I have a theory: let’s say that The Doctor undergoes a bit of a midlife crisis circa 2006, materializing in the regeneration into David Tennant and Matt Smith, his two youngest bodies at a ripe old age that he’s maybe starting to feel a little bit. He learns some lessons, experiences some things, reconciles aspects of his old, warmongering nature in the form of John Hurt’s “War Doctor,” and finally takes the form of a more “age appropriate,” older gentleman in the person of Peter Capaldi. This season, the midlife crisis is over and The Doctor is coming to terms with himself and his age and is now engaging in some old man stuff like watching his daughter figure grow up and replace him with a new male figure. Continue reading
4. Michael B. Jordan: Fruitvale Station
The biggest Oscar snub by far in my opinion. He’s been at it since he was young and was great on The Wire as a teenager but this is an incredibly mature and accomplished performance for someone his age. There was no more full picture of a single character than Jordan painted for us in Fruitvale Station. This film reminded me a bit of classic neo-realism like Bicycle Thieves, showing us a single day in the life of a completely ordinary citizen simply living his life that day and all that entails. Fruitvale is not about a shooting, it’s about a young man who’s life was taken abruptly and unexpectedly. What the film does best is show us Oscar Grant’s humanity, which is channeled through and personified to the smallest detail by Michael B. Jordan in a nuanced, understated and moving performance. The academy seemed to only have enough room in their collective hearts for one “black film” this year, which is a real shame, because I actually thought this one was better than the one they chose.
While there are no genres I completely dislike, there are two genres in particular that I enjoy less than others. One is romantic comedy, the other is the heist genre. As I mentioned, there are exceptions (the Ocean’s films, Kubrick’s The Killing, Inception), but I’m usually bored out of my mind with heist scenarios. Continue reading
5. Jennifer Lawrence: American Hustle
Lawrence manages to deliver a performance that’s equal parts hilarious, sexy, and maddeningly ridiculous. She’s even better here than she was in Silver Linings. The only thing funnier than “the microwave scene” in 2013 was the “quallude sequence” in The Wolf of Wall Street. “Don’t put metal in the science oven” is now my favorite David Russell line. This is one of those supporting performances that you want to be a bigger part, but its part of why she’s so compelling is that when she’s on screen she dominates and when she’s not you miss her presence. Her manner and her energy remind me a bit of Gena Rowlands, and I do not make that comparison lightly. She’s just a natural with a presence and maturity way beyond her years. When you watch her she comes across as a twenty-year veteran, not someone in their early twenties, and her trophies already accumulated are a testament to that. I would pay money to watch her fold laundry for two hours. She’d get an Oscar nomination for that too.
Episodes like this are why I watch Doctor Who. Episodes like this are why I watch television. This was vintage Moffat in the style of “Blink” and “Silence In The Library”, and he hasn’t done one of these in awhile. Psychologically taut, atmospheric, so fun, and so very clever. Continue reading
6. Chewitel Ejiofor: 12 Years A Slave
I find it incredible how this performance got lost in the shuffle of awards season. Were I a member of the AMPAS, he would have been my second choice for Best Actor after my #2 pick from this list, and I thought 2013 was the best Lead Actor pool in recent memory. I’m not quite sure the average viewer is aware of the physical toll this part must have taken on him, to say nothing of the mental aspects. I’ve been a fan of his for years, and this is his masterpiece. My favorite moments of his in this film are all dialogue-free: his reactions in big moments, his gracious smile, the singing of the spiritual at the funeral, and any moment in which he’s listening. He’s just got “that face” and he can communicate and do so much with it. He can do anything.
This was a fun one. The “pissing contests” between The Doctor and Robin Hood were particularly entertaining. This is the first time we’ve gotten to see this new Doctor play the cranky old man to a younger hero type, something they obviously couldn’t do with Tennant or Smith but something they should now take full advantage of. Continue reading
Much like Fox Network’s excellent Cosmos with the outstanding Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “Into The Dalek” was basically an episode of The Magic School Bus with a much better teacher than the insufferable Miss Frizzle. Whatever the state of The Doctor’s pedagogical accumen, I have to say I didn’t walk away from this episode feeling like I actually learned anything new or exciting about Daleks. I could’t help but feel like we’ve seen most of this before. Part of this is pretty much unavoidable; part of what’s great about Daleks is their consistency-Daleks are reliable. I’m not sure we learned anything about the Doctor either, as its been well-established that he’s basically a war criminal who hates Daleks at a fundamental level. Continue reading