By: Daniel Reynolds
Hey, look at that. It’s the end of June. The year is approximately, sort of, half over. More importantly though (to me, anyway) is this: the Same Page has made it around to a full year with just shy of 200 columns published.
I know, I don’t quite believe it either.
If you’ve been a loyal reader – please stifle that chuckle – you know that we strive to provide an interesting and entertaining opinion on as many topics as possible. Sure, we miss out on commenting on a lot of stuff (because, be reasonable), but when we get to it it’s because we’re passionate about the subject. So, to commemorate our 1-year anniversary, I doubled back to our first column, the midyear film review, and decided this time to give out a hodgepodge bunch of awards to the films I’ve seen so far this year. And, as an added complicated bonus, I’ve complemented each film with a related column from the Same Page archives over the past year. See? Interesting AND entertaining.
This column, like this site, doesn’t cover every film that’s come out so far (again, reasonable!) but it’ll get you on the same page, so to speak (groan). Onward to year two!
So I’ve got to admit that part of me was tragically disappointed that Derek Cianfrance’s new film was not a cat-and-mouse game between Bradley Cooper’s cop and Ryan Gosling’s motorcycle hobo. I know, I know, you have to go in to films and judge them on their merits. But guys, at two hours plus, this film is some seriously heavy shit. By the time Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen show up as the sons of our former main characters, I was really missing that motorcycle (and poor greasy Ben Mendelsohn).
Column: Who Killed Jovan Belcher? Professional Sports and Emotional Illness. I’m just going to back away from this one.
Best Film for Scoring Points with Your Girlfriend: Safe Haven
My brother and I have a little Friends referencing joke we use every time we see a film with a plot that is patently ridiculous, but trying so hard not to be. We look at each other, adopt the voice of a withered old lady and announce: “She’s been dead for teeeeeen years.”
Now, this is not the plot of Safe Haven BUT the earth shattering twist at the end – yeah, spoilers, deal with it – is that Cobie Smulder’s character Jo, who has been the main confidant of the film’s heroine, has been dead the entire time. This literally happens.
Column: For the Thirty-Somethings: The Dating Jungle for being the only column on the Same Page that may help you in your dating life.
Retro Award: Jurassic Park 3D
Hey, I don’t mean to alarm you, but do you realize that Jurassic Park is 20 years old? That’s right, we as a society have existed with this image firmly implanted in our psyches for 20 solid years. It’s been quite a run. Look, I know a trip through this famed park is supposed to be terrifying but between Goldblum’s line readings, the ‘clever girl’ meme and almost everything that Wayne Knight says and does, it is worth noting how hilarious the original JP has become.
Hold on to your butts, indeed.
Column: Warped Drive: A “Star Trek Into Darkness” Review. I’ll get to Star Trek in a second, but first this column wins for finding a way to humourously discuss the, um, retro elements of the latest Trek film.
The Best Use of Dead Technology Award: No
I know what you’re thinking: how did Jurassic Park 3D not go for the sweep here?! The extinct tech I’m talking about in this case isn’t re-engineered dinosaurs but that other terrifying fossil from a bygone era: the VHS tape. You see, No, which documents the leftist struggle to overthrow the Pinochet regime in Chile of the late 1980s, is shot to look like it was filmed entirely on old school camcorders. While it is woefully lacking in shirtless Jeff Goldblum, it is definitely worth watching for some insightful political commentary and bold artistic choices. Plus, who doesn’t like Gael Garcia Bernal?
Column: Tales of Nostalgia: The Mystique of the NES for being about the NES. Respect.
The Most Incomprehensible (but still sort of compelling) Film Award: Upstream Color
It’s a love story, and a film about identity. There are some allusions to animals. And nature. A guy stands in a field and records sounds. I wholly admit I’m not entirely sure what Shane Carruth, the neo-Terrence Malick, is going for here. While Upstream Color is a huge leap for Carruth in terms of visual and aural design, I can’t really sum up this movie in any meaningful way. It pervades your senses and gets into your head (much like the weird mind controlling worms in the film. Weird, right?) and when it’s over you are definitely left wondering what the hell that was all about. Fortunately, Upstream Color errs on just the right side of the fascinating vs. frustrating spectrum.
Column: Valentine’s Day at the Movies because I’m not quite sure where the hell I was going with any of that.
For the record, I enjoyed both of these hugely popular films despite some caveats. At gun point I’d probably rank Iron Man 3 slightly ahead of Star Trek, if only because Robert Downey Jr. is out of bed and charming the world a few times over before Chris Pine can put on his pants (settle down, ladies). Both films are big, loud and fun while offering up almost exactly what you’d expect from directors J.J. Abrams and Shane Black (with a side of Damon Lindelof). On a purely entertainment basis, you can’t reeeeally go wrong with either, even if they’ll probably zoom right out of your head as fast as their repulsor blasts and warp drives will carry them.
Column: Let’s All Celebrate Yonge! for being the column still holding the title for the single highest day of site traffic.
The Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Nooooo Award: Man of Steel
To sum up: I was on board with all of the Krypton stuff, with Russell Crowe’s Jor-El and the winged Avatar-like beasts he uses to get around, with Michael Shannon screaming “I will find him!”, with Kevin Costner as the World’s Greatest Dad (that’s better than just #1), with Henry Cavill as a wandering alien God, with Laurence Fishbourne as a dour Perry White, with Amy Adams as a crusading journalist with a flair for the dramatic, even with the TV all-stars crew helping out. But then Kal-El trashed Smallville in a tedious “let’s see how much we can smash” fight, and then half of Metropolis got leveled. I wanted to be gripped in the throes of Christopher Nolan-induced excitement, instead I ended up with Snyder-induced eye-rolling.
Column: The Case for Lance Armstrong for being the most trafficked column on the site, and also, sadly, the most incorrect.
The Funniest Film Award (Non-Overindulgent Category): This is the End
Michael Cera high out of his mind on cocaine. And, scene.
Column: About Wednesday Night: How Three Leaf Fans Took in Game 4 for invoking Armageddon (the Leafs in the playoffs), friendship and dick jokes.
The Steven Soderbergh Under The Radar Film Award: Side Effects
If I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, my love for Soderbergh’s work is fairly all encompassing (hi Magic Mike!). For the last few years, outside of a broad movie like Contagion, Soderbergh has been trafficking in smaller, more focused pictures that seem to just bubble up depending on his fancy. Side Effects (coming after the gauntlet of The Informant!, Haywire, and the Girlfriend Experience) is another left turn in a career of, well, blind corners. It’s a slow burning psychological thriller/mystery built around the ice cold presence of Rooney Mara, with no small amount of Wild Things-esque ‘who is screwing who’ seasoning. With Soderbergh at the helm, however, it sears.
The Same Page Best Film of 2013 So Far: Mud
Mud is a film that takes its time. It doesn’t come at you, bowl you over, overwhelm. It has a complex current you can feel, but that is not visibly apparent. Like the title character played by Matthew McConaughey, it appears to have all the time in the world. As the film flows and the characters peel back the tragic layers of rural lives gone wrong, a touching narrative that hints at first love, friendship, family and, yes, life gradually surfaces. It is also the only film this year to offer both Michael Shannon as a river diving salvage-man AND Sam Sheppard as a haggard river boating sniper. You should go see it.
Column: I can’t pick an actual best column, so instead I’ll pick the one I personally had the most fun writing: A View From Row A: My Raptors Courtside Experience. Free pizza never tasted so delicious.
There. That’s where we stand at the midway point of 2013. Overall, the quality of movies this year has been a tad muted, but I’m hopeful for a strong second half (we’ve got at least two George Clooney movies coming, so there’s that).
As for the site: a huge thanks to all of our contributors for writing and an even huger (that’s correct) thanks to all of our readers. We’ve got year one in the bag. We’re gonna keep writing, we hope you’ll keep reading, and then… yes, we’ll all be on the Same Page.