2013 was chock full of sequels, prequels, adaptations, reboots, and remakes. Now some of them weren’t really that bad. Heck, I’ve even have a sequel in my top ten. There were a few originals too.
But let’s face it, it’s difficult to see EVERY movie released in one year. That being said, I tried to see as many movies as I can, which range from those big budget tentpoles to indies to documentaries. You already got a taste of what I was disappointed with this year. Plus there is really no reason to tell you why 47 Ronin, Oldboy, or Lone Ranger are bad, because they just are. So there is just no need to make you sit through all of that. Instead I’m just going to tell you what I thought were the 10 best movies of the year. The movies I couldn’t stop talking about.
But before I give my list, here are five films that deserve the honorable mentions of the year: Monsters University, Much Ado About Nothing, Before Midnight, The Conjuring, and Spring Breakers.
10 – Fast and Furious 6
Only in a movie like Fast and Furious 6 can you watch a cargo plane giving an explosive birth to a car, while trying to take off on the world’s largest runway. It is that kind of absurdity and need to suspend disbelief that makes this film so much fun. Wherever Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and co. are going, you can be sure it involves vehicular trouble of the mathematically impossible kind. Fast and Furious 6 is the very definition of what a summer blockbuster tentpole is suppose to look like. It took four films for Justin Lin to craft the world of the Fast and Furious, and even though the tone of the film changed, it’s core subject of family did not. So while it’s tough to see him let go of that, I remain hopeful that James Wan won’t lose sight of what makes the Fast and Furious franchise so fascinating.
9 – Frozen
Disney’s latest animated film is a great example of what success can look like when you undersell a movie. For the first few months, no one really had a clue what the film was about other than a fearless young girl trying to bring back summer, and that the protagonist would be joined by a living breathing snowman. Sure enough the film surprised us all with it’s gorgeous animation, terrific songs written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, great narrative, and upbeat humor. While Idina Menzel provided the powerful vocals for “Let It Go” – which SHOULD win the Academy Award for Best Song -, no other song will tug your heart strings like the tender “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” or make you laugh when Josh Gad sings the sick and twisted “In the Summer.”
8 – The Spectacular Now
A coming-of-age film avoids all those coming of age cliches thanks in part to James Ponsoldt‘s direction and a script from (500) Days Of Summer writers Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley give magical honest performances, one that gives audiences a real look at what is is like to fall in love as a teenage – or at least remind us of what it was like. The film had this ability of tapping into every single emotion in the short run time it was given. In one of the funniest, sweetest, saddest, most honest looks at young love, The Spectacular Now would have made John Hughes very proud and brought a smile to his face, while making other films about teenage love very jealous and wishing they could be just as honest.
Read my review here.
7 – Gravity
Yes every film deserves to be watched on the big screen, but there are only few films that ABSOLUTELY must be seen in a theater. It just so happens that Alfonso Cuarón Gravity is one of those films. Gravity can be described as a cinematic experience at best. Gravity is a technical marvel. Cuarón pushes current technology to the limits by making us believe that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney actually shot this film in space. Even though the film was shot entirally on rigs, the film’s true focus is all on Bullock, whose character goes through trials of survival, each of them pushes her to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. To top it all of you are seeing her survival presenting in blackness of space in a dark theater is an immersive feeling that would make your hairs tingle and leave you gasping for air.
6 – The World’s End
Underneath all Edgar Wright‘s hilarious moments and incredible fight scenes with alien robots, is a story about friendship and coming to terms with age. The final film of the Cornetto trilogy is yet another evolution of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost‘s brand of comedy. We often complain about how movies are unoriginal or uninspired, but The World’s End isn’t any of that. If you can overlook the sci-fi aspects of the story, you will be able to see that Pegg’s character is living in a constant state of denial, and his ability to repress it with fond memories of his youth and alcoholism just shows how complex his character, Gary King, really is. In a performance that is most likely to be overlooked due to the fact that it is a comedy, Pegg shines as Gary King, giving us a character with more depth than we could ever ask for.
5 – 12 Years A Slave
12 Years A Slave makes The Butler look like a weak and pathetic slap on the wrist. Steve McQueen film excels at bringing the racial divide that nearly destroyed America to light with grotesque horrors, vivid imagery, and a harsh truth. No need to parade a clown car full of actors like The Butler did or try to keep us interested with a unnecessary subplot. McQueen gives us a true vision of the injustices without holding anything back. A true representation of the dark chapter in America’s history. Unlike The Butler, the characters in Mcqueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s memoir see the egregious errors of slavery, both slaves and slave owners. A movie like this comes once in a blue moon, and will have an emotional toll every snap of the whip and racial slur spewed. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an absolutely inspired performance, as does Michael Fassbender who plays a monstrous slave owner.
4 – The Wolf Of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio‘s latest team up is infectious right from the start. While the film is a cautionary tale to those who have access to excess, money, drugs, and sex, one can’t help but be hypnotized by DiCaprio’s alluring performance as Jordan Belfort. But even with all that humor, the film is also self-deprecating, gets you angry, and isn’t ashamed of the fact that has found loopholes in capitalism by rubbing it in your face. So it makes a bit of sense that the film doesn’t have any restraint, because while too much of a good thing can be bad for you, the characters in the film don’t know that because they are living the American Dream. For a guy who claims that he is nearing his retirement, Scorsese continues to fire on all cylinders, and shows no signs of slowing down.
3 – Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers are crafty SOBs. The period piece that focuses on a down on his luck folk singer in the 1960s is a dark and moody piece that boarders on edge of bringing you to tears, Inside Llewyn Davis brightens the mood with the Coen Bros. off brand sense of dark humor. The movie provides that harsh reality that not all artists as great and talented as Llewyn Davis (brilliantly played by Oscar Issac) are destined for greatness, and not all of them will find the glory they are looking for. The music for this film was just as perfect as the performances in this film, and is a direct reflection of its dark and depressing tone.
2 – Her
Spike Jonze‘s film about human relationships couldn’t come at a more perfect time. In a day and age where humans are constantly plugged to their phones and tapping into various social media platforms. Her is a kind of story that not only reveals our reliance on technology, it explores what makes us human. The idea that someone like Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) cold fall in love with an OS like Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) may sound insane at first, but the film feels almost too real. It may look like it was programed to be a satire on rom-coms, but Her does raise a couple of questions about the modern day relationship like: What is love? Can you truly fall in love? And even though the answers vary from person to person, they are also constantly changing in ways we never knew. But Jonze is not afraid to share his thoughts on the matter, and that’s what makes Her a great film.
1 – Short Term 12
Short Term 12 is the best movie of the year, hands down, no doubt about it. Destin Daniel Cretton‘s follow-up to I’m Not A Hipster is a tale of a twentysomething year old coming to grips with her demons, while trying to give comfort to the at-risk teens she supervises at a temporary foster care facility at the same time. Showing just how versatile she is as an actress, Brie Larson shines as Grace, and gives one of the best performances of the year. The film is empathetic to a fault, asking it’s audience to bare the same pain its characters are going through. Each and every performance is more authentic than the next. Every time you shed a tear or burst out in laughter, you are just peeling another layer of this wonderful film. While it has the unfortunate chance of going unnoticed by the academy, Short Term 12 will be remembered by those who saw it, and will live on by its well deserved recommendations.