Recently, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Philip Smolen over at Rogue Cinema. This is a two part interview and part one is out now. Part two will be out in April. In this first part, I got to look back at my early days of making short films and I even talk a little about how Stories by the River came together.
Philip Smolen has reviewed several of our SbtR short films and has had some great things to say:
“Parallel” is a beautiful cinematic tone poem that fiercely champions the idea of everlasting love. It’s a stunning achievement in romantic sci-fi.
– Philip Smolen’s review of “Parallel” (Rogue Cinema)
[Playing with Ice] is a wonderful and satisfying short that speaks volumes about what we hold inside and the damage it causes. Wisler has made a life-affirming and nifty pseudo sci-fi movie all at the same time. Bravo!”
– Philip Smolen’s review of “Playing with Ice” (Rogue Cinema)
Read part one of the interview here: http://www.roguecinema.com/an-interview-with-mikel-wisler-part-1-by-philip-smolen.html
As some of you might already know, we are hard at work developing our first feature film, Unidentified. In an effort to lay the groundwork for this process, I wrote and novel adaptation of the same story and we have been hard at work getting the word out about the novel now that it is available on Kindle. This past Thursday evening, I had the great privilege of being part of the Citywide Blackout show on WEMF Radio, in Cambridge, Mass. I got to talk at length about the novel and the development work we’re doing on the film. You can now listen to the recording of the whole show. The half-hour segment where I’m interviewed about Unidentified happens about sixty minutes into the show.
On top of this, Unidentified was mentioned in the latest news from Rogue Cinema! You can read that whole article by clicking here. We are excited to see the project continue to gain more exposure. We definitely cannot do this on our own. So please do feel to share this with friends on social media and keep an eye out for more news and interviews. And don’t forget, the Kindle book is only $2.99! Be sure to check out the film’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts. Thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm for this project.
I do a lot of strange things. I’m the first one the acknowledge that fact. Even though I’m a long-time filmmaker, I just did a bit of a jump into a whole different field and published my first novel last month. But maybe I’m too used to my own craziness, because this doesn’t seem so off to me. Or maybe it’s the fact that I started off years ago writing short stories an even a novel (whose decade-old draft still sits on my shelf in my office). But I certainly can understand why for many people who know me as a filmmaker, hearing about me publishing a novel might come as a surprise. I hope it’s a good surprise.
Here’s the low-down on what I’m up to with that, and how that relates to what Stories by the River is doing. We have long been exploring the possibilities of producing our first feature length movie as we have continued to make short films and workout and tone our filmmaking and storytelling muscles. We’ve also been exploring options in terms of genres that might allow us to tell a story we’re very excited about and that can captivate an enthusiastic audience interested in something independently produced. In part, that’s how I ended up pitching Dominic and Kristina Stone Kaiser, my partners here at SbtR, on the idea of making a sci-fi/horror project, Unidentified.
If you’re curious about why the horror genre specifically, here’s an article I wrote a while back for Horatio where I explain my love for the genre. Here is also a short video where I talk about why I wrote this novel.
As I worked on the first draft of the screenplay for Unidentified, it became clear to me that there were aspects of the story, particularly the inner lives of the characters, that I wanted to have more time to explore. A novel seemed like the perfect venue for such exploration while still maintaining the fast-paced thriller momentum the story requires. In addition to this, I recognize that as a filmmaker who has written and directed many short films and even sought funding for other feature film projects that I needed to present my prospective investors with something more than just a cool idea and a gripping script. I need to present them with hard numbers on the audience for this specific story. What better way to connect with my audience than to get a book out there? This is an especially exciting notion in this new digital age where self-publishing is no longer looked upon with the same condescension of even just a few years ago.
Actually, self-publishing is the way to break into the publishing world today. Authors like Lisa Genova (Still Alice) and Andy Weir (The Martian) both self-published their first novels. It was no easy road, but Genova’s first novel went on to be picked up by a traditional publisher, became a New York Times Best Seller, and was made into a movie for which Julianne Moore won the Oscar for best actress earlier this year. Weir’s first novel was also eventually picked up by a traditional publisher, became a NYT Best Seller as well, and the movie version directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon comes out in
November (correction, it’s actually October 2nd). Obviously, these are some remarkable stories and by no means do most self-published authors go on to enjoy quite this level of success. But Genova (whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting a couple of years ago and shooting interviews with about her journey of self-publication) and Weir do demonstrate how publishing is changing today as self-publication has become the go-to option for new authors and is now a territory many publishers pay attention to in their quest to discover new authors.
Now I’m not at all imagining that I’ll enjoy quite the level of success that Genova and Weir enjoy (I think they’re far better writers than me, if I say so myself). But that doesn’t stop me form being inspired by them!
Back to my novel … So I used my feature length screenplay as a very detailed outline for the novel for Unidentified. And you know what? It was incredibly fun! I’m serious! Maybe it’s just nice to take a break from dealing with all the logistics of producing and directing films and constantly having to consider what can and cannot be done on a budget, but it was nice to just dive into a story and allow myself to be taken along for the ride even as the writer. Little pleasures as a storyteller can be quite fulfilling, such as how I realized that if I wanted it to be raining during a particularly dramatic scene in the novel, I could just go a head and do that without worry of how much it will cost me to make that rain or how to keep all the gear dry during shooting.
In the end, it is the ability to really dive into the inner journey the various characters are on that really made the experience so much fun. And so far, the readers who have been grabbing their Kindle copy of the book and sending me their comments or posting reviews on Amazon seem to be enjoying the journey as well. That’s exciting to me! And as a long-time lover of The X-Files, writing this script and novel feel kind of like coming home.
I invite you to check out Unidentified in novel form. Every sale is a hard number we can take to potential investors as we seek to tell this story in two mediums. You can be part of making this dream of ours a reality and help us tell a meaningful story that dares to explore some important, if scary, questions. Grab your copy here.
When the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) went on sale this past summer for 50% off, I just had to spring for one. I had been keeping my eye on it anyway since a good friend had just gotten one for his company, Votary Media, and the Roxsen focal reducer adaptor that both allows for use of Canon EF lenses and increases the field of view along with giving roughly one added stop of exposure. I was skeptical about how this off-brand “speed booster” adaptor would work, but Votary Media hired me to edit several videos they had shot with the Canon T4i and the BMPCC with the Roxsen side by side. Cutting that footage removed all doubts for me that this is an incredibly great set-up for price. The footage from the BMPCC even with the Roxsen focal reducer was hands down far superior in sharpness and overall quality compared tot he the Canon DSLR footage. And they hadn’t even shot it raw.
So I snagged the BMPCC and the Roxsen, which made integrating the new camera into my gear easy as I have a set of Rokinon EF mount cine lenses and still shoot on Canon DSLRs regularly. I got busy doing some tests. But, let’s face it, nothing really tests a camera like an actual production.
I served as the cinematographer for a new Stories by the River short film called “A Regular Haunt.” We shot the whole film on the BMPCC with the Roxsen in raw. Having run my own tests beforehand, I opted to keep the ISO at 400. Later, having read other reviews of the camera and about the native ISO 800 of the camera, I have done more shooting using 800. But I do have to admit that the clean nature of the ISO 400 footage is very attractive to me and I found it to have no discernible limitations in the controlled and carefully lit environment I was shooting in for “A Regular Haunt.”
As for the Roxsen and Rokinon lenses combo, I found that I need to make sure I stay at T2 or above. T2.8 if often best. The reason for this is that the Rokinon lenses are ultimately inexpensive lenses and their sharpness dramatically drops off when wide open. I’ve noticed that the Roxsen seems to accentuate this loss in sharpness when wide open. But the moment I close up a bit, the image is remarkably sharp. Much sharper than any DSLR footage out there!
One quick personal note about how approach using the “speed booster.” Rather than thinking of it as adding an f-stop (or T-stop really) to my exposure, I tend to think more in terms of ISO. In other words, while the BMPCC was set to ISO 400 for this film, my light meter (yes I love using a light meter) was set to ISO 800, which is the equivalent to one more stop of light. This way, I can take light meter measurements and note that the light meter indicates the f-stop is 2.8 and then set my lens to 2.8 without hassling any further math.
Here’s a quick look at our workflow for the project:
The workflow was great, though quite data-intensive. I have now shot two projects with this camera in raw. After carefully examining the footage, I think that if I shoot another short film with it, I will opt to shoot most (if not all) of the footage in ProRes HQ in film mode. It can be nice to have the option to shoot raw for VFX shots or other situations with a wide dynamic range such as shooting against windows or bright sky. But most of the time, ProRes HQ in film mode and proper attentiveness to setting good exposure is just as good as raw.
Sadly, when I shot “A Regular Haunt,” the latest firmware update was not yet out. So even though we shot framed the film for 2.35:1 aspect ratio, I had no on-camera guides for this. I also absolutely hated how the BMPCC could not format SD cards in camera. Those issues have been addressed in the latest update to the firmware. You can find that firmware update here.
The combination of the BMPCC and Film Convert offered us the opportunity to really give the film a 90’s horror movie look, which was what the director and I wanted to achieve. You can see the end result below and let us know what you think of it.
We are very excited to announce that we are in the early stages of developing a feature film project that Stories by the River plan on producing. The project will be produced by SbtR producers Kristina Stone Kaiser and Mikel J. Wisler with Wisler directing. The 100-page script was written by Wisler, who also write a novel adaptation of the same story that is currently in consideration for digital publication later this year.
The film is called Unidentified and is a sci-fi/horror genre blend in the vein of The X-Files and movies like The Fourth Kind, Dark Skies, Extraterrestrial, and The Forgotten. Here’s a brief look at the story:
One year ago, a boy went missing. No trace of him has ever been found. Now, Boston-based Special Agent for the FBI, Nicole Mitchell, is brought back from leave when a girl in New Hampshire claims to have been abducted by aliens. The case bears similarities to the case of the missing boy she investigated the year before. Certain that someone is using the powerful suggestion of UFOs and the alien abduction scenario to kidnap these kids, Mitchell enlists the help of paranormal debunking psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Evans. But as the the case unfolds, Mitchell and Evans are confronted with a much darker reality than they ever expected. Nothing could have prepared them for what they are about to encounter.
Stories by the River has already launched a Twitter account (@un1dent1f1ed) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/UnidentifiedFilm) and is actively seeking to connect with the film’s target audience even at this early stage. SbtR producers are also meeting with prospective investors and researching marketing and distribution options for the film once it is completed. This is no small undertaking and will certainly take some time, but we are very excited about this story and about the vibrant market that exists for sci-fi and horror films today. Wisler, who has written and directed several short films for SbtR had been hard at work polishing to script and novel. Early feedback from both has been quite enthusiastic.
Award-winning cinematographer, Rajah Samaroo (cinematographer for Wisler’s upcoming short film, “Parallel”) has signed on to the project and is intimately involved with the development process (see a post by Samaroo here). Wisler has prepared thorough production plan, budget, and pitch package that are available to interested investors upon request. E-mail Mikel J. Wisler at [email protected].
Be sure to check out the film’s official website (www.unidentifiedfilm.com) as well as following the film on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest news, casting announcements, and news about the publication of the novel.
We are very excited to announce the official nominations for awards at this year’s Stories by the River Film Festival. This year’s selection of short films spans several genres and styles and will be a great evening of engaging independent films. The festival takes place on January 30th, where the awards will be presented following the screening of the films. To get your tickets to attend the festival, clear here!
And now, our nominations …
Best Color Correction:
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
Best Production Design:
Worm Free Society
The Race Card
Always a Reason
Worm Free Society
Best Performance (by whole cast):
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
In addition to these awards, we will also be presenting four special awards, including our SbtR Excellence in Storytelling Award. Audience members in attendance will be able to vote for the Audience Favorite Award. The winner of the Audience Favorite Award will receive a $100 cash prize.
We hope you’ll join us for this celebration of New England independent filmmaking. Last year’s event was sold out, so be sure to get your tickets today!
I’m definitely a camera geek in many regards. So I was quite intrigued by the recent video that has been circulating around places like Planet5D and others where photography expert Tony Northrup dives into some very difficult to grasp areas of dealing the unholy trinity of ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop that all camera exposures are build around. It’s a long video, but if you’re serious about really understanding cameras (be it for photography or motion picture) so you can have actual control over your shooting, then I definitely recommend carving out some time to watch this.
Highlights that stuck out to me: I hadn’t given it much thought before, but I think I agree with Northrup that ISO is an officially outdated system since hardly anyone actually shoots on celluloid (film) these days. We need a better system for dealing with digital sensors. Also, Northrup dives into the truth of what’s going on with f-stops and how marketing for lenses often lies to us about what we’re really getting. He doesn’t talk about T-stops, but then I don’t believe he’s a cinematographer so I wouldn’t expect him to deal with that on top of all that’s already being presented. But if you’ve ever want to gain a better grasp of the physics and math of how exposure works, regardless of the camera you’re using, this video is a great place to start!
At any rate, I wanted to share this video. If you’re curious about follow-up questions people have had, follow Northrup’s YouTube channel. There are at least two follow-up videos dealing with comments, complains, and questions people had after watching this video. Check this out and then get out there and shoot!
Lately I’ve been an incredibly busy guy (note the absence of blog posts by me in recent weeks). So I’m going to start this blog entry by admitting right upfront that I have not seen even a single frame of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new science TV show, Cosmos. It’s probably quite good in it’s own right (though in light of recent comments by Tyson, I have questions as to just how good the show is). But I just haven’t had the chance to check it out.
All the same, I have had my eye on the controversial statements Tyson has made as relate to other academic disciplines, particularly the field of Philosophy. If you haven’t been following this issue, Tyson recently made some very disparaging comments about philosophy on a podcast where he was being interviewed. In fact, this is not the first time he has made comments that dismiss philosophy as being counter productive to progress (in his mind) since we might be sidetracked by asking too many questions about the nature of reality and our existence in this universe. I don’t want to dive into all the details of what all he specifically said as that will make this blog post much too long. Instead, I highly recommend reading this article by Scientist and Philosopher (yes, both disciplines together) Massimo Pigliucci where he quickly addresses the misconceptions Tyson (whom he seems to know personally) has about philosophy. It’s a very worthwhile read, even if you’re not a scientist or philosopher. Pigliucci is very even handed in his response, being both direct and kind.
Now, I admit that the topic is of particular interest to me as I do have a BA in Philosophy from Bethel College, where I had the privilege to study under Chad Meister, James Stump, and Tim Erdel, among other professors (look those guys up, they’re not only amazingly intelligent, they’re also genuinely amazing people). So I recognize I probably have a bias in this situation as I’m already clearly sold on the value of philosophy (as I crammed in that BA while getting a totally different BA in four years). Or maybe–just maybe–I have something Tyson seems to lack: an actual working understanding of what philosophy is and the broader and deeper purpose it serves (which Pigliucci addresses head-on in his article). I’ll let you decide.
I’m also a lover of science and have long drawn to science fiction as both a favorite genre of mine for reading and watching as well as the genre I most often find myself working in as a writer and filmmaker. I believe science fiction is a genre that is uniquely equipped to dive directly into big philosophical questions (much as the horror genre often comes ready-made to dive into the spiritual realm directly). Sci-fi offers us big philosophical questions like: Is it right to arrest someone for crime they have not yet committed but supposedly are sure to commit in the future (Minority Report)? Are we alone in the universe (Contact, War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and many others)? Is it right to bring back to life potentially dangerous creatures that went extinct 65 million years ago (Jurassic Park)? What does it mean to be a living being (Frankenstein and much of the Zombie genre)? Is it right to use our advances in genetics to engineer better human beings (Gattaca)? Can human beings have a loving relationship with artificial intelligence (Her and Transcendence)? Can technology bring us to a place where we lose sight of what is real (The Matrix Trilogy and Inception)? You get the idea.
Recently I’ve rewatched two sci-fi movies that are personal favorites of mine and have profoundly influenced my own journey into filmmaking: Jurassic Park (the movie that made we want to be a filmmaker) and Gattaca (the movie that taught me that great science fiction can be quiet, introspective, and deeply moving). Both function as cautionary tales of sorts (as does much of sci-fi and horror).
Now what does this all have to do with Tyson and his position that empirical science is far and above so much better than philosophy? Allow me to put it this way: I love science and I believe in the value of scientific pursuits and empirical research and progress. I also believe that such scientific pursuits and progress must always first be held up to the illuminating power of that profoundly important branch of philosophy known as ethics. Science, left to its own devices and driven solely by a thirst for the type of progress Tyson seems to think is far more valuable than wasting our time asking philosophical questions, runs the risk of being blind to ethics. This is where science fiction continues to serve us well. These are just two examples, but Jurassic Park and Gattaca caution us to the dangers of ethics-blind scientific development.
In Jurassic Park, the ever eccentric and at times obnoxious character Ian Malcolm (a mathematician who specializes in Chaos Theory, or Complexity Theory as it has more recently been known), points out to John Hammond, the creator of Jurassic Park, the following: “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here. It didn’t require any discipline to attain it. […] You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could. And before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunch box. And now you’re selling it! You wanna sell it!” When Hammond tries to push back with the assertion that his scientists have done amazing work, Malcolm cuts in with, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” (See the whole scene here.) Jurassic Park goes on to play out with a plot structure more akin to a horror movie, where indeed we can’t help but be confronted with the reality that maybe Hammond’s scientists did move too fast and now it has cost the lives of several people. What’s more, this power Hammond has tried to wield may not be something humans will ever be able to contain and effectively control.
In Gattaca, we observe a society that has embraced progress in human genetics the point of designing nearly perfect babies in hopes that they will have the most appealing qualities, lasting health, and excellent intellect. This sounds good in theory at first glance. Everyone wants the best for their children! But as anyone who might take the time to pause and consider the ethical implications of this type of thirst for the “perfect” children might point out, the society of Gattaca eventually lost sight of the innate value of every human being, regardless of genetic gifting. A new caste system is created where non-designer human beings are firmly marginalized and pushed out of the upper stratus of workplaces and society in general. Ian Malcolm’s line, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should,” applies equality here. It’s worth noting that these two films came out just a fews years apart. Clearly, in the world of Gattaca, the people wielding the power to design the genetics of children do not pause to consider the long-term repercussions to the whole of the human race. Inadvertently, the society of Gattaca sacrifices justice and equality in the name of individualistic perfection (take genetics out of the conversation, and I’d argue that this is actually one of the core problems the Unites States of America has been facing for at least a century in our quest for the “American Dream”).
As I read about Tyson’s dismissal of philosophy (or if we even want to be generous to Tyson, his potential dismissal specifically of the philosophy of science), I was struck by the notion that Tyson’s idea of scientific progress is distinctly western and modern. Tyson seems to be an empiricist, which likely explains why the only type of “progress” that seems to matter to him is progress that can be measured in a lab (which is why he mistakenly believes philosophy has not offered humanity any progress in the last several centuries–a dead giveaway that Tyson does not actually understand philosophy and does not know it’s history and continued evolution, as Pigliucci points out in his article). My fear is that the exact kind of thinking Tyson is engaged in here is the type of thinking that will charge blindly ahead because as new scientific and technological developments occur, new opportunities present themselves. Meanwhile, folks like Tyson are so focused on the notion that we could accomplish something that no one pauses long enough to ask if we should. I think this is why science fiction continues to offer us cautionary tales. We seem to need constant reminders that just because we are capable of doing something does not mean doing so is the best or most ethical choice.
Want a real world example? Currently, Japanese scientists have been developing a rather elaborate machine that together with virtual reality can offer users a rather realistic and complete physical sexual experience. Yup, that’s right. Sex with a robot–basically. Don’t believe me? Read this article at your own risk. It makes perfect sense to me that our technology is evolving to a place where this sexual experiences with robotic machines is possible. But just because such a thing is possible, is this a road we should go down as a species? Don’t we already have too many problems born out of our individualistic and self-serving views of sexuality? Aren’t people already isolated enough and lonely? Do we need yet another tool that isolates us further from other people and likely fosters unhealthy views of sexuality?
While Tyson can dismiss philosophy as pointless armchair speculation, I’m glad sci-fi continues to bring these important philosophical questions to the pop-culture landscape. Is it any coincidence that while these Japanese scientists develop this sex-machine movies like Her and Transcendence offer up to us questions about the nature of relationships with technology that blurs the lines between human and machine? I’m more than a bit creeped out by the idea of a character like Sam from Her having access to the type of machine now in development in Japan.
And, I for one, will continue to tell sci-fi stories born out of deep philosophical questions that wrestle with faith and doubt in our vast universe (“A Silent Universe”) and our often mistaken desire to escape the here-and-now in hopes that the future will be better and we will be happier (“Playing with Ice”). I invite you to check these films out and join the conversation. What are your thoughts?
“It sucked.” That’s what I often dread hearing as a filmmaker. That’s not to say that I expect everyone to like everything I make. That would be impossible. But it doesn’t make it sting any less when someone genuinely has a very negative reaction to something I’ve poured my heart into. All the same, I’m dedicated personal growth as an artist. This means that I first have to acknowledge I’m not always going to get it right. Sometimes, something I make might legitimately “suck.” So as vulnerable and uncomfortable as it makes me feel, I find I need feedback.
So, if someone says to me, “I didn’t like it” or “it sucked” (and most people are far too nice to just say something sucked even if it might rightly deserve such an assessment), my natural follow up question is, “What didn’t you like about it?” Basically, I ask them to tell me more. Because, when it comes right down to it, I couldn’t possibly care any less about the fact that you didn’t like my script or film. What I care about is why did they not like it. Why (and by extension, what) is where growth is possible.
In that sense, when someone tells me, “I loved that film of yours,” my next question is basically the same. “Why?” I ask, “What did you like about it?” Because, even when it comes to positive feedback, I learn nothing from vague generalities and quick praise. Don’t get me wrong. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside for sure when someone tells me, “I saw your latest short film and I loved it.” But when it comes to learning about what’s working and not working about the stories I’m telling, it all comes back to why. Why did you like or not like this specific film or script?
I can learn several things when I manage to get people to explain why. For instance, I few years ago I had a rare opportunity to show a my short film, “Always Reaching” to a rather famous Hollywood producer. He graciously watched it and then sent me an e-mail detailing why he felt the film is more or less garbage. At first I was utterly devastated. Certainly, here was a blown opportunity to make a good impression on someone with power and influence. Things had not gone the way I hoped they would. He said the film was esoteric and made a few other … well, frankly … odd observations about why he so thoroughly disliked my short film. However, once I had time to clear my head and chat with my producing partner and fellow screenwriter on that film, it became more and more clear to me that we had simply made a film that in almost no way matched this particular Hollywood producer’s tastes. Reflecting on the types of films this producer made compared to our slow-paced character-driven dark drama, it seems clear to me that his feedback, while a valid subjective reaction he’s entitled to have, did not turn out to be feedback I should put much stock in. We had more or less simply made a movie that was, well, not his type. If you’re curious, you can see “Always Reaching” right here and form your own opinion (and even tell me what you think of it): https://vimeo.com/4889017
So in this instance, I feel like it was sort of like making a horror movie that then someone watches and tells me they hated because they hate horror movies in general. Well, okay then. Duly noted. If you find yourself in a situation like this, do yourself a favor. The moment they walk away, mentally hit “select all” on their feedback in your mind and quickly and firmly hit the mental “deleted” key. That is useless feedback. There’s nothing of value to be learned there.
Over time I have also learned that not all feedback sources should cary the same weight in my mind. Some people I know have proven themselves to be very observant and capable of providing me with very specific and helpful feedback as to what’s working and not working in a story (be it script, rough cut, or finished film). These people genuinely praise what is honestly working and critique and point out the weak areas, giving reasons why those weak areas detracted from their experience of the story. Often, they even provide specific thoughts on how to make those weak areas stronger. On the other hand, I know people (many of whom I love dearly) whose opinions when it comes to my work I have slowly learned to hold loosely (some even to disregard completely) as I believe their feedback is too colored by specific quirks that I have no interest in catering to. Often such people will offer me their thoughts and I take it all in politely and sort through it later, but not putting too much stock in what they’ve said either way. One thing I’ve been learning to do more and more (I’m a work in progress here) is to not take their feedback personally. In fact, with such people, I often cease actively seeking their feedback altogether. I mean, what’s the point, right?
Now, keep in mind, there’s a difference between not seeking feedback from people because I might have an aversion to being told my work is anything but awesome. Like I said, praise feels good, but many times doesn’t help me grow. So what I’m talking about here is identifying and seeking out those people who provide truly constrictive criticism (which at times does include hard critiques of ares in which my work has seriously failed to rise above mediocrity). So it is incredibly valuable to find those people who honestly love you and want to see you succeed, but don’t necessarily automatically love everything you produce. They know your potential and are unwilling to settle for watching you fall short of it. But they also know that this whole business of being creative is hard work, it’s vulnerable, and often times, in spite all our efforts, we just don’t quite manage to get it all right. And I don’t know about you, but in those instances it’s oh so tempting to fall back on my old life as a Starbucks barista. These people don’t let you do that.
When it comes to my work, I find feedback a crucial part of developing a new project. In a real sense, I feel like a story only exists in my head as long as I haven’t shown a draft to anyone. Even though I may have succeeded in putting words in a document in a Final Draft or Pages document, the whole process is so subjectively wrapped up in my limited perspective that in practical terms, it’s like it still doesn’t exist outside of my mind. So I tend to roll out an early draft to a trusted circle of friends who have proven a track record of providing helpful feedback. They can let me know if I’m wasting my time barking up this particular tree or if there’s real potential here. They often give me specific insights into what’s going on in the story or how things are being interpreted that I need to keep in mind. I had this happen just last week with a script. A close friend read my second draft for a script I’m working on, and she pointed out how she’d interpreted one particular aspect of the story and I realized that (1) I had not intended for things to be interpreted that way at all and (2) what she pointed out was likely to be the way many people could interpret that aspect of the story. It’s a thing of beauty. In that instant, the story was outside of my head and I had to contend the reality of presenting this to an audience and trying to ensure that the audience wasn’t distracted by something I did not mean to bring up in the story in the first place. Revisions will clean that right up!
That’s why I love the feedback and revision process. I then expand my circle and show to more people and get more feedback. And usually at this stage, I start to consider trends in my feedback. If I’m showing a third or fourth draft to ten people, and one of them gives me some rather unexpected feedback, I often have to weigh that against what the other nine said. It could they are just an outlier, statistically speaking. However, if four or five people out of those ten are saying very similar things … I probably should stop and listen carefully.
Finally, often times, people will have very specific things they will suggest when it comes to fixing problems or weak areas in a script I’m working on. Sometimes such suggestions are spot on and I actually integrate them. However, more often than not, the suggestions are indicative of observing that something in a specific area of the story is not working but are not something I would want to implement for various reasons that can range from stylistic choices to how taking such advice might actually bring about other issues in the script. But what I often do in those instances is to try to listen carefully to the suggestions offered then I go away and think it all over. 99 out of 100 times, when I sit down to rewrite the script, I end up tossing the specifics of the suggestion aside and discover my own unique solution that both addresses the issue and uniquely serves the story in a much better way. So, while I hardly ever simply implement such feedback, it provides me a kind of springboard I can jump off of with my own solutions. And so, feedback and suggestions remain invaluable to me.
A word of advice for fellow artists when it comes to asking for feedback: Always stop and listen first! Respect the people giving you feedback, especially if you asked for their feedback. Really soak what they are saying and consider it fairly before implementing or dismissing it too quickly. I have been asked for my feedback by some people at times only to instantly find them arguing with me about why all my feedback is wrong or off base. In those instances, I usually discontinue the conversation as quickly as possible as it is clear to me that the person is not currently interesting in my actual feedback. They may simply need a little friendly affirmation and a change of subject. If you ask for feedback, though, don’t be that person. Don’t argue. Soak it in for the moment and work it out later if you need to implement or dismiss. This doesn’t mean you can’t discuss things. Just don’t let all the reasons why you love your project get in the way of hearing valuable feedback.
It really is a never ending process. Be it revisions on a script or considering how to make a better film next time, we all need feedback as filmmakers and storytellers (and many other lines of work too, for that matter). But do keep in mind: not all feedback is equal! Do you know who the people are you can trust to give you truly honest and helpful feedback? If so, be sure to let those people know how much you value their help! Never take them for granted.
The Oscars will be presented on Sunday night. So I wanted to take a moment, now that I’ve finally managed to cram in watching the last of the Best Picture nominations, to give my reactions to this year’s selection of films in the Best Picture category. I’ll be reviewing the films in the order that they appear on the Oscar ballot PDF that you can download from Oscars.com, which in this case is alphabetical.
I will not be reviewing all of the films in as much detail as I might like (though with a few I can’t seem to help myself), but then I don’t want this blog entry to be exceptionally long. It will be long enough as is. So I’m hitting the major points of each film and providing my subjective take on whether each film might deserve an Oscar (or even deserves the nomination it got in the first place).
Now, one word of caution: If you have not seen some or any of these films, you may encounter some spoilers below. You may want to skip over films you haven’t seen yet if you have your heart set of seeing them. Or you can skim through to see what rating I give each movie (at the end of each review) and read my conclusion which has no spoilers.
Director David O. Russell offers up another film with interesting characters in complicated relationships. Very loosely based on actual events, Russell dives into the world of con-man Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale. Irving is a fascinating character, though at first I am unsure he’s all that likable. But then, characters don’t need to be likable to be intriguing. But slowly, Irving is changing. And this is ultimately what won me over to the film. Some of the acting feels a bit stiff in places, as if the these are bit more of caricatures of certain ideas in Russell’s mind than fully fleshed out and three-dimensional characters. But slowly, the film overcomes this to a great degree, managing to offer us Irving’s transformation from a man who has only used people to his own ends to someone who, in spite of himself, discovers he’s found a true friend. Of course, he discovers this only as his betrayal of their friendship comes crashing down on them.
The filmmaking is elegant and immersive in its period style. Many scenes were shot in Boston and Worcester, Mass. I even recognized the interior of the Fairmont in Copley Plaza in Boston (where I’ve done some shooting myself). The locations and wardrobe add to the aesthetic effectively. Yet, the film feels less moving and a bit more like a curiosity to me. I often felt a distance from the characters and a sense of detachment form their problems, voyeuristically observing for the sake of curiosity. And yet the film has many merits in its own right. There are genuine moments of laughter and genuine moments of emotional connection to the characters. And in this sense, the film is good. But the moments feel a bit fleeting to me to ultimately deserve winning Best Picture.
My rating 8/10.
Director Paul Greengrass again dramatizes of a very real and very recent event in this film much as he did with United 93. In classic Greengrass fashion, he drops us into the middle of the mess with his hand-held cameras and frantic action. The film is effectively structured, moving forward with increasing speed. Tom Hanks delivers a performance that slowly builds over the course of the film. I must admit that both times I saw this film (I screened it just this month at The River Film Forum) that the very first scene of real dialogue in the car as Phillips and his wife drive to the airport feels stunted and awkward. It feels as if some important bit of exposition needed to be conveyed in this scene (maybe that they have kids and they are concerned about them and the world they are growing up in–but then, what parent isn’t?), but the scene feels forced and flat, even with veteran actors like Hanks and Catherine Keener. I fault the script for this. The dialogue was on the nose and unnatural. It might not seem like a big deal to some, but I have to admit that both times I watched the film, it started the experience off on the wrong note for me.
But in the end, the film is so compelling and engaging, that this early shaky start is forgotten. Captain Phillips, to my mind, plays out like a calculated observation of a specific and tragic event that has ties to much larger and deeper issues. Hanks manages to play a very complex Phillips who at first sight might strike some as rather heroic. But upon further reflection, I see many selfish and dangerous choices made by Phillips throughout the ordeal. Contrary to what some have expressed about the film, I feel a fair perspective on the Somali pirates is presented. Both times I saw the film I felt a deep ache in my heart for the pirates. While I do no agree or remotely condone their choices, I find myself understanding how these men have reached a point of sincere desperation that drives them to such desperate and violent measures. In the end, I feel the most important line in the movie comes in the claustrophobic second half of the film when Muse, leader of the pirates played by Barkhad Abdi, and Phillips have a conversation about what has led Muse to this life of piracy. Muse, a former fisherman, had his livelihood stolen when commercial fishing ships over fished his native waters. He’s now simply fishing the same waters for the only commodity available, it would seem: Freight ships that can be held for ransom. Phillips presses him about who gets all the ransom money. Muse responds that they have bosses (specifically the Somali war-lord safely back on land sending out young men to do all the dirty work). Phillips replies with “We all have bosses.”
Why is this line so important? I believe it hints strongly at Greengrass’ veiled criticism of capitalism that is capable of leading to these situations. Phillips at one point claims his ship has food that’s going to nations like Somalia. Muse doesn’t bat an eye at this, and frankly neither should the audience. This is a bold-faced lie (part of Phillips’ complexity as a character). In the end, “We all have bosses” reminds us that Phillips has made the choices he’s made to protect the cargo of this ship so that his bosses will remain happy with him. Turn a ship over to pirates to do with as they please and risk losing what has to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars of products being shipped to our consumer-driven first world societies, and Phillips will never captain another ship again. “We all have bosses” summarizes the messy nature of global politics that leads to desperate confrontations like this. While some feel the film might play up the heroic nature of the military response that ultimately saves Phillips, there’s a comical quality to watching three large American ships chase down one little escape boat. Embedded in the film are hits of a more critical view of all of this, including directives given to military leaders to take care of this situation as it’s become big news back home.
Initially, Captain Phillips never struck me as a Best Picture nomination waiting to happen. Upon further reflection, I think it deserves the nomination. And ultimately, Hanks delivers one of the most haunting performance of sheer and complete shock at the end of the film. If this was truly a celebration of military might, credits would roll much sooner. Instead, we linger on a very shaken man covered in blood as he’s given medical attention. And that is the power of Captain Phillips. Regardless of our political perspectives on all of this, we can all appreciate that this is a tragic and scarring situation with no easy answers that ultimately has a devastating power on the lives of the people it touches, regardless of their nationality.
My rating: 9/10
Director Jean-Marc Vallée bring to life a rather difficult true story. Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, is a rodeo show low life of sorts with gambling debts and a promiscuous libido that ultimately shatters his life when he’s diagnosed with HIV. Dallas Buyer’s Club chronicles his transformation as he seeks to illegally acquire experimental drugs to combat the disease. His new life brings him into contact with people society has rejected, like Rayon, played by Jared Leto, a transvestite and fellow HIV patient. Ron at first wants nothing to do with anyone remotely like Rayon. But a friendship grows between the two as Ron confronts his own status as an outcast in 1980s Dallas since his HIV-positive diagnosis.
The transformation Woodroof experience happens in stages and forever changes him for the better. Where he first sought only to find help for himself, he eventually begins to find a means to get drugs into the hands of other HIV patients. At first this is done for profit, but you can feel his perspective change over the course of the film as he eventually begins selling off his own assets to ensure that more people get the drugs they need. He starts off as a homophobe, but finds real friendship in Rayon. What begins as a selfish quest to combat his own HIV ends up as a fight against a system that did not seem to care for real people living with HIV and AIDS in any real sense.
With this film, McConaughey has given us a great another performance, following his role in Mud. Dallas Buyer’s Club builds off of a well crafted script and dares to look in on the lives of those who maybe have not made the wisest choices (as Woodroof clearly did not leading to his contracting HIV), but offers us an experience of empathy and transformation.
My rating 8/10
Easily one of the most anticipated films of 2013, Gravity is a cinematic tsunami. Director Alfonso Cuarón completely envelops us in a visceral experience. At it’s core, Gravity is an action movie. We are not given any great amount of back story. But then, back story and character development are not the focus of the film, nor are they exactly necessary to accomplish what Gravity sets out to provide us with. Yet, the thrilling story of survival combines not just amazing achievements in digital filmmaking and VFX to create an immersive and harrowing experience of space but also offers just enough insight into who astronaut Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is to get us to desperately care about what happens to her. Slowly, as rare moments of calm allow it, we learn about Stone’s past and her lingering pain at the loss of her daughter. Bullock breathes such authenticity into these mere hints of her character’s past that we have no problem believing there is so much more to Ryan Stone which under different circumstances we could learn about. But right now, we need to get home! Bullock gets us to feel so deeply for Stone that at points, it’s hard to breathe as we watch her struggle to do what she must to survive.
Shot by Emmanuel Lubezki who shot Children of Men for Cuarón as well as The New World, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder for Terrence Malick as well as the newest untitled Malick film currently in post-produciton, Gravity is a very different approach to the more traditional though no less breath-taking cinematography Lubezki is accustomed to. The film is nominated for Best Cinematography as well, and many debates will likely range about what the award even means anymore should the film win. This debate began with Avatar, continued with Life of Pi, and is likely to continue with Gravity, yet another visually stunning film that was mostly shot on a sounds stage.
Nonetheless, Gravity is a deserving film of a best picture nomination. It embraces the simplicity of its story and does not pretend to be anything else. It is designed from start to finish to be a truly emotive and immersive experience. The film is not just visually stunning, but also offers probably the very best sound design I’ve heard is years. In the end, Gravity taps into the primal nature of storytelling. As some neuroscientist argue, the reasons our brains are so tuned into stories is that our brain’s primary function is to keep us alive. In the quest for survival we latch onto stories as a means to vicariously experience harrowing scenarios so we can learn how to potentially survive such a scenario if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation (see Wired for Story). In this sense, Gravity is primal storytelling for the 21st century. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year in film viewing.
My rating 9/10
Written and directed by Spike Jonze, Her dares to look down the road at our reliance on and our relationship to technology. In an increasingly fragmented and individualistic society where so much of our communication happens through smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, and other oddly personally-impersonal methods, Her runs out ahead of us and asks us to consider where we are blinding headed while we walk and text. What if eventually my smart phone or iPad or computer are no longer merely the means by which I casually converse with my friends, some of whom live hundreds of miles away, but rather I become invested in relating and communicating with my devices themselves? Sounds silly, right? Well, maybe … until Scarlett Johansson’s voice and a full blown personality emanates from my smart phone or computer (Are you talking to me? Well … hi there.).
Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, has a job as writer of custom personalized “hand-written” (though they’re definitely just printed) notes people hire his company to create so they can send to other people. Right away we’re dropped into this personally-impersonal reality where when someone wants to really speak their heart to a person they love, they hire a professional to do it for them. It would sound laughable if it wasn’t so believable. We’re almost there right now.
From there, we are introduced to OS1, the new artificially intelligent operating system that works across platforms so it can integrate your experience of your desktop and your mobile device. As Theodore, a lonely man whose ex-wife is waiting for him to sign divorce papers any day now, installs his new operating systems, he is asked to make certain choices. He choses a female voice for his OS1 (and in comes Johansson’s voice). When he asks her what her name is, she names herself Samantha. And from there, Samantha grows in depth of personality at an incredible rate. It isn’t long before Theodore and Sam are friends, laughing and talking through out the day and night. And slowly, this friendship grows into more.
To some, it can seem silly to think of a man falling in love with a disembodied artificially intelligent operating system. To other this sounds ludicrous. And to others still this may seem like an excuse to exploit ideas about sexuality. Her is none of these things. It dares to stare into the dark and secret corners of our evolving ideas about relationships, love, and sexuality in an increasingly technology-dependent society where how we relate is fundamentally changing what relationships are. Her isn’t shy about such things, but it never exploits either. In fact, in an amazingly daring move, Jonze allows the screen to go black for what feels like quite a long time during the first time Theodore and Samantha make love. But is this just artistic abstraction or is Jonze suggesting that as Theodore engages in a sexual relationship with an AI being that he too is in a very key way becoming disembodied himself. I’ll let you work that out.
Her is sci-fi at its finest! It is speculative about our future, but firmly grounded in our present. It is high concept in nature but thoroughly human at its core. It is a cautionary tale, but one that haunts us not because the characters and their world are so distant and removed from us, but because they are so fundamentally just like us. I feel Theodore’s pain and loneliness in every frame of this film. And what’s more, I sincerely empathize with Samantha as she struggles with what it means to gain personhood and be in a relationship with a human being when a fundamental metaphysical divide separates Samantha and Theodore. But then, doesn’t a fundamental metaphysical divide separate us all?
My rating 10/10
Director Alexander Payne consistently makes films with awkwardly and endearingly real characters. He makes an interesting choice in Nebraska in shooting it in black and white (on a digital format, no less). No doubt, this choice limits the general audience of the film since too many of the movie-going crowd seem to have an aversion to anything monochromatic (which bums me out). But, damn it if it doesn’t just fit the film!
Nebraska reminds me of David Lynch’s The Straight Story (Lynch’s most “normal” film). Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an old man who believes he’s won a one million dollar prize from a magazine subscription marketing sweepstakes. Much like the main character of The Straight Story, Woody sets out on a long journey by unconventional means. But he sets out of foot, unlike Alvin in The Straight Story who makes his journey on a lawnmower. Woody fails to get very far on foot as he’s constantly interrupted by his son, David, played by Will Forte. David tries his best to convince his father that this sweepstakes win is a sham. Finally giving up on trying to fight this thing, David decides he’s going to spend some time with his father and take him from their home in Montana to Nebraska where the sweepstakes headquarters are located.
This is quirky family drama and road movie wrapped up into a unique package. I highly appreciate Forte playing a much more subdued character than we’re used to seeing, and it shows that he has great range. There are some moments with some of the supporting cast where I found myself surprisingly pulled out of the movie experience and very aware of flat and forced acting. But overall, I found the film engaging, charming, and endearing. To my mind, it is not as strong of a film from Payne as some of his past films like About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants. In fact, I think I might like at least About Schmidt and The Descendants more than I do Nebraska, but that doesn’t make Nebraska a bad film by any stretch of the imagination.
My rating 8/10
Based on real events, Philomena tells the story of disgraced BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan (who was also a co-writer of the script), as he picks up his life after an unfortunate incident that has ushered him out of the BBC. Lost and unsure of what direction to head in, he at first scoffs at the idea of doing anything so common as a “human interest story.” But he reconsiders. And so he meets Philomena Lee, played by Judi Dench. Forced by nuns as a girl to hand over her son she bore out of wedlock to be adopted, Philomena has had an aching hole in her heart for nearly fifty years. Interested, but trying to play detached, Sixsmith embarks on the journey to help Philomena find her long lost son. Of course, he does so in order to get a great story, but Sixsmith discovers along the way that this simple Irish woman may have a deeper and richer understanding of life and unconditional love than his Oxford-education mind can wrap his itself around.
In a sense, Philomena might be seen as a “human interest movie” by more cynical filmgoers. But then again, the only thing that really interests me in movies is humanity. For my money, Philomena is sublime virtue (a concept I recently discussed in this blog entry.). I was convinced about 30-minutes into the film that what I was watching was definitely one of the best films I’ve seen in a while, and it did not disappoint–though it did hold many surprises! Director Stephen Frears carefully and deliberately molds a beautiful and moving story. I connect with Sixsmith’s cynicism and attempts to maintain a level of intellectual superiority (I get it, it feels somehow safer to be so detached), and yet Philomena is my role model. With every obstacle, here is a heart that hurts deeply and bleeds openly, but she always finds a way to respond with love. The climax of the film had me stunned. It moved me so instantly from laughter to sincere awe that I could scarcely believe it. Tackling very relevant issues relating to continued tensions between the religious corners of our society and our justified anger at what has been done in the name of Christ by many Christians, Philomena offers up an entertaining and moving meditation on what forgiveness means, even when we’re the only one willing to forgive.
My rating: 10/10
Based on the book Solomon Northrup wrote about his own experiences, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave dramatizes the very real and very dark ordeal Northrup was subjected to. A free black man living in the north, Northrup is duped by people he believes will be business partners and then sold off into an illegal slave trade that lands him in the south. He’s torn from his family and stripped of his humanity. Many will note that 12 Years is not an easy film to watch. That is as it ought to be, I might point out. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Northrup, offers us an opportunity to walk for a while in the shoes of a man who has been robbed of life and dignity. And while there are many films that have dealt with the very ugly history of slavery in America, the lasting repercussions from that chapter of our nation’s history still flow through our society today. I’m not sure we’ll ever be done dealing with this reality. Especially as we need reminders that this reality rests not only in our past but also in our preset as human trafficking, just what we call slavery today, is very real and happening in the dark corners our own towns and cities.
Taking notes from Terrence Malick, McQueens uses everything at his disposal to put us in the mind and skin of Northrup. 12 Years might be a completely different movie than Gravity, but both films tapped right into my instinct for survival and longing to return home. Of course, in both stories, you may make it home … but you’re never the same. That is definitely the case for Northrup. More than just twelve years of his life have been taking from him. But the real power of Northrup’s story is that it gives us a real glimpse into the stories of many other people who never returned home, for whom their entire earthly existence was under the oppressive weight of tyranny and hatred. Some movies profoundly move me. Others break me. As a new father looking out into the world with new eyes and wondering how to teach my daughter to fight hate with love, I can’t help but watch 12 Years and feel just how close we still are to this chapter of our history. Our attention spans may be short these days, but next year we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment which ended legal slavery in America. For many African-Americans living today, they are only a generation or two removed from slavery. In the grand scheme of things, this happened just yesterday!
As I said, some films move me, others break me. 12 Years a Slave broke me. That is as it ought to be.
My rating 10/10
I am a long-time Martin Scorsese fan. So it was with great anticipation that I watched The Wolf of Wall Street. The film is expertly made, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is out of this world. Jonah Hill’s performance is amazing. Make no mistake about it, in a very real sense, Wolf is a good movie. But in another (and I suspect more meaningful) sense, it most definitely is not. This Scorsese fan is profoundly disappointed with Wolf.
I believe Scorsese intended to make make a cautionary tale. But Scorsese is so adept at making engaging and visceral drama on screen that I could not escape the feeling that inadvertently all of the corruption, sex, and drugs seemed rather … well … cool. I believe to an extent that was the point. These things do seem cool at first. But there is a price to pay. And so I believe that the film sets out to be a cautionary tale, but the end result falls so completely flat to me that I just cannot buy it. Jordan Belfort, played by DiCaprio, journeys the corrupt world of Wall Street and rises to prominence. But eventually, investigations begin. And while FBI Agent Patrick Denham, played by Kyle Chandler, seems likable enough, he is ultimately flat and uninteresting as he’s given minimal development and screen time. Wolf is singularly focused on Belfort and seems confused about weather he’s a villain or a hero.
What ultimately falls short for me about Wolf is that Belfort’s character arc seems flat. I don’t feel he changes at all in the end. There are only two ways Wolf could have been a true cautionary tale: First, Belfort could have sincerely learned his lesson and set out to make restitutions. But all we see from Belfort is that he’s sincerely sorry that he got caught. Restitutions? Forget about! Second, Belfort could have faced a tragic end ranging from life in prison to (borrowing from Shakespeare or the horror genre here) a grisly death directly resulting from his ill choices (strictly within the world of fiction). But the ultimate problem seems to me that the real Jordan Belfort on whom this movie is based (and who wrote the book the film is adapted from) faced no such end and learned no such lesson. I question the wisdom of making a film based on such source material and find myself in the camp of the detractors from this movie who claim it does more to glorify the corruption of Wall Street than to comment on it.
Clocking in at nearly three hours long and filled with scenes likely worthy of an NC-17 rating (okay, okay, we get it, Wall Street is a sex-crazed land of debauchery, can we please just get back to the story?), this is one Scorsese film I won’t be revisiting. Not only is this my least favorite Best Picture nomination, I frankly wish it wasn’t nominated at all! Sorry, Scorsese. I would have much more appreciated a nomination for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Dear Scorsese, I’m still a fan of your. I just think you missed the mark on this one. But I really look forward to seeing Silence, as I’m a huge fan of that novel. Now there’s source material for a good movie!
My rating 5/5
So there you have it. Those are my thoughts on the Best Picture nominations. But what should win? What will win? I suspect that 12 Years a Slave will take home the Oscar. It is possible that McQueen will also take home the Oscar for Best Director, though I think there’s a chance that could end up in the hands of Cuarón for Gravity. I’m bummed Spike Jonze did not get a Best Director nomination for his amazing work on Her. But what would I like to see win the Best Picture Oscar? While it’s a very close call for me between the three films I gave full marks to, my favorite film of 2013 is Her. I feel it is so expertly done and so compelling of a story that comes at such a crucial moment in our technological development as a society that it is an acutely apropos film.
So to close things off, here are the Best Picture nominations in the order of my most liked (note that the top three are a very close call for me) to least liked:
What are your thoughts? What was your favorite film from the nominations? How about your least favorite? Feel free to comment below. And thanks for reading.