The Movies of 2013*: One-paragraph reviews
*first third only
*feature-length only


In theaters:
Psycho: So good to finally see this on the big screen! Watching Psycho at age fourteen completely changed my relationship with film and this was practically a pilgrimage for me. To it large and up close---to catch details I had never noticed or had forgotten. So good. And it wasn't so much the traditional jump scenes that got me. It was Anthony Perkins. And Hitchcock's incredible capacity for the slow build. But hearing neophytes yell out in shock as Arbogast reaches the top of the stairs was pretty awesome all the same.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I wish we had seen this movie earlier when the faster framerate was available---and that we'd then seen that version. I had forgotten that when Peter Jackson's camera swoops, everything gets blurred and details disappear. I'm very sad about that. Otherwise, I liked it. I wouldn't have minded if the story had been fit into a single movie---this seemed a bit plump---but for now I choose to trust that the three-movie version will tie into LoTR so well that it will have all been worth it. And, if not, that they'll release a single-movie version without the extraneous story for my viewing pleasure.

At home:
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes: As good as everyone said. The apes weren't quite as "real" as I'ld been led to believe, but boy can they act. Such a strange movie, to have my loyalties as against the humans as for. Also enjoyed the Icarus throwaway. Unnecessary and awkward if you don't know what it means, but still pretty great.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits: Ignoring the fact that the original British title, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! is a much better title, this is still good stuff. I'm not quite sure why Hugh Grant deserved an Oscar nomination (not that he didn't do a great job, mind), but the film gives everything one might want from Aardman. And more. The cg and the stopmotion were seamless, the film is packed with minuscule visual gags, the monkey functions properly, etc. By no means my favorite Aardman film, but I worthy addition to the canon.

The White Shadow: A lost and recently recovered (in New Zealand of course) film with a lot of Hitchcock fingerprints all over it. An epic melodrama of shakespearean scope. And perhaps power, but we'll never know because the last three reels remain lost. But man alive was I getting into it. And where it ends! HOW CAN IT END THERE!!!! The gods of film are capricious gods, to return this movie to us only to yank it away as it gets really good. You should totally go watch the existing 45m now.

Chinatown: I can see why it's a classic. It's a terrific movie. The sort of movie I don't know just how much I like because it demands multiple viewings. I think Lady Steed, however, is all ready to call it a masterpiece.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Big O has become a religious reader of the Tintin books. Me, I could never get into them as a kid. Which I suppose must be why I didn't grow up to become Peter Jackson. While not inherently opposed to motion capture, often the character's actions and faces were a bit lifeless. Cartooning it up a bit helped, but, alas, Weta or no Weta, Gollum is still the greatest motion-capture character to date. And even the animated character---Snowy---suffered from the same listlessness. Honestly, I would rather the film have been made in the fashion of Disney's recent Paperman (which I hope has a strong influence on future animated films). That said, thrilling moments, laugh-out-loud moments. And the Big O was as involved as I think he's ever been in any movie. At any rate, I've never heard him exclaim "AWESOME!" before in the middle of a film.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Pretty good. Very good at capturing certain elements of the teenage experience. But---and maybe this is because I just read the book---it's filled with holes. Some parts of the story are so underdeveloped (as long as it's all about me, let me point at his English teacher as one egregious example) as to strain credulity. Which is a shame because the acting's great and much of the movie has the potential to be excellent. Bummer.

Moonrise Kingdom: I watched it with the Big O with the hope of getting into a conversation about "decisions"---not sure how well that happened. But except for the shooting-the-dog part and the kissing-and-stuff part, he really enjoyed it. Maybe the conversation will happen later. Me, I still loved it. It didn't leave me as deliriously happy as the first time I saw it, but still: great movie.

A Goofy Movie: Little Lord Steed's been asking to watch this movie, but Lady Steed always tells him he can't unless he watches it with me. So tonight the three boys and I got in my bed and watched it. It's still a great movie. I was in high school when Goof Troop came out and I hated it. But Siskel and Ebert talked up A Goofy Movie so much that my friend Myke and I drove to Lancaster and caught a matinee. And I loved it. In my book, it's one of the best father/son and one of the best teenager movies ever made. Plus, it's proof that musicals can work. And it's so different from other Disney movies! The only other thing I want to add is that this time I realized that Goofy reminds me a lot of my own father. So YMMV.

The Descendants: Some nice layering of symbols and plots, but my favorite element of this movie is its honesty in pathos and catharsis. Not to get too Greek on you. Also---that Judy Greer---she sure gets around, huh?

Field of Dreams: I know how old I was when I last saw this movie because of the house we lived in, but I remember very little else. James Earl Jones was in it. Dead ball players. The line of cars stretching off to the distance. Don't remember if I liked it or not. Don't know what my dad thought. But we never watched it again which makes me think maybe he either didn't like it or it hit too close for him. This time I had the experience people talk about when they talk about this movie. And my kids all loved it too. We need to buy a copy. I would much rather they watched this over and over than Angels in the Outfield.

Kung Fu Hustle: Sorry, everyone, but you're wrong---Shaolin Soccer is way better.

Argo: Terrific movie. The sort of thing that might not work if it were not true. Interesting credits too. Read them towards the end. I see why people are annoyed at Affleck casting himself as Mendez, but I also see why people say it's no big deal. We'll see what history decides.

The Princess Bride (x2): Probably haven't seen it in a decade. Still holds up. I could watch again right now. Maybe I'll do this again with my kids.

Romeo and Juliet (x2): I've seen Zeffirelli's version maybe 20 times. But except for Olivia Hussey's wailing and the zoominout as she apologizes to her parents, the film still feels fresh to me. And the fight between Romeo and Tybalt---especially as it contrasts with the preceding Tybalt v Mercutio---remains one of the baldest bits of violence I've ever seen. Come: hum the love theme with me.

The Hudsucker Proxy: After a story meeting with some movie folks about redacted in which we discussed stylistic points via films like Scott Pilgrim and Annie Hall and The Big Lebowski and Moonrise Kingdom and Bottle Rocket and Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle and Brick and Stranger than Fiction and It Happened One Night and It's a Wonderful Life and Fight Club and The Graduate and at least a dozen others, we watched this classic together. Every time I see this movie I discover things new either visually or auditorially, both words and not. Never fails. It's a movie I can't imagine growing tired of.

Inherit the Wind: Not a big fan, but people are right: Spencer Tracy and Frederic March eat this movie up. Also though---I need to see Gene Kelly in more nonmusical roles.

The Merchant of Venice: A truly troubling story. A tragedy wrapped in the comedy of characters who think the tragedy is just a piece of their own happy ending. Granted, Shylock made unwise decisions, but his fall is tragic. And say what else you will about Pacino's performance in this version, his work in the court scene is powerful. The movie is flawed in that Shylock's fall poisons the comedy and the filmmakers didn't find a way to solve this problem---if, indeed, it is a solvable problem. As for me, I don't think I am capable of simply "enjoying" The Merchant of Venice. But the movie does well at working the balance, though it runs a bit long to serve well the alleged comedy. But do we really want to laugh? Antonio certainly does not. 'Tis no comedy to him. And Jeremy Irons was terrific and understated in the role. He carries the Shylockless portions of the film.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (x2): Great as always. I've become quite an admirer of Leo's.

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  1. You are the third person I know to reference "A Goofy Movie" in the last week. Looks like it's time to revisit the leaning tower of cheese-a and the perfect cast because, seriously? I love that movie.