What a year, huh? This is one of those collections of films where, outside of my Top two or three selections, everything else is pretty equal. And a lot of the Runners Up, in other years, could have been Top Five picks. That’s crazy. Do you know how crazy that is? Really. That’s how.
OK, enough babbling: the six of you reading this are all like, “Talk about movies, dick!” So fine.
STUFF I HAVEN’T SEEN YET THAT I REALLY WANT TO SEE BUT BITCHED OUT ON IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER:
12 YEARS A SLAVE, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, LONE SURVIVOR (somehow can’t find my screener aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhh), PHILOMENA, ACT OF KILLING, BLUE JASMINE, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, all the BLUEs, really.
(NOTE: I find it significant to mention these because, inevitably, there’s a film – like CLOUD ATLAS or THE INTOUCHABLES or SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS in previous years – that I didn’t see that would have impacted my list. So I reserve the right to change this list at any time for any reason. You can’t stop me.)
THE HONORABLY MENTIONED:
THE CROODS – Didn’t have the musical impact of FROZEN, but a better movie overall.
IRON MAN III – If you hated the Mandarin Twist, you’re an official idiot. Move to Singapore or some shit where everything is clean.
MAN OF STEEL – See IM3 comments. If you hated this movie, your expectations were/are crap and you are dumb. It’s incredible. Go home.
THIS IS THE END – Several films this year just put me on the floor in laughter. This was one of the finest.
BLACKFISH – I saw precious few docs this year, which really saddens me. That does not mean this is a token pick. It’s brutal and important.
GRAVITY – I didn’t flip for it as many people did, but vast tracts of this movie are simply breathtaking.
BEST MAN HOLIDAY – Wasn’t a fan of the first. Wasn’t expecting much. Laughed my ass off. A new Holiday classic.
SAVING MR. BANKS – I’ve previously stated that I don’t NEED my biopics worn down to the gritty nub as long as I’m entertained. And here I was very much. It’s lovely.
IT PAINS ME TO LEAVE YOU OUT OF THE TOP TEN:
STOKER – I’m such a mark for Park Chan-wook (yes, I arranged his name that way to avoid rhyming, I think ahead) and the way he moves the camera. More than anything here, I’m surprised by how much gleefully disturbed FUN it was.
PACIFIC RIM – My God, the scale of it all. The Jaeger on the beach and shit? WOW. I will probably watch this movie once a month until I die.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES – The colors. The violence. The guts to do it all with only brief snippets of dialogue, usually my favorite part of a film. If you hated this one, I get it. But I ADORED it.
THE CONJURING – Fuck your face, Shadow Clapping!
AMERICAN HUSTLE – I seriously cannot comprehend the distaste for this film. It’s DOR’s best film by a country mile. It’s not even close. Every creative category that you could talk about here is top-notch. You people are crazy.
BEST MOVIE MOMENT THIS YEAR:
The final “Traveling” sequence from my #2 movie of the year. Absolutely turned me into a puddle of sobbing beardness. I can scarcely recall when I’ve loved something so much.
MY TEN FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE YEAR:
10. PRISONERS (Aaron Guzikowski/Denis Villeneuve) – I have a feeling that, with subsequent viewings, this one is going to climb the ladder. Career-best performances from Hugh Jackman and Melissa Leo. Damn close to that for Gyllenhall, who really battered his characterization of a beleaguered cop with terrific small details. An awards-worthy script by Guzikowski that seems to unfortunately be getting ignored by everyone. The Rush to the ER sequence is the most gorgeous thing committed to film in 2013. Just stellar at every turn.
9. BAD GRANDPA (Johnny Knoxville, Fax Bahr, Spike Jones, Jeff Tremaine/Jeff Tremaine)- As I said before, there were a LOT of movies that absolutely left me rolling this year…and this one tops them all. Not everyone is going to dig the humor here, and that’s fine. But you have GOT to appreciate the balls (literally, at points) of Johnny Knoxville to put himself in some of these mortally dangerous situations. To my taste, better than any of the JACKASS movies – and I really loved those. One of those hybrid films like BORAT that will never, ever not be funny.
8. DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack/Jean-Marc Vallee) – This one really stuck with me, but not for the reasons films usually do – this one was ALL about the performances. As I was saying a few days ago, I don’t think that any actor has ever had a two year run in terms of quality, depth, range, versatility and bravery as McConaughey has. He’s just been absolutely on fire, and he’s made terrifically smart choices. And even at THAT…Jared Leto simply walks away with this one. Best Supporting Actor turn since Heath Ledger as the joker – an absolute heartbreaker of a transformation.
7. PAIN AND GAIN (Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely/Michael Bay) – Shares a lot in common with the next film on this list, and really…there isn’t a lot to say about the complexity of this film, and that’s a massive compliment. Why did I love it so? It is, from start to finish and with breathless fascination, UNRELENTING CHAOS. These are bad people doing bad things and making terrible choices and it’s fascinating and grisly and shocking and hilarious. I loved every second of this movie AND I developed a deep and abiding new level of respect for The Rock along the way.
6. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Terrence Winter/Martin Scorsese) – Another that I feel may move up the list with time and repeated viewings. So take all the things I said about PAIN AND GAIN, but add Scorsese. I still cannot believe that a 71 year-old man shot that Quaalude sequence – which, incidentally, might be the best thing committed to cinema in a decade, and I am not even kidding. Amazing to watch all of these guys just unhinge and allow the roles to swallow them. In any other year, Jonah Hill wins Best Supporting Actor walking away. And what’s crazy is…the best performance in the film might belong to Margot Robbie, who apparently has elite talent to go along with being the most aesthetically perfect human walking the planet right now. If there was any film on my list that I would tell the average person that they HAVE to see, this is it.
5. SHORT TERM 12 (Destin Cretton) – My initial comment about this film stands: it’s that rare effort that makes you wish you had the balls to go do something important with your life, instead of just doing what’s easy or what comes to you naturally. This is perhaps (along with my #3 pick) the most *real* film of the year, and in that it packs a wallop. You’re not going to be surprised, per se, by anything that happens here. But you will be moved by the grace and honesty with which it handles itself. A great barreling tubmle onto the scene by writer/director Cretton.
4. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (The Coen Brothers) – Another movie that had me in stitches at certain points…but that also completely wrecked me in others. There’s so much to unpack here, which is stunning when you consider its often inert (by design) surface. I love that there’s so much debate as to what this film means, what it’s trying to say, who Llewyn is and what he brings to the world. I personally loved the non-magical allusions to a GROUNDHOG DAY-type theme for Llewyn, a talented guy who seems to have lost his passion and yet can still ALMOST fake it by going through the motions. What’s the “point” the Coens were trying to make? Who says they were trying to make one? Why can’t they just examine an interesting dude in an interesting time through flawless use of brilliant and sometimes-laughably-saccharine music?
3. DRINKING BUDDIES (Joe Swanberg) – The film on this list that is most personal to me. If it’s not on your list, I can’t say as I blame you – it’s quiet, it’s cloistered, it’s not concerned to pack itself full of charm and antics. It’s about a very specific time in one’s life and a very specific pocket of relationships. And for me, that’s the key – I have been these people, I have lived in these relationships, and man, did this film ever bring me back to that time in my life. Everyone in this film is great, and the cast features four of my favorite working actors. But for me, this is all about connection, and it seems silly to say so considering the hipsterosity vomiting all over every frame. Flannel! Craft beers! Bistros! Camus! I fucking loved it anyway.
2. ABOUT TIME (Richard Curtis) – I’ve talked about being a mark for a director already, but my markedness with Curtis goes even deeper. I think what it’s come down to is that I simply love how he sees the world, and how he sees people, and how he treats them in contrast to it and one another. And sure, this is a romantic comedy. Kind of. More than that, it’s a film about family and imperfection and the way we cope with life throwing us curveballs, and it imagines how we might deal with the whole charade if we could play God with it all. And what this film is VERY smart to show us is that, often, you can fuck up life much, much, MUCH more painfully than it could ever hope to fuck you. I am so furious at the marketing for this film, because they made it look cheap and insignificant and wispy, and it is none of those things. It is a wonderful journey that will put you on your ass if you’re not careful and absolutely move you if you let it. Seek it out, I beg of thee.
1. HER (Spike Jonze) – This film positively mesmerized me. I had no real expectations going in, and when it was over I was astounded that more people weren’t hailing this as a singular act of unrivaled genius. Because it is. It is not only my favorite film of THIS year, but it’s the best film in many. It’s due, in so many ways, to the endlessly interesting choices that Jonze makes not only with the story, but with the near-future world he’s built to encapsulate it. The style of dress…I didn’t even LIKE it, and yet I couldn’t stop thinking, “What a fascinating detail to hammer home.” The organic blending of tech with our everyday life. The clean lines of the interiors of buildings and the engineering of the exteriors, both natural and fabricated, to match. And the characters. At some point, there was a conscious decision to make everything here GENTLE. Even with some explicit themes and sequences, the film so often feels as though its resting on a cloud in front of us, inviting us to be nurtured by its comfort. The call to make Phoenix warm and fearless as opposed to weird and creepy was refreshing, and Scarlett Johansson…my God, man. That she is not eligible for awards is absurd, because this film does not succeed without her FLAWLESS voice work.
And while this is an interesting film on so many levels, it’s also deeply felt. The relationship between Theodore and Samantha is as real as any other you’ll see onscreen, from its inception to the intimate ways in which it starts to crumble. It is, in my humble opinion, the first film to say something new about the concept of love since ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Do you have any sense of what an ACCOMPLISHMENT that is? To say something uncontaminated and insightful about humanity’s most chronically-questioned sensation? That is absurd. It is absurd, and it is a tremendously affecting achievement, and you should shove mountains out of the way to make sure you see it.
Did you make it the whole way through that? Really? Don’t you have better things to do? Well…OK then, thanks for paying attention. You comments and apersions are, as usual, welcome.