There's been much talk about how this stands to be a banner year for black-themed film and black artists at the Oscars -- though how much does that reflect any kind of industry upswing? Not enough, writes John Horn: "A few weeks of feel-good inclusion can't alter the more troubling fact that opportunities for people of color remain scarce and that, for all of the Academy Award interest these directors and actors are receiving, Hollywood ultimately will judge their value using the only yardstick it believes matters: box-office performance." He goes on to list the hard facts and stats that need improving on the racial and gender front; not to kill the holiday mood, but a good read. [LA Times]
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Back in mid-September, "Breaking Bad" gave us its best episode ever in "Ozymandias, on the exact same day I wound up in the hospital with a burst appendix and a bad infection. I watched, and wrote about, "Ozymandias" only hours after surgery, while very high on painkillers, and though my review was not full gibberish, it was gibberish enough that it's nagged at me ever since.
So the following is an attempt to get right what once went wrong, possibly "Quantum Leap"-style, by writing the review I wish I could have written back on September 15. I can't promise it won't be colored by things that happened in the ensuing "Granite State" or "Felina," so if you happen to be coming to this review years from now as a person lucky enough to be watching "Breaking Bad" for the first time, you may want to read the semi-coherent original review and return to this later.
A whole lot of thoughts on "Ozymandias" coming up just as soon as I remind you to put on your seat belt...
In many ways, Matt Smith's final episode of "Doctor Who" seemed an apt reflection of the actor's particular take on the character. The show was strikingly poignant, charming, a little sexy and yet sometimes bordered on frantic. Maybe too frantic; by the end, the show was playing so fast and loose with mythology it felt as if Steven Moffat was trying to pull a fast one on all of us.
"Nebraska" star Bruce Dern has said the same thing all season when the conversation has inevitably turned to his personal history as an actor: "I knew if you wanted to be an actor, you had to do three things. You had to go to New York, you had to try to get into the Actors Studio, and you had to work for Mr. Kazan."
He pulled all that off and tomorrow he gets a bit of a homecoming as he and daughter Laura will be appearing on Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio" with James Lipton. The episode will air at 7pm ET/PT.
He kept us waiting, but it's finally heeeeeere: for a time, it seemed that Martin Scorsese's long, crazed trip through the stock-market hedonism of the 80s and early 90s might not manage a 2013 release at all, but it's now in theaters as the year's most deliciously inappropriate Christmas gift. It was such a late arrival that I still haven't got a bead on the critical consensus, though it already has a number of fiercely devoted admirers -- including HitFix's Drew McWeeny, while you can read Kris's early reaction here.
I'm still sorting out my feelings about it: it's certainly a frenzied blast of energy, and I was more stimulated than I was by Scorsese's last two films. At the same time, however, I wasn't left with much when the circus was over: its moral stance, such as it is, is laid out early on, leaving us jogging furiously in place for three hours. Largely the point, no doubt, but still. Anyway, we're curious to know how you land on this one: share your thoughts here, and vote in the poll below.
Thelma Schoonmaker recalls the heated controversy and moving testament of 'The Last Temptation of Christ'
Talking with Thelma Schoonmaker recently, it became quickly apparent that I wasn't even going to scratch the surface of her career's work with Martin Scorsese in a single piece. I couldn't help but play the retrospective game with her, and while I of course didn't address all 19 feature collaborations, I was curious about six films in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of their work together. Each of them — "Who's That Knocking At My Door," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Goodfellas," "Bringing Out the Dead" and "The Departed" — will get its own space in the next few days.
Every year, there's at least one major holiday release that I don't get round to before, well, the holidays -- or, in my case, January -- and Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is that film this year. (I'll get to it, for sure; "Zoolander" loyalty dies hard.) A lot of my more cynically inclined colleagues would tell me that I passed on the right one: after having Oscar buzz for about a minute and landing a prestigious New York Film Festival slot, the romantic fantasy has landed pretty softly with critics -- not that Stiller has ever made films for them anyway. In any event, it looks like audiences will be more charmed by its whimsy: are any of you checking it out this Christmas? Share your thoughts here if so, and be sure to vote in the poll below.
And then there were 10. Yesterday, I counted down my first 15 favorites of the year -- though to be honest, it was a list that could significantly have changed, both in selections and arrangement, from one day to the next. My top 10 has felt a little firmer to me for some time, but that's not because these films particularly belong in a league above the rest. Rather, as I mentioned in my intro yesterday, it's the shape and synthesis of this collective that feels satisfying to me -- disparate as the choices may be, they're unified in my mind by threads both obvious (the list is bookended by the two faces of a single star, for starters) and less immediately apparent until the films are placed side by side.
Taken together, the list might say more about me than it does about the year in film -- which is how I prefer it. It was a very good year, by agreement, though as festivals keep mushrooming, while methods and means of global distribution keep expanding, no one viewer's 12 months at the movies looks quite like another's.
This year was a transitional time for pop music: after years of beats trumping melodies, songs you could sing along to returned to the top of the charts in 2013. Not only were tunes you could hum back in vogue, so were mid-tempo ballads as songs like Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” Rihanna’s “Stay,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” dominated at radio.
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” featuring Pharrell and T.I. spent the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was female artists who brought the sizzle to the charts in the form of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” and, of course, Lorde’s “Royals.”
Picking my top 10 songs was a bit of a struggle this year. The Top 5 came easily enough, but then there about 20 songs that I liked but didn’t love. Domestic talent has seen a resurgence, so I was a little surprised that 1/3 of my list came from new British singer/songwriters, none of whom have broken through yet in a meaningful way here...even though they are all certainly worthy contenders to continue to build in 2014.
I’m a big country fan, but as so many other critics have written this year, the current top country male artists have tied themselves up in a bundle of cliches, leaving women such as Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe and Brandy Clark to produce the most interesting work —even if mainstream radio isn’t embracing them as it should.
My Top 10 is a totally subjective list: each song had to be a radio single released in 2013 and we had to be able to get a high-quality copy of the video (in all honestly, that changed one position on the list when we couldn’t get one clip), but other than that criteria, the list is simply the songs that I found myself listening to over and over this year, especially the Top 5.
Additionally, two songs that seems to have made everyone else’s list—Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and Lorde’s “Royals” — are nowhere to be found in my top 10. While I ended up begrudgingly liking “We Can’t Stop” after hearing it for the 1,000th time, it was never a song that resonated with me. While I understand all the hype over “Royals,” by the time I got around to making my list, I was so burnt out on it that it joins songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Losing My Religions” that I never need to hear again in my life.
What were your favorite songs of the year?
Tomorrow, because it's December 25 and nobody typically has much going on that day, I will finally reveal my top 10 films of 2013. And with the final draft of the list having sat in my head for about a week now, I'm pretty happy with it -- not just because it's a fine bunch of films (from one's own perspective, at least, that should go without saying), but because I'm positive that the 10 I chose are also the right ones in defining and outlining the year I had at the movies; the more I think about them, the more unexpected connections, parallels and complementary differences emerge alongside the intended ones.
Still, list-making is never an entirely satisfying process, and as I mulled over my initial longlist of over 60 titles for consideration,10 came to seem a thoroughly inadequate number -- it always is, really, but too many films meant too much to me this year to go by unthanked.