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Life struck me as several cuts above “meh” but never made me jump out of my seat.

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Trashy, goofy, and surprisingly sincere, this superhero fantasy is better than you expect but not as good as it should be.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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If We Picked the Winners 2014: Best Director

In anticipation of the Academy Awards, we polled our contributors to see who they thought should win the Oscar. Once we had our winners, we asked various writers to make the case for our selection in each category. Here, Peter Sobczynski makes the case for Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron. Two winners will be announced Monday through Thursday, ending in our choice for Best Picture on Friday.


Thanks to the technological advances brought about by the advent of CGi technology and the like, things that would have once been impossible to pull off only a short time ago are now commonplace sights at the multiplex. The trouble is that since the filmmakers have too often chosen to sacrifice such elements as character and story in order to focus on such state-of-the-art miracles, most of these sights, as spectacular as they may be in theory, rarely register as anything more than eye candy that provides a momentary thrill or two but which fails to make any lasting impression on most viewers. With "Gravity," Alfonso Cuaron accomplishes any number of things in spectacular fashion but its most astonishing achievement may be the way that it restored sense of genuine excitement and wonder to the moviegoing experience--not only did one have to see it, one had to see it in a theatre with the biggest screen imaginable to fully immerse themselves in his creation.

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This ability to create awe-inspiring visuals that actually serve the story instead of distracting from them has been a hallmark of Cuaron's entire career, with each one being an overwhelming experience both technically and dramatically. With "Gravity," he manages to top himself in both regards. Not since the heyday of Steven Spielberg and the likes of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." has a filmmaker been able to not only dazzle the eye and the heart at the same time but somehow make it look easy in the process.Unfathomably complex from a technical standpoint and startlingly direct and pure in terms of emotional drama, this is easily one of the best and most memorable films of the year and the best-directed.


Click here for our winner for Best Documentary and come back tomorrow for Best Actor and Actress.

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