The Best Films of 2013 You Didn’t See

No one sees every film from every year, but it’s easy for strong ones to slip through the cracks for whatever reason. True, Oscar Season shines light on some great films that the average moviegoer hasn’t heard much about, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the great movies that fly under the radar. With that in mind, here are some of the best films of the year that you probably didn’t see.

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Violent with Purpose: The Case for Extreme Horror

Violent with Purpose

“There are many good new scary movies, but few great ones,” wrote critic Jason Zinoman in 2011, and it’s hard to argue with him. Horror might be the most viscerally exciting genre in all of cinema, yet not many horror movies of the past few years have taken the same grip that The Exorcist, Halloween, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did in the 1970s. Part of that is because of a dispiriting trend of cookie-cutter remakes (Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw 3-D), but even the original horror movies of the past several years seem hesitant to truly unnerve people.

Writing for Slate in a series titled “How to Fix the Horror Film”, Zinoman wrote that horror films should “stop trying to be so damn respectable.” Zinoman, whose excellent book Shock Value traces how horror films of the 1960s and 1970s “went for the throat and then worked their way down”, argues that horror needs to push boundaries in order to be effective. And indeed, one horror subgenre in the 2000s, extreme horror, pushed the boundaries of what viewers could take, rattling and unsettling them like few films of their time.

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Shadows and Splatter: 10 Horror Movies to Watch on Halloween

Jack

Halloween is coming, and it’s the perfect time of the year to curl up with a special someone (or alone in the dark) and marathon horror movies. Journeying on your own through all the options out there is a daunting task, so I’m here to give you some recommendations. Here’s some established classics and overlooked gems worth checking out this week.

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Dispatches from TIFF: Prestige Pictures and Grindhouse Flicks on the Festival Circuit

12 Years A Slave

The Toronto International Film Festival doesn’t have the same pedigree as Cannes, nor does it exclusively serve up-and-coming directors like Sundance. What does it have instead? Options. Pitched as a populist film festival, TIFF brings hundreds of different films together for a week and a half for press, industry types, film fanatics, and general moviegoers, who can see anything from the latest avant-garde opus to a future Oscar contender, from world cinema masters to first-time directors. It’s a wonderful smorgasbord for anyone with a ticket.

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When The Sky Falls: Opportunity Amid Hollywood’s Looming Implosion

“Cinema is dead,” or so the frequent pronouncement goes. It seems that each decade brings at least a few grouchy filmmakers to decry the state of cinema, but it’s hard to take them seriously. Lately, though, some of the complaints about Hollywood have gone beyond noted cranks like Peter Greenaway and Jean-Luc Godard and come from more levelheaded thinkers. Major filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg are having a harder time realizing their visions, and to some, the future of movies looks awfully grim. But too many people have taken Soderbergh and Spielberg’s talks and filtered it through a “the sky is falling!” mentality. Rather, it’s time to consider whether the Hollywood model really is breaking down, and what this might actually mean to filmmakers old and new alike.

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Baz-tardization: When Style Overwhelms Story

Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Baz Luhrmann knows exactly what he wants when he makes a film. Luhrmann is, to some extent, the Michael Bay of melodrama, someone who takes well-worn archetypes and clichés and cranks them up past broadness and into comic overdrive, all while throwing it all out in an unprecedented quickness that borders on hyperactivity. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Luhrmann’s best work (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge!) has a giddy quality to it where the silliness stops being assaultive and veers towards transcendence.

Luhrmann has always been a polarizing director, but his most divisive works, by far, are his two adaptations, 1996’s Romeo + Juliet and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. All of Luhrmann’s films feel excessive and absurd, but with Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge!, at least he’s being excessive and absurd with his own material—Strictly Ballroom is based on a play Luhrmann helped develop in the 80s, while Moulin Rouge! takes a famous location and one real character (Toulouse-Lautrec) but otherwise invents a new story. With his two major adaptations, he works with material by of two of the greatest writers who ever lived. Slavish devotees to the “the book is always better” argument pull out their sacrificial knives for Luhrmann, but his films do (at least superficially) follow the text rather closely. Besides, storytellers must change things up if they’re going to make the story their own.

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It’s (Still) Alive! Frankenstein and Our Fears

One can argue that a horror movie tells more about the time it was made in than almost any other genre: it tells us, in any given time, what we were once afraid of. James Whale’s two most famous films, Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), were not the first Hollywood horror films ever made, but they are perhaps the point at which the genre truly formed its own entity rather than as a branch of movements like German Expressionism. In collaboration with Universal Pictures, Fathom Events re-released the films in select theaters on October 24th. In celebration of the horror movie, Airspace film writer Max O’Connell take another look at the two masterworks that started it all, and how it kept going.

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The Master: A Look Back on the Works of PT Anderson, Pt. II

“Of all the big releases of 2012, perhaps no art house movie is more highly anticipated than Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master. The film spent the past weekend breaking limited release box office records, and it’s not without reason. PTA, as he’s so lovingly referred to as, has made only five other films since his debut in 1996, but nearly everything he’s made has been an unimpeachable masterpiece, and his 2007 film There Will Be Blood was the most frequently picked film for the top of “best of the decade” lists . He has become the modern day Kubrick or Scorsese, his initials shorthand for cinematic greatness in his time. But while PTA’s first five films are all recognizably his, there’s been a noticeable shift in style and tone over the course of his filmography.”

In his second essay on PT Anderson, film tastemaker Max O’Connell takes us through the recurring themes of PTA’s first five films.

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The Master: A Look Back on the Works of PT Anderson, Pt. I

“Of all the big releases of 2012, perhaps no art house movie is more highly anticipated than Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master. The film spent the past weekend breaking limited release box office records, and it’s not without reason. PTA, as he’s so lovingly referred to as, has made only five other films since his debut in 1996, but nearly everything he’s made has been an unimpeachable masterpiece, and his 2007 film There Will Be Blood was the most frequently picked film for the top of “best of the decade” lists . He has become the modern day Kubrick or Scorsese, his initials shorthand for cinematic greatness in his time. But while PTA’s first five films are all recognizably his, there’s been a noticeable shift in style and tone over the course of his filmography.”

Film tastemaker Max O’Connell takes us through the influences and art of Paul Thomas Anderson.

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The State of Supermen Pt. II: The Golden Age

If the modern superhero film turning into assembly-line product is what should not happen to the superhero subgenre, then what should happen? Studios should take a look at what made the most memorable superhero movies truly great: the guiding vision of a talented filmmaker. Like any art, film is fundamentally a medium for an artist’s personal expression, with the director as the primary storyteller. Take creative control away from a director, and more often than not you’re left with a film without a distinctive voice or perspective, and therefore without a soul. Superhero movies need this perspective if they’re to represent the most prevalent of all modern mythmaking figures. Just as we identify great variations on heroes in the comics by their authors (Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Stan Lee) and their perspectives, great variations on superhero movies bear the mark of their directors.

Read more on “The State of Supermen.

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