Sunday, March 2, 2014

Top 15 Films of 2013

Most people have already posted or compiled their Top Movies of 2013 Lists long ago, but I'm just getting around to it today.  This is due to two reasons:  1) I am lazy.  2) The Oscars are on tonight (or more accurately, on right now), so it seemed appropriate.

There are still some 2013 releases I have yet to see;  Her, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Inside Llewyn DavisDallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips, and others, but out of the forty or so movies I did see from 2013, these fifteen were my favorites.  Enjoy.

TOP 15 FILMS OF 2013

The Act of Killing
An amazing film.  A powerful and important film, one that has stuck with me since first seeing it a couple months ago.  Not nearly as difficult a movie to watch as its subject matter would suggest (Indonesian genocide of the mid-'60s), it is a fascinating viewing experience, as the men who led the death squads tell their stories and reminisce about carrying out these mass killings, even reenacting some of the events.  It's an amazing piece of cinematic work, one that is as haunting and hallucinatory as it is insightful and revelatory, as the transformative power of cinema itself forces some of these men to face the realities of their actions for the first time.  Truly amazing, quite possibly the best documentary I have ever seen and my pick for best film of the year.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Excessively excessive in its depiction of excess, it is also excessively funny, featuring some of the best physical comedy I've seen in decades.  DiCaprio is amazing, doing things in this movie I've never seen him do (his "rally the troops" speech?  Oh, man!).  The 70+ year old Scorsese, along with his 70+ year old editor Thelma Schoonmaker, have made a film more energetic and entertaining than contemporaries half their age.  Goodfellas is a film that has gangsters who act like businessmen and The Wolf of Wall Street has businessmen who act like gangsters.  The films are great compliments to each other.  The fact that Scorsese is still making films of this caliber is something we should all pause and be thankful for.
The most fun I had in the theater all year.  The IMAX 3D was amazing, but so was the movie itself.  Thrilling and tense, excellently filmed with long takes that upped the suspense.  Why can't more modern blockbusters be this innovative and exciting?
A fantastic piece of cinema, the first English language film from Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and he loses none of his artistic sensibilities in doing so (in other words, he's not pulling a John Woo).  Great cast (Kidman, Goode, Wasikowska, Weaver) with an involving, mysterious story of familial relations, the look and the style of the film (the editing and cinematography) are top notch.  I loved it.  
Yeah, this Matthew McConaughy guy is pretty good.  Like I mentioned, I haven't seen Dallas Buyers Club, but this movie seems to be under-talked about.  The depiction of Southern living seems spot on, and the two kids, Ellis and Neckbone, that befriend Mud (McConaughy) are both great, not to mention Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, and Joe Don Baker(!).  From the director of Take Shelter, this Southern-tinged noir-ish mystery deserves more attention.  Seek it out.
Bonus points for usage of old Fugazi t-shirt
Pacific Rim
Hey, I like big spectacle movies too, and this was favorite of the big summer blockbuster movies this year.  Guillermo Del Toro is a master world builder and everything in this movie feels authentic and real, even the giant jaegers and kaiju (man-controlled robots and giant monsters, for those who aren't hip).  The Hong Kong throwdown is one of my favorite action sequences of the year.
Only God Forgives
Those people that found Drive to be obtuse and light on plot would most likely be filled with unshakable rage upon viewing this one.  Not conventional or narrative driven, this is a pure artistic statement from director Nicolas Winding Refn, cinema at its most visual and aural (i.e. nothing is made easy for the viewer).  The neon color palette is amazing and immersive, as is the composition of every frame and every shot.  The film is mesmerizing, perfectly complimented by the Cliff Martinez soundtrack.
All is Lost
Quite impressive.  Robert Redford is out sailing in foreign waters and his boat gets a hole in it.  Things get worse from there.  An almost completely silent performance by Redford, his character just gets done what needs to be done.  This is an example for pure cinema and visual storytelling, with some real nail-biting suspense scenes.  Also, there is a great score and sound design, and an ending that is satisfying no matter your interpretation.  This is one I suggest you don't skip over.
This is the End
The funniest pure comedy of the year (Wolf of Wall Street might be funnier, but I wouldn't call its comedy pure), this was an unexpected delight.  Big concept comedy, with funny sequence after funny sequence, it all works because of the cast; Franco, Rogen, Hill, Baruchel, Robinson, and Danny Mc(FUCKING)Bride, who is so badass he gets not one, but two entrances set to theme music.  Two other highlights: coked-out pussyhound Michael Cera and the insane Rosemary's Baby homage.  Comedy is subjective, but I laughed real hard at this one.
You're Next
Not a reinvention of the horror-wheel, but a solid home invasion horror thriller that offers some great set pieces and solid characters, the best of which is amazing final girl Erin (Sharni Vinson).  Featuring a murders row of current hot indie talent (Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Ti West), along with a fantastic Barbara Crampton, this is a horror hit that will only gain more of an audience as the years go by.
Blue Jasmine
Another solid movie from Woody Allen, this is an actors showcase, not only Cate Blanchett, who is phenomenal, but also Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay (who kills it), Louis CK, and Alec Baldwin.  I loved the construction of the story, not difficult to follow, but it makes you actively participate in paying attention.  Good stuff.
Furious 6
I caught up with all of the Fast and Furious movies last year and was surprised by how much I liked them all.  This installment might just be my favorite.  The action takes on near superheroic type qualities (lots of flying) and the stunt work is amazing.  The bridge scene with the tank is a crowd pleaser.
Stunning black and white midwestern photography and Bruce Dern.  BRUCE DERN!
Spring Breakers
Not the kind of movie I would have ever imagined Harmony Korine would make, but it feels exactly like the kind of movie Harmony Korine would make, you know?  Love the neon soaked atmosphere, at times it's almost suffocating.  James Franco's "look at my shit" speech is a highlight, of this movie or any other this year.
Man of Tai Chi
Underrated directorial debut from Keanu Reeves, some great fighting tournament action and a good story (starring Tiger Chen), not to mention stellar fight choreography from master Yuen Woo-ping.  Reeves' performance as the villain is maybe a bit over the top (at least when he does "angry face"), but the tight little movie he delivers (which is mostly in Mandarin-Cantonese, bytheway) more than makes up for it.
the next ten:
-The Conjuring
-Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear
-Thor: The Dark World
-West of Memphis
-Iron Man Three
-Fruitvale Station
-John Dies at the End
-The Spectacular Now
-A Band Called Death

and. . .
Biggest Letdowns of the Year:  Man of Steel and Star Trek into Darkness.  I'm not even a huge fan of these characters or franchises and I still couldn't help but be woefully underwhelmed by these entries.  The very dour Man of Steel was a CGI mess and Star Trek was just boring.

The Worst Movies I Made the Mistake of Watching:
-G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Utter piece of shit.  I came up with better storylines back when I played with GI Joes.

-Oblivion - Half-baked and under-served dumb sci-fi movie masquerading as smart sci-fi.  From the Tron: Legacy guy and starring Tom Cruise, which should tell you everything you need to know.

-Now You See Me - Forehead slappingly dumb.  Why did I expect more from a magician/heist movie?

-World War Z - A victim of massive mid-shooting rewrites, this one clunks along until it ends unspectacularly.  The "wave of zombies" is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in a zombie movie (zombie movie fans should understand the weight of that statement).

-OZ, the Great and Powerful - Wow, I watched this?  I hardly remember it, but I do remember thinking James Franco was definitely miscast and. . , uh, wow. . I really don't remember this one at all.  Spectacularly unmemorable.

-The Lone Ranger - Okay, yes, this is not a good movie, but I do have to give it recognition for being the only Disney movie (that I can think of) that features a cannibal in it.  Also, that final action sequence scored to the 'William Tell Overture' is actually a decent piece of action filmmaking.  Too bad it came at the end of this movie...

-Side Effects - I'm disappointed that I actively disliked this, as I generally like (or love) Steven Soderbergh movies a lot, but something about this one just bored and annoyed me.  Maybe it was me, but I doubt it.

Well, there you go.  What do you think?
Agree?  Disagree?  What were your favorites of 2013?

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