In an undefined future-scape, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix)
drifts along, penning personal letters for those who have trouble
expressing emotions, dictating them into a computer and then printing
them out as “handwritten” hard copies to be forwarded to loved ones.
Fitting for a film about a musician, the songs in Inside Llewyn Davis,
the new release from the Coen Brothers, sneak inside your head past the
images and actions onscreen, which is surprising because those frames
have a haunting quality of their own.
Around this time last year, I happened upon a copy of Roger Ebert’s memoir Life Itself
and found in his narrative how movies have become, for me, fragments of
experiences, some of the most precious minutes and hours of my life.
And so, what else can I do but share a few of the best from 2013?
Anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is
back, but San Diego is in the rearview mirror this time. Burgundy and
his lovely lady Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) have made a
home in the Big Apple and the big-time big-boy anchor desk looms, as the
mack daddy of news anchormen Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) prepares to
make an offer that cannot be refused.
Audiences will sit down to Alex Gibney’s new film, The Armstrong Lie,
wanting to believe that thoroughly disgraced cyclist and athlete Lance
Armstrong will come clean in a far more humbling fashion than he did
with Oprah Winfrey.
The turning of the calendar page to 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of Steven Soderbergh’s breakthrough Sex, Lies, and Videotape, so it is somewhat fitting to end 2013 with a review of a new video-on-demand release.
A quiet revolution began back in 2003 with the release of The Animatrix, a collection of animated short films that explore the history of The Matrix
universe. And in the case of shorts “Final Flight of the Osiris” and
“Kid’s Story,” the collection dared to fill in key information that
would impact the ongoing series, including the back-to-back sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Right off the bat, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has her very own I Am Legend
moment. She’s in the restricted area outside District 12 with her
trusty bow, surveying the land. The turkeys gobble-gobbling along better
beware because she’s about to head off for her victory tour,
celebrating her “win” at the 74th Hunger Games, and she’s not looking
forward to playing the celebrity role that’s going to be expected of
What are we supposed to expect from a
character named Charlie Countryman played by Shia LaBeouf? Sure, LaBeouf
sports a ratty hipster beard and stringy, unwashed dark locks and
displays the unfortunate penchant of baring his body at the drop of a
hat, which means he’s wandering down a decidedly different and more
unsavory path than when we last saw him leading the charge alongside the
Autobots in the first Transformers trilogy from Michael Bay.
Re-enactments dominate the world of
reality television. There is nothing new in the narrative framework of
recreating scenes of true events for audiences to grant access to the
resonant emotional impact of a situation, a soon-to-be looped moment in
time. Sometimes, it is done in the service of memory and perspective.
From the first moment I walked out of the theater during a private press screening of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave,
I knew this film had the potential to spark discussion on the subject
and history of race and race relations in the United States.
Independent black cinema might finally be
coming into its own and it’s worth focusing strictly on this moment. As
a longstanding member of the Black Reel Awards, one of several entities
that recognizes the best in black cinema each year, I find myself in
the enviable position of having access to a number of films that rarely
reach theaters in our area.
Sometimes a story, told simply and
effectively, changes the way we as an audience see another part of the
world, the experiences of others and/or ourselves, all reflected in the
moving images before us. What’s more, it can be startling when the
impact, so profound and likely unexpected, cracks our cynical natures
through its very simplicity.
After the briefest bit of narrative
establishment — Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) at home prepping to leave
for his latest assignment and his wife (Catherine Keener) dropping him
off at the airport — the by-the-books sailor runs his crew through their
paces sensing, it would seem, that something lurks on the horizon