2013 in review: Movies

2013 wasn’t a particularly strong year for me from a personal standpoint. However, I can say that what Proust once admonished has held true for me: pain is actually good for a person. Pain tests one’s mettle; it makes you stronger. While the past year has been a major bummer, it also made me perform a fair amount of reflection. I’ve come to terms with a lot of that which ailed me in the past. A major regret still lingers, although I will likely have an opportunity to reconcile that questionable decision in the coming year. Also, I can’t forget that while decisions may look bad in hind sight—and I’ve found over the last several years, each decision seems to carry a heavier weight, and I’ll likely face many more in the coming years—I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for certain decisions, even if said decisions may be viewed as mistakes. Life likely would have taken a different path, and it’s possible it may not have been for the better.

At any rate, 2013 wasn’t a bad year overall. I didn’t have a chance to explore too many new movies, but those that I did see were generally good. Bear in mind, this is coming from a guy who probably saw around 80 movies a year at one point in time. And I’m not exaggerating.

I saw Gravity in 3D and it was well worth the added price. The movie was successful in that not only is it a character study, but it also has incredible visual content. And even though Gravity was the most visually pleasing movie I saw released in 2013, my personal favorite was the more dialogue-heavy Frances Ha. It should come as no surprise I had to drive to Atlanta in order to see it. It was another character study, although one with much more depth than Gravity. It had flashes of Woody Allen in the sense that it was a distinctively New York film and it was loaded with witty dialogue. But the characters weren’t nearly as neurotic as Allen’s characters and there was so much more energy to this film, likely in part because the main character—a character I enjoyed and sympathized with—is a dancer. In fact, I thought the movie could be a cultural statement for people in their 20s today: we must learn to cope with the fact that we’re the first generation in a very long time not to have upward mobility. The American Dream ideal that you are afforded greater opportunities than your parents has been crushed and has resulted in a malaise among young people that has led to the delay of true adulthood.

Rather than take a traditional, crusty approach and say this is awful, I’m going to argue it is neither good nor bad. On the one hand, it does result in certain missed opportunities, chief among them beginning to save for retirement and getting an early start to a career. Also, as has been noted by researchers, the 20s are a critical age because they shape a person’s habits and behaviors for the remainder of their lives. But what is so truly wrong with making the 30s a critical decade? A person is still generally in good physical shape and much more world-wise with life experience. In some ways, it is refreshing to see 20-somethings like Frances who outright admit they’re still trying to figure things out. The hubris of 20-somethings who pretend to think they have it all figured out has long been viewed with scorn by 30-somethings and something laughable for 40-somethings. Also, given the fact that companies no longer show loyalty to employees, what is so great about employees showing loyalty to a company? We’re no longer in an age where the first company to hire a person post-graduation is generally the same company that will host the retirement party several decades from now. In fact, such a thing would be an anomaly. Many have already lost chunks of their retirement 401ks in recent economic hard times, so who’s to say the early jump on saving for retirement will pay off? It is likely to pay off with very cautious investments, but it seems that kind of tunnel-vision-thinking doesn’t always pay dividends.

Frances Ha seems to share this sympathetic view toward today’s 20-somethings, perhaps even argues such a regression is unavoidable given today’s vastly different landscape. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t offer easy solutions either. Frances makes progress but remains unsettled at the movie’s end. Still, as a character she grows, and that is worth watching, especially when it is so well-written.

Any readers care to weigh in? Since I didn’t since nearly enough movies, what were the ones I missed out on and need to see?

I’m focusing on movies here, but will have followup posts on books and music as well.

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