It’s a verifiable fact that the most important thing an entertainment blogger can do at year’s end is to compile a list of ten films, out of the hundreds available*, that have proven themselves most enjoyable and memorable. It’s a trial to whittle the full calendar of release dates down to ten – not nine, nor eleven, but ten, a magical tally agreed upon by the annual consensus of global bloggers – but we’re professionals trained in both the mystical art of arcane list creation and the economical practice of reducing an entire spectrum of creative talent down to a bite-size list of bullet points meant to be consumed in the time of the average lunch break. So after 364 days of relentless toiling, I present to you, with utmost sincerity, reverence and confidence in your ability to comment in a civil and respectful manner, dear reader, my top ten favorite films of 2013. Hit the jump to bear witness the to pinnacle of movie blogging achievements (at least until this time next year).
Man, did this movie get trounced by both critics and audiences alike. Maybe it was Labor Day weekend crankiness on the part of everyone else, but I actually had fun with this movie. When a movie sets out to do as much practical (and often illegal) car racing stuntwork as possible, I’m in. I’d rather see a whole-hearted practical attempt fall short than watch endless scenes of physics-defying, computer-generated nonsense (looking at you, Fast & Furious 6). Sure, Getaway had lots of problems (characters, dialogue, general plot, etc.), but it was more fun than critics would have you believe. However, audiences didn’t agree with me, so I’m obviously on the short end of this one.
Imagine for a moment that you’ve been kidnapped from your family as a child and are then forced to live in a prison cell for the rest of your life, occasionally being wheeled out in front of a paying audience to do a few tricks before retiring to your cage for the night. You’d be well within your rights to turn violent on your captors or develop psychoses (right, Oldboy?). Well, that’s the case that this documentary aims to make, claiming that entities such as Sea World have not learned from their previous transgressions, but rather have only gotten better at public relations. While it’s not the best documentary out there (there’s only the briefest attempt at establishing a balance of view points or true objectivity), it does serve to remind people of the common-sense notion that a caged animal can prove dangerous and unpredictable, and that it’s inhumane to use them for the purpose of entertainment in the first place.
8. Short Term 12
While it’s not exactly the “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, Short Term 12 surprised me for the fact that it did not turn nearly as dark as it could have. When the staff of the foster facility for at-risk youths are revealed to have as many issues as the charges they watch over, it would have been easy to fall into the cycle of perpetual doom. Things certainly get dire for the characters, but there’s a little light of hope at the end of the tunnel that pulls them through. (I only wish those poor children afflicted with “affluenza” would spend some time in these facilities.) It’s a tough watch, and there’s a scene in the third act that threatens to derail the whole thing with its departure from the subdued manner of the majority of the film, but Short Term 12 turned in some of the year’s best performances from some of the least-known talents.
7. The Wolverine
You really can’t question Hugh Jackman’s commitment to Wolverine, regardless of the fact that the character has become Jackman’s bread and butter. If not for the gimmicky 3D and forced, “big action” sequences, The Wolverine would have been the most thorough character-focused superhero movie ever. A full two-thirds of the film are dedicated to Logan’s personal demons, his struggle with immortality, and what he chooses to do when that burden is lifted. It’s unfortunate that a speeding bullet train, a giant robotic Silver Samurai and a refusal to play by the rules established in the plot (Logan loses his healing factor but still takes bullets like a champ), degrade an otherwise classic and complex look at Marvel’s wandering ronin.
6. You’re Next
In an age of comic book movies in which audiences are waiting for a strong female lead to stand front and center, we find their wish fulfilled in a rather unexpected genre: the home-invasion thriller. You’re Next isn’t the first film of its kind to turn the tables on the invading psychopaths (The Last House on the Left is another that comes to mind), but it achieves this genre switch in such a believable and effective way as to make it one of this year’s stand-out films. Here’s hoping there are strong roles for Sharni Vinson moving forward as well.
5. Monsters University
It’s rare to find a film that says, “No matter how hard you try, you just might not make it.” It’s even more unusual to find a family film with that message. Growing up on a steady diet of Disney platitudes and positive vibes might lead a young someone to believe in the unrealistic idea that yes, anything is possible. Monsters University took the road less traveled to remind us that you can try your absolute best and still manage to fail, but the point is to stay in pursuit of your dreams. Things might not go the way you expected, but the truth is that the only time that happens is in fairy tales.
4. Man of Steel
Let’s be honest, other than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, DC has been in rough shape as of late when it comes to feature films. Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot got them back on track in a big way, setting up the anticipated sequel in Batman vs. Superman, which brings Batman back in the form of Ben Affleck and introduces Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to the big screen. I took issue with some of the screenwriting choices in Man of Steel, but it’s my hope that those decisions will pay dividends when it’s all said and done. It certainly wasn’t the only superhero film this year, but you’ve got to give the spotlight to the Big Blue Boy Scout when he makes his way onto the stage.
3. Pacific Rim
For as promising as 2013 looked to be at the outset as far as sci-fi was considered, only a handful of films delivered. As a longtime Gundam fan, Pacific Rim was by far my most anticipated film of the year. It didn’t quite live up to expectations as being a movie I’d love to watch over and over again without a second thought, but hey, there were still bigass robots slugging it out with gargantuan monsters on screen, so I can’t really ask for much more. Wait, yes I can, because Guillermo del Toro’s world in Pacific Rim was so rich that I just wanted to keep peeking around the edges of the frame. I’d love to see more in this world, but the characters need some major overhauls.
2. The World’s End
I was anxious for Edgar Wright’s conclusion to his Cornetto Trilogy by the very definition of the word; I was uneasy, even nervous for its release because a part of me wondered whether or not the growing success of the writer/director had begun to affect his work negatively, or if the jokes among the same cast of characters had grown stale by the third installment. I was pleasantly surprised to find that The World’s End was the perfect complement to both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, with enough new approaches to help the film stand on its own. And once you start to pull back the layers of meaning within the film itself, forget about it; this is a definite “must own” for the home library.
1. This Is the End
This was, by far, the biggest surprise of the year for me. I was already a fan of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s screenwriting work, but the sheer number of surprise twists and turns throughout the plot of this insane comedy kept me engaged throughout its entire runtime. The cameos were obviously the big selling point of the film (along with the actors playing heightened versions of themselves), but rather than just having Emma Watson or Michael Cera or, I don’t know, Channing Tatum pop up and say a throw-away line before leaving, this movie had them doing some pretty ridiculous stuff. Those moments would have made the picture memorable enough, but the surreal third act of this batshit crazy comedy made it my favorite movie-going experience of the year, just edging out The World’s End for sheer good times.
*While there may be hundreds of films available each year, it becomes rather a job in and of itself to see them all, especially when one is not able to attend press screenings, travel to film festivals or take advantage of other alternative methods of cinema consumption, save for the ones that are none too friendly on the old wallet.
2013 Year in Review: