In my previous entry, I listed the top 10 indie productions of the year. Now let’s move onto mainstream films. 2013 was actually a surprisingly decent year! Let’s do a countdown of its greatest hits.
Contrary to everyone else’s opinion, I like these HOBBIT films. I like that they have all the grandeur and scale of the LORD OF THE RINGS films but with a B-movie tone. Bash them for being over-long and kiddie material all you want, I always have fun with them. And for those who didn’t like AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, this second entry is much more focused and enjoyable, featuring possibly the greatest movie dragon I’ve ever seen.
This is a very faithful adaptation of the Pultizer-winning play about possibly the most dysfunctional family in history. The entire cast is great, but I think the legacy of this film will be to be remembered as The Meryl Streep Show as she just eats up every single scene she’s in. Julia Roberts is good too, though poor Abigail Breslin suffers from an underwritten role. See this film, and if you can, see the original play.
2013 will always be known as the year Nelson Mandela passed away, and the release of this film ended up being perfect. It also features a star-making performance from Idris Elba, a character actor who has been in many films of the past few years. Best of all was this film’s celebration of South Africa and the 2010 song “Wavin’ Flag” by K’Naan.
Either you love Jonze or you don’t, and now without Charlie Kaufman, he writes his own simple fable about the everyman and his love of technology. If you tweeted about this movie or rated it on some app on your iPhone, you ironically proved its point. But the film also features a nice return to grace for Joaquin Phoenix after his whole I’M STILL HERE experiment (what the fuck was that?).
This franchise has been around for 12 years, and it has managed to keep going, reinvent itself, bring back old characters, and have a multi-racial cast. Perhaps this is part of its longevity. This was one of the highest grossing films of the year, and it seemed to be the first time this franchise finally began to register on people’s radars. “Here we are at the sixth installment and thing just keeps on going? Bring on the next one.” Of course, we must bring up the unfortunate passing of Paul Walker, whose main claim to fame was this franchise, and how it will affect Part 7. In an odd way, it took this tragedy for us to appreciate what we had in this long-running series of films.
While technically not a Judd Apatow production, this is kind of a celebration of all the Apatow films, as all the regulars meet up once more in a crazy party at the end of the world. Rogen and Goldberg wrote both SUPERBAD and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, and clearly they have a love for mixing cartoonish comedy with bizarre/semi-violent occurrences. Of all the summer blockbusters this year, here was one worth remembering.
This appears to be the Oscar frontrunner and good! It’s refreshing to see a good old fashioned film about dark chapters of history, not sanitized, and treated seriously, something we haven’t seen since the days of ROOTS. Some have said this film follows too much in the footsteps of DJANGO UNCHAINED, but I actually think this is the film that will be remembered. If this wins Best Picture, I can already hear all the discussions about Oscar politics and racism, reminiscent of when CRASH won. But aside from all that, it’s just a really good film.
In a year of sequels, here is one that’s generally been considered superior to its predecessor, even being compared to EMPIRE STRIKES BACK! The main criticism of the first HUNGER GAMES was Gary Ross‘s direction (which I agreed with) but I was unsure if Francis Lawrence was any better. I certainly wasn’t a fan of either CONSTANTINE or I AM LEGEND. But Lawrence has come into his own here, just like Katniss. CATCHING FIRE is smarter and stronger than what came before, and has legitimized this franchise.
Wow, I actually shed some tears in the cinema, which never happens! The movie is very beautiful and moving; two great actors at the top of their game, telling a story with few characters, few sets, but a lot of heart. It’s a movie that’s extremely “Adult” while at the same time remaining quintessentially a Disney movie. I think it can be interpreted on many levels:
2) As an examination about how creative people deal with pain,
3) As a love letter to storytelling and adapting stories for film,
4) As modern Disney doing a retrospective on what their brand once was,
5) As an examination of the general conflict between Disney idealism vs. real world cynicism.
Round and round the years we go, we just keep coming back to Woody Allen. How many times has he directed the best film of the year? From CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS to MATCH POINT, he just manages to continue making intelligent and mature films. This modern spin on STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE sees Cate Blanchett as a tragic character living in the aftermath of the country’s economic crisis, yet we soon see that she has brought on her own fate. More poignant is knowing that this is Woody’s return to film in the US after a long absence, and after the misfire of WHATEVER WORKS, which tried to recreate his New York comedies, this film tackles American culture in a different city and different way. For me, this was the best film of 2013 because unlike SAVING MR. BANKS, which hit on many truths, this one was 100% true, and fiction is the truth inside the lie.
and the worst film of the year was…
There were many flops and disappointments this year, such as THE LONE RANGER and AFTER EARTH, but while those movies were just forgotten, this one left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. Remaking a beloved film was already a bad start, but Spike Lee has been losing respect from many fans over the years, especially since his use of Kickstarter. But this ugly and unpleasant, bitter film was hindered by backlash over the poster controversy. Basically, this movie left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and everyone has walked away from it in bad spirits.
So that’s my list. But this discussion isn’t over folks, because now Oscar season is in full swing! Join me on January 16th, 2014 when I’ll be blogging about the nominees for The 86th Annual Academy Awards!