I’m almost through watching all the Best Picture nominees for 2013, and I thought I’d try to get my thoughts down on paper silicon while a couple of them are still on my mind.
12 Years a Slave somehow ended up feeling a bit… lifeless to me? I didn’t get to watch it until long after it came out in the cinemas and was discussed to death, but compared to McQueen’s other works it came across as a bit flat. Some great performances, some fantastically shot scenes, but lifeless. I was also greatly put off by the soundtrack, with Luhrmann taking some cues from his previous work on the Inception soundtrack, but people who I normally discuss films with didn’t notice it, so I’ll chalk that down to a personal annoyance rather than a failing of the film itself.
American Hustle was instantly forgettable. What reason was there for this to be nominated for best picture besides having a star-studded cast? I’d be very surprised if people in 5 years, in 10 years, in 15 years even remember that this film exists except as a sidenote in the careers of the actors involved.
Captain Phillips similarly seemed run-of-the-mill to me (except the stunning performance by Abdi). Captain Phillips annoys me in a slightly different way to Hustle, however; whereas Hustle was offensively bland, Phillips manages to be bland whilst also making a hero of a person who in reality risked the lives of many people around him due to his hubris and wanting of fame. But again, I appear to be in the minority amongst my friends for my hatred of misleading “factual” films, so take this criticism with a grain of salt.
Dallas Buyers Club wasn’t particularly innovative but is greatly helped by fantastic performance by McConaughey and Leto. There has been some criticism for choosing Leto to play a female transgendered character, with the argument that the role should have been given to a trans actress. As much as I acknowledge that there are problems with the representation of trans actors and actresses in Hollywood, Leto did such a fantastic job here that I would be hard pressed to argue that he should have been passed up the role based on him identifying as male.
Gravity was, in my opinion, pretty great. As in, probably should have won the Best Picture over 12YaS great (which in turn should have gotten best director over Gravity). No film this year left me gripped, and both literally and metaphorically on the edge of my seat for so long. Yes, it has its flaws: there are some logical inconsistencies, the symbolism is too in-your-face, and the film is unable to keep up with the level of quality set in the first 45 minutes or so, but Gravity was the most enjoyable film I have seen in a long time, and the only one that I wished I saw in 3D.
Nebraska was enjoyable. It set out to tell a small, simple story, and it told it well. The acting was good, it was shot reasonably well, but it was nothing earth-shattering. I think Blue Jasmine possibly did a better job at telling the story of a broken person, but to some extent I can see why this got the Best Picture nod instead. Its ending really turned me off, though, by being too corny.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an odd film. It seems to have achieved what it set out to achieve: it’s tells the story of debauchery, of extravagance to a point where it’s almost vomit-inducing, of the most extreme examples of capitalism. But it’s also too long, too unfocussed, too tonally inconsistent for me to say it is a great film. Much like the much-awaited Django Unchained, The Wolf of Wall Street appears to be the result of taking a repected, skilled, and famous director, giving them a sillily large budget and telling them to make what they want.
It was a bit of an odd year for minimal-interaction games. After Dear Esther was released in 2012, provoking questions about whether it should be classed as a game, and whether it was any good, for 2013 we got three similar-ish games being released: Proteus, Gone Home, and The Stanley Parable. What’s most interesting is how they go in completely different directions, with Proteus being more of an abstract art game, acting as an experience rather than a traditional game, Gone Home expanding on (and being more successful at) exploring how a story can be told using only narration and environmental cues, and The Stanley Parable using the reduced actions that the player can make to make a game that tells the story of… well, games and storytelling, I suppose.
I’d heartily recommend Gone Home to anyone interesting in games that tell stories, and not just games with guns, cars, or footballs. The Stanley Parable? That I’d only really recommend to people who really play a lot of games (and again are interested in not shooting people for a bit). Proteus is a bit more of a hard sell, and I’m not too sure of anyone I know who’d really enjoy it. Not to say that I didn’t.