Lessons we learned last year at the movies
Epic cinematography detailing the destruction of the world's largest cities, the unabated ascendance of Jennifer Lawrence, a summer season that left a lot of people frowning. A lot happened in movies in 2013. But what, exactly, have we learned?
Steven Spielberg predicted the implosion of the film industry, somewhat correctly.
Spielberg said in June that the movie business would soon implode, with a series of $250 million movies failing drastically and altering the course of the industry. As if on cue, Will Smith's "After Earth," the Channing Tatum-Jamie Foxx film "White House Down," Johnny Depp's "The Lone Ranger" and Ryan Reynolds' "R.I.P.D." all fell flat.
Not that Hollywood was hurt overall.
Hollywood's $4.8 billion summer was the biggest ever. At the core of this were sequels: new "Despicable Me," ''Iron Man," ''Fast and Furious," ''Star Trek," ''Monsters, Inc." and Superman movies grossed almost $2 billion. It was a warning sign that until the epic profitability of the franchise system is disrupted, Spielberg's prediction remains a while away.
Hollywood became less relevant than ever as worldwide audiences rescued U.S. flops.
On the back of huge marketing budgets, A-list headliners and prime summer release dates, "After Earth," ''White House Down" and "The Lone Ranger" were disappointments in the United States, but all three ended up in the black, with international takings worth two-thirds or more of overall gross.
Adam Sandler rules.
Sandler's movies have been despised by critics for so long, they could almost be described as objectively bad. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 88 of 95 tracked reviewers hated "Grown Ups 2." But despite the collective groans, the movie topped the box office and grossed more than $200 million, suggesting that Sandler has a witchcraft-like hold on the American population that may result in the end of the world as we know it.
New actors are struggling to break through.
Michael B. Jordan turned heads at Sundance in January with "Fruitvale Station," but his performance was long forgotten come awards season. Audiences failed to bond with new stars in major studio fare, such as Armie Hammer in "The Lone Ranger," while the 2013 Golden Globe nominations were stacked with nods for the Redfords, Hankses, Blanchetts and Bullocks of the world.
Pixar lost its invincibility cloak.
It is a tribute to Pixar's strength across the past two decades that a "pretty good" year seemed like a fall from grace. "Monsters University" was passably liked rather than critically adored, as has been the Pixar usual. After a muted response to "Cars 2" in 2011 and word of a "Finding Nemo" update set for 2016, the studio promised to lay off the sequels for now before delaying the release of "The Good Dinosaur" from 2014 to 2015, leaving it without a movie next year.
Filmmakers are obsessed with our insignificance against the environment.
Subliminal anxiety about the end of days seemed writ large on the big screen in the fall, with Robert Redford in "All Is Lost" and Sandra Bullock in "Gravity," alone and abandoned, pummeled relentlessly by the elements, desperate to survive.
True stories trump biopics.
Julian Assange, whistle-blowing, government conduct and the nature of secrecy remain hot news, but Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange in "The Fifth Estate" was met with bored stares. Ashton Kutcher's turn as Steve Jobs in "Jobs" received giggles. Reviews of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" have been mixed. At the same time, creative takes on real history, like "12 Years a Slave," ''American Hustle," ''Dallas Buyers Club," ''The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Captain Phillips," should all factor into Oscar considerations.
Quirky trumped dark.
The more memorable independent movies of 2013 -- "Her," ''Nebraska," ''Frances Ha" -- cloaked their meaningful messages in quirk, whimsy and dry humor. A movie like Christian Bale's "Out of the Furnace," with characters stranded out in Middle America crushed under the pressure of a failing economy, was remorselessly grim and sank quickly.
Leonardo DiCaprio should win an Oscar someday, but it won't be now.
Despite delivering two of 2013's boldest performances, DiCaprio's Oscar cold streak looks set to continue. His turn as Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby" was both dashingly flamboyant and unnervingly centered, saving an otherwise troubled film. His Jordan Belfort in "The Wolf of Wall Street" is deliriously entertaining. The movie is raucous bacchanalia, but such unabashed hedonism onscreen has rarely been rewarded by the academy.