I have to say that 2013 has produced some truly exceptional movies. There were surprise favorites and emotional rollercoasters. Every year around this time, I begin to compile my top 25 favorite movies. Usually, I need to go back and re-watch my top five to ensure my feelings remain true from the first viewing. That didn’t occur in 2013. I did re-watch my number one favorite of the year, but for the most part I’ve never felt more comfortable with my year-end list. Of course there are several I wasn’t able to see that I’m almost positive would have landed in my top 25 – including the likes of Her (2013), Short Term 12 (2013), Wolf of Wall Street (2013). However, I saw (and reviewed) a crap load of quality films in 2013. So without further ado, here are the bottom ten (#25 through #16) of my top 25 movies of 2013:
25. The History of Future Folk (2012) – A rare indie flick that not only looks indie, but never once loses sight of what it really is – (as stated in its trailer) “probably the only alien, folk duo, sci-fi, action, romance, comedy movie ever made. Which totally makes it the best alien, folk duo, sci-fi, action, romance, comedy movie ever made”.
It is a simple, joyously low-budget tale about an alien, General Trius (or known as while Bill on Earth), who was sent to Earth with the sole purpose of whipping out the human race. Armed with a device resembling a shake ‘n weight, he is moments from releasing a plague that would kill every last human on Earth. In the middle of a giant box store with his finger on the trigger, General Truis’ life is changed forever. He hears music for the very first time and falls completely and utterly in love. General Trius, thankfully, fails his mission, starts a bluegrass band, marries a groupie, and lives happily ever after. Well, not until his home planet sends an assassin, Kevin (Jay Klaitz), to kill him.
The storyline is thin and the props are thinner, but it feels genuine throughout. The music is fun and you get to see the actor’s true talents shine on screen. Its unfortunate there aren’t more musicals like this in the world, and for that, it had to get some props as one of the best films of 2013.
24. The World’s End (2013) – Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright re-team for their third installment of The Cornetto Trilogy with The World’s End. Accompanying Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), The World’s End is a stylized genre film detailing nostalgia’s pull to take us back to our roots and make amends with our past’s regrets. In this case, that regret is not completing a pub crawl, known as the Golden Mile, through a small town in England that ends at a bar called – you guessed it – The World’s End. Gary King (Pegg) is that friend we’ve all had back in high school. You know the one. The one that took things one step too far. Whether it was one drink too many, one word too vulgar, or one antic too extreme, the life of the party always began and ended with their actions. The group of friends, now in their forties and hardly resembling their youthful bodies are tricked into accompanying Gary for another attempt at the Golden Mile. As predicted, the town they arrive back looks the same, but is somehow different. The faces are the same, but it seems the people are no longer people.
I was overall disappointed in the lack of story outside of Gary. There were four other friends that never really were given a chance to shine – even Frost. The only reason to see The World’s End is for Pegg’s performance. He is wild, exhilarating, and wickedly crass. His jokes always hit their mark and his energy makes you want to crawl into the screen for a pint. Grab yourself a bitter, sit back and enjoy this high octane drink-fest.
23. Hunger Games – Catching Fire (2013) – Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the first Hunger Games (2012). Having never read the books, I was expecting something completely different from what I received. The deeply sociological aspects of the world, its existential approach to the human condition, and, well, Jennifer Lawrence’s outfits were all surprising aspects I greatly enjoyed. Again, perhaps my expectations were lowered heading into Hunger Games since it’s the second installment of a summer blockbuster, which are usually nothing but a setup for the finale. I even hesitated watching Catching Fire until the final installment. I’m glad I didn’t!
Everything Hunger Games did correctly in the first installment was improved upon and the story’s pace was perfectly managed. For me though, it was the dialogue, which was more to the point and candid than in the first, which allowed the performances by both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland to shine and share some of the best screen time this year.
22. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) – Sometimes receiving the Cannes Palme d’Or award can attach unrealistic expectations. Sometimes the material can cause unrealistic expectations as well. Although, I was sometimes wondering why this film had to be almost three hours long, I still felt that it was an original story needing to be told.
I would say that the most buzz Blue received was due to its extended love scene between two young women that made it receive an NC-17 rating. I can’t say whether the MPAA was warranted with stamping that rating on the film (since I did just see a film where a guy kills his own pet with his bare hands, there was a disgusting rape scene and that film only got an R rating). I will say though that it is a must see film for any French cinephile who respects films from all throughout the world.
21. Stoker (2013) – At the beginning of the film, the main character, India (Mia Wasikowska) is trying to come to terms with her genetic disposition. She states: “I wear my father’s belt, over my mother’s blouse” in reference to how she has taken, for better or worse, certain characteristics from each of her parents. The question is – just how deep will she accept these qualities?
Stoker is a masterful example of storytelling that relies much more of the characters glances and emotions than words actually spoken. After my initial viewing, I immediately saw the comparisons to a Hitchcock classic thriller, but this tale has a stylized creativity that is distinctly belongs to the director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy (2003)). He may have worn Hitchcock’s blouse while filming, but he is definitely wearing his own belt.
20. Blancanieves (2012) – For the second year in a row, one of the best films of the year is a silent film. Blancanieves is a playfully Spanish version of the story Snow White. Original and inventive, Blancanieves tells the story of a young girl, Carmencita (Sofía Oria), who was set to be born under the best of circumstances. Her father was the most famous Spanish bullfighter in Seville during the 1920s, while her mother was deeply in love and pregnant with their first child. Everything was set for Carmencita, but how quickly things can change.
With any silent film, it takes a few minutes to allow your brain to prepare for the format. You have to allow the music to become the film’s voice and prepare for the breaks in scenery for the dialogue. Once you tolerate the tempo, the film begins to flow and you are able to appreciate the intricacies included within the film. It also doesn’t hurt that there are loveable dwarfs, S&M scenes, and insanely crazy stepmothers.
19. Simon Killer (2012) – Directed by Antonio Campos, Simon Killer is one of those en-grossing films that you are a bit ashamed to admit you liked. Simon (Brady Courbet) is broken hearted after a bad breakup with an ex-girlfriend. Running away from his troubles, Simon visits family in Paris and decides to crash on random people’s couches. Simon can run from his problems, but he can’t run from his craving for kinky sex and psychotic mood swings. Quickly Simon becomes lonely and finds warmth in the arms of a local prostitute, Marianne (Constance Rousseau). The two hatch a plan to extort money from her regular customers. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t.
Before long, Simon’s layered lunacy becomes to surface and the audience is left wondering just how messed up this young man is. Not a film for the faint of heart or for those running on the prudish side, but Simon Killer was an effective thriller that needs viewership.
18. A Hijacking (2012) – At first, A Hijacking may not be the film you expected when you first heard it’s about pirates and hostages. However, the minimalist approach and focus on the human aspect of negotiating makes it a true delight. There are no shots fired. The film primarily focuses on the intensely stressful business aspect of the negotiations for a ship’s hostages. As an audience member, we are introduced to the key figures of a ship’s ransom that would normally remain behind the scenes. Sounds boring right? It’s not!
The corporation’s CEO, Peter C. Ludvigsen (Søren Malling), is used to negotiating contracts with millions of dollars on the line. It’s in his make-up. Emotions are left outside the negotiating room and his cool, calm demeanor is never breached. Now, given the opportunity, Peter takes on the task of negotiating with the pirates even though outside Somali consultants highly recommend someone externally be responsible. It is Peter’s crew and, therefore, it is his responsibility. A Hijacking is about how even the most composed and the most genuinely happy people can eventually be broken.
17. The Way, Way Back (2013) – There were several coming-of-age stories that I enjoyed during 2013 (Prince Avalanche (2013) and The Kings of Summer (2013)), but the one that I connected with most was The Way, Way Back. From the very first scene where the stepdad, played by Steve Carell, asks his teenage stepson, Duncan (Liam James), to rate himself out of ten and then quickly corrects him with a lower number, you quickly realized what this kid is up against. It doesn’t matter how well adjusted you are, the teenage years are always an awkward, confusing period. Luckily, this film was able to give a face to that awkwardness, but was also able to give it legs to try and find his confidence. That confidence was found as a part-time employee at a local summer waterpark.
The best crazy guy is show business (sorry – Nic Cage and Gary Busey), Sam Rockwell plays the perfect 30-something loser, Owen, as the manager of the water park. I loved this movie so much for its simplicity and genuine feelings.
16. Prisoners (2013) – Perhaps having my first (of what I’m guessing eight) children this past fall, I was enraged by the potency produced by Prisoners regarding the kidnapping of young children. On a lonely Thanksgiving evening, two little girls are abducted from their front yards as they play. It isn’t until hours later that the parents realize their daughters are missing. The police, within hours, have a person of interest in custody. Seems like they have the right guy, but there is no DNA and no proof so he walks. Disguised and emotional, Hugh Jackman, the father of one of the girls decides that if the rules and laws won’t assist in finding his daughter, then he’ll just have to play by his own set of rules. So he kidnaps the kidnapper.
Does he have the wrong person? Under the circumstances, he doesn’t think so. But at the same time, yes he does. This film asks so many questions about how far a person should go to protect their family, but what makes it so utterly unforgettable is its ability to show the face of everyday evil. A standing ovation goes out to Paul Dano (in an utterly thankless role), Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and Jackman.