Saturday, October 19, 2013

2013 IS actually shaping up to becoming a great year, but what does it really mean?

Take a look at this decade thus far. Start with 2010.

You had the Fincher/Sorkin combo that is "The Social Network," Aronofsky at the artistic highpoint of his career thus far with "Black Swan," Chris Nolan make an original blockbuster film and it succeeds critically and commercially with "Inception." You also had Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim," Coen Bros' "True Grit" remake, David O. Russell making a comeback with "The Fighter," Derek Cianfrance with his breakthrough film "Blue Valentine." Etc. You get it.

2010 was a good year in film. A solid year in film. Lots of great directors that came up during the 90s/2000s each making their best work. So good, they started getting actual recognition for it. Russell and Aronfsky were nominated for Best Director at the Oscars for the first time in their career. Fincher, for the second time. The Coens had already gotten the ultimate recognition three years earlier but still, a Coen Brothers film getting ten Oscar nominations? Original filmmakers finally getting big time recognition, that's a pretty cool thing. I wasn't crazy about the fact that Tom Hooper won for The King's Speech, but that's beside the point. They were still nominated. These directors, who had been making solid work for a number of years, were starting to get attention. Real attention. Black Swan made serious bank at the box office. The Fighter had a solid box office return. Inception went over $800 mill worldwide, True Grit broke the $100 million barrier.

2011 was a bit of a drop off year. I've gone over this. Scorsese, Malick, Fincher all made very good-to-great films. Nicolas Winding Refn and Steve McQueen were solidifying their status in the arthouse world. Alexander Payne came back after a seven year absence, though the film he came back with wasn't his strongest effort, he's still one of America's best filmmaking talents having carved his own unique niche in the dramedy sub-genre. Point is, he came back. David O. Russell came back, the previous year, after a six year absence

Then the next year, Paul Thomas Anderson returned with "The Master" after a five year absence. In fact, when you look at it, a lot of these filmmakers had substantial breaks between films in the 2000s. It was five years (2002-2007) between Fincher films at one point, Darren Aronofksy had a six year absence, PT Anderson had two five year absences, Wes Anderson had a five year absence between live action films, Tarantino, in between Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, essentially did a little throwaway film in between. Let's not forget the six year absence between Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. These filmmakers are all great original voices and with their films being released sporadically, you had a lot of years in the 2000s where there were maybe a handful of great films at the top, but not much depth. 2007 was the rare year where that was the exception. Other than that, you just couldn't be sure what each year would bring us. Why? I think a big reason is that so many of these filmmakers had a tough time getting their projects off the ground. With Russell and Payne, they both got stuck in development/production hell. Russell with "Nailed" and Payne with "Downsizing." Finally, they dropped their projects and moved on to something new.

The reason why the 70s were such a great decade wasn't just the Hollywood system allowing these directors to have unprecedented creative freedom. These filmmakers were making films every year, or every other year. Scorsese made five films in the 70s, Francis Ford Coppola made four, Bogdonavich made Targets, Last Picture Show, What's Up Doc, and Paper Moon within a five year period. Hal Ashby made seven films in that decade. De Palma made 8. Friedkin made 5. Robert Altman made 13! You get the picture.

The decade was great because these filmmakers were prolific. Not all their films were impeccable great, but they never ceased being interesting, and as a result, each year had a great number of interesting-to-great films getting released. Now I'm not here to compare the 2010s to the 1970s because it's way different now, the climate. But with so many people bemoaning the decline of cinema, with the overabundance of blockbusters, isn't it interesting how many great/interesting films and filmmakers have been emerging these past two years in particular? And, possibly, the next year?

Last year, we had Wes Anderson, Nolan, Tarantino, Rian Johnson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Martin McDonagh, Michael Haneke, Soderbergh, Spielbergh, Andrew Dominik, Woody Allenm Ridley Scott and David O. Russell all come out with films.

This year, Soderbergh again, Allen again, Danny Boyle, Noah Baumbach, Derek Cianfrance, Sofia Coppola, Shane Carruth, Richard Linklater, Terrence Malick, Jeff Nichols, Guillermo Del Toro, David O. Russell, Alexander Payne, Spike Jonze, Nicolas Refn, Edgar Wright, Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Greengrass, The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Jason Reitman... what an explosion.

But see, since everyone largely pays attention to the summer, many would consider 2013 a disappointment. I thought 2013 had to be a drop off from 2012 because the last decade dictated that much. We never really get so many interesting filmmakers making films in the same year. 2007 was that rare year where a lot of them happened to come together. It wasn't the norm.

Now whether or not 2013 will wind up being a better year than 2012 is debatable. They both are clearly better than 2010 and 2011. They were both top heavy years. A couple of great films at the top, as there are every year, but then there's a pretty substantial drop off in quality once you get past the top 5 or 6. Last year, I had Silver Linings Playbook at number 22 in my final list of favorite 2012 movies. Silver Linings was solid as hell and probably would've been just shy of being in the top 10 if it came out in 2010 or 2011. But, it came out in a stacked year and, for me, wasn't quite as essential as those other films. Russell is capable of great work and I thought that film was just good. At times, it was really good.

2013 is becoming another stacked year. I had my doubts coming in as there were a lot of filmmakers which potentially interesting films coming out but too many question marks. So what happens? More often than not, they are delivering. While there were some disappointments like Elysium and Only God Forgives, so many others really delivered and there's still quite a few that haven't officially come out yet. Buzz for the Coens' "Inside Llewyn Davis" as well as Spike Jonze's "Her" is incredibly high. Cuaron and Greengrass each had potentially interesting films and they knocked each one out of the park, basically. Edgar Wright was able to top Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The carry-overs from 2012 (Place Beyond Pines, Mud, Frances Ha) wound up being as good as promised. Altogether, while 2012 had at least 7 films that were absolute solid A's for me and 2013 so far only has 3, that we're getting so many near-A films is a victory in itself. I see 12 Years a Slave tomorrow so the jury is still out on that for me, but look at the damn rottentomatoes scores for Gravity, Captain Phillips, and 12 Years a Slave! 97%, 94%, 96%. Holy shit. Have you seen such high scores on a week-to-week basis? Could it just be a coincidence, given that we haven't had that kinda consistency all year? Perhaps, but this is just the beginning of the Fall movie season. Let's not forget Prisoners wound up with a very solid 81%. It goes without saying that a rottentomatoes score isn't the definitive proof on what makes a great movie, that's obvious. But those are insanely high scores, that can't be denied. My point is that these films are coming out and are getting universal praise. Why? Because this is a great year for film, as was last year. Something very interesting is going on here. Don't you think?

Look at 2014. So far, these are the films we know are coming out next year: Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, David Fincher's Gone Girl, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, Darren Aronofsky's Noah, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, we must assume one of Terrence Malick's films will come out too, Ridley Scott's Exodus, Michael Mann's Cyber, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman, Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, David Cronenberg's Map to the Stars. Then there's the possibility of Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Todd Field's The Creed of Violence, Denis Villanueve's "Enemy" (which premiered at Toronto this year).

Right now, aside from the first five I mentioned, the rest don't even look like home runs. Each film has potential, given the track record of the first five I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Any of those five could wind up being bad films, but I doubt they'll be boring or uninteresting. And that's what's exciting. Plus, given how many filmmakers this year wound up delivering, who's to say that a number of those filmmakers won't deliver in 2014? They very well could. I haven't even mentioned Lars von Trier's Nymphomanic, which looks completely insane. We could be looking at yet another delicious year for cinema next year.

Who knows if any of this can be kept up? 2015 is looking like such a scary year, given the number of franchise sequels that are coming out, but that doesn't mean the rest of that year can't deliver the goods. We already know Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak and Neill Blomkamp's Chappie will be coming out that year, who knows what else. We could just wind up having a three year peak of great films, but it really seems like we've hit a sweet spot. There are just enough interesting filmmakers from a number of different eras making films at the same time. You have the old legends like Scorsese mixed up with the Gen-X veterans like PT Anderson and Tarantino, and you have the filmmakers that have come up in the 21st century like Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright, Jeff Nichols and Steve McQueen. Whereas the 70s had a bunch of filmmakers from roughly the same generation making great films, this decade could just be the ultimate mix-match of a multiple generations. There's been so much talk about how Hollywood is on the verge of collapse, and yet we have such a great in flux of filmmakers right now. And we've had two huge years, in a row, for film. With quite possible, a third around the corner. Things can't really be getting that bad, could they? Could they, as a matter fact, be getting better? As long as all those aforementioned filmmakers keep getting chances to make films at a faster rate thanks to production companies like Annapurna and Indian Paintbrush, then we may actually be in pretty great shape. At the very least, we're in much better shape than we may have thought. Hopefully, this momentum can keep for the next decade, considering a lot of these filmmakers have just reached their 40s and 50s. If Scorsese and Ridley Scott can keep making films well into their 70s, then so can the Gen-X guys. Am I right?

No comments: