Gravity

best her

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2013review_trailers

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets). Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time.  What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

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Pacific Rim

One of the top-ten highest-grossing movies of 2013 will be nominated for Best Picture, and that’s something that didn’t happen in the past two years. The same movie, Gravity, will very likely be the sixth in a row to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects to also be a Best Picture nominee. If it wins the top award, it will be the first to win both those honors since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  I know a lot of people consider Gravity to be a science-fiction film, while I don’t quite qualify it as such. So I merely see it as the closest thing to a genre movie contending for Best Picture this year rather than a true representative. It’s more The Right Stuff than Star Wars. Wasn’t the allowance for more Best Picture nominees intended to accommodate those more popular choices? The first year the Academy returned it to a ten-title category was 2009, and then we saw Avatar and District 9 plus Up, the first animated feature to get a slot since 1991. The next year we had another animated feature in the bunch, Toy Story 3, as well as the sci-fi film Inception. In 2011, Hugo nearly counted as a fantasy picture while Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was a kind of time travel film, but they stretched the definitions of genre film. Last year, the same went for the fantastically dipped Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild. […]

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2013.moviedoppelgangers

Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.

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2013movieoftheyear.gravity

Back in November, Alfonso Cuaron was asked by Esquire about “unique experiences” in cinema. They’d framed the conversation as TV vs. Film, and Cuaron remarked that TV rarely produces brain-searing moments. Scenarios? Characters? Sure. But if you’re looking for a better batting average on memorable moments, cinema is holding the big stick. At least, as Cuaron amends, cinema outside the mainstream. For a filmmaker who’s delivered gargantuan imagery and scenic epinephrine, his go-to for a unique film experience this year is telling. “It depends on what you call a unique experience. I just saw the Woody Allen film [Blue Jasmine], and I thought it was just amazing. It’s not that it’s going to give you a roller coaster of a ride. It’s just an amazing film. But definitely there are directors, even in the mainstream cinema, in Hollywood, people like [David] Fincher and Wes Anderson and David O. Russell and Guillermo del Toro, who are doing really exciting mainstream cinema.” Gravity might be the polar opposite of Blue Jasmine. One is unrelenting high concept with a sprinkle of backstory, the other is a piercing dramedy with rounded characters. On the other hand, they both feature towering performances from focus-monopolizing actresses playing struggling women. They’ll also collide in some way on the road to Oscar, creating a convenient story of thematic similarities and structural antitheses to consider when we think about what movies we hold above others at the end of a calendar year.

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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Gravity

Topping this year’s list of the best films (as chosen by international critics and curators), The Act of Killing is unique for being a documentary on the prestigious roster (as well as the rare documentary to chime in at number one), but its selection isn’t all that surprising given the flavor S&S’s lists usually take on. Decidedly international without a comedy in sight (or, you know, sound), it’s much stranger to see a Hollywood blockbuster amongst its ranks. But Gravity has pulled it off — grossing beyond $600M worldwide and earning the S&S street cred. Not to say that it’s an impossible feat, but within the past few years only a few mainstream/Hollywood studio films have made it to the top ten. If an American picture breaks through, it’s typically from Focus Features or Wes Anderson or both. For a hint of recent context, the last studio project on the year-end list was The Social Network (2010). Before that, Up and Inglourious Basterds (2009) shared the space as did There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage counts, right?) and Wall-E (2008). In fact, Pixar retreating into sequels and prequels seems to have had a direct effect on how many studio movies are featured.

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Aningaaq

Why Watch? Meanwhile, on earth. Aningaaq is the companion to Gravity that fills in the visual space on the other end of Ryan Stone’s last-grasp radio call, and it breathes cold air into an isolated, unhappy story. Directed by Jonas Cuaron, it has the potential to be powerful, but probably not for anyone who hasn’t seen Alfonso Cuaron’s feature. Some have said that it should have been included in the movie — either at the very beginning or in real-time — but I just don’t see it. Part of what made Gravity so powerful was that we were never allowed to escape the environment. There was no safety release valve of flashing down to Houston to see what they were up to and no breather in the form of exposition from Stone’s past life. Including this short (or any shots on earth) would have broken the spell. Luckily we get to see it regardless. It’s also interesting that the team is submitting this short for Oscar consideration, meaning that it has a shot at making history alongside its all-but-guaranteed-a-nomination big brother. It’s a melancholy bit of storytelling with its own thoughtfulness and purpose, to be sure, but on the awards front there are plenty of other shorts that surpass it. Granted, I watch thousands of short films a year, but the buzz on this is coming purely from the depth of the feature film’s popularity. At any rate, it’s a beautiful bite of snow that also represents an encouraging shift in […]

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Into Silence Header

Captivity/survivor narratives are hardly unfamiliar to our movie screens, and such films tend to come in bunches. Three years ago, for instance, both Buried and 127 Hours boasted solo or near-solo performances from two rising Hollywood stars who spent the duration of their films as the solitary face we see. But last month brought a prominent and concentrated group of such films, all met with overwhelmingly good reviews, promising major performances from their leading survivor types, and coasting on significant awards buzz. While each film explores near misses, false moments of possible redemption, the necessary instance of despair, and ultimately an incredible optimism in the possibility for human beings to survive a conflagration of elements that work overwhelmingly against them, each of these films go about this differently. Yet the major factor connecting J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is that they all stage humans’ fraught relationship to nature through the problems and failures of human commerce and its attendant production of waste. Their respective fights with or on the landscape of nature, in other words, are inaugurated by the failure of humans to wield their own devices.

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tong_gravity_header

Long have I been fascinated by the first thought of my day. Think about it: what was the first thing that crossed your mind when you woke up this morning? It’s eerie that today’s first thought from yours truly, upon looking up at the poster-covered wall in my bedroom, was, “I haven’t bought any new art in a while.” Which is perhaps a good thing, according to my wallet. According to my insatiable need for pop culture art all over my walls, it’s completely unacceptable. Luckily, mere hours later artist Kevin Tong and the folks at Mondo announced that they would be releasing an art poster for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Problem solved. The poster is gorgeous, as seen below. And better yet, the announcement comes with a video showing Tong’s process of building the orientation-free print. Says the artist, “to emulate the dizzying effect of the movie, I deliberately designed this poster to have no true orientation i.e. there’s no right side up or down, it can be presented either way.” Click on through the jump to see both the video and the poster, which goes on sale this coming Tuesday, November 5.

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escape-bench

Yesterday a fight broke out over who is killing movie theaters. Throwing the first punch was Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who gave a keynote address at the Film Independent Forum in L.A. “I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies,” he said regarding the industry’s protest of VOD releases being day-and-date with theatrical openings. Soon after, National Association of Theatre Owners president/CEO John Fithian countered with a weak blow of: “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well.” As a former longtime employee of the movie theater industry, I can say with some certainty that the most lethal enemy of cinemas is cinemas themselves. Sure, there is a lot to say about the convenience of lazily staying home and clicking the remote on our cable box or Roku or Xbox or using our smarthphones or tablets to watch a brand new movie in our beds with no pants on. But at some point Fithian and the rest of NATO’s scapegoating curmudgeons need to realize that going to the movies isn’t necessarily about the movie on screen. It hardly has been for the better part of a century, in fact. Moviegoing is an experience. That’s what NATO should be focused on, and much of that focus will always be on pressuring its theater chain partners to maintain a better quality experience […]

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cody

Going from screenwriting to directing isn’t an easy transition for most. Some writers have found great success behind the camera, while others have buckled under the pressure. It’s a different job with its own set of demands. With Paradise, Academy Award winner Diablo Cody takes her first crack at directing with the story of a young girl named Lamb (Julianne Hough), who visits Las Vegas after a serious plane crash leaves her with burn scars and a desire to explore places outside of her religious community. Whether we’ll see Cody direct again is a real question mark. Instead of proclaiming how amazing her experience was, Cody expressed to us her problems with the job and the way certain critics respond to her flawed female characters. Here’s what she had to say about those critics, writing women and, of course, her take on Gravity:

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Gravity

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Batman 1989 Logo

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Gravity

A weird thing happened on my way home from a matinee screening of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. I cried. Like, actual tears down my face, shortage of breath, no control crying. The pitiful kind of crying you hope nobody else sees. I’m pretty embarrassed to admit it – not because I see any shame in crying, even (or especially) over a film, but because for the life of me I couldn’t understand why on earth I was crying over this film. Gravity is no doubt an impressive technical achievement and an entertaining 90 minutes, but it hardly registered anywhere in the ballpark of emotional profundity for me. I found the trauma that Sandra Bullock’s character must overcome to be both forced and rudimentary, realized through some of the most on-the-nose thematic dialogue this side of Mad Men season 6. And don’t get me started on the 3D tears. I’m not trying to be cynical, but rather am attempting to illustrate the incredible gap I experienced between the character’s emotions onscreen and my belated visceral response to the film. I’ve seen many great films that have left me silent, even catatonic – films far “better” than Gravity that have asked me to walk away from them emotionally shattered or existentially crippled. But no film has ever elicited this type of reaction, and taken me so completely by surprise in doing so. I finally realized I wasn’t emptying myself over emotional resonance, character identification, or poignant thematics, but something a bit more abstract: […]

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The Royal Tenenbaums

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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GRAVITY

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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blackfishmovie

Welcome to my 6th annual list of halloween costume ideas. These are mostly original, yet also mostly unlikely suggestions. One thing a lot of them have in common is the fact that you’ll need to explain exactly what you are, even if there is some mainstream-recognized foundation. For example, if this was a list of costume ideas based on movies that haven’t come out yet, one might be “Justin Bieber as Robin in Batman vs. Superman.” The basic Robin uniform would probably be easily understood, but the fact that the colors have been changed to purple, white and black, and why you’ve got a mop top will require the clarification that it’s based on a casting rumor the singer made up. I’d like to preface this year’s list by saying that I feel the past 12 months have either been uninspiring compared to other years — and/or I haven’t seen the hip movies of 2013. And I didn’t bother with much from the last quarter (as in post-Halloween) titles from 2012, because they all just feel like they’re from a century ago. Seriously, if you see anyone dressed as Abraham Lincoln and mention Spielberg’s movie, you’re sure to get a reaction of “oh yeah, there was that movie.” Feel free to borrow any of the following ideas for your Halloween festivities, especially if you want something that’s a conversation starter. But you must send us pictures. And if you don’t like my suggesions but you come up with your own very […]

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hubble3d

“This is not a documentary,” Alfonso Cuaron said of his new movie Gravity to CollectSpace.com. No kidding. Nobody in a documentary talks the way George Clooney and Sandra Bullock do in this spectacular yet sometimes silly space-set thriller. But I’d love for it to be a gateway to some great documentaries about astronauts and NASA missions and the like, so I’ve compiled a list of favorites that are relevant to the plot. Sure, I could have opened this week’s Movies to Watch list to fiction films, too, but there is less need for me to highlight obvious movies like Apollo 13 and Space Buddies. Also, I’d like to use this opportunity to give a shout out to Dan Schindel’s Doc Option column over at our sister site Nonfics. This week he chose to recommend two true stories for your listening pleasure that relate to Gravity because they involve spacewalks gone wrong. Since he (cleverly) didn’t go with one of the docs I’d have picked, now I get to list them all below.

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Gravity - Rom-Com

George Clooney as a dashing pile of handsome, Sandra “Miss Congeniality” Bullock and a meet-cute that’s out of this world? You can’t tell us that Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity isn’t a romantic comedy. Weightless in Seattle. Or maybe Romancing the Moonstone. It’s in an unconventional location to be sure, but the vacuum of space can’t keep sparks from flying. Naturally, we turned to our old pal Sleepy Skunk to put together a trailer that sells the movie for what it really is. With a little help from Old Blue Eyes, he was up to the task:

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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