Aug. 25--Eight months into 2013, and I wondered which films I had put on my ongoing list of the best of the year -- so far.
I was shocked when I opened the document and only three titles were on the page. Has it been that bad a year for movies? Frankly, yes.
The summer's films have made money, at least the first week or two, but then they all seemed to vanish more quickly than usual.
On my list I had Noah Baumbach's delightful, incisive "Frances Ha," with a stellar turn by Greta Gerwig as the title character. I gave the film four stars, our highest rating. Shot in black-and-white, it felt like a homage to Woody Allen, to his "Manhattan" in particular.
Frances is living in a dream. She yearns to be a great dancer. As it turns out, she is great at something, but it takes some hard knocks before she discovers what it is.
Will it be an Oscar contender? Unlikely. It's too, well, smart. But Gerwig's turn is among the best so far this year by an actress.
Julie Delpy is brilliant in Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," in which she plays opposite the equally fine Ethan Hawke. It's the third in a trilogy of films about this couple, and it's the best. The screenplay is talky, but what it reveals about the characters is immeasurable.
Is it an Oscar contender? I doubt it. It's too, well, smart.
Jeffrey Nichols' "Mud" boasts a breathtaking performance by Matthew McConaughey as a Mark Twain-like antihero living on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River near a trashy town in Arkansas. He's hiding from the law, and the actor toes the line between tender and sinister with a deftness that astonishes.
Is either he or the film an Oscar contender? Maybe McConaughey, but not the picture. It's too smart.
Certainly Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" and its star, Cate Blanchett, will be on the short list. Not having played here yet are two other possibilities: Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" and Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station."
Why? It's a mystery.
Contact Entertainment Editor George Hatza: 610-371-5075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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