Sunday, January 5, 2014

Best Movies of 2013

I've been doing "best music of" lists for seven years now but have yet to dive into the "best movies of" arena as of yet. I'm probably more qualified to discuss movies over music but the process of watching movies in the year of release is more difficult than the more accessible music market despite the enormity of said market. Anyhow, I'd like to start listing my favorite movies. 

As for my "parameters," I'm restricting movies included to those released in 2013. As it's a few days into 2014, I may have watched a few of these after the designated year. Further, it's an imperfect system in that there will certainly be 2013 movies that I won't see until later on. It's for this reason that I will have a "Highly Anticipated" list in addiction to my "Honorable Mention" list.

As for criteria, I'm simply picking my favorite ten movies of the year. Unlike award committees, I feel completely comfortable including both comedies and blockbusters in my lists as they are as good (or better) than many dramas of the year. 

I think 2013 was a decent year for movies. Certainly some great selections. Though maybe no generation defining (The Social Network, 2010), classic (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, 2007), or perfect blockbusters (The Dark Knight, 2008). Though maybe my opinion will be changed in a few months. Alright, here are my favorite movies from 2013.

10. Before Midnight
Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke pull out a great third installment to the "Before" trilogy. I totally buy the long, involved conversation style of the films. Their ability to make each film fresh, relevant, and appropriate to each stage of life is nothing short of remarkable. And I kind of love that the two leads are so intimately involved in the production process as well. In a year of innovative film-making, Before Midnight adds its fresh style to the mix.
9. Dallas Buyers Club
This is a story of a homophobic man from Texas who gets HIV AIDS in the 1980's. Keeping it from some sort of "statement" movie, the story follows the relationship of the lead and a transvestite as they try their best to live life amidst tragedy. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leno give fantastic performances. The story is enlightening. And it is amazing to see where US culture has come in the last 30 years in regards to both AIDS and LGBTQ issues.
8. Don Jon
What isn't there to love about Joseph Gordon-Lovitt? In his directorial debut, Lovitt explores, in fairly graphic detail, how addiction, of many kinds, affects relationships. I found the style of the movie to be fun and appropriate to the plot line. The repetitive-ness of the filming mirrors Lovitt's character's addiction and is not dissimilar to Requiem for a Dream's use of repetition. Oh, and Lovitt and Johansson really pull off the Jersey thing.
7. The Place Beyond the Pines
One of the under-the-radar movies of the year, I found the story of this long story to be fascinating. The Place Beyond the Pines also innovates with its unconventional story format, where the leads rarely even interact with each other and the movie plays out in a three act format that, to some, could feel disconnected. The actions of all the characters are felt by multiple generations, making for a nuanced drama that more people should be paying attention to.
6. Monsters University
While many sloughed this sequel off as "not as good as the first one," I found the return to the Monster's universe to be a fun, enjoyable ride. While the plot wasn't revolutionary, it, in true Pixar manner, was heartfelt and sincere in addition to being funny and beautifully rendered. 
5. This is the End
Blah, blah, blah this movie promotes friendship and loyalty. Mostly, it's highly irreverent and lacking in much depth. So I wouldn't recommend this one to the easily offended. With that said, I laughed a lot during this movie. All the actors (and there are a lot of cameos) play themselves, making for hilarious versions of each character and adding to the innovative year of movies (across all genres). 
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I loved this sequel. While the original movie (and book) holds the most punch in introducing the concept where children are pitted against children in a deadly fight, I felt as though the second movie improved upon every aspect of the first. The acting improved, the hints of a revolution were hinted at very well, the action was more intense, and the final installments were set up perfectly. I love what's being done with this series. It's not everyday that a violent story involving themes of privilege and power can be sold to millions of teenagers.
3. Captain Phillips
Going into this movie, I was a little skeptical of it's ability to keep me interested throughout considering the ending was already known and the ending seemed to be a big part of the draw. I'm glad I was wrong. Moments of intensity were sustained throughout and both Somali pirates and U.S. seamen were portrayed in highly human ways. To top it off, and something I was not expecting (spoiler!), Hanks' performance of shock after being rescued was nothing short of incredible. 
2. 12 Years a Slave
Again, I wasn't super excited for this one, finding it hard for a movie on slavery to bring anything new to the genre. While it may not have reinvented the wheel, the film was done so masterfully that I wasn't paying attention. Acting was perfect, all around. Elements of power and submission were explored so expertly, leaving Jorjette and I talking for a long time afterwards. Lastly, there were a number of unforgettable scenes in this movie that will go down as classic moments in film.
1. Gravity
Innovation. I've used that word on a number of descriptions thus far. Gravity may very well take the cake in that category. I'm not going to go in-depth (nor could I, really) on how this film was made but the mid-space shots throughout the film are breath-taking. In my opinion, it out-did Avatar in the way it expertly used 3D filming to enhance the story. And while Avatar was a fun romp of visuals, Gravity wasn't merely a good-looking movie with a fun story. No, I believe Gravity explored what it means for humans to fight for life, the death and rebirth needed to do so, and the beauty that comes of it. That's where the incredible shots came in. All of this culminated to give us the most moving and aesthetically pleasing film of the year.

Honorable Mention
American Hustle, Mud, The Way Way Back, The Great Gatsby, Side Effects, The Spectacular Now, Pacific Rim,  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street

Highly Anticipated
(I had a chance to catch many of these after originally writing this blog. Movies that I would add to this post's list have been made bold.) 
Inside Llewyn DavisHerMuch Ado About Nothing, Frances HaOut of the FurnacePrisonersAin't Them Bodies SaintsShort Term 12Fruitvale StationIn a World..., Blue Jasmine

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