Top Ten(ish) of 2013
2013 actually had a lot of good movies to offer.....just not a lot of great ones. There were so many I liked that were about the same level that I felt I couldn't keep them off the list. I never saw Her, so hey maybe later this will just become an (un)even 15. So take a gander and agree or disagree, but these are the movies that earned my affection last year. We'll start with the bottom up.
12. AMERICAN HUSTLE
I finally got around to seeing this, and I liked it a lot....but not entirely for the reasons I was expecting. This movie is far more about the characters and performances than the actual story. The main con itself never drew me in, as much as the emotional cons the characters pulled on each other. Fantastic performances from everyone involved (Amy Adams, in particular, has never been better, and Bradley Cooper nearly rivals his work in his previous collaboration with David O Russell.) But yeah, for me it was all about the character interactions...not the overall story. Besides characters though it's got some great dialogue, a pretty fun soundtrack, and some awesome production design too.
11. BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Original review HERE. I really almost didn't put this on here, and then I rewatched it last night (I must stress that THIS time, as opposed to the first, I watched it with language and other things edited out..) and was just blown away. I loved the first two entries so much that I think the first time I saw it, I wasn't sure if it lived up to them. The tone and feel of it is so unlike the others, that it almost didn't feel like a member of the same family (and if it was, it was a little more of an older, more depressed distant relative.) But watching it again, even though it wasn't where I expected the story to go, after all, these years of waiting for a sequel to this story of star-crossed lovers, I must appreciate the beauty of the realism here (THAT HIMYM writers is realism in case you were wondering btw.) As always, the conversations had in these films are absolutely fascinating and I just love all the concepts being discussed....even when it leads into a huge fight. Whenever I watch these I almost want to just jump into the conversation with them and honestly, what more can you ask for in a movie?
10. ENOUGH SAID
If you know me and my taste in movies at all, you know I just love a good "relationship examination" movie. Last year that movie was without a doubt Enough Said. Ever since I saw the trailer I thought the concept was great; the idea of trying to find out everything you can about a potential love interest is certainly something anyone can relate with. But how far do you go in order to protect yourself at the expense of giving the other person a fair chance? In our social media saturated age of stalking people and learning EVERYTHING we can, coupled with the overall self-preservation we humans sometimes selfishly possess, I thought the message this movie offers was really poignant. If you enjoy someone's company, why not pursue it? Or more importantly, why not allow yourself to naturally feel it instead of overthinking everything.
9. STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS
Original review HERE. Look. I had to put one blockbuster on here, and this one was absolutely my favorite of not only the summer, but the year as well. JJ, you have my heart. I fully trust that Star Wars is in your capable hands. Just don't go crazy with the lens flares. I jest. But back to Trek. This movie just was a ride. It breezed by and I enjoyed every second (well...maybe I could have done without the gratuitous/unnecessary shot of Alice Eve...) The characters are coming into their own and their chemistry with one another is delightful.
8. TIE: MUD, THE KINGS OF SUMMER
Original review of Mud HERE. If we can take one thing away from 2013 it's that it was a dang fine year for the "teenage boy summer coming of age" film. I loved both Mud and Kings of Summer equally in their execution, so I chose to have them appear side by side on this list. Mud had more going on than just that, namely Matthew McConaughey's solid performance about an escaped convict who befriends two teenage boys. The humor in both films was impeccable, but I might say that the friendship between the boys in The Kings of Summer resonated with me by the slightest bit more.
Okay let's get something straight here. This movie is MESSED UP. I feel somewhat embarrassed in my admiration of it in some ways (and honestly would recommend it to very few people..) but my goodness, it was captivating. The cinematography was gorgeousness defined, as my jaw dropped a couple times to be sure. This was like a modern day Hitchcock film, but made by someone who was way more into incest and other inappropriate things. Haha ringing endorsement right? But really, it was such a mystery and watching it all unfold was pretty dang cool. Plus it's the most interesting thing Nicole Kidman has done in some time.
6. SAVING MR. BANKS
Original review HERE. It takes a really good movie to trick me into watching Mary Poppins again. Haha just kidding. But I really enjoyed this movie for a myriad of reasons, starting with: it was whimsical, emotional and beautiful. The performances were all great, especially from Emma Thompson who was seriously overlooked by the Academy. And I must admit, I just really enjoy movies about filmmaking. This one in particular...I just completely got it. Plus it's just such a fun story and time period to visit. In such a cynical time for filmmaking, it's nice to find movies that have some heart.
5. BLUE JASMINE
This certainly wasn't the easiest film to watch on this list (or actually the hardest...that one is yet to come...) but it was absolutely captivating from start to finish. The story structure is definitely part of the reason for that as little by little, more and more is revealed about the former life of our protagonist Jasmine....but the biggest reason? Cate Blanchett's powerhouse performance which is (from what I've seen of her body of work anyway...) the highlight of her career. Every inch of her face is involved in the performance of a woman who is coming apart at the seams. She was just fascinating to watch. Sally Hawkins turns in an amazing performance as Jasmine's sister as well. This was an amazing year for performances, but this one might just boast some of the strongest.
4. ABOUT TIME
I had such high expectations the first time I saw this, and I really wasn't quite sold at all by the time it was finished. And then....it just grew on me more and more over time and I truly understood the beauty of it. It may look like a cute, quirky, and eventually predictable romance (and in fact even starts out that way,) but by the end it grows into this beautiful examination on life and how we ought to be spending our time while living it. I think a great key to this movie's success is the likability of its lead, Domhnall Gleeson who makes the character's journey relatable and one you want to end well. The end in particular is just perfect.
Okay THIS was the hardest movie to watch on the list. Yet...I couldn't stop watching and was completely glued to my seat from start to finish. Hugh Jackman just blows you away as a man who begins to rationalize violence more and more in the name of justice. And Paul Dano was born to play a mental creep. Haha! The tension never lets up and the movie never makes you stop guessing.
2. 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Original review HERE. This movie was heartbreakingly brutal. The acting all across the board was phenomenal and knowing this was based on a true story makes it all the more powerful. Honestly, all the elements of filmmaking were firing on all cylinders in the production of this movie; every aspect from acting, music, cinematography...you name it is top notch. This certainly isn't the type of movie that I'll be eager to revisit over and over (especially any time soon,) but it's kind of like to slavery what Schindler's List was to the holocaust. Told with poeticism and reverence but not neglecting to show the brutality that happened.
And my #1 movie of 2013 was..... drumroll....
1. THE WAY WAY BACK
Original review HERE. One of the first movies I saw last year remained my favorite all year long, and nothing really managed to top it for me. And it's not like it was some amazing new feat of filmmaking. In fact, it was a lot of the familiar; but executed in such a delightful and meaningful way that I just adored it right when I saw it at Sundance. Like I said, teenage boy coming of age summer films were on trend for 2013, and this one was my favorite of them all. The story though not anything new, was welcome in its familiarity because the characters felt so lived in and important. It didn't matter if I'd seen the story before, because I loved and cared for the characters right from the get-go and the writing was absolutely key in that. Right from the opening lines of Steve Carell telling our young protagonist he thought of him as "a 3,"they had my attention and never let it go.
BONUS FAVORITE: AUSTENLAND.
Original review HERE. Surprise! Another addition, but this time to keep my street cred I will not assign it a number (even though it mayyyy have been my heart's true favorite.) I loved this movie for the following reasons 1) My poor heart was starved for a rom-com 2) I love Jane Austen 3) I have to give it props for honestly keeping me guessing til the end. It's rare to find that in a rom-com. 4) It made me laugh. Even if guiltily so...I laughed a lot. So yeah. I love it. Haters gonna hate.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Captain Phillips, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Conjuring, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Spectacular Now, The Great Gatsby, Frozen, All Is Lost, August Osage County, Inside Llewyn Davis