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The Black Hole Presents: Top 15 of 2013

Hi. It’s me. Don’t lets make a big deal out of this. Senior year has been demanding even more time from me.

2013 was sort of all over the place. Granted, my experience is influenced by the fact that I was in London for the first few months of the year, and was privy to some movies that weren’t gonna make it stateside quite yet. I’m pretty sure I saw Trance well before all of y’all. That being said, it wasn’t that strong. And then the summer sucked! For every Iron Man 3 or The Worlds End, we got 3 Hangover Part IIIs, Grown Ups 2s, or The Purges. It all picked up in the end though, and the slew of awards films ended up being one of the strongest in recent memory. So strong that it is pretty difficult to say which film is the frontrunner for Best Picture.

I know I missed the train for all the year end lists, but I managed to catch a cab, and then a jet ski, and then a stage coach, and I might have been parachuting as well, and I made it to the party just in time for the Oscars tonight (which I won’t be watching, cuz senior year). The point is, here are The Black Hole’s picks for the best movies of 2013.

RUNNERS UP: SPRING BREAKERS (For… reasons), STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (For that Sherlock guy), ELYSIUM (For Neil Blomkamp on a big budget), TRANCE (For Danny Boyle’s infectious style and its twisty, twisty plot), THE GREAT GATSBY (For the lesser half of Leo’s banner year), ONLY GOD FORGIVES (For that fist fight and those colors), THE COUNSELOR (For it’s rejection of mainstream cinematic tropes and McCarthy’s sensationally lurid script)

15. THIS IS THE END: While not the best or funniest end of the world comedy to come out in 2013, This is the End coasted high on the chemistry of it’s cast and it’s enjoyably meta nature. It’s always fun to see A listers take the piss out of each other. It’s all fun to see them die.

14. MAN OF STEEL: Yeah, Man of Steel had problems. Tons. It’s completely humorless, unnecessarily violent, and maybe it shits all over the source material. I don’t know. But the good of Man of Steel far outweighed the bad. I still appreciate how it treated Superman’s origin as a sci-fi movie rather than a superhero movie. I love how it spent a hefty amount of time on Clark’s struggle to reconcile the lessons of his two fathers. And Michael Shannon is incredible in it.

13. PRISONERS: In what was maybe the best performance of the year, Hugh Jackman was utterly convincing as a father willing to do unspeakable things to locate his kidnapped child. It would have been so easy to turn his character into a heartless villain or a cliche, all American hero, but Jackman’s talent, along with a brilliant screen play, smartly capitalized on the relatable nature of his actions turning him to a sympathetic monster and providing him a hell of an arc.

12. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE: Damn it, Jennifer! Just damn it! Why do you have to be so good in everything that do you? Catching Fire wisely jumped on what was good about the first Hunger Games and did away with a lot of its problems. No shaky cam bullshit here. No dodgy CGI. The script, direction, acting, and world building are all much more confident, further drawing us into this violent landscape.

11. THE WORLD’S END: The superior of the two end of the world comedies, the final installment in the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy tackled Invasion of the Body Snatchers action and suspense, while taking the opportunity to provide Simon Pegg with what is arguably the best character of his career. Hilarious, exciting, and surprisingly thought provoking and touching, The World’s End brings this odd trilogy to a close with flying colors.

10. IRON MAN 3: Robert Downey Jr. and Shane Black should just make every movie together from now on. Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man movie, and the best Marvel movie that isn’t The Avengers. Everything in it works wonderfully.

9. AMERICAN HUSTLE: DAMN IT, JENNIFER!!! Maybe David O Russell is losing his touch, what with him making a movie every year now, but damn if he still can’t rivet a viewer with his brutally straightforward dialogue, his great direction of actors, and his slick sense of style. But seriously, DAMN IT, JENNIFER!!!

8. STOKER: You know it’s a strong year where this ends up in the back half of my top 10. Park Chan Wook’s first foray into the English language was a delicious slice of Hitchkockian bravura, teeming with menace and full of secrets just waiting to be dug up. Hell of a soundtrack as well.

7. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: It’s Joss Whedon. It’s Joss Whedon’s friends. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most enjoyably daffy comedies. How could this possibly not be an absolute riot?

6. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: Paul Greengrass sure knows how to make a convincing thriller. With a revelatory performance by newcomer Barkhad Abdi and the always great Tom Hanks in the title role, Captain Phillips side steps its obvious pitfalls and becomes a well balanced tale of survival on both sides. Great stuff.

5. FROZEN: I feel like the current hysteria around Frozen only has to do with it’s popularity as a good time at the movies right now. Once it inevitably wins its Oscars and fades from the public’s immediate consciousness, only then will we really be able to grasp how good this movie really was. Taking the Disney princess formula huge leaps and bounds forward with its imperfect heroines, modern day approach to romance, and powerful message of self acceptance over conformity, it heralds in what is hopefully a new era of dominance from the house of mouse. And yeah, “Let It Go” is a bonafide showstopper.

4. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: It has never, I repeat, never been so enjoyable to spend three hours watching good actors behaving so incredibly bad. In the first hour, Leonardo DiCaprio and friends do more depraved, fucked up shit than in most movies altogether. A flat out hilarious comedy, a biting commentary on the stock trade and Wall Street in general, it’s one of Martin Scorcese’s boldest, wildest films. It’s also one of his very best!

3. 12 YEARS A SLAVE: It’s impossible to deny the raw power of this movie. Like Schindler’s List, it impeccably captures a dark time in history and doesn’t shy away from showing us the brutal details. Masterfully acted and beautifully shot, it’s an effecting piece of film the likes of which hasn’t come out in some time.

2. PACIFIC RIM: Hell yes, Pacific Rim is in my top three. No other movie this year was as unapologetically enjoyable in its quest to deliver on exactly what it promised, in this case, giant robots vs. giant monsters. Anyone could have made this movie cool, but throw in a filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro with a real love for fantasy and science fiction, and what you’ll get is positively revolutionary, an action movie for the growing global complex, where the heroes are multi national, where the setting isn’t in America, and where people of all creeds and dispositions are given a chance at heroism. On top of this, it never forgets why the audience is there, and heaps on the awesome moments one after the other. A movie where using an oil tanker as a baseball bat isn’t the coolest moment is a movie worth celebrating.

1. GRAVITY: But yeah, Gravity gets my top vote, for more or less the same reason Avatar did a few years ago. Were there, objectively, better movies in 2013? Most definitely? But did any of the people who made those movies invent a whole new way to make movies? No. They did not. Visually, Gravity is one of the most jaw dropping experiences I’m likely ever to have in a theater. The first time I saw it in theaters, every muscle in my body was tensed up, so utterly absorbing and believable was Alfonso Cuaron’s filmmaking. And while the gripes about the story are true to an extent, it is still told with grace and is still possessed of a soul. In a year full of memorable (for better or worse) movies, Gravity managed to out do them all in its first 15 minutes. The rest of its run could have just been a coast. And it wasn’t.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yqAoaB4PSo  

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Will Argo Do It?

It has won the PGA, the DGA, and the Golden Globe (not that means much, but whatever). A WGA could well be in the cards as well. But can Argo, Ben Affleck’s nail-biting thriller, come through where it counts. Can it take home Oscar gold?

If it did, it would be unprecedented. First off, Affleck is not nominated for Best Director. Only thrice has a movie overcome that obstacle to go home with the big prize, and not in the last ten years or so. Also, consider that many other films have way more nominations than Argo. Lincoln has 13, Les Misérables has 9. Argo has 8, which is not shabby by any stretch of the imagination. But number of nominations is usually a good sign of what will overcome. The Artist led it last year and won, The King’s Speech the year before that and won. The Hurt Locker tied for most and won it all. History would say that Argo will not win.

But history never saw this happen. Usually, whoever takes home PGA wins Best Picture. Argo has that, the DGA, and the Golden Globe. Personally, I think Lincoln will prevail at the WGA, but Argo‘s momentum might overcome it there as well.

Argo

Now, the Academy and DGA never seem to see eye to eye. Case in point: Christopher Nolan has been nominated for the DGA 3 times, and has yet to score an Oscar nom. It’s crazy, but I’ve ranted about that before. Moving on.

Do I think Argo could do it? Sure. It’s loved by critics, and awarding the highest honor would do leaps and bounds to show that the Academy can recognize exciting, crowd pleasing material. I mean, let’s be honest, Argo doesn’t have nearly as much to say on philosophical, moral, or political topics that Lincoln, Life of Pi, or Amour does. It’s just an incredibly well made suspense caper, with excellent performances and a incredibly consistent sense of pacing. And yet, I think that might be enough this year.

Personally, I’m still rooting for Les Misérables. It’s my favorite of the nominees that I’ve seen. I’d say now that it’s between ArgoLes Mis, and Lincoln for the top prize. Life of Pi has been winning nothing, Zero Dark Thirty looks to be destined to enjoy a solitary acting award if Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t snatch it away, and I’m just hoping against hope that Django Unchained manages to finally get Tarantino another writing statue. Amour stands no chance at all, and neither does Beasts of the Southern Wild.

In other categories, I’d say Hugh Jackman stood a fair chance at the Best Actor statue, but then his being in Movie 43 came and took a big dump all over that. Looks like it’ll be number 3 for Day-Lewis. Anne Hathaway is going to win for Les Mis. I mean, does anyone even doubt that anymore? Jennifer Lawrence looks poised to knockout Jessica Chastain, which I’m fine with. Conversely I’d be find if Chastain won as well. I’m in love with both of them. I feel like Spielberg is gonna score Directing oscar number 3, and then have a repeat of Saving Private Ryan, because of the three frontrunners for Best Picture, Lincoln is slightly behind Argo and Les Misérables. Writing will go to Lincoln and Django, though if Argo wins there, the evening is over. In Documentary? Hell, I don’t know. The Invisible War should win, but How to Survive a Plague seems to be at the head of the pack.

Ay yi yi. And I don’t even know if I’m gonna be able to watch them. London and all. Although… I was able to watch the Super Bowl…

49ERS!!!!!!!!

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The Black Hole Presents: Top 15 Best of 2012

It’s been a hell of a year. I sort of don’t want it to end. I kinda just want it to keep going and see where else it takes us.

For me, it was a banner year. Not just in terms of quality, but also personal growth. I attended my first film festival, met up with fellow bloggers, and, most importantly, made the jump to my own site. Yeah, I know. I haven’t been great at keeping up the consistent content, but, hey. It’s not like you’re in college. Unless you are. And then you understand.

Oh well.

Before we begin, let me start by saying that there were a ton of films that just didn’t make the cut here. I could easily make another list of films that weren’t quite good enough to make the top tier. So, let’s quickly acknowledge some of their achievements. The Hunger Games was the anti-Twilight as well as possessing untold levels of maturity and violence for a “kid-friendly” PG-13 flick. The Cabin in the Woods reinvigorated the horror genre, while also being exciting, hilarious, and beyond bloody! Lawless wasn’t perfect, but it’s excellent cast delivered excellent performances, beautifully complementing the movie’s blood-soaked western aesthetic. Brave reasserted Pixar’s dominance in the animation world, and then… well, pretty much everything I saw at Sundance is worth mentioning.

Alright. Here we go! I’m a little behind on the reviews, so some of these won’t link back to one just yet. They will soon.

15.

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14. 

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13.

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12.

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11. (Review Coming Soon)

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10.

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9.

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8.

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7.

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6.

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5. (Review Coming Soon)

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4. 

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3.

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2.

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AND FILMS FROM THE SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE’S CHOICE FOR #1

Cloud-Atlas-poster-movieBring it on 2013!!!

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2012 In Review

Fare thee well 2012, you and your underwhelming apocalypse!

Where to begin with this year, I wonder. It seems, for me at least, it gets harder and harder to write these kinds of post as the years go on. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m getting nihilistic. Who knows?

Ok, let’s start with this…

Prometheus_movie_05WHAT A YEAR FOR THE MAJOR STUDIOS!!! That there were epic blockbusters is nothing new. There are always epic blockbusters. But I don’t think even the smartest industry analyst could have predicted how huge some of them would be. Basically, at this time last year, if you told me that The Dark Knight Rises wouldn’t be the highest grossing film of the year, and by almost $200, I’d say you were hitting the peyote a bit hard. And I’d be wrong. The Avengers took the world by furious thunderstorm, and claimed dominance over the box office easily. Take a look at it’s peers in the big moneymakers club however, and you see a surprisingly diverse spread. The Hunger Games took in an unprecedented amount of cash for a brand new franchise, though, in truth it did have a popular series of books to go off of. Skyfall saw James Bond finally entering the billion dollar club. Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth wasn’t exactly what all of us were hoping for, but it was still an admirable technical and epic achievement that proved a solid hit with audiences. Hell, even Prometheus, one of the most divisive films of the year, inched into the top 20.

And a lot of that has to do with the fact that the major studios were finally back up to snuff in terms of quality with the smaller independent films. For too long we had been looking to Warners, Universal, and Paramount for the escapist pop, while looking towards Focus, Weinstein, and FilmDistrict for the actual quality. This year, it was no trouble finding something good at the major theaters. I mean, just look at the crop of films widely considered to be front runners for Best Picture. Les Misérables, Lincoln, Argo, Life of Pi, and Zero Dark Thirty were all distributed or made by the major studios. Two of those movies (spoiler alert) find comfortable places in my top 5. Finally, the studios were giving us quality, awards worthy material, and making it easily accesible. No more taking three buses across town to get to that one independent theater. Not this year.

Of course, the indie’s still delivered where it counted. Eight of my top 15 (yes, I do 15) are indies. Hell, one of them is a documentary, and that almost never happens. This year saw even more innovation and risks in the indie scene. We even had some indie films that could have easily been mistaken for the big budget studio products. Looper boasted hard hitting action and clever effects in addition to its brilliant script and direction. Anna Karenina was just as lavish and colorful as anything produced by Warners, and Cloud Atlas was the most expensive indie movie… ever! It didn’t hurt that all three of those movies, and others were fantastic!Cloud-Atlas-Doona-Bae

Were there low points? Naturally. I felt the pangs of disappointment with the likes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyKilling Them Softly, The Bourne Legacy, and Savages. And yes, some stuff was just plain awful (look at you Battleship). But for the most part, 2012 was a banner year for film! Yes it was even more back heavy than usual (I mean, Les Mis, Django Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty within a week of each other?), and yes, good comedies were once again hard to come by. But the level of quality permeating most everything was easy to see. I for one could make a-whole-nother list of ten films that didn’t quite make my top 15. 2012 spoiled us. And it looks like 2013 will be just as enticing, with the likes of Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Pacific Rim, The World’s End, Elysium, The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Place Beyond the Pines, Riddick, Captain Phillips, Thor: The Dark World, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug… well, you get the idea.

Here’s to another blissful year at the movies. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!

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FITS 2012: Final Day

Another summer in the books, ladies and gentlemen. There were… things to watch. Some things were good. Some things… ok, most things, weren’t. But in this time of transition from quantity to quality, it behooves oneself to keep his wits, look forward, and persevere. And because of that, we’re gonna spend the next five days talking about the past. Join Films From the Supermassive Black Hole as we present the annual Fun In The Sun Awards for the Summer Cinema Goer everyday this work week.

And now, we have come to the end. Our final two awards will be given out in a moment, but first, let’s hash out some films that didn’t make any of these lists. Some of them I haven’t had a chance to review yet, so, bear that in in mind. The Amazing Spider-Man was far from awful, but told the exact same story we had already seen, and didn’t change it up in an sort of meaningful way. Headhunters was gruesomely violent, but that’s ok when you have Jamie Lannister being awesome. Brave, though not up to the level of such masterpieces as WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3, was still a return to form after the disappointment of Cars 2. And the most interesting part of Snow White and the Huntsman is all the crazy K-Stew cheating drama. Yeah, that was a bad movie.

But whatever, it’s time for the main event. Let’s do this.

Anything I could say here has already been said, and better, in my reviews, so click the images for a quick jump.

Best In Show!

Runners Up: The Avengers and Prometheus

Worst In Show!

Runners Up: Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy

Thanks all for sticking with me for the week. Stuff may fall off for a bit. I start school on Monday and will no doubt have to acclimate. K, that’s all. I’m gonna take a nap.