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.