Addendum #2 to my list of Top 10 Favorite Films of 2013. . .
James Franco’s pitiful mating call battle cry from Harmony Korine’s SPRING BREAKERS (“Look at all my shiiiiiit!”) became a sinister mantra that echoed through many films in 2013 including Sophia Coppola’s THE BLING RING, Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE and Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. Both BLUE JASMINE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET are nominated for multiple Oscars this year and while I appreciated some of the performances in the pre-mentioned films (particularly Andrew Dice Clay’s surprising turn as Augie in BLUE JASMINE who somehow managed to make Cate Blanchett’s overcooked performance look amateurish ) I preferred the lower-budget exploits of Harmony Korine and Sophia Coppola. Both filmmakers demonstrated an insight into modern day pop culture and social trends that their elders lacked while tackling similar themes with a kind of youthful exuberance and visual panache that I really admired.
The noisy neon world that Korine conjured up in SPRING BREAKERS seemed to have emerged from the dreams and nightmares of his young female stars. The story centers around a group of God loving college girls desperate to crash the endless party known as Spring Break in Florida. Lacking funds, they decide to rob a local diner and head south where would-be gangsters and drug-pushing rappers await them with open arms. The film eventually transforms into a Peckinpah-style western as reimagined by a strung out MTV camera crew when the girls decide to don Pussy Riot-style ski masks that match their itsy bitsy string bikinis and charge into a luxurious drug den with guns blazing. And Like Peckinpah, Korine has no interest in condemning or validating his character’s actions. This fractured fairy tale leaves you feeling as if you’d just survived a dangerous journey through wonderland with a pistol-packing Alice as your guide.
THE BLING RING takes a different approach but the two films share similar DNA. Coppola transforms the money drenched Hollywood Hills into a sterile wilderness that seems to mirror her young protagonist’s unspoken anxieties and complete disconnect from reality. The film was based on the spectacularly strange but true story of a group of greedy attention deprived teenagers who attempt to fill the gaps in their hearts and souls by obsessing over TMZ-made celebrities and their endless supply of “bling.” They take a lot of selfies but exhibit no self-reflection and their extreme narcissism and complete lack of empathy is utterly chilling at times. Many viewers will find it impossible to sympathize with this juvenile gang of fame obsessed cat burglars whose only concern seems to be getting more Versace dresses, Chanel bags and Bulgari jewels to fill their closets. But the film refuses to turn these kids into little monsters and through their envious eyes we’re given a firsthand look at Hollywood pride, greed & gluttony. This is evolution gone wrong, parenting gone awry and pop culture gone mad but Coppola allows viewers to be the judge and jury of the infamous Hollywood “bling ring.”