As much as I try to see all of the major releases for a given year before the next calendar year begins, it’s simply impossible. Sometimes that is due to laziness on my part, but more often than not, it is beyond my control. For example, Inside Llewyn Davis would have been high on my Film Stage top 10 of 2013 list — likely in the top three — but it did not open in Buffalo until January.
That was the case with a number of other fine films, like Spike Jonze’s Her and Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, a truly stunning follow-up to A Separation that I finally caught. Here are some quick thoughts on those and other 2013 releases I have had a chance to see over the last couple months.
The Past: ****
A remarkable, intimate, note-perfect film, Farhadi’s drama features four of the finest performances of 2013: Bérénice Bejo as Marie, Ali Mosaffa as soon-to-be-ex-husband Ahmad, Tahar Rahim as her boyfriend Samir, and Pauline Burlet as her teenage daughter Lucie. (Burlet, in particular, was a stand-out, taking Lucie far from typical “troubled teen” territory, while Mosaffa may have given the best male performance of the year.) This is an involving, un-showy story of love and family, and culminates in one of the year’s most lovely closing scenes. I would have found it difficult to imagine, but Farhadi has made an even better film than A Separation.
Spike Jonze’s Oscar winner is one I need to see again. The more time passes, the more I wonder if I actually overrated it … Yet so much is so right. Wildly unique, to be sure, and perhaps one of the finest “Grow up!” stories in recent memory.
The Fifth Estate: **
A dull, formulaic telling of the Wikileaks saga, only tolerable due to fine performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl.
Kill Your Darlings: ***
Compelling, if never truly startling, Darlings is a solid film, and further evidence of the maturation of Daniel Radcliffe.
Hmm. Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean classic is strange and unnecessary, yet had an odd allure for me. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: ***
Wow. I enjoyed The Hunger Games (the first film, I mean; the book did nothing for me), but this was a major leap in terms of quality and style. The ending actually made me hungry for the next installment.
I skipped this at TIFF but heard surprisingly strong reviews from critic friends, and they were not altogether wrong. While it is nothing we have not seen before, Ron Howard’s film is gripping and entertaining.
We Are What We Are: ***
A pitch-black, disturbing horror film that made me anxious to track down the original.
The Lone Ranger: **
Enough Said: ***1/2
Here is a simple, funny, endearing film with great acting — especially Gandolfini. This is likely Holofcener’s finest film to date.
Closed Circuit: **
Don Jon: **
Meh, and that’s disappointing. I expected good things from this one.
I’m So Excited: **1/2
Okay, this is minor Almodovar, of course. But don’t tell me it isn’t fun.
Photo credit: Pauline Burlet as Lucie; photo by Carole Bethuel © 2013, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics