<![CDATA[              THE IRON LIST - Best Films, 2012-2014]]>Thu, 25 Feb 2016 05:19:47 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Iron List Does 2013, Part II: The Top 15]]>Fri, 28 Feb 2014 20:16:16 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/the-iron-list-does-2013-part-ii-the-top-1515. The Place Beyond the Pines. Part of me wishes this had been a miniseries so that all those third act coincidences could've been given the development they deserved. But the single meeting of the two fathers is still a knockout, and the work that Gosling does with his tattoos and Cooper with his haircut are practically worth the price of admission in themselves. (K.H.)
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Is that the Pequod, the Cutty Sark, or the U.S.S. Constitution?
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14. American Hustle. “Hot mess” doesn’t do justice to this nonstop microwave explosion of a film, all chest medallions and boob tape and inexplicable arguments. 

Two standout moments: Bradley Cooper doing Louis C.K., which is every bit as great as Goldfarb says it is; and Jennifer Lawrence, somehow making a Paul McCartney song both sexy and terrifying. 

As a portrait of the crisis of ‘70s, with the old midcentury boom dying, and the new neoliberal era yet to be born, it’s pretty dead on. And is there a better metaphor for the false magic of the market than a government official dressed as a sheik with a briefcase full of illegal cash?  

13. Much Ado About Nothing. This film had so much refreshing light-hearted energy, and the Whedon crew really brought their A-game to Shakespeare's best comedic prose. Would've been higher but for Alexis Denisof's Benedick, who was too loafy for my taste. Come on, Joss, Benedick's a lothario! Wither the iron chest and square jaw? (K.H.)

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12. Nebraska. Some of the absurdities didn't work at all, and Will Forte was far too flat, but God, those genuine Nebraska natives were great. And so was that wide empty land. Our parents, our country. Bruce Dern. June Squibb. (K.H.)






11. Enough Said. This movie knows exactly how difficult it is to talk to people we've only just met -- a difficulty that, paradoxically, only seems to increase with age. Shouldn't we be getting better at this? Shouldn't people get easier to read? But no, they get harder; and so do we. I'm probably overly enchanted with the image of a mellower Elaine Benes and Tony Soprano strolling the archives of the television history museum, but I miss both those characters so much, and I miss Gandolfini even more. (K.H.)

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10. Gravity. Bullock's soliloquies were awful and her back story too precious to be believed, but she moved wonderfully in Cuaron's CGI-scape -- like nothing I've ever seen on film. And about that back story: at least the kid was dead. At least she didn't have to survive for the kid; she only had to survive for herself. (K.H.)

9. Blue Jasmine. Tennessee Williams in the age of the 1%: wealth, says Woody Allen, is just a socially acceptable form of psychosis. Cate Blanchett emits pure energy, and the Diceman cometh. But it’s sadly characteristic of era that this is another film about the crimes of finance whose chief victim is a society wife. (M.K.)

PictureWho put that clever suit together for you, Rob?
8. All is Lost. Yes, it's a one-man show, a story of one aging heartthrob's crisis on a boat. But throughout the experience I found myself marveling at the civilization that was hiding in plain sight all around Redford, in those survivalist tools he had on hand for precisely the contingency he faced, each one of them created by others so that he could have the hubris to go it alone.

7. Inside Llewyn Davis. Llewyn is the cat, and he is also every artist. He can't succeed and he can't quit: the cold monochrome world won't let them. As usual, the Coens sing the song of misanthropy, and as usual John Goodman shows up, but it was nice to see the Coens return to form with a truly lovable new schmuck. Oscar Isaac can do no wrong. (K.H.)

Schachtmanite? (M.K.)

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6. Blue is the Warmest Color. I'll take the opposite stance as Will K.: this movie had problems. But now I'm going to praise it. OK, the male gaze is a thing, but in this film, what is it about gazing at these two female lovers that actually empowers the gazer? Projected on the screen above me they are active, powerful, invincible. I am passive, helpless, inert.  In the blast zone of their explosive passion, from my seat in the theater, I felt less like an omniscient hetero voyeur than -- as Lorrie Moore puts it -- Hans Christian Anderson's poor Little Match Girl.

But the arguments about the fifteen minutes of sex in this three hour film are overwrought. What's most interesting here is the uncommon combination of the erotic and the everyday, the refusal to obey decades of film convention that insists on a rigid boundary between the bed sheets and the bus ride, the dinner table, or the classroom (even Lorrie Moore's review itself stiffly succumbs to the cliche that sex in a serious film can only be suggested and never shown). As a daring expedition across that worn-out frontier -- and a rich portrait of one young woman making her way into the cruel world of adulthood -- this movie deserves all the acclaim it's received, and more. (M.K.)

5. 12 Years a Slave. Solomon Northup's narrative is unusual as slave narratives go. It's the story, not of a dramatic escape, but of an unreal kidnapping, a journey from freedom to slavery to freedom again, thanks to the serendipitous intervention of the law. In Steve McQueen's hands, it's also a story of individuals abused within a system of twisted but inescapable logic. No shot embodies this more fully than the agonizingly sustained one of Solomon struggling for his footing with a noose around his neck while plantation activity grinds on in the background. And no figure bears the brunt of slavery's cruel contradictions more painfully than Patsy, who, unlike Solomon, is not saved. (For thoughts from the historian, here's Matt's take.) (K.H.)

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4. Spring Breakers. It’s silly for me to say again what Kirk already said about the orgastic future illuminated by Outback Steakhouse neon at the end of a dock. Or what the rad leftonistas at the New Inquiry have already said about this movie’s function as a joyfully uncompromising cultural studies fantasy text. Or what GQ -- GQ! -- has already said about Pain & Gain, Spring Breakers, and the savage farce of the American dream. There's not much left to say. But I'll let Alien say it anyway. (M.K.)
CONSTANT, Y'ALL. 

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3. Before Midnight. My personal #1. With this third Celine and Jesse film (after 1995's Before Sunrise and 2004's Before Sunset), Richard Linklater and his stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have achieved a life project reminiscent of Michael Apted's engrossing 7-Up series. The quickness of Celine and Jesse's conversational style contrasts with the patience of the time-lapse form as the French girl and the American boy evolve from flirtatious, hopeful strangers on a train to flirtatious but hardened parents having it out in a hotel room in Greece. So many elements established in the first film pay off here, though back in 1995 we had no reason to believe they would ever live beyond the current reel. It's a credit to Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke that the films continue to expand upon their own material, varying their themes as we all do in building our own real-time lives. (K.H.)


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2. Fruitvale Station. Stunning in its restraint and plainspoken tone, Fruitvale Station is political theater of the most admirable variety. Michael B. Jordan lay on the very same spot in Fruitvale Station where the real Oscar Grant was shot less than four years before, the real bullet still lodged in the platform. That BART cooperated, that it was Oakland native Ryan Coogler’s first feature, and that he was only 26 when he made it lends the entire project a degree of urgency and authenticity matched only by its masterful execution. Only twice does Coogler stack the deck a little too much, but we forgive him that. After all, the deck is stacked against all Oscar Grants. (K.H.)

Is Ryan Coogler an American Dardenne? He could be. This film is that real, that raw, and that tenderly unsentimental. Happy to agree with Iron Uncle Bill K. here.
    Also, I won't link to this, but if you want to get your blood up on a Friday afternoon, read the Forbes review:  "Fruitvale Station is Loose With the Facts about Oscar Grant." (M.K.)


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1. The Selfish Giant. When A.O. Scott whinges about a movie being too “ideological,” then you know it’s a must-see (seriously, read David Thomson instead). A film about two young boys trapped in the scrap-heap economy of northern Britain, a world where post-Thatcher capitalism has become literally indistinguishable from the primitive accumulation of raw materials. In this movie, scrap is both metaphor and reality; electric wire appears not as a conduit of civilization but a desirable if dangerous bit of plunder.  

But you shouldn’t see The Selfish Giant to learn what you already know about the barbarism of modern economic life. You should see it because it captures, in a rare and precious way, the beauty and the agony of human relationships in this impossible world. (The comparison for me is not to Ken Loach or even Andrea Arnold, but one of my favorite movies of all time, Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Return.)

Here’s Thomson: “Time and again, one has the depressing feeling that directors in America nowadays are making movies about old movies and behavior known from the screen. It’s as if the film-makers have never had life experience, or are no longer taught to trust it. Nothing is more threatening to the vitality of the cinema. The Selfish Giant has an austere spiritual certainty that to evade or avoid life is sacrilegious.” (M.K.)

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<![CDATA[The Iron List Does 2013, Part I: The Bottom 20]]>Fri, 28 Feb 2014 17:38:40 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/the-iron-list-does-2013-part-i-the-bottom-2036. Lovelace. A film so bad, I didn't even watch it. Maybe Matt has some defense? (K.H.)

It was supposed to be about porn. (M.K.)

35. Austenland. It's so unfortunate when such a comely and accomplished lady fails to live up to her potential. (K.H.)
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34. Star Trek Into Darkness. Great opening scene on a planet with colorful natives. Can't remember anything else after that. (K.H.)

Chris Pine’s face is more luridly beautiful than a thousand alien planets. But I don’t remember anything he did here, either. (M.K.)

33. The Internship. Oh, Owen. Oh, Vince. At least you know you are not young. (K.H.)

32. Admission. This was my introduction to Princeton University. Too bad. It really wanted to be a critique of the so-called meritocracy of college admissions, but it lost its nerve somewhere in the middle. (K.H.)

PictureOn the other hand, who wouldn't want a Russell Crowe hologram?
31. Man of Steel. I really wish Hollywood would answer my calls and stop filming twenty minute fight scenes in which villains scream "I'm going to kill you!" and then proceed to throw a clumsy train. Seriously, this time, I'm through with superhero movies forever. (K.H.)

RELEASE THE WORLD-ENGINE! Or don’t, and just read Connor Kilpatrick’s Jacobin review instead, which is far more badass. (M.K)

30. Side Effects. You do not kill Channing Tatum in the first ten minutes of a film. And you do not end it with an evil lesbian conspiracy. Jude Law makes an entertaining sleuth though. (K.H.)

Picture"Uhm, she's an operating system."
29. Her. It's hard to describe the visceral revulsion I felt for this film, which more than once made me laugh in sheer scorn. It had so much going for it as a Pygmalion tale and as a speculative take on our increasingly digital lives. But there was something off about the tone -- and Phoenix's Twombley, who is exactly the sort of pathetic dweeb you'd expect to fall in love with a machine. How much more interesting, and alarming, it could've been if he'd been a more socially connected guy. (K.H.)

Somehow it's important for me to add here that Joaquin Phoenix has officially denounced Her-style pants, which are an abomination. (M.K.)

28. The Kings of Summer. Odd and fun. But it’s not summer anymore. (M.K.)

27. The Butler. Everyone says that it’s basically a black Forrest Gump, and everyone is right. There are good things and bad things about this. (M.K.)

26. What Maisie Knew. A bit long and loose, but a nice update to the James novel, and wonderfully faithful to the child's point of view. Steve Coogan is as loathsome as ever, and Julianne Moore's courtroom fashions could've told us everything we needed to know about her character, but then she had to go and use her smoky voice, too. (K.H.)

25. Upstream Color. Worms, pigs, orchids, Thoreau, Emerson: “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.” Another indifferent film that produced a fascinating essay (this one from Caleb Crain). (M.K.)

Hey, look! Five straight movies about capitalism, or, better yet, resistance to capitalism! None of them are very good, but they're all worth thinking about.
The Revolutionaries of 2013:
Après Mai (Something in the Air)
The Bling Ring
It's telling, of course, that only revolutionaries past (Après Mai, The Company You Keep) and future (Elysium) are consciously ideological: the present-day subversives stage their revolt through petty crime, violent crime, and above all, narcissistic self-adornment. They're still rebels, though: as the personal trainer Mark Wahlberg tells his rich client/kidnapping victim in Pain & Gain: "I don't just want everything you have. I want you not to have it." (On The Bling Ring, check out Kurt Newman's "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Vuitton", the best titled blog essay of 2013.)

Each of these movies depicts its own kind of anti-capitalist resistance, but all of them, in different ways, have trouble imagining the fulfillment of that resistance. The limits of revolution by burglary and pectoral enhancement should be obvious. But for the post-'68 French lifestyle leftists of Apres Mai, the choice is clear: why bother with tedious Zhdanovist filmmaking and harangues about autonomism when you can just trip out to Tangerine Dream, make your own art, and get laid anyway? 

Thanks mostly to Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie (who belongs at every revolution), The Company You Keep actually paints a more sympathetic portrait of left-wing guerillas than anyone has a right to expect from Hollywood. But ultimately the struggle is defeated not by the FBI, or even the craven careerism of Shia LaBeouf, but the geriatric radicals' own parenting instincts. And last, Elysium promised to topple the plutocracy, but in the end all we got was revolution by keystroke, plus slightly higher budget for foreign aid. 

Still, I'll raise my glass to the uneasy, searching spirit behind all these films. Here's to more and better anti-capitalist imaginings in 2014, either with or without whey protein. (M.K.)
Pain & Gain
The Company You Keep
Elysium
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19. Mud. Finally, a film in which it will literally kill McConaughey to take off his shirt. What on earth will he do? He will act. And heroically take off his shirt. (K.H.)

A coming-of-age fable in which no innocence is actually lost. (M.K.)

18. This is the End. Totally with Goldfarb on this one. Seriously, that's probably exactly what James Franco's like, right? (K.H.)

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17. The Wolf of Wall Street. This raging beast of a film is in my personal top ten, but Matt's apparent distate for hookers, coke, and Jonah Hill relegate it to the middle of the pack. DiCaprio is the master of overacting -- I always find myself wanting to take him aside and give him notes, because dammit, he tries too HARD -- but here, my hat goes off to him. The role he was born to play. (K.H.)

I dug the idea behind this film, and I don’t think its politics could possibly be more fiercely dead-on. (Yes, we live in a world ruled by shitheads, while Coach Taylor takes the subway to work. That’s capitalist justice.) It’s long and painful because it’s meant to be long and painful—not Goodfellas, but Funny Games, maybe with a slight dash of Funny People. But watching this in the theater, damn if I didn’t want to check my email every five minutes. The wrestling match between Michael Haneke and Judd Apatow sounds like a great idea, but for me, it produced a few incredible scenes and a lot of dead air. (M.K.)

Update! Skip this movie and just read Eileen Jones's glorious rant instead:

The details of these Wall Street ratfuckers’ lives are numbingly familiar, as are their lightly-fictionalized cinematic counterparts... Consider the multitudes of rascally young Charlie Sheenish anti-heroes who’ve infected movies since the ‘80s, first shown learning the ropes of ripping people off the Big Business way, and then repenting their sins in that crucial last reel where the phony moral of the story goes....
Remember that sleazy, lecherous stockbroker with the shit-eating grin in the first Die Hard who thought he could scam his way out of a hostage situation by sales-talking the head criminal mastermind and calling him “Boopy”? That guy was hilarious!
That was 1988, people. We’ve been laughing at these guys for going on thirty years now. It’s taking us a while to figure out maybe they aren’t so funny.


16. The Great Gatsby. An overly romantic Gatsby that's as marred as you'd expect by Tobey Maguire, but Baz gives it everything he's got in 3D, and those parties, that city: boy, do they ever come alive. (K.H.)

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<![CDATA[Will K.'s 47 Movies of 2013, Part II: The Top 16]]>Fri, 28 Feb 2014 14:28:23 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/will-ks-47-movies-of-2013-the-top-16PictureMonster mom jeans.
16. What Maisie Knew – A quiet movie that comes so close to NOT working due to its need to sanctify Maisie’s saviors.  But Julianne Moore’s ability to create something much more complex than a “monster mom” caricature turns what could have been a saccharine mess into a minor gem.

15. The Place Beyond the Pines - Melodrama, for good and for bad.  In many ways, Cianfrance's commitment to creating mood and pathos overshadows the plot itself, which runs off the rails from time to time.  But I like that this is such a sweeping, epic, novel-like story, and I like that it veers toward earnest dramatics over detached snark and irony.  Sometimes appeals to emotion can be their own reward.

14. Give Me the Loot – Micro-budget indie film.  I barely made it past the first few minutes due to amateur production values and acting that took a little time to adjust to.  But I am very glad that I held strong.  This is a fun heist/friendship movie that provides its racial/class commentary through observation, rather than heavy-handedness.

13. Blue is the Warmest Color – I liked it a lot.  But now I’m going to criticize it.  In a lot of ways the director's decision to avoid a "coming out" narrative and to create a more universal love story is an admirable one.  One problem with this approach, though, is that the process of coming out DOES affect romantic relationships in a way that we don't really see here.  I absolutely bough Adele's insatiable need for Emma, in spite of the relationship’s shortcomings.  But I didn't buy that Emma would stay with Adele for all those years, enduring the indignity of being kept a secret, and serving as the entirety of Adele's lesbian existence.  The strong sexual connection between the two women is helpful in revealing sex's temporary power to obscure deeper emotional chasms.  But I felt I was being asked to believe that the love between these two characters went much deeper than the film had in fact shown us.
PictureBefore Midnight
12. Short Term 12 - Veers every now and then into the danger zone of schmaltziness, but manages to escape the trap (just about) every time.  In the end, this is an incredibly moving and thoughtful movie that earns the tears it jerks.

11.  Before MidnightI imagine that this film will rise up in my personal rankings as the years pass—it has certainly stuck with me in a way that many of these other films have not.  To be honest, I think that my fear of turning into Jesse and Celine may be holding me back from completely surrendering myself.  But yeah, it’s really, really good.

10. Gravity – This movie does not fully trust its audience’s intelligence.  While Ryan Stone’s backstory works for me, the dialogue surrounding it is clunky, and the movie’s score pushes way too hard to indicate to viewers what they should be feeling.  THAT SAID, the movie DOES make me feel.  I was completely gripped and moved, overbearing score and all.  


PictureFruitvale Station
9. Fruitvale StationVery simple, very effective.  No, the dead dog foreshadowing probably was not necessary.  But the otherwise mundane nature of Oscar Grant’s last day does help to reinforce the tragedy of this fate.  I am a big fan.

8. Valentine Road – A very important documentary.  It is less about an anti-trans hate crime, and more about the scores of regular people who enable such acts to take place again and again, and about a culture that sympathizes with perpetrators more than it does with their gay and trans victims.  I may be making it sound more like bad-tasting medicine than a good documentary, but it really is a good documentary.

 7. Sister This Swiss movie has a lot of superficial similarities to The Kid with a Bike, the Iron List champ of 2013.  I loved them both, but this film manages to explore similar territory while maintaining a very different, much warmer tone.  In other words, wonderful in its own right.

PictureParadise: Love
6. Paradise An Austrian trilogy Paradise: Love, Paradise: Faith, and Paradise: Hope) that I have decided to include as one entry (after agonizing debate).  Its examination of three blood-related women’s ventures into sex tourism, fanatical Catholicism, and weight loss camp is tough to describe, and often tough to watch.  But it manages to dig pretty deeply into the depths of human dysfunction without ever quite veering into condescension or disdain.  Fascinating through and through. (For anyone who is interested, my ranking of the individual films is 1. Love, 2. Hope, 3. Faith)

 5. Nebraska I think I let my utter disappointment over The Descendants convince me that the Alexander Payne I loved had gone away.  But in my eyes Nebraska is a major return to form.  I can understand the criticisms that Payne’s films show contempt for their Midwestern subjects, and I worried that the movie was moving in that direction as I watched.  But in the end, dignity triumphs over snark in a major way.  Now let’s just pretend that The Descendants never happened.


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4. Enough Said – Rant alert: I think it’s a disgrace that Nicole Holofcener is not a household name.  So much buzz surrounds every move that Nolan, Aronofsky, Payne, P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, the Coens, Tarantino, etc. make, and yet I can think of no director with such consistently strong output (and such a finely-tuned point-of view) as Holofcener.  She deserves a higher place in the conversation of present-day auteurs.  
    And this film is one of her best.  Its deceptively trite/cute premise leads to an emotional release that is anything but trite.  Above all, Holofcener writes real-life characters.  Of course James Gandolfini is wonderful in one of his final roles.  But Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the revelation here, creating a character whose sometimes cringe-inducing behavior only enhances her utter humanity.  Far and away my favorite performance of the year.

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3. Frances Ha – By no means a universal story, but a startlingly familiar investigation of the post-millennial, post-liberal arts degree haze. Sometimes I found it a little too close for comfort—and I mean this as high praise.

2. Twelve Years a Slave – I acknowledge that the bar for “best slavery film ever” was a pretty low one to clear.  But I was blown away by this film’s sheer willingness to be unrelenting, however difficult it can be to watch.  Some may call it torture porn.  I call it a much-needed historical corrective (and needless to say, an expertly crafted, beautifully acted one at that).  


1. Stories We Tell – I knew when I saw this movie in June that it would be my #1 film of the year.  Perhaps this is because it’s kind of a historian’s dream in its commitment to destabilizing the idea of “truth.”  But if that pretentious sentence turns you off to the movie, rest assured that it is an incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking documentary.  It’s also a hard one classify; it’s kind of a work of history, kind of a study of memory, and kind of an investigation of family dynamics.  But more than anything, it’s an original work of art that makes me excited about Sarah Polley’s future output, and that reminds me of how many uncharted territories still remain in the world of filmmaking. 
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<![CDATA[Will K.'s 47 Movies of 2013, Part I: The Bottom 31]]>Fri, 28 Feb 2014 13:53:59 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/will-kubys-47-movies-of-2013-part-i-the-bottom-31I was on a roll with my 2013 viewings until the very end, at which point I quickly lost steam.  I ran out of patience with Chattanooga movie theaters and their 35 minutes of previews around the time of American Hustle (sorry Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and August: Osage County).  I knew that my Iron Listing was done for the season when I settled an internal debate over whether to watch All is Lost, The Act of Killingor Wadjda by opting instead for 30 for 30: The Price of Gold (VERY MUCH worth your time, but sadly not eligible). 
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Sadly not eligible.
Overall I saw 47 movies.  This includes two HBO movies, one of which I watched in a theater.  Because honestly, what’s the difference anymore?  Let’s start with the negative:

Movies I Feel Inclined to Insult Publicly

PictureAlso, they killed Chan.
Side Effects – Far and away my least favorite of the year, though this is partially for political reasons.  (Spoilers ahead).   Somehow, Soderbergh has managed both to create a convoluted plot, and to have that plot completely melt away in the name of lesbian panic.  Unfortunately I could not muster the energy to care about Jude Law’s quest to outsmart the evil, scheming lesbians seeking to undermine his hetero domestic bliss.  Also, I don’t necessarily expect realism from thrillers, but this movie offered an entirely inept rendering of mental illness, the psychiatric profession, AND the legal profession.  An impressive display of incompetence!

The SapphiresI suppose I should have been skeptical when I learned that this movie about an Aboriginal girl-group entertaining troops in Vietnam war zones was being heralded as a winning crowd-pleaser.  This could have been a really interesting and even entertaining film.  But the combination of over-earnest treacle, slapstick humor, and the Glee-ification of what should have been a great soundtrack made for an inconsistent, borderline-unwatchable mess.

American Hustle – What the hell was that?

Blue Jasmine – I am willing to give this one another try in light of the many loving reviews it has received from people whose opinions I value.  I went into this film wanting to love it, and for about a week or so I tried to convince myself that I did.  But ultimately I cannot find any recognizable humans here--just a general sense of disdain for upper-class and working-class folks alike. This does not really lend itself to the meaningful commentary on class that so many reviewers claimed that it offered.  But it's hard to comment on class in America when you are somehow convinced that at the heart of it all, jealous/hysterical wives are even guiltier than the white-collar criminals they marry.  Yes, there is much to admire in Cate Blanchett’s depiction of that jealous/hysterical wife.  But the screenplay being what it is, I am not able to see Jasmine as a fully realized individual, and thus I can’t be totally on board with the Blanchett coronation.  All this to say, I am not a fan.

Spring Breakers – Once again, I am willing to give this one another try in light of the many loving reviews it has received from people whose opinions I value (OK, one person in particular!).  I loved the Britney Spears number, and I enjoyed watching the James Franco show.  But I am really struggling to see this movie as the vital social commentary that it seems to believe it is.  

Movies I Didn’t Really Like, but Don’t Have Much to Say About

Geography Club, Stoker, The Iceman, Ginger and Rosa, The Conjuring, Touchy Feely, Computer Chess

Movies that I Liked to Some Extent, with Major Caveats

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The Butler – In some ways, it’s too easy to dismiss this film.  There are some great moments interspersed throughout, and in spite of its unfair and simplistic portrayal of the Black Power movement, it does raise interesting questions about the physical and emotional costs of Civil Rights activism and non-activism.  It suffers from poor character development, a few terrible performances, and some extreme sentimentality.  But I still think it’s a worthwhile 132 minutes (did I mention it’s too long).

 MudGood enough, I guess.  But how many times have I seen this movie before?

Philomena – This movie was more enjoyable than it had any right to be.  It had major screenplay issues, in that it seemed to gloss over significant plot points without sufficient explanation (I assume those who read the memoir had an easier time filling in the blanks, but a film should stand on its own).  Prime example: What was the deal with Mare Winningham’s character???  Judi Dench’s performance is pretty unimpeachable, though.

Captain Phillips – As I told Matt and Katherine, this is an incredibly serviceable movie.  I guess that’s not really a ringing endorsement.   But it’s so competent!

Inside Llewyn Davis – I saw two movies here, and I rated them very differently.  First we have Inside Llewyn Davis, which provides a great study of a fascinating character.  I loved so many of the moments I spent with Llewyn himself, warts and all.  But then there was Outside Llewyn Davis—and here’s where the Coens’ shtick did nothing for me.  Yes, John Goodman is good for a few laughs, but his character only served to take me out of the story that I found so gripping.  And then there’s Carey Mulligan.  Was it the character?  Was it the performance?  I honestly can’t tell, but the one-dimensional “Jean” is truly one of the worst screen creations I’ve ever seen.  All this to say, this movie offers a wonderful and authentic central performance/character, surrounded by sneering caricatures, and an apparent disdain for all the music that Llewyn himself isn't singing.  And perhaps that’s the point, but it left me ambivalent.

Dallas Buyers Club – I find myself on the “not gay enough” train with this one. Yes, it’s important to fight against the notion of AIDS as a “gay disease.”  And yet the film seems to go out of its way to make any queer character not played by Jared Leto as anonymous as possible.  The ACT UP folks are clearly present, so would it really have detracted too much from the McConaughey aura to, like, give them names or something to do?  All that said, I think that McConaughey is deserving of the accolades.  On the other hand, I find the wild praise for Leto’s performance baffling.

Movies I Think I Liked, But Apparently Not Well Enough to Comment on/Remember

Gideon’s Army, Lovelace, Big Words, The Heat, Blackfish, White Reindeer, Concussion, The Bling Ring, In the House, Behind the Candelabra, The Spectacular Now
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<![CDATA[Texas Whatever: Friday Night Lights Characters in 2013 Films]]>Thu, 27 Feb 2014 22:35:40 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/texas-whatever-friday-night-lights-characters-in-2013-filmsPicture
You probably already know that Coach Taylor, the ultimate organization man, transferred himself out of the CIA and into the FBI for The Wolf of Wall Street. But did you know that before he was riding the subway on his way to meet Leonardo DiCaprio, he was riding the commuter train with Mark Wahlberg in Broken City?
    I don’t know about you, but something just doesn’t feel right about Coach being so dependent on public transportation. My guess is that it contributed to his alcoholism in The Spectacular Now.

The good news, though, is that in Angels Sing, Tami Taylor's long real estate search finally ended in triumph, with the purchase of a house owned by Willie Nelson. No more late nights searching listings with the laptop on the couch, y'all! (Note: according to IMdB, Angela Colette is also in this film. I hope she doesn't spill any wine on Tami's gorgeous new furnishings!)
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In The To Do List, Tami's also doing a good job keeping her daughter out of sexual trouble with Jason Street -- who, for some reason, can walk again, and has quit his hot sports agency job to go back to college.
   At the same time, in Love and HonorJulie Taylor's been keeping herself busy, doing just about what you'd expect -- hanging out with hippies, dancing at street protests, and trying to convince stud soldier Liam Hemsworth to desert the U.S. Army in Vietnam. 

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Meanwhile, in Fruitvale Station, it looks like poor Vince Howard has got himself in trouble with the law again. Kid's got a heart of gold, but he's really got to learn how to control that temper!   
   You may have also heard that in Lone Survivor, Pvt. Tim Riggins ended up going missing in Afghanistan. But good old Rig has turned up again in The Grand Seduction -- not in Alaska, after all, but in a tiny Newfoundland village with Brendan Gleason. And he's become a doctor! Guess he must have gone back to San Antonio State after all, and hit the books hard. I'm not sure bout the new haircut, though.

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Back in Dillon, Riggins' Rigs isn't doing too well. The God of Defense looks a little bit lost in The Jogger. All the cardio in the world isn't gonna save your marriage, Billy. Time to dust off that old wheelbarrow and those cement blocks and work out like a man. If it worked for Luke Cafferty, it can work for you. (Note: according to IMdB, Glenn from Dillon High is also in this movie.)  
    In Crazy Kind of Love, the long-suffering Matt Saracen still has Mom issues, but at least his front porch looks a little bit nicer. Something a bit more appropriate for QB-1, you know?
    And, finally, in My Dog the Champion, it turns out that Becky's dog is the champion. Well done, Becks!

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Nobody should be surprised to see Tyra Colette kicking butt alongside Channing Tatum in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. I mean, "she's a weapons specialist, and she's the intelligence of the group." I guess all those hours in the library with Landry really paid off.

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And hey, look, here's Lyla Garrity all dressed up as Jackie Kennedy in The Butler! Cute hat, girl! 

   The biggest revelation of 2013, though, comes in Mobius
, where we learn that Buddy Garrity is really a CIA agent who understands topology. And who may actually know Tim Roth. A helluva thing, ain't it! Look out, Kevin -- do you really think your treehugger friends are gonna help you when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency comes calling? Stupid Kevin.

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<![CDATA[Schauer's 2013]]>Thu, 27 Feb 2014 18:23:28 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/schauers-2013 Picture
1. Her- I expected to hate this film, but I thought its messages about urban isolation outweighed the “hipster twee” aspects. I have haunting nightmares about the camera being 2 inches from Joaquin's face for 2+ hours, in what was a very intense performance. Plus extra points for including my favorite actress/ emotionally fragile waif Rooney Mara. I just want to wrap her in an afghan and buy her a meatball sandwich.

2. All is Lost – With a group of tense films this year, I found this one to be the most anxiety inducing. Beautifully shot and acted.

3. 12 Years as a Slave- Lupita! Fassbender!

4. Gravity –My Grandma told me that this movie made her decide that she never wants to go to space.

5. Spectacular Now – What Perks of Being a Wallflower wanted to be.

6. The Conjuring- Scary! The only movie since Mystic Pizza were I haven’t hated Lili Taylor.


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6. The Conjuring- Scary! The only movie since Mystic Pizza were I haven’t hated Lili Taylor.

7.  Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Wolf of Wall Street-

9. Man of Steel- Michael Shannon as Zod. I don’t understand the backlash. People need to rewatch Superman Returns (aka Passion of Christ) if they hate this.

10. Captain Phillips- –I saw this movie with an active commentary from an 80 year old Boston lady: “Jeesus Christ! Those Pirates!”

11. Don Jon: While I thought ScarJo was the weakest part of Her, she was great in this. The movie tails off at the end, but I’m sure everyone knows someone who says his prayers while working on their abs (Karp).

**Ain’t Them Bodies Saints:  This will probably make the list, but I am in the middle of watching it.


Best Movie Poster of 2013
Worst Movie Poster of 2013

Worst Films of 2013

PictureDisappointing work, Dom.
1.Admission: Directed weirdly, with wooden chemistry between the generally likeable leads.

2. Star Trek: Into Darkness- Trying to turn Star Trek into an action franchise is dumb. What a waste of Cumberbatch.

3. About Time: This is like a visual anti-depressant and is beautifully shot. Somehow Rachel McAdams has begun to be cast as the “awkward frump.” Richard Curtis made a time travel movie that somehow has no conflict, but lots of Love Actually-style footage of anonymous people in London being happy. 
   Domhnall Gleeson (Son of Brendan--look up his awesome Wikipedia photo! [ed: pictured, right]) does not do anything remotely interesting/controversial with his powers. Even nice guys would want to go back and make money gambling or something remotely interesting. He even turns down sex with Margot Robbie! 


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<![CDATA[Katie Marshall's Top 10 Movies of 2013 Rendered as Bad Dissertation Titles]]>Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:05:43 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/katie-marshalls-top-10-movies-rendered-as-bad-dissertation-titlesPicture
10. "Blue is the Warmest Color: The Intersectionality of Class and Queer Identity Politics in Multiethnic France"

9. "Electrick Children: Mormon Fundamentalism, Blondie, and Hearing the Divine in the American West, 1994 - 1998"

8. "The Bling Ring: The Geography of Digital Youth Culture and Crime in Los Angeles, 2008 - 2009"

7. "Spring Breakers: A Causal Modeling Study on the Socialization Influences Impacting Adolescent Drug Use, Violence, and Intergalactic Pop Fantasy"

6. "Don Jon: The Masturbatory Practices of Guidos in New Jersey"

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5. "Her: A Dystopic Perspective on Technologic Futurism"

4. "Frances Ha: A Feminist Interpretation of French Film New Wave in the Time of Lena Dunham"

3. "The Place Beyond the Pines: American Masculinities and Intergenerational Class Struggle, An Essay in Three Parts"

2. "Stories We Tell; or, You, too, could be a Jew"

1. "Gravity: Isolation and the Effects of Outer Space on Memory, Problem Solving, and Perseverance"

I excluded a few movies I recognize to be great, like Blue Jasmine and Nebraska,  because I don't have strong feelings on how they should be subtitled. Skipped some good, but forgettable foreign flicks, like The Past, Barbara, and Something in the Air. Thought American Hustle was overrated. Refuse to mock Fruitvale Station. Failed to see 12 Years a Slave or Inside Llewyn Davis. 
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<![CDATA[The White Tank Top: Best of 2013]]>Thu, 27 Feb 2014 02:05:04 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/the-white-tank-top-best-of-2013Kirk Michael at The White Tank Top, official Friend of the Iron List, weighs in with his official annual awards, including the top 13 Films of 2013.

A small taste, re: Film #13: 
"St. Pete's beach is the most spiritual place of all, full of lizard brain GIFing, days coated in sweat and malt liquor, nights the color of Virgin America cabins with Gatsby lighting provided by an Outback Steakhouse at the end of a pier. And Britney, good Christ, the Britney." 
Why y'all actin' ssssssspicious?

Of course, many other less essential films also receive the kindness of Kirk's attentions. Go check it out.
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<![CDATA[Iron Uncle Billy Karp's Top 10 Films of 2013]]>Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:52:54 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/iron-uncle-billy-karps-top-10-films-of-2013Fan favorite Billy Karp, aka Iron Uncle, is back with his top 10 films of the year.

10. Prisoners
Hugh Jackman (again) does the most angst-ian angst of the movie year as a man whose young daughter has vanished. His pain screams from his toes as he unleashes his own monster who is much more dangerous than the presumed kidnapper. The film is cool and exact and expertly depicts the old classic question of the end justifying the means. The answer is a mixed bag as the film’s end is not exactly happy, but Hugh is happy so we are relieved. 
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9. Movie 43
Ok, so this bizarre-o movie didn’t make much of an impact in the multi-plex and to be honest we didn’t see it until it arrived on DVD but what a raucous good time we had. Movie 43 is certainly the silliest movie of the year. It even out-sillied Bad Grandpa and the jokes are so low you have to scrape them off the bottom of your shoes.  But I thought I would literally die of laughter during Naomi Watts and Liev Schrieber’s home schooling demo and the blind date between Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, was so riotously funny that I can't even picture Sir Jackman without breaking into a zillion zany pieces.

8.  12 Years a Slave
This was probably the scariest movie of the year. The film grabs you by the short hairs and keeps on tugging and tugging. Every time you think there might be some relief another atrocity goes down and you sink even further. The pace is slow and deliberate and ultimately devastating. But the last 10 minutes of the movie practically upends the whole thing. As soon as Brad Pitt arrives the pace of the film suddenly speeds up as if there were a big red S stitched onto his blouse. You had this odd feeling that Mr. Pitt only had an afternoon to play and they just rushed the end as if Superman swooped in from Krypton and saved Solomon’s life.  

7. The Place Beyond the Pines
Ryan Gosling sure did a lot of mumbling this year and he did some of his best beyond the pines. The story hinges on a lot of chance encounters but the movie manages to engineer an amazing shift in that moment Gosling and Cooper briefly meet and absolutely everything in the story and in the telling changes completely.  I’m still impressed.

6. Gravity
Lost in Space gets a grave updating without Dr. Smith and the lovable robot. Poor Dr. Sandra Bullock hasn’t had much luck in her life and this little foray into outer space with her literal and figurative baggage ends well for her but I couldn’t help wondering if a little stateside psychiatry might have been just as effective and a lot less costly. Whatever, the ride is spectacular even with all the extra sap. 

PictureEat your heart out, Meryl.
5. Only God Forgives
The most lurid movie of the year and possibly the most violent of my favorites, Only God Forgives is populated with some of the most anti-social folks you are likely to encounter this side of a Cheney family reunion. Morally the movie has no core but if we have to endure families like the von Trapps then this house of nasties should also have seats at the table. Brothers Julian and Billy have some rather nasty sexual peccadilloes, but it's mama Crystal who steals the considerable thunder. Eat your heart out, Meryl Streep: Kristin Scott-Thomas gets the award for depraved mother of the year. See this one with your mom next Mother’s Day.

4. Mud
I believe that Mud gets the honor of being the first movie I have seen where there is a boat in a tree. I get it, it’s a metaphor but it’s also a boat in a tree. And it is also the highly entertaining story about a boy beginning to morph from boyhood abandon to the shock and disappointments of grown-up life.  Along the way he tangles in the Mud of Matthew McC, a character full of life, salt, spit and vinegar. As he sheds his youth, we know that Ellis will be fine but sadly he will probably never feel as alive as he did that summer he found a boat in a tree.  

PictureJust another amorously sly sweetheart at the gym.
3. Don Jon
Don Jon is a wild and weirdly wonderful ride and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a good chance of shaking me out of my Channing Tatum malaise if he doesn’t watch out. JGL plays DJ as an amorously sly sweetheart who basically just wants to have a little fun. His idea of fun might be a tad off-kilter but it is presented with great affection and respect for our hero. I told Bill W that JGL could watch his nasty movies at our house any time. Too bad that silly Scar Jo just couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. The most audacious and entertaining movie of the year.

PictureHair! Costumes! Wallpaper!
2.  American Hustle
WOW. What an energy extravaganza. I loved the sheer excess of this movie. The hair! The costumes! The furniture and even the wallpaper! I didn’t see what the big deal was with Jennifer Lawrence last year but I sure do get her now. And she is in awfully good company here. Every character is carved with such skill and economy, there isn’t a wasted scene or move. Every twitch, every word, every piece of big bad hair propels you happily toward one of the most satisfying final acts in a movie this year.


1.  Fruitvale Station
Urgent and riveting, Fruitvale Station reels us in during the first frame and doesn’t release us until the final frame. Along the way we meet the most compelling characters in a film this year. The acting is spot-on, the direction crisp and the script is taut. That it arrived initially unheralded in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy leant the film extra chops for urgency. Like a bus you can’t escape, Fruitvale Station takes you to many spots you might prefer to miss but know you need to see.
Honorable Mention: Side Effects
I tried to see this with my fellow Channing Tatum Fan Club Chair, Matt Karp but schedules being what they are, it didn’t happen. The first ten minutes of Side Effects is mesmerizing. Channing Tatum. He is soulful and sincere and humpy without being smarmy. The film takes a fatal detour early on with the premature demise of Chan the Man. The rest of the movie is an odd little thriller but I had trouble focusing as I desperately tried to go see The Conjuring in the screen next door and bring him home. My Sad. I spent the rest of the evening in bed.
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Why you gotta leave us like that, Chan?
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<![CDATA[Freddi Karp's 17 Films of 2013]]>Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:23:59 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/best-films-2012-2014/freddi-karps-17-films-of-2013Leading off Day Two of Iron List 2013 is Iron Mom Freddi Karp, who lets the titles speak for themselves.

17. Admission
16. The Kings of Summer
15. The Spectacular Now
14. Blackfish 
13. Star Trek Into Darkness
12. The Wolf of Wall Street
11. Enough Said
10. Dallas Buyers Club
9. The Company You Keep
8. Muscle Shoals
7. The Great Gatsby
6. American Hustle
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Blue Jasmine
3. All Is Lost
2. Before Midnight
1. 12 Years a Slave
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