If 2013 has not yet proved to be as strong a year for movies as 2012, it has certainly gone above and beyond in terms of controversy and attention.
Seven months in, 2013 has already brought major deaths shaking the industry to its core, filmmakers retiring and sooth saying the death of cinema, think pieces abounding about the death of women in the movies, and grim American politics permeating into the subtext of every film released.
As critics still roll out their best films of the year so far, it seems appropriate to look back on the film news that has already made this year so memorable and tumultuous.
Jodie Foster delivers confusing, thought provoking speech at Golden Globes
At the height of a hectic and amusing awards season back in January, made a speech as she received her Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes that Scott Tobias said in a tweet was "The Master" of speeches, something so complex and confusing to people that it demanded unpacking.
In the speech, Foster quoted "SNL" with the line "I’m FIFTY" before saying she needed to be "talked off the ledge" by Robert Downey Jr. for all the times she wanted to quit acting, until finally "coming out" with the confession that she's "single."
But the real stir came from her later comments. "Now apparently, I'm told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a primetime reality show." Press seemed to think that Foster, a lesbian, but not a 'public' one, seemed to be attacking other celebs like , who the camera cut to, and who is open and proud about her sexuality in front of the cameras. Others, however, thought her brave when she said, "If you had been a public figure since the time you were a toddler... then maybe you, too, might value privacy amongst all else."
"Fruitvale Station" wins Sundance Audience Award
Ryan Coogler's debut film Fruitvale Station, about the true story of Oscar Grant, a black man gunned down in the Bay Area, took Sundance by storm by upsetting the likes of Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” and James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, both Jury Prize winners.
Since then, the film won the "Un Certain Regard" at Cannes and has been released to strong reviews at a particularly poignant time. Critics cannot help but draw parallels between it and the recent 'Not Guilty' verdict of George Zimmerman and the death of Trayvon Martin.
J.J. Abrams named director of "Star Wars Episode VII"
Fanboys rejoice! The world's favorite film franchise has a competent, fairly expected choice for a director in . Beating out the likes of Ben Affleck and other more daring directorial options floating around (Neill Blomkamp for one), Disney finally landed on Abrams as a director with a great passion for the franchise, and someone who can take a seasoned brand like Star Trek and twist the narrative without upsetting a core fan base.
Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens will be penned by Little Miss Sunshine screenwriter Michael Arndt and will have a 2015 release date.
“Life of Pi” VFX company files for bankruptcy
The visual effects team behind Ang Lee’s Life of Pi 'Rhythm & Hues', filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy shortly before winning the Oscar for Visual Effects. At the awards ceremony, the team's acceptance speech was cut short by the Jaws theme.
Rhythm & Hues’ bankruptcy raises questions about the capabilities and future of visual effects artists], with the most compelling outrage coming from someone at Rhythm & Hues himself- Phillip Broste, Lead Compositor, in an open letter to .
"It is not computer chips and hard drives that are costing you so very much money. It is the artists that are helping you create your film", Broste wrote in Film School Rejects]. "So when you say 'I would like it to be cheaper,' as an artist I take that personally."
Argo wins Best Picture Oscar
In a massive awards sweep throughout the season, Ben Affleck’s Hollywood doting thriller took home the movies’ biggest prize. It became one of four movies to win Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director, but won three Oscars for the evening, including Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing.
“Finding Dory” announced
announced on April 2 on her daytime talk show that she would be staring in the sequel to Pixar favorite Finding Nemo, Finding Dory.
Social media predictably exploded over the news, although critics have continued to call into question Pixar's reputation as a studio, with Finding Dory being their fourth sequel since 2010.
Roger Ebert passes away
On April 4, film critic passed away days before the launch of his newly revamped rogerebert.com. He was 70 years old.
Just two day before his passing, Ebert wrote a touching piece announcing his Leave of Presence, signing off with, "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."
Critics and filmmakers alike showed outpourings of support praising his massive influence on film. President Obama even was quoted as saying, "Roger was the movies.”
Shortly after, the 15th Annual Ebertfest was held in his hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in his honor, and Matt Zoller Seitz became the editor of the newly launched website.
Steven Soderbergh gives scathing “State of Cinema” Address
All eyes were on at the San Francisco Film Festival in April for his thought provoking State of Cinema address. Soderbergh garnered added attention because he had boldly claimed he was retiring from the movies after his latest film, Behind the Candelabra, was forced to become an HBO movie because it was considered 'too gay'.
Soderbergh decried the lack of actual movie people calling the shots, the lack of ambition in the choices for the films being produced and the nonsensical ways in which tentpole franchises are marketed. Soderbergh hurled numbers and statistics to show just how staggering the campaign for something like Iron Man 3 is and why even Behind the Candelabra, which only cost $5 million to make, would need to gross $70 million for studios to even want to think of making it.
Soderbergh would not be alone either, as even Steven Spielberg would go on to predict the 'implosion' of the film industry.
Listen to Soderbergh’s whole address here.
Zach Braff launches Kickstarter Campaign for “Garden State” follow-up
Zach Braff created a fissure in the indie community when he started a [Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming project Wish I Was Here, a follow-up to his crowd-pleasing, yet polarizing film Garden State. In the course of just two days, Braff raised the entirety of his $2 million goal and over $3 million by the end of the campaign's run.
Braff's project was just one of several crowd funded projects sponsored by celebrities, including a campaign to produce a Veronica Mars movie. The question became, should celebrities who have access to other funds be allowed to create campaigns alongside other struggling indie filmmakers who could use the money?
Although his film will now forever be branded with this narrative, Braff made a compelling response to the whole controversy, and Kickstarter even admitted that Braff's campaign actually helped attract more money to the site and other projects that might otherwise have not gotten the attention.
“Blue is the Warmest Color” wins Palme D’Or
The French film Blue is the Warmest Color by Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes film festival in a jury headed by . The film is three hours long and attained added buzz as a frankly sexual lesbian love story.
Its victory made waves for several reasons: it beat out stiff competition, including the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, it was selected by a jury with a lot of clout on Hollywood filmmaking, and the film made history when the Palme was awarded not just to its director, but also to its two leading actresses, branding them as equal authors of the film.
The film will be released on October 25th in America by Sundance Selects.
“Arrested Development” returns on Netflix
Fox's short lived cult sitcom had an extreme level of hype and excitement building to the release of the shows' return after nine years. Netflix's marketing campaign did an absolute bang-up job with posters and real life Frozen Banana stands to mark its return.
When the show premiered, it did so all in one chunk to be streamed on Netflix instantly. And regardless of the show's mixed reviews, its release raised questions about the distribution channel of current movies, both wide release and independent films. Netflix's original programming business model is already permeating into Amazon and Hulu, and film may not be far away.
James Gandolfini dies of heart attack
On June 19, The Sopranos actor and film star died of a heart attack at the age of 51 while in Rome. Although famous as Tony Soprano, critics took to Twitter to voice their praise of Gandolfini’s many diverse and stirring roles in film, including In the Loop, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and the recent Killing Them Softly and Not Fade Away.
Gandolfini was set to next star in Animal Rescue, a 2014 crime drama written by novelist Dennis Lehane.
Man of Steel prompts 9/11 Imagery controversy
Although Man of Steel was perceived as lukewarm for most critics, everyone seemed to note that the near 40-minute action sequence at its conclusion scarily recalls imagery from 9/11 as Superman collides into buildings resembling New York’s skyline.
It was not alone, as “Star Trek Into Darkness” and certain themes in “Iron Man 3” have shown how liberal and easy it is for visual effects artists to raze such destruction in emotionally charged ways. Critics have pointed out this goes beyond mere depiction for the sake of art (a la “Zero Dark Thirty”) but shows these images as frivolous entertainment without the consequences that come with them.
Jim Carrey opts out of marketing for “Kick-Ass 2”
I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to e— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) June 23, 2013
I meant to say my apologies to others involve with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) June 23, 2013
In response to the Sandy Hook massacre, announced on Twitter that he had "a change of heart" and said he "cannot support that level of violence" seen in his upcoming film Kick-Ass 2.
Carrey has been extremely vocal about gun rights in recent months, including the scathing Cold Dead Hand Funny or Die short lampooning former NRA head Charlton Heston, which in itself spawned a firestorm of criticism from Carrey’s self-anointed 'Fux News' and Right Wing media in general.
Most felt Carrey was copping out at an inopportune time and that he should donate the money made from shooting the film to charity.
New film website The Dissolve launches
In April, The A.V. Club went through a shocking purge of its top, legacy writers, including Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, Genevieve Koski, and Noel Murray. Some time later, indie music website Pitchfork announced that it would be launching a site dedicated for film lovers known as The Dissolve.
Since launching in mid July, the site is strictly dedicated to the love of the movies and all of its history and intends to be a place where film lovers can go and have their lives changed](), much in the same way Pitchfork has aimed to do with music.
Strong opening for The Heat prompts debate about women in the movies
The buddy cop comedy The Heat starring and had an opening weekend of $39 million at the box office and has since grossed over $114 million domestically, making it one of the highest grossing movies of 2013 so far.
It's not far from what Bridesmaids, Paul Feig's previous feature, ended up grossing. But whereas that film suggested there would be a wave of change in movies marketed toward women, The Heat has suggested that things have stayed exactly the same.
Vulture conducted studies and provided graphs that have shown the steady rise and fall of female-centric movies over the last few years, despite steady box office performance, raising a lot of questions as to why this patriarchy in summer movies is so dominant.
Also making headlines:
Sam Mendes will return to direct Bond 24, Jon Stewart took a hiatus from The Daily Show] to direct debut drama Rosewater, starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Maziar Bahari, and the surreal Sundance drama Escape From Tomorrow made buzz as one of the best movies at the festival you won’t get the chance to see.
And while I'm at it, here are my picks for the 10 best movies of the year so far, listed alphabetically.