Category Archives: Best Of

Top Ten: THE WIND RISES

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The Wind Rises is a haunting moral quandary wrapped up in an exceedingly kind, beautiful film.

It’s a film that is not only not afraid to make the viewer uncomfortable, it actively revels in it. This is a Japanese film that stares directly in the face of the grim moral consequences of Japan’s militarism in the lead up to World War II, and refuses to blink. But it doesn’t condemn. It’s an achingly earnest, empathetic film that finds the human tragedy at the heart of Japan’s march to war.

When this film was released and slowly made its way around festivals (an agonizing year-long rollout leading up to the wide-ish release of the English dub nearly a year after its festival premiere), the conversation about it was heavily focused on whether or not this film “glorifies” Japan’s march to war. I read good arguments in both directions, but when I managed to finally see the film I fell very decisively on the side of “no, it super doesn’t.” Instead, I see this film as one about how good people can be moved to bad ends. It’s a movie about the corruption of ideals.

It is, in short, a movie about Hayao Miyazaki.

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Top Ten: HUGO

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“Actually, it’s a movie about making movies,” is a sentence that you will hear a thousand some odd times if you ever make a serious go of film discussion and criticism.

It’s one of those phrases that’s coded into the core of the language we use to talk about films, and it’s a go-to for any critic who thinks their knowledge of the director’s approach to filmmaking is the golden key to understanding a somewhat difficult to parse film. I’ve said it many a time – perhaps most notably about The Prestige, Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece (though most would apply the phrase to his subsequent film, Inception) – and rarely been correct in its application. It’s a neat analysis, but it seldom reveals thematic depths.

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a movie about making movies.

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Top Ten: CHILDREN OF MEN

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In the wake of a major migrant crisis, authoritarian politicians rise to power as regimes are challenged and toppled on a seemingly weekly basis. Fear rules the day as people struggle to get by, all the while the hand of government squeezes tighter and tighter as more and more democratic norms and fundamental human rights are waived in the name of protecting the country from the demonized “other.”

I am not describing the world in 2017. I am describing Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece, Children of Men. But I may as well be describing 2017 for as similar as the world depicted in the film seems to be to ours.

This film was released in 2006.

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Top Ten: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

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When you’re in film school, you will constantly get the question, “What made you want to make movies?” You rehearse your answer, because you’re going to be asked it all the time, and you want to sound like you’ve thought about it. Often, the truth is that there really isn’t a definable thing. There’s a long spectrum of things that happened over the years, and a slowly dawning realization. But you give an answer anyway.

My answer was always The Blair Witch Project.

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Top Ten: THE WORLD’S END

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The World’s End is my answer to the question “Why not?”

This movie released in America in late August 2013 – little more than a week after I had started film school, proper, and a year into my college career overall. I love all of Edgar Wright’s films, and had been long anticipating this “conclusion” to his and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. I was there on day one, of course.

I did not in my wildest dreams expect that this movie would be so critical to my life going forward, but I truly believe that The World’s End changed my life.

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Top Ten

Replicas of Oscar statues on display in Hollywood souvenir store on Hollywood Blvd

Way back in 2011, I had a list of ten movies that I believed were the best of all time. In 2012 that list changed a bit, with the arrival of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, but after that, the list remained static for four years. I would think, subconsciously, “oh yeah, those are my top ten,” even as I would rarely ever revisit them and wouldn’t think of them all that often. In my mind, I had done the work of ranking them, and that was that. That is, of course, ridiculous.

2012 through to 2016 were, by any reasonable consideration, the most transformative years of my life. I’ve spilled a lot of ink on the subject of how transformative 2009 through 2012 were (shout out to the Stanton Class of 2012 for making me a way better person through our shared experience in IB, that fiery crucible in which the only true heroes are forged), and I’ve spilled a fair amount more on how incredibly transformative the four following years were. But despite that, I never really sat down to think: how has this changed what I value in movies?

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Cox In A Box 2013 Wrap Up: The Best Ofs

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Happy New Year everybody! 2013 was a great year, and as we move swiftly into 2014, Cox In A Box will be looking back at the year that was with a series of Best Of 2013 posts, as we have done in years past. Here’s a full lineup of what we’re going to be talking about over the next two months (I’m a busy man, give me a break).

On the movies front, we’ll have the annual wrap up done in cooperation with my good friend Ryan Brown. This year, we’ve added a few surprise collaborators to our discussion to make things interesting – look for that sometime after the Oscar nominations are announced in January.

For gaming, we’ll have another wrap up of the year in cooperation with another good friend, Jordan Bolduc. Since 2013 saw the twilight of the seventh console generation with the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, we’ll also have a round up of the best games of the seventh generation – from 2005 to 2013. Look forward to that in the new few weeks.

I’ll be heading up lists of the best comics of the year, since there was a lot of good stuff in that medium. And while I will have a few posts about TV and music I loved in 2013, I haven’t come close to sampling enough of what is out there to feel comfortable declaring my limited viewing and listening habits indicative of the whole of 2013.

That said, we’ve still got a lot of neat fun discussions about the best stuff worth seeing, playing, reading, watching, and listening to from 2013. Look forward to it!

The Top 13 of 2013 (So Far)

Hey it’s been a pretty okay year for movies and we have a lot of good stuff to talk about, and a stacked second half of the year to come. Here are our 13 favorite films of 2013 (so far!), along with an honorable mention.

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Before Midnight

The Plot: Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply reprise their roles as two fateful lovers driving, walking, and talking their way through a Greece vacation.

Where To See It: Currently in Theaters, on DVD and VOD September 2013.

Oh, how the years can pass you by.

I was hardly 2 years old when the first European adventure of Celine and Jesse hit the screen in 1995. It’s now been 18 years since that initial outing, and 9 years since they’re reunion in 2004’s Before Sunset.

I’ve thrown a lot of heavy accolades and hyperboles at this series (best love story ever?) and it’s wonderfully romantic yet deeply realistic look at love and connecting with another human being. But as this series grows to nearly two decades old, it has become a remarkable, unique, and moving exploration of the passage of time– the paths that lay before us, and often even more importantly, the paths that now lay behind us.

They say with age comes maturity, and Midnight is certainly the most mature entry in the series, traveling it’s chatty road with both a weariness and a wisdom that reflects the years gone by. In some ways, Jesse and Celine have not changed at all since they’re first fateful meeting. In other ways, they couldn’t be more different. Yet here the lovers lie, still reeling and trekking through the outcome of a conversation on a train nearly 20 years ago.

“I assure you, that guy you vaguely remember — the sweet, romantic one you met on the train?” Jesse pleads near the end of the film. “I promise, that’s still me.” It’s a moment that speaks to the true scope of these films– a romance that transcends what has been, what is, and what will be. – rb

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The Best Games of All Time – Honorable Mentions

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The Best Games of All Time series reached its end on Wednesday with my choice for the best game ever made, The Last of Us. But there were a LOT of games that deserved to be mentioned that just didn’t crack the top ten. Fortunately, we live in a world where text posts on a global network of linked digital devices are basically unlimited, so restricting myself to a top ten was ultimately rather arbitrary. To remedy that decision, I am happy to present a list of (unordered and unranked) honorable mentions, games that didn’t make the top ten cut but are worthy of mention all the same.

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The Best Games of All Time, #1 – The Last of Us

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“The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.” – Andrei Tarkovsky

Well, here we are. Surprised? It’s a very recent game – it only came out a little over a week ago – but it very quickly proved its worth. This game is a tour de force that puts you through all kinds of hell. It’s intense, it’s touching, it’s haunting, it’s visceral, it’s brutal, it’s taxing, it’s beautiful. It’s everything a game should be, and it represents the absolute highest point that gaming has yet achieved. This is the future of gaming, and I am absolutely thrilled to see where the medium goes after a game like this.

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