Cinema: Great Films from a Terrific Year
By Ryder W. Miller

Great is probably a word one has not looked up in the dictionary recently. Many consider it to mean a mover of change. One might hear it from others when they do something that was not asked, but was actually better than something that was expected. Great might be used to signify an action that was not asked for, but improved the situation.

On the web it is taken to mean above normal or expected. Great is taken to mean impressive and something that out competed other lesser actions.

There were three films with the word “great” in them from 2013. The Great Beauty, Great Expectations, and The Great Gatsby. They did not all live up to the word in all respects, but they surely were amazing films from the year.

Some might have been bothered by the best foreign film of the year The Great Beauty. One might think women were slighted by this writer who could not find someone he was happy with. Many of the women in the film were beautiful, but the writer could not find The Great Beauty himself in one of them. He did a have fascinating time being part of the literati and social scene of Rome, but he does not seem to get what he was looking for. Instead his life is without the other person is a Great Beauty in itself. Those who get to be part of some major artistic city are likely to understand what he got. The search however does not end in the movie. One might think the main protagonist is jaded by what he has. One might think that he just really would prefer solitude. It was a fascinating trip to the capital for a film which was emotional, riveting, and moving, despite there not being a lot of crime or action. The movie does defy expectations in unusual ways. It was a great trip abroad for American viewers. Viva Rome.

Great Expectations is a film filled with wonder, beauty, and a dark sensibilities. One finds here class warfare, but more centrally a story about destiny and familial connections. It is a amazing story brought to life on the big screen. It challenges us to think about our connections to others and how that has impacted our life. There are some wonderful performance and great set designs as well as costuming. Pip seems normal enough, but you already know about him from an early age. He is on an adventure to adulthood and gentleman status. They have “great” expectations for him. His love interest, Stella, is almost not human or super human in the clothing jewelry they have given her. She is a great beauty for this time and age, and Ms. Haversham was once also. Stella is also dark and mysterious. She has a powerful presence on the screen. Sadly as shown here there are divides between the have and have nots. Pips life would have been totally different if he came from a family with more money or class. He might of wound up with Stella. His is a longer adventure where he moves beyond the station in life he was born to. It was wonderful to see this on the big screen in a movie, but some will be bothered about because of the surprises.

The Great Gatsby out does itself in the area of set design, costuming, and music. It ceases to be a period piece, instead a movie with all sorts of special effects. There are wonderful performances which stand in contrast to the world and time presented. Toby Maguire does seem a little too young for this role as Nick, but he does bring passion and idealism to the role. Michelle Williams is a flighty Daisy. Leon DiCaprio gives a marvelous performance as Gatsby, a charmer in a world that is darker than even himself. He has moved up in the world, but also challenges it. One could say that he could not cross the tracks to be with Daisy. The film is a bit over the top cinematography wise and musically which might have turned some of the film viewers off. It serves as great spectacle for one our most cherished and sad  American stories. It was a great spectacle last year for a compelling story.

It is hard to know what to call great. It can be something we really liked. These films are not likely to change the world and may be forgotten by some, but they sure made for an interesting time in the movie theaters. 2013 at the movies would not have been the same without them. They did shy away from being too terrific. With there being such a diverse audience out there it is hard to know what to call great these days.  These films were wonderful attempts and for some it reached the great status. They were certainly worth the time.

RyderRyder W. Miller is an environmental reporter, independent scholar, critic, and eco-critic who writes about Nature, Astronomy, the Sea, Academic books, Art, American Literature, and Genre Literature. He also writes short stories (usually genre stories) and poems. He is the editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey and co-writer of San Francisco: A Natural History. He is currently looking for a publisher for a book of Nature Writing/News Columns called An Ocean Beach Diary (published in The West Portal Monthly and Redwood Coast Review), and a collection of genre stories (many already published in Mythic Circle and The Lost Souls website). He has published on the web what could be a book collection of essays about science fiction and fantasy. He is also working on a anthology of Environmental stories called Green Visions. Following the dictum of C.S. Lewis he has come to believe that it is easier to criticize than understand, but not every book is worthwhile or a contribution.