Why am I coming out with my favorites of 2013 today? Well, I have had a lot of time on my hand, so I figured why not? I think this list has a nice blend of films. Maybe you liked some, maybe you didn’t like others. Enjoy.
What you need to know: Tom Hanks crushes it. His performance of restraint takes true acting gravitas and the final scene of release is as powerful an acting moment that is humanly possible. He did not get nominated for an Oscar, but that does not diminish his amazing performance, which really carries the film. Not far behind is Barkhad Abdi, a newbie actor who plays one of the Somali pirates. Props to Abdi for being nominated for Best Supporting Actor. A really nice story. Limousine driver to Oscar nominated actor. Not too shabby.
The second installment in The Hobbit trilogy is much more dynamic than the first. And although Peter Jackson creates a new character, the story as a whole flows much better, so I can’t really complain. And as a fan of Tolkien and Middle Earth, The Desolation of Smaug fits right in and wets the pallet for the third film that comes out later this year. And by the way, I dislike all the fuss about Peter Jackson making this a trilogy. Yes, he is stretching material from a short book, but he is incorporating other material from Tolkien in the Middle Earth universe. He is certainly not trying to make more money, he is trying to create the best possible movies. End of nerd rant.
Nebraska is filled with great performances and is such a delicate story of people. Simply put, this movie is great. Bruce Dern is dynamite as Woody Grant, a senile old man chasing a million dollars. The humanism that Dern pulls out of the script is astonishing. How he grasps the ins and outs of reality is marvelous. June Squibb, who plays his wife Kate, is equally as great. Both are hilarious and both are nominated for Oscars. Also, the serious performances from comedic actors Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk are surprisingly touching. Then there is the script by Bob Nelson, which gives definition to these people and layers them subtly, but unbelievably well. Lastly, there is Alexander Payne’s directing, which is astonishing. He pulls such life from the performances and the script. And the option to go to black and white is great. The black and white – along with great expanse of the open fields – become characters of their own. Just a wonderful movie and one that I loved a whole lot more than I expected.
As 3rd film of the Cornetto trilogy, The World’s End was the most serious and deepest of the three, delving into the emotional psyche of Gary King, played by the always hilarious Simon Pegg, who, for my money, does his best acting work here. Edgar Wright is at the top of his directing game, as he interchanges comedic pieces and action sequences at an unrelenting pace. He steps on the gas and never slows down. The third of the group is the always reliable for a laugh Nick Frost, who, like Pegg, does his best acting to date here. As with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the theme remains the same: male friendship. The intelligence at which Frost and Pegg write their scripts is fantastic. They tap into the nerd culture that they love, but do so in a way that does not pander. And the emotional aspects are always relatable and, at their essence, human. So the Cornetto trilogy is unfortunately over, but the team of Wright/Pegg/Frost is not and I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.
ALL HAIL J.J. ABRAMS. STID is a blast. It is the special blend of summer blockbuster and intelligent script. It has a heart and soul and presents poignant commentary on our society. Roddenberry had a vision of what Star Trek should be and the vision is front and center. Star Trek always looked at the best in humanity, and that is exactly what this film is about. And perhaps TOS is more philosophical than this film, but if Roddenberry had the same technology at his fingers as Abrams does, there is no question in my mind that he would have used it. And as a fan of Star Trek, this movie passes with soaring colors. Some may bash on the rehashed storyline from The Wrath of Khan, but I loved its callback. Some say they were out of ideas and used the best story from the Star Trek universe. I, again, disagree. They are in an alternate universe and the notion that no matter what universe you are in, some things will always happen just grabs me both as a sci-fi fan and a fan of the series. There is a lot to think about in a summer blockbuster, and that’s a good thing.
Sometimes the stories that scare you the most are the ones that hit closest to reality. In Her, Spike Jonze creates a near future that is eerie and telling. It speaks to where we are heading as a society and a generation. And the look of the movie is unique. The reality created in a movie could easily be the reality we see in the near future. That is scary. Also, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is scary. The man literally falls in love with his phone and it seems real, because to him, to Theodore Twombly, it is. It also helps that Scarlett Johansson’s voice is so full of life.
I do not understand the animosity behind this movie and all of it’s recognition. How it is a jumbled mess. How it is forgettable. How about those performances? Yes, the storyline is a mess, but it is a mess that sings and is made believable by the great performances all around. Maybe it is not a landmark entry into cinema, but that can’t be the criteria for every film. You take it on its own merits and this movie kills it in so many aspects. You can really see the appreciation that David O. Russell has for Martin Scorsese, but at the same time, it is a movie that is clearly Russell’s. He directs the hell out of the script and knows exactly where to put the camera. I will not apologize for loving this movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio has never been better, and I mean that. He is unbelievable as Jordan Belfort, douchebag extraordinaire. Unfortunately, the Best Actor category is stacked, so I am not sure he is taking home an Oscar, but that’s not really the point anyway. Let’s just appreciate what we have here and it is another home run by Martin Scorsese. The Wolf of Wall Street is ripe with creativity and Scorsese is at his masterful best. It is three hours long, which some may feel is excessive, and it is filled with 506 “F bombs,” which, again, some might feel excessive, but the movie just flows so well and time flies as by as if you yourself are on some kind of drug. Bravo, Marty.
Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor are both British, but they may have made the quintessential American slavery film. 12 Years a Slave follows the story of Solomon Northup, who is played by the sensational Chiwetel Ejiofor. At times, it is hard to watch, but it is also hard to turn away. McQueen pulls no punches with this movie and his trademark style is at the forefront. It is unflinching and uncompromising and does not shy away from the brutality of the story. You do not want to see this film, but you should.
Gravity is not only my favorite movie of 2013, it might be my favorite movie of the 21st century. I’m not kidding. I went into the movie theater with no idea what to expect and I came out a different person. There was a moment in the film where I cried, not because it was an emotional scene – because that did happen too – but I cried because I could not believe what I was seeing. They were tears of joy. Tears of unbelievable joy. Alfonso Cuaron invented technology to create this movie and deserves every available award for his directing.