we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2013-14 edition

It's time, once again, for the wmtc annual movie awards. To recap, my silly rating systems so far:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- and last year, Big Life Events in a personally momentous year.

Now completely bereft of ideas but hopelessly locked into this system, I appealed for help on Facebook. Lucky for me, my friends are more creative than I am. Thank you to David H for this year's delicious theme: cheese!

Here are the movies and series we saw from the end of the World Series (why yes! the Red Sox did win yet another championship, thank you for noticing!) until the beginning of the current baseball season. I try to see only movies I think I will like, so the list is - or should be - be top-heavy.

Reblochon. So rich it's practically liquid, so pungent it can make your eyes tear, and so incredibly delicious, it is only savoured on the most special occasions. Movies of this calibre are rare.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
-- A community's resistance to the dominant culture, and the indomitable spirit of a small girl. Lyrical, powerful, gritty, and just a little bit magical, this film took me apart. Almost too beautiful to see again. My top movie of the season. Also the only non-documentary to reach the top category this year.

-- I thought I knew about the dangers of fracking. I was wrong. Impeccably written and produced, and deeply frightening.

-- Ken Burns does it again. Longer review here. Shorter review: see it.

The Square
-- See the revolution in Egypt through the eyes of the people who made it happen, and who are making it happen still, today. A must-see for everyone who dreams of remaking the world.

Hot Coffee
-- Yet another way the corporatocracy is stripping us of our rights, with a giant assist from the corporate media. An important movie, extremely well done.

Roquefort is bleu cheese on steroids. The good kind of steroids that make you creamier and more flavourful. You rarely see roquefort, and although it's not reblochon, it is of the (almost) highest quality. These movies were exceptional.

The Angels' Share
- A feel-good crime caper from Ken Loach and Paul Laverty. Funny, sweet, and just plain wonderful.

5 Broken Cameras
- Occupation and resistance by the people who are living it. Puts you right in the heart of the Palestinian struggle.

The Central Park Five
- An important documentary about justice, for victims of violence, and victims of the system. My thoughts here.

War of the Worlds
- Why did people go nuts over a radio broadcast? Is the whole thing an exaggerated urban legend, or were people just stupid in those days? This doc puts the incident in historical context. Fascinating.

Wuthering Heights
- This "Masterpiece" treatment from 2011 is, for me, the definitive adaptation. My full review is here.

The Fall, Season 1
- This five-episode mini-series about a series killer and the detective hunting him was riveting and incredibly scary. Somehow I'm not having nightmares about it. I can't understand how a second season is going to work, but the first was amazing.

The Wire, Season 2
- Looks like we're going to watch one season a year. Great writing, great acting, complex situations. Excellent.

In Canada, it's "goat's cheese". In New York, it's simply chevre. In France, chevre is the animal that le fromage comes from. Whatever you call it, it's rich and delicious, not rare, but still a real treat. These movies are yummy films that are well worth seeing.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll
- An imperfect but solid documentary about an important and overlooked musical pioneer.

Make Believe
- Amazing young magicians. You'll want to strangle some parents but you'll love these amazing teenagers.

The Hunger Games
- Nowhere near as great as the book (of course), but a good movie.

Shut Up Little Man! – An Audio Misadventure.
- Starts out as a documentary about an odd subculture phenomenon, but ends up as an extended commentary on privilege. Thought-provoking, and in my view, not a comedy.

The Gymnast
- Standards are pretty low in the lesbian-love-story category, putting this decent but unremarkable movie in the goat cheese spot.

Save the Date
- Nice independent film about friendship and love. My issues would involve spoilers, so I'll just say good, with some problems.

- Creepy girls' school power struggles. A suspenseful drama.

Life of Pi
- I didn't like this book, but it was a pretty good movie.

- Martin Scorcese laboured to bring the wonderful The Invention of Hugo Cabret to life, and thus the movie is too long and too slow. But it's also beautiful, rich, magical, and worth seeing. I wrote about the book here.

- A funny, smart comedy TV series about a TV series. Matt LeBlanc's character is the perfect combination of maddening and loveable (not unlike some Community characters).

Sound of My Voice
- Time travel, or a hoax, or both? A smart psychological thriller, marred by some plot holes, but worth seeing.

Page Eight
- This British political thriller, written by David Hare, is almost too subtle. But it boasts a great cast, terrific acting, and some nice twists.

- It's 1988 in Chile, and a historic plebiscite will decide whether the dictator Pinochet stays or goes. This is said to be the first instance of advertising playing a crucial role in political campaigns. I wanted more out of this film, but it was worth seeing.

Dirty Wars
- An important film, marred by nationalism. That's what I said here.

Robot & Frank
- In the future, we will all have robots to help us. Or to help us commit crimes. Or to take the place of family. A funny and unsentimental look at aging.

Searching for Sugar Man
- How could a musician be so popular and so unknown at the same time? And if you could be so popular elsewhere, why would you ever return to your mundane and struggling existence? This documentary didn't answer that latter question, but is very good nonetheless.

Brooklyn Castle
- Young chess masters from Brooklyn. This doc was too long and repetitious, but worth seeing.

There But For Fortune
- Biopic about the late, great musician Phil Ochs. The film had some problems (if a man is a raging alcoholic, perhaps let us know before it kills him?), but it's a solid doc and tribute to Ochs.

Johnny Carson: King of Late Night
- We're on a bit of a biopic craze, thanks to PBS's American Masters series. It's hard to fathom Carson's unique place in television history, but this doc does a good job.

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise
- Another American Masters about a very smart, very funny man.

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
- One of my few regrets is not seeing Ricky Jay perform in New York. This is Jay's story and the story of his unusual profession and career choice. Really good, almost a roquefort.

- I saw Firefly for the first time this year, so I didn't approach Serenity with the high expectations of a fan. It strikes all the right notes. A good time, but for me, not as good as the series.

The Hour, Seasons 1 and 2
- We're halfway through the second season of this BBC production. It's smart, exciting, well acted, and well written. Could almost be a roquefort, but the self-consciously stylish 1950s period setting gets a bit much for me.

Justified, Season 5
- With the current season, Justified has slipped into the middle category. It's still totally worth seeing, but without a great villain working opposite Raylan, it has lost a step.

This stuff is not very good. You might be able to do something with it, like grill a halfway decent sandwich, or melt it over nachos. Not a complete waste of time, but then again, why not just eat something better. A surprising number of these - and some from the dead-last category - were on several critics' best-of lists.

Upstream Color
- A pretentious bore, and a Swiss-cheese of plot holes. This did generate an interesting conversation about how it could have been an exciting, credible film, and that saved it from the scrap heap.

We Need To Talk About Kevin
- How could a human being appear so completely different around different people, and if those people are his parents, wouldn't they ever all be together at the same time? And just why is Kevin so evil? The answer: he just is. Kevin is a bad seed. Nope, that doesn't work for me.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Mildly amusing romantic comedy, predictable and transparently aiming for demographic appeal. The kind of movie you should see on a plane, when you're half paying attention.

Hungry for Change
- The basic premise of this movie is sound and undoubtedly true, but outlandish claims and product marketing blow it.

Mary and Max
- I'm a sucker for stop-motion animation and misfit stories, so I should have loved this. Yet I could barely watch. Might be worth a peek.

The Master
- A long, tedious journey to nowhere. Some good acting and a few random interesting insights. Totally skippable, but won't kill you to see it.

- It seems wrong to put Errol Morris in a Velveeta category, but this movie was a mess. There's an interesting story in here somewhere.

Looking For Lenny
- This biopic about Lenny Bruce was halfway to the goat cheese category, but not quite. If you've ever wondered what all the fuss is about Lenny Bruce, this will help answer it. Could have been much better, but was all right.

56 Up
- Maybe it's me. I've lost interest in these people's lives. I could have sworn that this series once had a political point-of-view. Now we just get a walk-through of what's new. You might be interested. I was not.

Downton Abbey, Season 4
- It feels wrong to put such a well-produced show in with crappy Velveetas. But now that Downton has lost all social and historic context, it's just Coronation Street with better clothes. As the Rolling Stones sang, I used to love it, but it's all over now.

This crap is not cheese, and these movies are not worth seeing.

The Deep Blue Sea
- This 2011 remake of a 1952 film was boring, melodramatic, and unwatchable.

Frances Ha
- It's difficult to watch a movie about self-absorbed hipsters that you would hate in real life. The only good thing I can say about this movie: it's set in New York City.

- This film is like a refugee from the 1990s. What was once signature indie is now sad re-tread.

A Beginner's Guide to Endings
- A confused mess. Figure out what movie you're making, then try again.

Love Actually
- Wow this is bad, and sexist beyond belief. My thoughts here.

Pain & Gain
- Well, what did we expect from Michael Bay. I thought it would be funny and exciting. Instead, it was overblown dreck.

A Band Called Death
- This is supposed to be about an early proto-punk rock band made up of three black guys from Detroit. Instead, it's the life histories of some people who you don't care about.

* * * *

I've expanded this year's post to include all my TV watching. Since dumping cable and switching to streaming on Roku, I watch a lot more TV shows, so why not include them here?

TV falls into three distinct categories for me. One, high quality series that I've been including in my movie awards for the past few years. (Those are included above.) Two, binge-viewing that I watch almost exclusively alone, for downtime relaxation. And three, comedies before sleep. I'm difficult about comedy, so these can sometimes be tough to find.

I am always in the market for more of these titles, so if you have any to recommend... please do.

Binge Viewing That Worked:
The Bletchley Circle
Wallander (UK version)
Star Trek: TOS (Not first time, but first time through whole series end-to-end)
Star Trek: TNG (First time through, loved it)
Murdoch Mysteries
Inspector Lewis (love!)
Farscape (watching now)

Binge Viewing That Didn't Work (tried and gave up on):
Star Trek: Enterprise
Star Trek: Voyager
House of Cards (UK)

Past Binge Viewing (already saw and love):
Xena: The Warrior Princess (I'm a huge fan)
The Chris Isaak Show
Inspector Lewis (my favourite detective show)
Jackson Brodie mysteries

Future Potential Binges:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I'll watch it one day!)
The Good Wife

Comedy before sleep:
Current: Community
Recent Past: Parks & Recreation

Past and complete:
The Office (US only)
Malcolm in the Middle (greatest sitcom ever)
Futurama, until the comeback season
King of the Hill (early seasons only)
Family Guy (early seasons only)
The Simpsons (off and on and completely out of order)


James Redekop said...

I've been thinking I should give ST: Voyager another try sometime, but I'm less inclined now... Kate Mulgrew just narrated a documentary for Robert Sungenis, a notorious anti-Semitic geocentrist and host of the Galileo Was Wrong website and conference.

He apparently conned a couple of prominent physicists to contribute by telling them it was a documentary about the anthropic principle, but Mulgrew doesn't have the excuse of not knowing what the final script would be...

Amy said...

I've only seen a handful of these, though several are on my list of movies to see. I agree completely with your assessment of The Master. What the hell was that all about? I am not sure why it got such good reviews. My least favorite film of PSH.

James Redekop said...

Some good news: Kate Mulgrew has repudiated The Principle:

I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with... the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused.

johngoldfine said...

I loved 'The Master'--disturbing, confusing, unpredictable, unformulaic, indeterminate at start and finish, and tapping emotions of mine I can't name or even describe. And I liked that the art was controlling me, that I was in no position to parse the material, to apply the old English major skills to it, that I was swept away.

James Redekop said...

The Master is probably better than that infamous film based a book by the guy The Master was based on: Battlefield Earth.

johngoldfine said...

Pretty low bar there, James!


laura k said...

John, thanks for that great description of why you liked the film!

It is certainly unpredictable and unformulaic. What bothered me most was being held at such an emotional distance. I had no "in" to any of the characters' motivations or feelings. Things seemed to happen "just because".

I also found it really dull, but that might be because I was not emotionally engaged.

It's terrific how two people can have such entirely different views of the same piece of art.

Did you see Upstream Color?

johngoldfine said...

Upstream Color: no, but I will look for it.

laura k said...

Re Battlefield Earth and LRH, the movie doesn't seem to be about Scientology or Hubbard. To me, it has a generic feel.

laura k said...

Upstream Color: no, but I will look for it.

Many critics liked it. I did not. There were some interesting parts, though. It made me feel, "This could have been a good film... "

johngoldfine said...

The Gymnast: I preferred 'A Marine Story,' but Dreya Weber is good in anything--why she's not mainstream Hollywood surprises me. 'A Marine Story' is extremely formulaic, and a fine formula it is too: a young fuck-up is brought along to adulthood by someone fighting their own demons.

The twist is, of course, that the young person in trouble is a woman, not a young man, and the old head is also a woman. There are some macho nods to feminism, if that's not a contradiction, and plenty of rah-rah jingoism and Marine Corpsiana. I loved it.

johngoldfine said...

I know what you mean about 56 Up being a sort of walk-through, but I don't think the politics have changed much, though the country itself has.

The politics at the start were never much more than 'We have a class system that will pick winners and losers, pretty much without regard to their native ability or talent.'

Apted makes clear, I think, in the later years of the series that the class system in the upper reaches is still firmly in place. What has perhaps changed is that a middle-class life, however precarious, is possible now for people whose grandparents were doomed to the back-to-back terraces.

Very interesting, whatever the politics, is to hear the accents change over time: broad Yorkshire getting bland, plummy getting less so, an Englishman becoming Australian, Liverpudlian giving way to Received Pronunciation, East End cockney slowly becoming Estuary, and so on.

laura k said...

It could be that my memory of the politics in the early "Up" films is exaggerated.

You know how I felt watching 56 Up? Like I was stuck listening to a co-worker talk about her family for too long, in too much detail. That kind of "why are you telling me all this" feeling.

Re Gymnast and Marine Story, I'm pretty sure I got both those titles from you! I haven't been able to find the Marine one yet. But it remains on the list. Another one you gave me - which I thought I saw, but had not - was An Awfully Big Adventure. Haven't found that yet, either.

laura k said...

James, I saw people posting Mulgrew's statement on Facebook. Honestly, I didn't know there was such a thing as a geocentrist. How bizarre!

laura k said...

...And why are these crackpots always anti-Semitic???

James Redekop said...

Any weird belief that's ever been held by humans is still held by some humans somewhere. Sungenis is slightly unusual in that he has the resources to put on conferences for his weird belief -- but then, there are also Bigfoot conferences, so why not?

This particular geocentrist is anti-Semitic because he's an extremely conservative Roman Catholic -- similar to Mel Gibson's father (which is where Gibson got it). I suspect he has a lot of negative things to say about Vatican II...

johngoldfine said...

I'm afraid all I recommend is stinkers! But that's what makes horse races, eh?

johngoldfine said...


I just watched about half of 'Upstream Color.' And here I had just gone on and on, congratulating myself for enjoying indeterminacy and confusion.

So, what was your conversation about the movie it might have been? I'd have been willing to watch a movie about hypnosis & drugs, stealing someone's home and bank account, and then the someone's slow pursuit and vengeance of the evildoers.

laura k said...

I'd have been willing to watch a movie about hypnosis & drugs, stealing someone's home and bank account, and then the someone's slow pursuit and vengeance of the evildoers.

That sounds good! I'd have been willing to watch a movie about a person who had a creepy drugged/hypontic experience that ended up ruining her life, and how she somehow (how??) found another person who had had the same experience, and how (HOW?) they pieced together what happened to them and tried to rebuild their lives. And how the evil came to light so others knew about it. And maybe how the evillers either escaped to continue evilling or were brought to justice and vengeance.

I would have watched a lot of things that were less pretentious and had fewer unexplained scenes.

laura k said...

Any weird belief that's ever been held by humans is still held by some humans somewhere.

Well said! So true.