the first stops on the journey through film awards season. This year, Andrew was fortunate enough to be in attendance and is now recapping the films and events he attended while at TIFF.

TIFF Day 4

Following the insanely energetic experience of Midnight Madness the night prior, it’s safe to say that I would have benefited greatly from a solid night’s sleep. It wasn’t meant to be however, as the next morning I had a film scheduled for 9AM. Four hours of sleep later I woke up and around 7:30 walked to the Metro station, not even aware that it was Sunday. The station was closed of course and so I did what any intelligent person would do: take the six mile journey on foot. Now that may not sound all that impressive, but when you’re only going on a few hours of sleep and your feet are already blistered up from waiting in endless lines the day prior, it is. I sped walk the whole way and made it in about an hour to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, perhaps the finest movie theatre I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a patron of. I plopped down in the first row, exhausted.

Jason Reitman’s Labor Day

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My 9am film that day just so happened to be Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, a total change of pace from the kind of films Reitman’s made thus far in his still young career. Centered on a depressed single mom (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gattlin Griffith) whose worlds are upset upon the arrival of a wounded convict (Josh Brolin) who recently escaped from a local prison, it’s a definitively more low-key drama than Reitman’s norm. Labor Day is a work of extreme confidence without much in the way of Reitman’s usual comedic tinge and although he’s already proven adept at drama, it’s still quite a shock to the system at first. All three of the leads give fine, quiet performances that deliver a sense of intimacy not felt in most awards-player dramas.  One negative note however, is that Labor Day is yet another film featuring Tobey Maguire voice-over. Now I am not a hater of voice-over in general, but here it doesn’t seem to serve the story of the film in a particularly compelling way. Overall, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the film due to my severe lack of sleep, but it’s definitely an interesting drama that I very much look forward to viewing again upon it’s official theatrical release.

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Andrew’s Journey Through TIFF 2013: Episode I

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One of the first stops on the path to film awards season is the Toronto International Film Festival. Boasting one of the largest and most eclectic selections of films from all over the world, it’s safe to say that a visit to the festival has been on my film nerd wish-list for quite some time. This year, that wish became a reality.

The festival ran this year from September 5th to the 15th and I arrived in Toronto on the eve of 5th with plans to post a series of blog entries running through my various experiences at TIFF as they happened. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t meant to be as I severely overestimated the amount of time I would actually have to sit down and produce actual quality writing. Not discussing one of the greatest experiences of my life at all however, would be a mistake and that brings us to this very blog entry.

Over the course of the festival I attended fifteen events in total; thirteen film screenings, one Q & A, and a live read of a previously produced screenplay. The films I had the opportunity to check out were an interesting bunch, some of which will almost certainly factor in to the Academy Awards next year. With this the first of numerous entries, I plan to discuss everything I had the opportunity to see at the festival, along with random experiences I had during my time in the great white north. Toronto, I hardly knew you.

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“To err is human, so err…” – The Winners of the 2013 Summer Movie Season

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Labor Day weekend is upon us and thus the summer movie season officially comes to a close not with a bang, but with a One Direction concert movie. Not being one to judge entities solely by their endings, here I will discuss the summer of 2013 and the wide array of films that came along with it. So, what films and actors won the summer? Below I’ve declared my personal winners, from those who delivered unbelievable performances to those films that fulfilled this summer’s fun quota in insanely entertaining style.

Cate Blanchett

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It’s become a rarity in Hollywood nowadays for many Oscar-contenders to be born out of the Summer movie season, but every now and then one squeaks through nonetheless. Cate Blanchett’s latest performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is one of such incredible depth and strength that I find it hard to imagine there will be a lead female performance able to match it for the rest of the year. She makes Jasmine the kind of sociopathic socialite that is not only hard to like but hard to completely understand, which is what makes her such a compelling protagonist. Blanchett gives Jasmine a heart, just one that continually reveals her truly selfish intentions. She wants to live the life of a well-off New Yorker but is forced to muddle along with her sister in San Francisco amongst her greasy, working-class sexual conquests. This drives Jasmine crazy, crazy enough to keep her talking to herself and alienating all the people who actually want to care for her. Blanchett has long been admired as one of her generation’s greatest actresses, and this performance may just be the one to top them all.

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