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American Hustle a sort of 40s screwball comedy combined with elements of The Sting and all thrown together for unimpeded joy. Watch for legendary character actor Anthony Zerbe in a cameo.
Speaking for movies from the 40s The Place Beyond the Pines is a classic take on that era’s film noir pictures and, eventually turns out to be a thoughtful mediation about fathers and sons.
The Spectacular Now, based on native Oklahoman Tim Tharp’s prize winning novel is a serious high school love story that is wonderfully engaging. Shaliene Woodley is the real thing.
Mud is the indie film of the year. Part coming of age, part character study and part adventure. You will be captivated. How about the great Joe Don Baker back on the silver screen, as well as native Oklahoman Paul Sparks, he of Boardwalk Empire?
Martin Scorsese brings us three hours plus of American excess in The Wolf of Wall Street as the director of our age continues his long quest to introduce to audiences the underside of the American Dream. In my mind Leonardo Di Caprio should receive the Oscar for his by far most daring performance.
Prisoners is a raw and powerful suspense film that will be remembered for many years hence. It never lets up in its 150 minutes. Not for the faint of heart
I became aware of Jayne Mansfield’s Car during its scriptwriting and consider it the great lost film of 2013. Any picture which gives legendary character actor Robert Duvall a lead these days deserves a brass band, but Billy Bob Thornton’s first film as a director in many years is a solid cultural character study that is a true sleeper. Find it and watch today.
Robert Redford had a banner year with both All is Lost and The Company You Keep – the first a classic man vs. nature picture with Redford imperiled at sea and Company is an all star (how great is it to see Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon in the same film?) conspiracy thriller that takes us back to Three Days of the Condor.
Blue Jasmine offers Woody Allen channeling Tennessee Williams and the result is sublime. It’s a shame Alec Baldwin won’t get the credit he deserves, but Cate Blanchett, shows us what luminous acting is all about – she will completely deserve the Oscar she will win.
The Counselor is the most reviled movie of the year and I loved every moment. Those of us who, you know, read a book now and then recognize the fine work of legendary author/screenwriter Cormac McCarthy.
I also really liked Fruitvale Station, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Blue is the Warmest Color, 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Oldboy, Pain and Gain, The Sapphires and Side Effects.
I saw so many terrible movies this year that the turkey list was actually tougher to pick – I left out Jack the Giant Killer and G.I. Joe and Burt Wonderstone and those were just the ones I saw! Here, though, is the bottom of the heap:
August Osage County should have been a slam dunk – it is based on perhaps the greatest stage play of the modern era, written by Oklahoman Tracy Letts, and its cast is loaded with soaring talent. Why, then, does the film resemble a poorly directed episode of the Meth Head Waltons? Just awful.
Man of Steel takes the Superman legend and rubs it in bleak colors and incoherent story lines. My favorite part? When Kevin Costner gets blown away by the tornado.
Oz the Great and Powerful makes no sense from the first scene, and goes downhill from there.
Dallas Buyers Club – I don’t at all understand the love some have for this movie, with its cheap drama and histrionic acting. I was in Dallas during this time period with a best friend dying of AIDS. There is not a true moment in the whole picture.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is beyond silly and a modern camp classic. Oprah at the ironing board? An embarrassment.
As for the Oscars, I would have thought 12 Years a Slave a walk for Best Picture and Actor but it just doesn’t seem to have the love. One potential storyline is, however, should this historic and brutal film win the best picture, Brad Pitt, as its producer, will finally get his own Oscar. I think the real contender for Best Picture would be American Hustle, but will the Academy give two true life films set in the 70s back to back Oscars? I can make cases for every nominated film, sans The Dallas Buyers Club (see above).
From the moment I saw Blue Jasmine this past summer, I knew Cate Blanchett was a lock for the Best Actress Oscar. I’m just not sure about the other categories. Dallas Buyers Club has been winning Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor – I just don’t know, however, if that will play for the Oscars. I am afraid voters are taking Leo’s performance in Wolf of Wall Street for granted – it is a major step in a different direction for Di Caprio. I wouldn’t mind for Bruce Dern to win – that’s acting folks, he isn’t really a confused old man.
I also can see Jennifer Lawrence win again, and she should. Oscar voters were not afraid to give Christoph Waltz two Academy Awards in close succession. 12 Years a Slave might win for supporting actress too.
What are your favs this year? What got overlooked?
NEW ON DISC
I just saw the complete list of Twilight Time films for most of the rest of the year. Wait until you do at screenarchives.com (Frankenheimer’s The Train!?! a not distant and much better film than current cousin The Monuments Men) You know these fellows, right? Brian and Nick? They take movies you love that perhaps you haven’t seen in a while, clean them up put them on Blu-ray and sell only 3,000 limited editions, then they’re gone, gone gone.
This month’s class begins with Zulu, on the 50th anniversary of its London premiere. Directed by Cy Endfield and starring the great Stanley Baker and the soon to be great, at that time, Michael Caine, this film has had print after print around since the dawn of home video, but now fans and new converts will be able to see a fabulous work of art, thanks to Twilight Time. Also this month is Khartoum, another seemingly lost masterpiece, and, as it was released in 1966, the last of the large scale road show extravaganzas. As if you didn’t know, this one stars Charlton Heston (why don’t these boys grab a hold of Samuel Bronston’s 55 Days at Peking) and Laurence Olivier.
Shakespeare is also represented at Twilight Time, with visionary (some say) director Julie Taymor’s version of Titus, starring Anthony Hopkins.
While these are all marvelous films, the prize for me in this lot is Man in the Dark, the first 3-D picture ever released by a major studio. And it’s a film noir to boot, starring Academy Award winning noir icon Edmond O’Brien. The picture actually comes in a 3-D format, along with a 2-D version. Twilight Time founder Brian Jamieson told me he even had to go out to get the 3-D TV, player and glasses. Again, go toscreenarchives.com.
Warner Archive has once again dug deep into its vaults to retrieve The Jimmy Stewart Show, a totally lost sitcom that ran one season in the early 70s. I remember sort of liking it at the time, however it was nothing like Hawkins, the grand old man’s courtroom mystery series that came a year or two after his sitcom. Here’s a serious question. When watching both of these series, and his later films like Fool’s Parade, Stewart worked HARD and “phoned in” nothing. Did guys like Jimmy Stewart have to work? Stewart actually was the first Hollywood performer to be paid with film ownership rights, so I can’t imagine. Was it work ethic? Was it ego? Glenn Ford did the same thing. So did Henry Fonda. Both Jimmy Stewart series are available at warnerarchive.com.
From the Shout! Factory comes the epic concert film Festival Express on Blu-ray. The historic music show featured in a two disc package includes The Band, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and many more. This is a true must own, in all its restored glory.
From Timeless Media comes The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes, a three disc box set that includes 16 Skelton episodes, plus two bonus episodes, never before on DVD. It is amazing to me that many today don’t remember America’s favorite clown, even after his many years as a contract star for MGM then many more on television. This is a great beginner set for the uninitiated.
Studio brands don’t mean much anymore (maybe Disney?) but when I see the name of IFC on a current release, I know the film will be watchable and engaging. New from IFC is Una Noche a gritty, in your face film about a boy’s determination to escape Cuba and Devil’s Pass, a fabulous sort of “midnight movie” not unlike Blair Witch.
Until next time…!
- Bud Elder