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The Sky Is Not Falling: Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System // submit a post -- nelson@nelsoncarvajal.com

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Friday, December 27, 2013

The 30 Best Films of 2013

Anyone who tells you that 2013 wasn't a spectacular year for movies is either lying through their teeth or is someone who spent most of the year cooped up in their apartment watching episodic television on Netflix. Here go the 30 best films of the year.

30. Fruitvale Station - Directed by Ryan Coogler
29. Post Tenebras Lux - Directed by Carlos Reygadas
28. Side Effects - Directed by Steven Soderbergh
27. Room 237 - Directed by Rodney Ascher
26. Before Midnight - Directed by Richard Linklater
25. Lenny Cooke - Directed by Joshua and Ben Safdie
24. The Place Beyond The Pines - Directed by Derek Cianfrance
23. Blue Jasmine - Directed by Woody Allen
22. Nebraska - Directed by Alexander Payne
21. Mud - Directed by Jeff Nichols
20. Gravity - Directed Alfonso Cuarón
19. The End of Love - Directed by Mark Webber
18. American Hustle - Directed by David O. Russell
17. Inside Llewyn Davis - Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
16. Her - Directed by Spike Jonze
15. 12 Years A Slave - Directed by Steve McQueen
14. Leviathan - Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel
13. Captain Phillips - Directed by Paul Greengrass
12. Heli - Directed by Amat Escalante
11. All The Memory In The World - Directed by Mike Olenick

10. The Wolf of Wall Street - Directed by Martin Scorsese

Without question, Scorsese's most high-fueled motion picture. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of his career best performances in a film that beams with booze, drugs, sex and money--but is really about the hollowness of excess and the supposed American dream (or at least what it once was).

9. Dallas Buyers Club - Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

While it tiptoes on the subject near the end, Dallas doesn't devolve into a total "message" movie. Instead, we get Matthew McConaughey in a raw, physically exhausting portrayal of a Texas roughneck with AIDS. It's one of those true stories that still feels thrillingly alive on the screen, even as it tallies the days gone by.

8. To The Wonder - Directed by Terrence Malick

More experimental than his magnum opus The Tree of Life, Wonder is a challenging work of art, one that requires the viewer to take a leap of faith, leaving traditional narrative tropes at the door and inviting an impressionistic dance of moving images to say what words cannot.

7. With My Heart In Yambo - Directed by María Fernanda Restrepo

Criminally under-seen in the United States, this searing, passionate feature length documentary from Ecuador is part procedural on the back-door governmental wrongdoings in Quito and part cathartic closure for the filmmaker's family, as they must learn to bear with the ambiguous disappearance (and more than probable murder) of their two sons.

6. Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? - Directed by Michel Gondry

Breathing new life into the standard talking head documentary format, Gondry goes to painstaking lengths to hand-draw intricate animations for all of the insightful discussions he has with the great mind that is Noam Chomsky. This is Gondry's best work since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

5. Out Of The Furnace - Directed by Scott Cooper

A modern day companion piece to Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, Furnace follows disillusioned and desperate Iraq war veteran Casey Affleck as he dangerously ventures into the New Jersey countryside to bare-knuckle box for cold cash. Meanwhile, Affleck's older brother Christian Bale, fresh out of prison, must learn to readjust into his small town life while running into a direct course with Affleck's dark underworld associates. Violent and lyrical, it's destined to be rediscovered as an American classic years from now.

4. Blue Is The Warmest Color - Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

The year's most powerful love story. It's vital for its examination of the turmoil found in the finite endings to relationships that we all experience. The film is sexy, full of warmth and is genuinely exuberant too. By focusing on the everyday, Blue morphs into an epic film, a cinematic survey of the human condition.

3. A Touch of Sin - Directed by Jia Zhangke

Using four protagonists--each existing in a corner of China's underexposed working class--as his subjects, Zhangke is able to run the gamut on the palpable, frustrated sentiment felt across the land in real life. Masterfully directed and unpredictably violent during several instances, Sin is the best foreign film of the year.

2. Spring Breakers - Directed by Harmony Korine

Korine's crowning achievement, a brilliant mix of his 'enfant terrible' cinema from the 90s and today's pop cultural obsession with instant gratification (YouTube, spring break partying, gangster mysticism, etc.). James Franco's Alien character feels like an indelible icon on the silver screen, a mix of malice and misguided machismo, cowering behind a ridiculous grill on his teeth (not to mention cornrows on his head). His "Look at my shit" speech is already one of the most quotable soliloquies in recent memory.

1. Prisoners - Directed by Denis Villeneuve

A brooding, gorgeously photographed masterpiece that boasts award-worthy turns by Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman. Ironically enough, because this film was a success at the box office, many critics and pundits didn't see it as anything more than a surprise September hit, which is a shame because it is the most commercially vital work of art of its dark subject matter kind since The Silence of the Lambs (and Lambs actually won the Best Picture Oscar). Gyllenhaal in particular excels as Detective Loki, the buttoned up, tattooed down edgy hero who is juxtaposed against the vigilante actions that Jackman's character makes. Tense, superbly acted and with a thorough script that has layers upon layers of plot, twists and heavy motifs, Prisoners is going to be around for a long time. This is the film that people will return to time and time again, recommending it to others as that great movie that didn't win any Academy Awards. Simply put, it is the best film of the year.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Digital New Wave: Creating and Curating" at 2013 Oceanside International Film Festival

August 24, 2013 - Oceanside, California 

"Digital New Wave: Creating and Curating workshop by Nelson Carvajal & Amir George.

This demonstrative, informational, and interactive workshop will highlight the new wave of digital filmmaking that has revolutionized both the online and offline world of independent cinema. The presenters will tell about new channels and unconventional ways of film exhibition (“alternative distribution”) for independent digital filmmakers to reach out to wider audiences in the industry, which is over-saturation of content. Through examining case studies and video illustrations, the workshop will offer an explanation of on marketing and gaining exposure for one’s film works specifically in the current digital age, in which advertisements printed on paper and physical DVDs may eventually be “things of the past”. It will explain the creative and practical ways to benefit from the digital age as well the problems associated with it. The workshop answers the question of how you begin to promote your film by the means other than film festivals!

Nelson Carvajal is an independent digital filmmaker, Writer and Content Creator at Bridgework Pictures, Video Essayist for Press Play at indieWIRE and for Keyframe at Fandor. In the Chicago region, he runs a successful blog “Free Cinema Now” that specializes in the promotion of the independent and underground cinema movement. Nelson gives marketing and promotion tips for free to benefit young and old filmmakers who want their voices heard. 

Amir George is Program Curator of Cinema Culture from Chicago, Illinois. Cinema Culture promotes and exhibits the work of filmmakers at various events, hosts small festivals, and programs exclusive shows. Cinema Culture’s resume is extensive and includes experience in running “side programs” and screenings at many film festivals and venues including: Chicago International Music and Movies Festival (CIMM); North by Northeast – Toronto, Canada; Spectacle Theatre – New York, NY; The Brick – Kansas City; ATA – San Francisco; Boom Bap – Portland, OR; Milwaukee Avenue Arts Fest (MAAF), and Seen and Heard Music Video Showcase – Chicago, IL."

--Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Press Play "Pacino: Full Roar" Video Essay Highlighted on TV's ReelzChannel

My Press Play video essay for indieWIRE, titled Pacino: Full Roar, went viral and was even highlighted on television's ReelzChannel. Check out the clip below from the The Reelz Show program.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Best Picture Oscar Supercut: A Retrospective

My Best Picture Oscar video went viral. This video is a quick look back at some of the highlights.
Note: Montage is now updated with the 85th Academy Award-winning film.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jean-Luc Godard: "Every Edit Is A Lie"

Radical French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard is still one of the leading figures in the movement to challenge and transform traditional forms of so-called Hollywood filmmaking. Last year, as an exercise in two parts, I created these two video mash ups (essays?) on Godard's own work.

[Beneath each video is the original description that was published on its Vimeo page.]

SOURCE: Pierrot Le Fou dist. Pathé Contemporary Films
MUSIC: "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye (MAKING MIRRORS Album)


Unquestionably one of the most audacious and simultaneously problematic tracking shots in cinematic history, this sequence from Jean-Luc Godard's Week End (1967) succeeds in visually demonstrating a chaotic cross section of human existence. The downside is that we have to (annoyingly) hear cars honking on the soundtrack for nearly eight minutes. In reaction to this, I have manipulated this portion of the film by way of arranging the visuals to Paul Cantelon's music piece "Theme for the Diving Bell and the Butterfly."