3 Notes

Money in the Bank & the Problem that Is John Cena

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On Sunday, WWE will roll out one of its most anticipated and unpredictable Pay Per Views of the year.  This particular edition features not one but two ladder matches.  In addition to the traditional ladder match that guarantees the winner a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the main event features another ladder match for the title itself.  With so many participants and possible outcomes, let’s take a look at where each man stands heading into the event and where they may find themselves coming out of it. 

Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match

  • Rob Van Dam & Kofi Kingston - I grouped these two guys together because they basically serve the same function in this match. They’re there to provide big, high-flying spots but neither has a chance to actually win the briefcase. Considering his age and with his style, RVD's current run as a performer at this level can't last much longer and there's no reason to think the company would have him heavily involved in long term title picture plans.  Kofi is an amazing athlete and a credit to the roster but he’ll likely never be a major threat to the championship.  If it was going to happen, it would’ve happened by now.
  • Jack Swagger - Despite, or perhaps even because of, having a previous Money in the Bank Ladder Match and World Heavyweight Championship win, Swagger's chances of walking away with the contract seem very slim.  He has tremendous size and athleticism but his lack of charisma and mic skills limit his potential.  Zeb Colter and the Tea Party gimmick only help so much and creative seems to be stumped as to what to do with him.
  • Dean Ambrose - Ambrose is on one of the hottest runs of anyone on the roster right now but he will not win this match.  What makes Ambrose so special right now is that he’s the only guy in the company who doesn’t care about the title.  He’s not interested in the contract, he’s only interested in kicking Seth Rollins's ass. The jeans and T-shirt fit his character much better than the faux-Soldier of Fortune Shield getup and, and if anything, he’s taken off since going solo. He won’t win, but there is a chance he could keep Rollins from doing so.
  • Dolph Ziggler - Quite possibly the most underused guy on the roster, Ziggler would be an excellent choice to win the briefcase, especially if they pair him up with the returning Ric Flair.  It isn’t all that likely, but it would work.  Ziggler is over with the fans, whether the company wants to acknowledge it or not.  
  • Seth Rollins - Rollins is, of course, the likely winner.  This doesn’t provide much suspense, but the options here are slim.  If Rollins does win, he can wait to cash it in and use the briefcase to continue to draw heat as the importance of his treachery fades. Either way, the match should be an ideal showcase for his tremendous skill set.

It’s entirely possible that Wade Barrett was originally booked to win this match, but he received some legitimately bad news when he was injured at the SmackDown! taping on Tuesday.  There’s been no official statement on his status outside of initial acknowledgment of the injury, but it’s believed that he suffered a separated shoulder which would likely keep him out of Money in the Bank.  It’s bad news for the fans because he would’ve been great in the match and with the briefcase.  It’s even worse news for the company because the roster can’t afford to take that kind of hit right now.  But just because he’s injured doesn’t mean he should be kept off of television.  If he can’t wrestle, they should put him on commentary.  His stick work is too good to lose just because he can’t physically go.  As for the ladder match, it’s possible that a surprise replacement for Barrett could be put in and walk away with the contract  

Money in the Bank WWE World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match 

  • Alberto Del Rio - After four title reigns, a Royal Rumble win and a Money in the Bank win Alberto Del Rio's character has literally nowhere left to go.  He has decent in-ring ability but the Mexican aristocrat thing went stale and there isn't much left.  Not only will he not win here, but his days competing for the top prize may be numbered.
  • Sheamus - Despite a somewhat silly gimmick, Sheamus is one of the company’s better workers.  He has elevated the importance of the U.S. Championship in the short time he’s had it simply by defending it but he isn’t likely to take home the World Championship.   
  • Cesaro - People love Cesaro but he’s never struck me as a World Heavyweight Champion.  He’s a throwback with a vast move set and tons of ability but I’m not sure he’s cut out to be the face of the company.  Despite his association with Paul Heyman and recent heel moves there just doesn’t seem to be much to the character.  There is something missing and time needs to be taken to figure out exactly what that is.  Again, he’s a tremendous wrestler and totally unique but there’s just something about his character and look that doesn’t scream World Champion.  Even if you disagree with all of that, it’s likely still too soon at this point.
  • Roman Reigns - Reigns has the look in spades, but like Cesaro, he also isn’t ready.  His mic skills are the least advanced of the former Shield members and his first title win needs to happen as the climax to a one on one feud with a lot of buildup.  Many fans would love to see him win the title Sunday but the powers that be would be wise to hold off at least until WrestleMania 31.  Let him work a program with Triple H and work on his promos for a while. He’s going to be a major star and a top guy for a long time so there’s no need to rush it.   
  • Kane - The Devil’s Favorite Demon is an even more imposing figure in person than he is on television and should be legitimately frightening when you combine that with the way he’s packaged and presented.  On paper he may be the ideal candidate for a transitional championship reign, but the problem is that he’s been around so long and loses so frequently that he has no credibility anymore.  A monster that loses all the time just isn’t that scary. The importance of wins and losses often seems to be an afterthought in WWE booking and Kane is a perfect example of that.  Kane could win if the company wants to bring continue his terrible feud with Daniel Bryan but that wouldn’t just be bad writing, it would be lazy, which is actually worse.   
  • Bray Wyatt - The one thing that I am absolutely sure of about the current state of WWE is that Windham Rotunda is the best actor in the company.  Not will be, not can be, not has the potential to be but right now.  I have no idea about his versatility as a performer but the character of Bray Wyatt would be just as a credible in a narrative feature film or a dramatic cable series (would he be at all out of place on an episode of Justified or the first season of True Detective?) as he is every Monday night. What may be even more impressive is that the character informs his every move in the ring and, for his age, he is a master of ring psychology.  Unlike the other two young guys in this match, Wyatt is ready now.  His character is fully formed, his athleticism for a man of that size is incredible and putting the belt on him would open up myriad story options.  It would signal a major change of direction, but he could immediately enter into a feud with Daniel Bryan as soon as the latter is healthy or any other face the company chooses.  If you go this route, however, you have to keep the title on him for a significant run or risk ruining his credibility after his program with Cena.  It probably won’t happen, but it would be a bold, game changing decision to book the match that way.   
  • Randy Orton - A Randy Orton victory here might just be best for business.  Without some sort of swerve, it represents the best opportunity for Authority interference and thus legit heat.  It also may be the easiest way for a healthy Daniel Bryan to resume his feud with the Authority.  There is staleness issue at play here, but Orton is a top talent and probably the safest choice.

A couple of days ago, the wrestling rumor mill kicked into high gear when Amazon listed the Summer Slam DVD for pre-order, complete with cover/poster art that featured Brock Lesnar and, yep, John Cena. The quick consensus seemed to be that it was an unintentional spoiler, not a prediction, as to the outcome of Sunday’s World Heavyweight Championship ladder match.  Some were quick to point out that those posters usually reveal little about the actual card and they seemed like their’s sounded like the voices of reason on the matter until amazon pulled the image yesterday confirming the earlier suspicions of many. With Lesnar long having been rumored to return to face the champion (whoever he may be) everything lines up very neatly.  The thing is, as much as many fans won’t like it, Cena walking out of MitB with the belt(s) isn’t just the most likely outcome, it’s one of the most workable ones for future storylines if handled properly though there are some longterm considerations that must be weighed.

It’s likely that Lesnar becomes the Champion at Summer Slam so assuming that there’s no immediate contract cash-in or a title change at Battleground, a babyface should win the Championship ladder match. None of the younger guys, face or heel, could sustain that short of a title reign without losing all of their momentum.  No man on the roster, is positioned better to sustain that kind of a loss without effecting anything, which is why it’s so puzzling that the powers that be didn’t use this cachet to put Bray Wyatt over in a clean win instantly turning him into the most feared heel in the company.  Instead they chose to protect Cena.  He doesn’t need protecting anymore.

The biggest concern with another Cena title run is fatigue.  His first came nearly a decade ago but some of this is something of a subliminal projection.  His gimmick is basically a reboot of Hulk Hogan and older, longtime fans feel like this has been shoved down their throat for thirty years.  In some sense, they’re not wrong, but the ill will is misdirected.

Crowds chanting that he can’t wrestle is utter nonsense, he’s a far better worker than Hogan ever was and has an impressive “matchography” that includes many excellent matches that get forgotten and pushed to the wayside.  He’s been an excellent “face of the company” for a decade but the time to step aside is quickly approaching.  

This would be Cena's fifteenth title reign, meaning it could conceivably be his last.  To anyone with even the slightest sense of wrestling tradition, the notion of John Cena eclipsing or even tying Ric Flair's 16 World Championships is sacrilege.  The timing and impact of his final title run should be carefully considered, both for Cena and the guy he drops the belt to.     

He seems to genuinely like working with younger guys and helping them get over so I can’t imagine that this will be a problem when that time comes but it seems like a waste for Lesnar to be that guy.  He doesn’t need it, it would help a younger guy much more, and the likelihood of Cena and Lesnar surpassing their 2012 Extreme Rules match is nil.  

    

Notes

Of Elbow Drops, Guilty Pleasures & Fake Pain

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I can’t say precisely when I started watching professional wrestling.  I can’t say because I don’t exactly remember.  What I can tell you is that it’s one of the first memories I have of watching anything on television.  Before cartoons, or Sesame Street, sitcoms or movies there was Wrasslin’.  

The reason for this is that my grandmother, all soft spoken five feet and one hundred twenty pounds of her, loved the stuff.  If she happened to be impressed with a certain wrestler her brow would furrow, her voice would drop low as she would say “Ooh, he’s really rough!” while shaking her head at angle.  My grandfather, however, was having none of it.  ”Aww, that’s all fakey stuff.” he would gruffly chuckle and walk out of the room.  

The backstory on that is that he, just like my grandmother, had once bought into the reality of pro wrestling.  That is, until he took my grandmother to see a live show and could see for himself that there was some pulling of punches, so to speak.  Back in those days, promoters were so dedicated to the principle of “kayfabe" (basically, pro wrestling’s version of La Cosa Nostra's Omertà code in which the secrets of the business must be protected and storylines must be treated as “real”) that heroes and villains were forbidden from associating with one another outside of the ring with the ban running the gamut from  sharing travel and hotel accommodations to meals and after hours extracurriculars.  This being the case, it wasn’t unusual for fans to believe in the authenticity of the matches they were seeing.  Once my grandfather could see for himself that he was wasn’t watching a legitimate fight, he was done with it.  My grandmother, on the other hand, either couldn’t tell or didn’t care, about the ruse or what her loving husband had to say about it, because she continued to watch undeterred.        

My guess is she had me watching right beside her by the time I was three years old.  My first clear memories are of the old Georgia Championship Wrestling a few years before it became World Championship Wrestling.  My grandmother’s clear cut favorite wrestler was "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.  Piper wasn’t only a wrestler at the time but also a “heel” (the codified wrestling term for bad guys) commentator.  Weekend after weekend we would watch the matches as Piper's wonderfully shrill maniacal tirades were perfectly balanced by the smoothness and laconic professionalism of Gordon Solie's play-by-play.  Needless to say, Piper would become my first favorite wrestler as if he were bequeathed to me.  Through this early exposure to Piper I would learn the importance of what wrestlers would call “working the stick” or “cutting a promo” and simply boils down, in layman’s terms, to the ability to talk.  The best talkers, and Piper was among the very best ever, could deliver wildly passionate spiels aimed at their opponent or the audience and ratchet up the intensity and interest in their conflicts another level.   

Growing up, I watched as much of the stuff as I could.  NWA (once and again later to be WCW) and WWF were the staples but I also gobbled up Mid-South Wrestling (later UWF), ESPN broadcasts of Verne Gagne's AWA as well as their replays of old WCCW show.  In later years this would extend to ECW, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and ESPN's final wrestling show GWF.  Unlike many fans, I loved it all and wouldn’t pick one promotion over another or, to put it more precisely, I wouldn’t have wanted to give any of them up.  At one point I randomly decided to root solely for heels in the NWA and babyfaces in the WWF but I suspect that had more to do with Ric Flair's legendary Four Horsemen faction being NWA heels and Roddy Piper's WWE face turn than any real distinction between the promotions.    

Much like his father-in-law, my dad scoffed at my interest in wrestling.  ”You don’t believe that’s real, do ya?” he’d mock groan and follow it up with a bellow-y cackle.  I’d usually respond with a flurry of (Wooooooo!) "Nature Boy" Ric Flair-style reverse knife edge chops and the occasional diving double axe handle (Oooh Yeah!) from high atop the arm of the living room couch a la the "Macho Man" Randy Savage.  Perhaps in an effort to separate the “real” from the “fake” he took me to the local armory to watch, what was at that point, the richest fight in championship boxing history via the forgotten phenomenon of closed circuit TV.  Dubbed "Once and For All" the main event featured "Iron" Mike Tyson facing Michael “Jinx” Spinks, both undefeated, for the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship.  

There we sat, after standing in long lines for sodas and popcorn, on folding steel chairs in this vast arena staring at a large screen where, after endless preliminary bouts and pre-fight hype Tyson knocked Spinks out in 91 seconds.  Tyson was a monster, especially in those days, but ninety-freaking-one-freaking-seconds?  Wrestling may not be “real” but it’s rarely this disappointing or lacking in entertainment value.  Even the made-for-TV squash matches were longer than this.  A year later I would set front row in the very same arena for a much entertaining NWA card headlined by a World Heavyweight Championship match between Ric Flair and Terry Funk, and a decade later "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels would suffer the dame fate as Michael Spinks when Tyson would knock him out in a WWF ring at WrestleMania XIV.

My parents were good sports though, gamely agreeing to take me to both WrestleMania III (Yes, I was there when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant… ) and IV (and when Savage won his first World Championship) with a Great American Bash ("The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes over Tully Blanchard in a lights out barbed wire ladder match for $100,000) in between, thus feeding the addiction that my maternal grandmother had instigated just as callously as if she were the mythical playground drug dealer.  I would go on to pass it along to my little brother before he was ten years old.  

I continued to attend TV tapings and house shows throughout my high school and college years as I simultaneously learned that a love wrestling was something that wasn’t going to earn me much in the way of cachet.  Even as wrestling was hitting peak popularity during the Monday Night Wars and most of my floor would gather weekly in a tiny dorm room to watch the shows, I was consistently given grief over it by my then-girlfriend.  As I was studying Film and Popular Culture, one of her favorite refrains was, “I can’t believe you’re this intelligent film buff and you like WRESSSS-LING … ugh,” complete with punctuational eye roll.  Silly me, there I was thinking that professional wrestling fit into the aforementioned Popular Culture.

Enough of this type of abuse drove my wrestling fandom below the surface.  I never lost interest or totally gave it up but I certainly didn’t advertise my now guilty pleasure of fake pain.  I checked in on WWE and dabbled in Ring of Honor but the few times I gave TNA a chance it seemed like the senior circuit so my interest was small.  On occasion I would get an urge and spend a day pulling up recent indie matches on YouTube.  At my least engaged, when I wasn’t watching the television product, I still kept up, read the dirt sheets, searched out results.

That began to change one Monday night about five years ago.  I was flipping channels as I sat beside my girlfriend when I stopped on Raw.  She laughed at first but when made a move toward the remote she asked me not not to.  That was it.  That’s all it took. She was hooked and with that my love of wrestling was back out of the closet. 

I guess you could say it started somewhat slowly with a Raw here and a SmackDown! there and then an occasional PPV before eventually becoming a weekly ritual.  And then came the WWE Network putting nearly forty years of wrestling at my fingertips.  ”Finally, The …” um, never mind.  

When Raw hit Cleveland this past Monday night, I attended my first wrestling show in over a decade.  I saw great singles matches between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins (the two best “bumpers” on the roster), "Bad News" Barrett and Dean Ambrose in a very different physical bout, and the amazing Bray Wyatt and Sheamus before a battle royal and a gimmick stretcher match between John Cena and Kane (who loses very frequently for a guy who’s supposed to be a scary demon) for the final two spots in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship ladder match at the Money in the Bank PPV (not to mention the debut of the wonderful Stardust).  It was the ultimate tasting menu for the wrestling fan but more than anything I was reminded of the high production value and relative smoothness of WWE's weekly, live three hour television broadcast.  Anyone who's ever seen a professional sports draft or an NFL pre-game show should have some idea of the difficulty of this achievement.  WWE does not get enough credit for the technical quality of their television product.  All of this made me begin to question just how guilty I should feel about this pleasure of mine.

It has always bothered me that the word “fake” has been closely associated with wrestling.  I mean, certainly no one doubts that it’s “scripted” and that the outcomes are “pre-determined” but why not just use those words?  Certainly the athleticism and conditioning of these performers (well, most of them anyway) is not fake.  Many of the bumps and injuries aren’t fake either.  Ask Mick Foley how fake it felt when he fell nearly twenty two feet from the top of Hell in a Cell trough the announce table separating his shoulder or ask Triple H about his “fake” torn quadriceps tendon.  Besides no one comes out of The Expendables 47 and complains about the fakery of eighty-year-old men taking out entire armies.    

In an age when comic book publishers have their own movie studios and Hollywood cranks out half billion dollar CGI based disaster porn that even the most thoughtful film critics are forced to treat seriously due their sheer ubiquity, not to mention the relentlessness of their marketing campaigns, is it so ridiculous to treat professional wrestling with the same respect that other forms of populist, mainstream entertainment receive?  Pro wrestling has a rich history, deeply subcultural roots, classical storytelling modes and a large codified vocabulary all it’s own, not to mention all the meta aspects at play with backstage politics and “heat” or animosity between wrestlers, all making it ripe for serious analysis and contextualization.

David Shoemaker aka The Masked Man, whose book The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Pro Wrestling may just be the best non-memoir ever written on the subject, does an excellent job of both humanizing the men behind the characters and placing wrestling in it’s proper pop cultural context in his columns for Grantland and formerly Deadspin but there isn’t much else out there.  Even with all of the wrestling stuff available on the world wide web, once you get past the news & rumors, rants & raves and the ever present fun but frivolous fantasy booking, there doesn’t seem to be that much writing of substance.  Why not throw my hat in the, ahem, ring, so to speak.  I’ve ended up writing about everything else I love so maybe the time has come.  I can promise that I won’t repeatedly write stuff like, “more people used to watch wrestling than currently watch wrestling,” and such grumbly complaints.  ”If you sm…” again, sorry, never mind.      

While we’re one the subject, here are some story ideas and general creative directions that might help steer the course as WWE enters what seems to be a transitional period.  This isn’t fantasy booking but rather some simple story ideas from someone who has a grasp of dramatics and the general principles of storytelling as well as a love and understanding of what Good Ol’ JR would call “the genre”:

  • Considering wrestling’s rich history of working real events from the lives of the participants into storylines, WWE should use its recent financial uncertainty to its narrative advantage.  The simplest way of doing this is to bring Vince McMahon back to television and have him feud with Triple H and Stephanie for control of the company.  This could potentially get rolling at Money in the Bank when the Authority would interfere in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match to crown their handpicked champion.  As he approaches 70, Vince could portray a much more avuncular “Patriarch of Wrestling” character who has seen error of the evil “Mr McMahon's” ways and now simply wants to give to back to the business that has given him so much and will no longer stand for the meddling of his daughter and son-in-law.  This much more traditional “Uncle Vince" type character could align himself with Daniel Bryan, vowing to make sure Bryan gets an immediate title shot upon his return, and others with either some connection to the past or more technical ring styles.  The most successful angle in WWE history was the conflict between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon, if handled correctly this could be much closer to that than the failed Raw vs. SmackDowwn! stuff.  The idea fits in easily with the current creative direction and generates countless spinoffs stories organically, a few of which are below.
  • With the news that Ric Flair is on his way back to WWE television on a weekly basis, the opportunity opens up to reference the past as well as advance the careers of some talent that the writers seem to struggle with using.  "The Nature Boy", at the behest of "Uncle Vince", will put together and lead a new Four Horsemen (call them that or don’t, the idea is still the same) consisting of The Miz, Dolph Ziggler"Bad News" Barrett and Cody Rhodes Dean Ambrose(Rhodes was my original idea for this spot before he debuted the excellent Stardust gimmick on Raw, which it appears the WWE is going to run with for the time being.  If they decide to split Cody and his brother up he could still work for this, otherwise Ambrose is appropriate and possibly ideal for a group like The Horsemen).  Each of these guys has either not received the packging and push they deserved or bottomed out creatively and failed to live up to expectations.  This would give each a chance to break their own mold a little bit and borrow some gravitas from wrestling history to go with their already excellent in-ring work.  As for Ziggler, one of the companies best workers, it’s probably too late to get out from under that terrible ring name (though Mick Foley claims to have an idea) but I would dry the hair, pull it back and lose the hot pants.
  • I’ve seen this basic idea advanced elsewhere, most notably by Jim Ross, but it also folds in perfectly here:  Uncle Vince creates a World Television Championship that will be exclusively defended each week on Raw at the same time, in the same segment in a 20 minute time limit bout.  I would argue that this title would be best used on the very top guy last promoted out of NXT.  This would give younger, less experienced wrestlers with high ceilings the opportunity to quickly become seasoned, wrestling matches of significance in front of large crowds on live television or as Ross has suggested you could put it on someone like Ziggler in an effort to guarantee an excellent wrestling match each and every week.  Either way makes a ton of sense.  Needless to say, you crown the champion in a tournament on Raw that could either dominate an entire show (the first time Uncle Vince uses his power?) or string it out over several weeks in what will become its normal time slot.  
  • As rumor has, Vince is not sold on the characters of either Bo Dallas or Adam Rose.  This could also be used creatively as Triple H could use them against Uncle Vince sending Dallas to constantly suck up to him and Rose to repeatedly prank him and throw parties for him.  This would give those characters something to do on television each week giving them the possible chance to get over as well as possibly add some actual laughs to the frequently terrible humor segments.

None of those ideas attempt to reinvent the wheel and it doesn’t take much to see how the initial Vince vs. Triple H and Steph feud could supply endless storytelling options and possibly help pull the company out of what some would call a bit of a funk.     

 … now, where do I pick up my IWC membership card?

4 Notes

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) 8.9

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  • Direction: 2.9 out of 3.0
  • Writing: 1.3 out of 1.5
  • Performances: 0.9 out of 1.0
  • Cinematography: 0.8 out of 1.0
  • Editing: 0.8 out of 1.0
  • Sound & Music: 0.8 out of 1.0
  • Creativity/Originality: 1.4 out of 1.5
  • Total: 8.9 out of 10

To criticize the films of Wes Anderson as being hermetically sealed terrariums with bric-a-brac ecosystems so overly controlled as to leave little room for human emotion would be to overlook the undercurrent of melancholic longing and regret that runs through the director’s work.  That his style, which probably reached its maximalist peak with The Fantastic Mr. Fox, can at times begin to suffocate, however, is difficult to ignore.  The Grand Budapest Hotel, a screwball caper set in three distinct time periods (each with its own distinct aspect ratio) mostly avoids this pitfall by being easily the most visceral entry in Anderson's filmography, throwing in a murder, severed body parts and a first person point-of-view high speed chase down a snow covered mountain.  Danger, at least what passes for it in the cinematic world of Anderson —skull ring and leather wearing thugs and an invading fascist army with one hell of a designer— lurks around every corner for the inhabitants of the fictional alpine state of Zubrowka.

The Grand Budapest Hotel sports several layers of story within story, but the film’s ostensible narrative follows the adventures of the hotel’s charmingly roguish concierge Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and his wonderfully named lobby boy sidekick Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori).  When one of the many wealthy, older guests that Gustave has made a habit of bedding passes away under mysterious circumstances, the legendary concierge finds himself to be the target of both the authorities and the woman’s treacherous family.  It’s not news that actors seem to love to work with Anderson as what could be considered as his stock company contains some of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces, but the ease with which established and experienced stars such as Fiennes slip into his ensembles remains surprising.  Even if he occasionally underuses a genius talent like Mathieu Amalric, he makes up for it by doing things like having Willem Dafoe chop off people’s fingers. He may never top the freshness and immediacy of Rushmore when it was released, but aside from that, The Grand Budapest Hotel could well go down as his best film.          

Notes

Viewing Habits 

My Letterboxd for the past 56 days.

1 Notes

//M/S/P// Best of 2013: Cinema Edition: Top 50 Narrative Features of the Year

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Each of the above films received their initial U.S. release, theatrical or otherwise, in 2013.  Links to the original reviews of the films that I wrote about are built in to the list on my Letterboxd page which is linked here.  There you can also sift through my viewing diary looking for the holes in 2013 viewing such as Zhangke Jia's A Touch of Sin or Jonathan Rosenbaum favorite Gloria

2 Notes

//M/S/P// Best of 2013: Cinema Edition: Top 10 Directors of the Year

  • 10. Ethan & Joel Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis

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  • 9. David Lowery - Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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  • 8. Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave

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  • 7. Martin ScorseseThe Wolf of Wall Street

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  • 6. Abbas KiarostamiLike Someone in Love

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  • 5. Andrew Bujalski - Computer Chess

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  • 4. Jem Cohen - Museum Hours 

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  • 3. Alain Resnais - You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet 

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  • 2. Spike Jonze - Her 

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  • 1. Shane Carruth - Upstream Color 

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17 Notes

//M/S/P// Best of 2013: Cinema Edition: Top 10 Female Lead Performances of the Year

  • 10. Brie Larson as Grace in Short Term 12

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  • 9. Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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  • 8. Julie Delpy as Celine in Before Midnight 

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  • 7. Bérénice Bejo as Marie Brisson in The Past

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  • 6. Mary Margaret O’Hara as Anne in Museum Hours

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  • 5. Cate Blanchett as Jasmine in Blue Jasmine 

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  • 4. Greta Gerwig as Frances in Frances Ha 

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  • 3. Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser in American Hustle 

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  • 2. Amy Seimetz as Kris in Upstream Color 

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  • 1. Adèle Exarchopoulos as Adéle in Blue is the Warmest Color

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7 Notes

//M/S/P// Best of 2013: Cinema Edition: Top 10 Male Lead Performances of the Year

  • 10. Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardello in The Great Beauty

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  • 9. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave

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  • 8. Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints 

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  • 7. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street

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  • 6. Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodruf in Dallas Buyers Club

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  • 5. Bobby Summer as Johan in Museum Hours

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  • 4. Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station 

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  • 3. Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis in Inside Llewyn Davis

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  • 2. Robert Redford as Our Man in All is Lost 

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  • 1. Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore in Her 

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2 Notes

//M/S/P// Best of 2013: Cinema Edition: Best Screenwriting of the Year

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  • 10. The Wolf of Wall Street - Terence Winter
  • 9. The Counselor - Cormac McCarthy  
  • 8. Mud - Jeff Nichols
  • 7. All is Lost - J.C. Chandor
  • 6. The Past - Asghar Farhadi 
  • 5. In the House - Juan Mayorga & François Ozon
  • 4. Before Midnight- Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke
  • 3. Inside Llewyn Davis- Ethan & Joel Coen
  • 2. Upstream Color - Shane Carruth 
  • 1. Her - Spike Jonze 

2 Notes

//M/S/P// Best of 2013: Cinema Edition: Best Cinematography of the Year

  • 10. Upstream Color - Shane Carruth

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  • 9. Like Someone In Love - Katsumi Yanagijima

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  • 8. 12 Years a Slave - Sean Bobbitt

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  • 7. Prisoners - Roger Deakins

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  • 6. Spring Breakers - Benoît Debie

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  • 5. Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki (not to mention his work on To The Wonder)

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  • 4. Her - Hoyte Van Hoytema

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  • 3. Computer Chess - Matthias Grunsky 

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  • 2. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints - Bradford Young

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  • 1. Inside Llewyn Davis - Bruno Delbonnel

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