2013: A Magic year in Film – Films that were duds, dodgy or just bored the hell out of me.

2013 is already being touted as a magical year for film, and I agree with that.  The Sydney Film Festival hops on the back of Cannes and Sundance and so this city often see the years best films in that tremendous tw0-and-a-half week marathon, a just compensation for the appalling difference in release dates we have to put up with in the rest of the year. We usually walk away from that festival with about ten brilliant films under out belts, but this year almost every film on the bill ended up being a smash hit with audiences not to mention critically acclaimed.

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One of my most hated internet obsessions is ‘list posts’, which I think say more about the list maker than the subject matter, and are without doubt the most lazy form of interaction with anything, but particularly a weak way to appreciate art (and there are many bloggers I love who do lists, and some lists I enjoy – so I’ll add that spanner into those works). Lists are formed from the lowest common point of interaction and usually throb with the racism, sexism and ignorance of our culture, each one, over and over a barely reformed version of the one you happened to read before it.  Out of shock at the low quality of discussion regarding the films of 2013, overwhelmingly dominated by apathetic and lethargic lists, I felt compelled to make some sort of statement about the year in cinema.

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I thought I’d start with films that I thought were overrated, formed from a dubious premise, or that were just too dull to keep my interest. It’s an odd place to begin and I am aware that I might mention films people loved, but that happens with these sort of discussions doesn’t it? So apologies if I step on toes.

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The worst film of 2013 – The Internship

This film is the moment we stepped through the looking-glass, people, it is officially “The Google Movie” and the first time we’ve seen ‘film placement’ in an advertisement, rather than product placement in a film. And if you want to cite precedence with the horrifying manipulation of propaganda films, I counter that argument by stating at least Triumph of the Will was well made. The Internship is not funny, turns fully functioning adult males into the worst kind of idiots, and only goes to confirm the baby boomers fears that they have absolutely nothing to offer generation Y; It makes poor use of Owen Wilson, thinks we all took our watches of our wrists in 2012, and makes fun of old age sex. It doesn’t have one redeeming feature, except to show advertisers what they can get away with and introduce us to a whole new era of terrible films that start with a product and then wrap it in clichés that appeal to the lower selves inside so completely that even cynicism isn’t an effective counter attack because the manipulation is so obvious. The Internship is nothing other than an advertisement we pay to go and sit in front of passively; and worst of all, it’s two hours long.

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Critically acclaimed films I didn’t like:

There is always a disputing of consensus, and that’s one of the reasons film criticism and evaluation is important, so that we can see multiple points of view. In 2013 many of the films I didn’t like were difficult for me to sit through, and in most cases I turned off the screener, or left the cinema before I got to the end, though not all of them.

The main critically acclaimed films that didn’t work for me – and I didn’t review these films – are…

The Spectacular Now

I can see why people like it, it’s edited with the perfection of a film student ticking off the boxes, decently acted, and there’s that cute title, but I found Sutter Keely to be one of the most boring protagonists in the history of film. Coming of age is such an overdone medium it needs something a little special to give it oomph. It doesn’t help that I saw this film in the same week I saw one of the best coming of age films I’ve ever seen, Apres Mai, so to be fair in a lesser year, it might have packed more punch with me.

To the Wonder.

A film I walked out of. You can read my rationalising here. 

Lincoln. (2012, but 2013 in Australia)

Confession time. I havent seen the end of Lincoln. I actually couldn’t stand Daniel Day-Lewis in this film, and had to turn the DVD off. I can’t really defend this, it’s just one of those time when personal sensibilities get in the way. I do think method acting has had its day, and I rarely see it well done anymore. Lewis looked laboured and strained, as if he were reaching for something with so much vehemence and passion that when the thing passed him by he didn’t even notice, and the performance made me so uncomfortable I wanted to put both of us out of our misery.

Mud.

This is probably the biggest surprise, but I was bored to tears with Mud. I couldn’t get to the end of it. In my opinion this is, in every way, a film that did not need to be made seeing as it contributes nothing at all, being yet another Yank wank self-congratulation over Mark Twain. Early male teen coming of age is an overblown film genre that simply isn’t interesting enough to warrant all the fuss, and Mud is a perfect example of yet ANOTHER well made film that says absolutely nothing new, nothing interesting, and serves only as a reminder that just because something is sentimental to you doesn’t mean it will make a good book or film. Mud made the new Carrie film look like a haven of avant guard transformation, it was so deeply embedded in its boring well-worn narrative. Predictable plotting, predictable performances – boring!

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Films with a dodgy premise:

Rush.

The glorification of James Hunt never needed to happen, and Ron Howard should be made to answer for his appallingly unapologetic testosterone injected tale that made a travesty of the true story and indulged in the kind of stereotyped sexist fantasy that would make Disney blush. The grotesque James Hunt did not need to be romanticised in this film which reminded me of something Charlton Heston would have approved of in the black listed era of Hollywood. The only thing missing from this conservative, white boy fantasy is Jesus.

World War Z

World War Z gets the prize for the dodgiest-of-dodgy film moments in 2013. When the Israelis let the Palestinians into their fortress, and together they sing a song of unification that attracts the zombies and results in the death of everyone, I was left with an open mouth that took days to close. Definitely the biggest WTF(????) moment for me in film this year.

Jobs.

Jobs is one of those films that I couldn’t get all the way through it was so badly made, and I really wanted it to be good, because I know this story is an interesting one. It’s on this list because of the overt exploitation of placing self-proclaimed social media maven Ashton Kutcher in the film undoubtedly rushed in order to capitalise on the man’s death.

Salinger.

A film so unashamed self-indulgent I got angry. This is a film says far more about Shane Salerno than it does about Salinger, but it is another that was manipulatively released to time in with the man’s death.

Behind the Candelabra

I know, I know! I laughed at Rob Low too. I saw the political power of the campiness and all that, it’s just that this is a very manipulative film made for straight audiences, that doesn’t address important issues, such as gay adoption, appropriately. Liberace is gently laughed at in this film, and not given due respect, treated, in fact, just as he always was by straight audiences. I really hated Sodobergh’s film Side Effects, nothing more than the unnecessary resurrection of the traditional Hollywood stereotype of evil lipstick-lesbians out to attack innocent white rich males, and I think Behind the Candelabra is only marginally better in its hit-and-miss political messages. Sodobergh’s undoubted messages in 2013, a year when the GBLT community is fighting hard for their political rights, is that you can only be gay if we are allowed to call a freak, and that lesbianism is really about heterosexual males.

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Badly made films or films that should have been better:

Paranoia.

Possibly the second worst film I saw this year, once you remove stuff like Hangover and Movie 43. This should have been better because of its fine cast.

The Canyons

James Deen is the first porn star in history to be devotedly followed by teen women. This film should have been better because of him, Lindsay Lohan, Brett Easton Ellis who wrote it, and Paul Schrader. It was exceedingly disappointing to me that this film sucked.

Gangster Squad

Almost as cynical in manipulative exploitation as The Internship, this much money should produce something with more heart, effort and love in its creation.

Prisoners

This film should have been better, again for its lead actors, both of whom should have had a slightly more polished vehicle than this film, that in the end, only turns out to be ok. I really felt for Hugh Jackman who brings a very interesting character to potent life. Prisoners lets him down.

The Place beyond the Pines

The lack of subtlety in the heavy-handed symbolism in a film that is ambitious beyond the directors abilities to fulfil upon. This is a good film that really should have been a fantastic film because it has a lot of truly interesting ideas. Once again, stellar acting.

Lovelace.

Lovelace is a wasted opportunity to say something that needs to be said. This film let Linda Boreman down, a woman who has been let down too many times.

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