Upstream Color

2013review_critics

Before Midnight! Gravity! The Wolf of Wall Street! Fruitvale Station! The Great Beauty! Philomena! Frances Ha! Blue Jasmine! Spring Breakers! Nebraska! Dallas Buyers Club! The Wind Rises! Saving Mr. Banks! None of the thirteen critically acclaimed films above are on my list of the thirteen best films of 2013 below. Make of that what you will, but of the whopping 241 new releases I watched this year these are the thirteen that have stuck with me the strongest. That said, I did make a conscious effort to focus on U.S. releases for the list since I have a separate Top 13 for Best Foreign Language films. It’s been a fantastic year in cinema all around, and I could just as easily offered a list twice as long. Keep reading to see what I feel are the thirteen best movies of 2013.

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2013review_scifi

This year promised a number of great original science fiction movies from Hollywood, and then it turned out most of them weren’t even good let alone great — the sort that left us with way too many unanswered questions regarding their plot holes. Meanwhile, in the fantasy genre, we continued to see the studios churning out one YA adaptation after another in the hopes of it being the next Hunger Games (or still the next Harry Potter or Twilight or even Star Wars in the case of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and ironically having no clue how to find the *magic* in the appeal of these kinds of stories. And of course there’s the ever-growing subgenre of superhero movies, which really only disappointed this year because they arrived in the wake of 2012’s The Avengers, not simply because most of the output was sequels (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; The Wolverine) that were merely okay rather than totally awesome. As I’ve noted in the past, I don’t consider Gravity to be sci-fi (even after learning that some tech in the film doesn’t exist yet), but I’ll let it be known that if I were to qualify the outer space thriller, I’d put it in the number 6 slot on account of its gripping visual storytelling and little else. As for another popular choice (one that made a few FSR staffer’s best of lists, as well as our democratically voted top 10), Pacific Rim might have made this […]

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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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10 You May Have Missed 2013

The middle of the year brings a lot of things, but we can probably all agree that the most important of those things are lists. With that in mind, Landon Palmer and I set out to highlight ten of our favorite films of the past six months, but instead of being a straight forward list of the year’s best movies so far we chose to zero in on the great, smaller movies that may have bypassed your radar as they slipped in and out of just a handful of theaters. This factor is most obvious in the absence of Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor from Landon’s selections. The films we’ve chosen run the gamut of genres and countries of origin, but they share a sense of quality sadly missing from the majority of Hollywood films opening wide in theaters these days. (Although if you have to see a wannabe blockbuster choose Roland Emmerich’s White House Down… the damn thing is dumb as dirt but sweet Jesus is it fun.) You may have heard of some of the films below, but all of them are worth seeking out at your local arthouse or VOD provider of choice.

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Upstream Color

Shane Carruth’s sophomore effort Upstream Color, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday, is easily one of the most interesting and unique films of 2013. This story of modern alienation from the director of Primer has been met with competing interpretations, lavish praise, genuine confusion, and (most importantly) a great deal of discussion. I spoke with Carruth about the film, and here’s what he had to say about Thoreau’s “Walden,” the difficult relationship between mathematics and filmmaking, and picking up pebbles in search of pigs.

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disc 050713

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Telephone Book Alice is a young lady in the Big Apple whose libido is constantly on the lookout for the next arousing adventure, and she finds it when an obscene caller targets her for an erotic tongue-lashing. She becomes obsessed with finding the man behind the voice and sets out on a journey that brings her in contact with some truly eccentric characters and ultimately in touch with herself. This 1971 film was apparently thought lost for some time to the point that most people have probably never heard of it before. Vinegar Syndrome is still a very young label (this is only their seventh release), but they’ve more than proven their worth here by resurrecting it onto blu-ray. While described as an erotic cult classic I found the movie to actually be surprisingly funny too. Sarah Kennedy does her best “young Goldie Hawn” combining an adorable goofiness with a real sexiness, and the film as a whole is just the right kind of absurd. It’s a strange time-capsule back into the early seventies and manages to display a wit and intelligence unheard of in the softcore genre. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, trailers, still gallery]

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Upstream Color

Warning: Though Shane Carruth has referred to his film as “un-spoilable,” this post discusses the ending of Upstream Color at length. It’s been a little over two weeks since I watched Shane Carruth’s ambitious sophomore feature, Upstream Color, and there are still specific images, moments, sounds and feelings that continue to resonate through my mind. Whether it be the sight of a worm moving through the crevices of a human body, the briefly glimpsed drama of an anonymous couple who made a habit out of creating distance and never reconciled before it was too late, or a man’s poetic gesture of quitting his drone job by watching business papers slowly float down several stories in a hermetically sealed, ultra-modern office-tropolis, Upstream Color is as sleek and expertly polished as it is sneakily affecting. A swimmer recites Thoreau’s “Walden” as she gathers pebbles in an indoor pool. A seemingly benevolent farmer herds and feeds a mundane gathering of pigs in a film in which no quotidian imagery is simply that. Blue and white permeate nature as if color itself was a literal material force of its own. Upstream Color is remarkable in its ability to merge the poetic with the concrete, routinely invoking abstract ideas with specific material symbols. The result is one of the most purely cinematic, well-crafted, and earnestly hopeful films released in the first half of 2013. It displays as much faith in audience intelligence as it does in the idea that a sincerely optimistic message will speak […]

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Upstream Color

Editor’s note: Rob’s review originally ran during Sundance earlier this year, but we’re re-running it now as the film releases on VOD tomorrow. And, not for nothing, but it’s still the best movie of the year so far. Shane Carruth has twice broken an unspoken contract between filmmakers and audiences that says watching movies should never require you to think, work or do any of the heavy lifting. A high percentage of film-goers and way too many filmmakers signed on to this arrangement, but small numbers of each stand strong in their defense of difficult and unconventional films. Those movies aren’t better by default, many of them are flat-out unwatchable in fact, but when they work, when everything falls into place… audiences are rewarded with something truly special. Carruth chose not to dumb down his debut, Primer, and while the dense dialogue left many viewers in its wake, those who remained enjoyed a smart and tightly-wound little time travel tale at the heart of something more personal. His long-awaited follow-up, Upstream Color, sees him breaking the rules again but with a far bigger, bolder and more aggressively challenging film that for better or worse ups the ante in every regard.

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Pain and Gain Red Band

This is the month we’ve been building towards ever since the start of 2013. This year was made for this month. Why did the Mayans postpone their destruction of our dear Earth? So they could see what Michael Bay‘s small movie was like. Pain and Gain is his first non-Transformers movie in nearly eight years, and it’s about time the Mayans and the rest of us saw it. That Hasbro series had its moments, but not in the way The Rock and The Bad Boys films did. Pain and Gain looks to fit into that half of Bay’s career. Summer comes early with his dark, ‘roided up comedy, and the same can be said for the movies we’re seeing from Danny Boyle, Shane Carruth, and Joseph Kosinski. In fact, Kosinski’s Oblivion is the only blockbuster on the list. April is shaping up to be a huge month for smaller movies.

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Upstream Color

Upstream Color isn’t for everyone, a fact that writer/director/star/composer/producer/co-financer/editor/whatever-other-production-job-is-out-there Shane Carruth is quite aware of and wants people to know. To go about doing so, Carruth is handling the marketing himself, making it more a part of the story, rather than a selling tool. The Primer director went to great lengths to make Upstream Color, as shown by the extensive amount of credits he has on the movie. That behind-the-scenes ambition shows onscreen, something Rob Hunter and most critics agree with. The movie has a normal three act structure, but what Carruth does with that old formula is to tell the usual connective tissue and key moments through music, cinematography, and silence, instead of blaring exposition. Carruth spoke to us about his lyrical style, Upstream Color‘s narrative, and why there’s no Chaos Theory speech from Jeff Goldblum in the movie:

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Shane Carruth

It took far too much time for Shane Carruth to make his followup to Primer. The near-decade wait for his second feature didn’t come from laziness, since Carruth spent time working on an expensive project that next took off, and which I foolishly didn’t ask about. Fortunately, Carruth wanted to talk about where he’ll go after Upstream Color, a movie that lives up to the hype. While speaking with Shane Carruth at Southwest by Southwest, he gave us an insight into his mindset for his third movie.

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sxsw anticipated

SXSW 2013 begins in a couple days, and we couldn’t be more excited. By “we,” I mean FSR founder, publisher and beard-model Neil Miller, professional interviewer and lanky ladies man Jack Giroux, and myself. We’ll be descending on Austin this Friday to take in as much festival film-going, socializing and Alamo Drafthouse food as we possibly can. Of course we’re excited to see movies too. A lot of movies. And to give you an idea of what we’re most looking forward to film-wise the three of us have each listed our five most anticipated films of SXSW 2013 below.

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The Spectacular Now

Forgive us if we may be so bold, but this year’s round of “Ten Best” films from the Sundance Film Festival is really just the ten films we liked the most. We have taste, and we’re not afraid to use it! (Or, alternately, please like all these things that we like, we promise they are really good!) This year, five Rejects attended the festival in the snow (can you believe they let us in?), and while we all have different cinematic soft spots, you’d be surprised over how many films struck all of us, and in different ways. (We cried a lot.) This year’s festival certainly had a few themes that stuck out – lots of sex, nudity, inappropriate relationships, and so much more seemed to be the order of the day – but our list of the ten best films of the festival is far more interested in less lascivious features, much more tuned into films that delivered strong characters and even stronger senses of self. Boldness paid off. Honesty was rewarded. Tears? Well, tears definitely didn’t hurt. Find out which ten films won our hearts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, presented after the break.

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Alfred Hitchcock Fighting Steven Spielberg

This week on the show, Scott and Geoff discuss Shane Carruth‘s 9-year hiatus as a viable career option, get some thoughts on Upstream Color from Rob Hunter at Sundance and talk to up-and-coming actor Micah Hauptman about his first big break in the movie Parker. Plus, in the main event, short filmmaker Aaron Morgan (No Way Out) and Aint It Cool‘s Eric “Quint” Vespe stop by to discuss the legacy of two titans of filmmaking, asking the all-too-important question: In 50 years, will Steven Spielberg overtake Alfred Hitchcock as the more popular icon of movies?  Download Episode #3

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Upstream Color

Completely shunning the typical mode of movie marketing where every secret and scene is revealed in the trailer, Shane Carruth has managed to make his follow-up to Primer seem even more mysterious the more he shows of it. Granted, the first teasers looked a bit too faux-poetic to take seriously, but the first full trailer is a wonder to behold. Even though it shares maddeningly little (you can read a synopsis here), the imagery is stunning, and the selected scenes hint that there’s at least a palm worth of plot to this thing. This may seem like hyperbole, and it might simply be the trailer’s brainwashing talking, but if we praise Malick and Anderson for their abilities to craft this kind of emotional visuals, shouldn’t Carruth’s name be haunting the same halls? Sure, he hasn’t made many films, but if his name weren’t on this (and you knew nothing of it), wouldn’t you have guessed it was Malick’s signature? Keep that in mind and check it out for yourself:

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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Upstream Color

The first teaser for Shane Carruth‘s Upstream Color, frankly, looked a lot like most of the stuff NYU film students produce for their thesis, but Carruth’s name carries a metric ton more weight because of the impact Primer had on the filmgoing world. Given that track record, it also wasn’t too surprising that the first look was fairly obtuse. There will be a full trailer for his sophomore effort ahead of its debut at Sundance — the festival that launched the indie sensation — so Carruth recently spoke to the LA Times about films present, future and forgotten. That includes a plot synopsis for Upstream Color.

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Prince Avalanche

Expectations? This is my first Sundance Film Festival, so the only things I know I’ll encounter are movies, cold snow, overpriced sandwiches, and familiar faces. It should be a great time provided the movies are good, the snow is outside my boots, the sandwiches are tasty and the faces are friendly. Prepare for some very disgruntled tweets otherwise. Looking through the list of titles playing Sundance this year, I tallied a whopping thirty-eight films that I want to see. Kate Erbland said that made her too nervous, presumably because it’s so close to her age (something she’s very conscious of, EDIT: not even close, Hunter!), so she asked me to drop it to a more youthful number. It wasn’t easy to do, but through a complicated series of algorithms and drinking games, I knocked off twenty-eight. What remains are my ten most anticipated films of Sundance 2013! Read them, and be as excited as I am at the prospect of maybe getting in to see them!

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The Best Movie Trailers of 2012

Everyone knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, but were you aware that movies shouldn’t be judged by a trailer either? I know, seems counter-intuitive, but while the trailer advertises a feature the two aren’t interchangeable. Terrible trailers sometimes give way to fantastic films just as brilliant trailers sometimes reveal ridiculously bad ones. It’s a crap shoot really. The list below features twelve of our favorite trailers that premiered in 2012. Some of the movies turned out to be gems, others ended up being far less impressive and a few won’t be released until 2013, but all of them made us excited to watch one more movie…

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postmodem-borscht

Halfway through the 2012 Borscht Film Festival, a documentary screened titled Rising Tide: A Story of Miami Artists. In the film, which offers a basic guide to the growing art scene in the city, local paper sculptor Jen Stark acknowledges the way the digital world allows contemporary artists to flourish outside of major art centers. “Ever since the Internet came out,” she says, “ I never thought I had to be in New York or wherever.” It was a resonating quote to hear in the middle of an event so devoted to both regional communities and how they can come together as a broader, networked collective of filmmaking scenes. The central occasion for Borscht, which was held last weekend, is a screening of shorts either made by local filmmakers or commissioned by the Borscht Corporation and at least shot in Florida. Many of the films involve an overlapping of talent, and by the end you’ve seen 20 works that have given you a good sense of what’s happening with the underground “Miami New Wave.”

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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.19.2014
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published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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