January 1, 2014

Top 5 Blog Discoveries of 2013


2013 has been one of the most eventful years of my life. We have an amazing new baby girl (our second), I finished graduate school, and I started a new job after working at the same place for more than 10 years. Back in January, I posted five resolutions for the new year that would guide this blog and my movie viewing. Although it could always be better, 2013 was a success by these standards. I watched a lot more documentaries and caught fewer dull movies (if you forget Jack Reacher). Here's what I resolved to do nearly one year ago:

1. Participate more fully in the film community.
2. Seek out intellectually satisfying blogs and podcasts.
3. Avoid generic, predictable films.
4. Expand my movie-watching horizons.
5. Focus more on depth over frequency.

It was a challenge to make it to the theater, so I wouldn't call myself an expert on the latest releases. However, I still caught up with nearly 150 films, so there were plenty of cool discoveries. I've pulled together five of the most refreshing ones from the past year, though others would definitely qualify. Some are highly regarded but were still better than I expected. I've also included quotes from my original reviews along with the picks.


5. Across the Universe (2007): There’s so much happening on screen beyond the main plot, and it brings such vitality to every moment. Taymor brings together this challenging project with grace, and we rarely see the strings behind each scene. 

4. Monterey Pop (1968): Pennebaker brilliantly uses a “fly on the wall” approach to give the feeling of being in the crowd. His cameras provide clear views of the band along with an intimate look at the crowd. It’s a subtle approach that captures the energy of being in Monterey without going over the top.


3. The Interrupters (2011): James shows us the obstacles they face around every turn to make this happen. He doesn’t manipulate us and lets the events speak for themselves, which is the perfect approach to this complicated subject.

2. Ace in the Hole (1951): Wilder’s script is harsh and morose, yet it still provides an engaging ride. Its points about human nature and falsehoods remain poignant today, and this film deserves more interest from modern audiences. 


1. Oslo, August 31st (2011): We feel so strongly for Anders and want him to make the right choice, but there's a uneasy feeling that it's not going to happen. The final scenes are heartbreaking yet fit completely within the framework built in the opening frames. 

Looking forward to 2014, I'm not making any specific resolutions for the new year. There are still so many films to check out across every genre, and I've missed plenty of classics. I might focus more on recent fare, but there will be plenty of older movies in the mix. I'm looking forward to another great year and hope to discover a lot more surprising films.

16 comments:

  1. Happy New Year Dan. I've seen 3 of those discoveries. The ones I want to see are The Interrupters and Oslo August 31st. Congrats on the new baby girl and hope 2014 is a good year for you.

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    1. Thank you sir! Happy New Year to you. I'd definitely check out Oslo August 31st when you get the chance. The Interrupters is also great, though I know the response has been more mixed on that one.

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  2. Fantastic #1 pick. One of my favorites from that year. Glad you caught up with it. The Interrupters is also a fantastic pick. Such a great documentary.

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    1. If I'd seen Oslo, August 31st during its release year, it would have made my list of favorites for sure. It's such a gripping film. With The Interrupters, I felt silly for waiting so long to see it.

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  3. Best wishes for 2014! So how did you do on your goals? Have seen both The Interrupters and Oslo, August 31. Both beautiful movies. Just put up my year in review post myself if you are interested in checking it out.

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    1. Thanks Nostra! Same to you!

      It's tough to say how well I did on the goals since they aren't quantifiable. I still think that I can participate more in the film community, but I did okay given how much was going on in life. I did read more interesting blogs, but my podcast listening has gone down a bit. I feel good about mostly avoiding generic films, and I checked out some lesser-known films.

      I'll definitely check out your year-in-review post later today.

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  4. Love this list, Dan, not just for the content, which is great (God help me, "Oslo, Aug 31st" was just INCREDIBLE - though I do need to see "Ace in the Hole"), but for how you're choosing to view cinema as a whole. It really should be about everything we see in any given year, regardless of whether it was of that year or not. Film lives forever, after all, and it's good to revel in all of it out here in the blogosphere.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Thanks Nick. I try to keep up with the current crop of movies, but it's quite a challenge. Plus, there's so much to see! Glad to hear that you're a fan of Oslo August 31st. That was an easy pick for #1 on this list.

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  5. Great post Dan. Congrats on your new baby girl, finishing graduate school, and your new job. Keep up the good work with your blog writing and I like very much your resolutions to not watch standard predictable movies

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    1. Vern, thanks for the kind words. I may have violated my resolution to avoid dull movies after seeing Elysium last night, but I'm giving it a shot overall.

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  6. Sounds like you had a very successful year -- congrats! I love that you ranked Oslo, August 31st as your favorite discovery. That film really impressed me.. was not expecting it to be *that* good.

    The Interrupters and Monterey Pop have been in my queue for ages now. Will try to make it a point to finally get to them this year!

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    1. Thanks Eric! I think it's definitely worth checking out both The Interrupters and Monterey Pop. Glad to hear that you also enjoyed Oslo, August 31st; that's such a stunning film.

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  7. Yay for Oslo, August 31 being your top discovery! (As much as you can say "yay" about that movie, it doesn't feel appropriate). I was devastated by it. I remember just sitting there in the theatre after it had finished, unable to move.
    I can also recommend Reprise by the same director, if you haven't already seen it. It feels related.

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    1. Jessica, I think it was your review that got me to check out Oslo. I have seen Reprise and liked it, but this was a big step forward for the director and actor.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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