The Best of 2013: Mentioning of Honors
Between solid coming-of-age stories and epic superhero movies, 2013 had pretty much something for everyone. Well, at least it had everything for me. I'm a pretty easy going guy when it comes to movie watching. Some may say I'll watch anything. Well, it's true, much like my unhealthy appetite for all the foods, I really can't say no to a movie (unless it's one of those awful musicals where people sing and dance for no reason. Or most horror movies. Okay, so I do draw the line somewhere, but I'm pretty easy to please). It's no surprise that I found a lot of movies last year highly enjoyable. There were quite a few movies that I know I can watch again, if not a few times. I'm also a pretty positive dude - so I try to stay away from lists that involve the worst of...
It was hard to whittle down my list to just 10 movies. So much that I ended up with 11 movies that I couldn't help but mention because they deserve a little bit of love even if they didn't make the cut. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Probably one of the bigger snubs from the Academy Awards, Emma Watson's portrayal of a narcissistic and bratty valley girl who just wants to rob celebrities houses was simply brilliant. Sofia Coppola is just as talented as her father (and I think has more quality movies under her belt) so it's a shame this ultra-hip tale of surburbia gone bad didn't get near enough the accolades it deserved. You'll be shaking your head most of the film, but ultimately find yourself quoting the movie a lot after you've seen it. And so it is.
While not the most original of horror titles, James Wan's The Conjuring is the closest thing to a perfect horror film. Expertly paced and shot, the film has its fair amount of scares, but enough character to actually make audiences care about the people whose lives are overturned by a 200 year-old curse. Seriously, this movie is almost on par with The Exorcist - it's just as frightening and doesn't rely on cheap tricks or "found footage" to summon up the scares. Plus it's not gory, something most directors seem to think is a trademark for scary. Thankfully, Wan doesn't go there, but leaves enough to the imagination to the audience so they'll have nightmare of their own.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut is not without its charms. A surprisingly honest look at our sex-obsessed culture and its influence on our daily lives - Don Jon manages to both make you laugh and think about difficult subjects like pornography. The film went in a different, but good, direction that ultimately ends up with a romantic comedy-filled cliched ending. But the cliches here work and JGL has a very promising directing career ahead of him.
Living up to its name, Drinking Buddies is filled to the brim with booze and overflowing with some amazing talent. Olivia Wilde has proven she's more than just a pretty face - she's great in her role as the platonic friend to her co-worker who's in a fairly solid relationship. There's a lot of great will they/won't they tension and it all comes to a head on a weekend away at the lake. A satisfying look at unrequited love and dealing with personal crises - Drinking Buddies blurs the line between romance and friendship.
I don't care what all the haters say - Iron Man 3 was pretty fantastic. Ten times better than the second outing, Tony Stark finds himself in desperate times and without his suit. And while people will complain there wasn't enough of Iron Man in the Iron Man movie, I always find it refreshing to see what these characters do outside of their superhero comfort zone. And I really did enjoy Ben Kingsley's take on the Mandarin even though it pissed people off to no end. The movie had a nice arc for Tony Stark and upped the ante just enough to make things precarious for him.
This was the year of the coming of age tale and The Kings of Summer was another great story about two friends who try and make a living in the forest, away from the parents and supposedly their horrible lives. They build a surprisingly awesome getaway in the middle of nowhere and live like 17 year-old kings. Along the way there's a hilarious amount of shenanigans, mostly perpetrated by the outstanding Moises Arias - a weirdo kid whom the two friends begrudgingly let tag along. At it's heart this film is about two friends coming to terms with growing up and growing away. Poignant and well-acted.
I would not want to be left alone in a room with Hugh Jackman. He is frankly scary in his role as the father of a missing child and will go to pretty much any length to get his daughter back. The film has some strange Zodiac-vibes to it (it doesn't hurt that Jake Gyllenhaal is once again, the detective piecing the clues together to solve the case). The film is long, but it doesn't feel like it - the pacing is expert and the final half hour will nearly kill you with anxiety. Along with all the edge-of-your-seat thrills, there's an amazing amount of character study - how far would you go to get back your child? It's certainly a film worth talking about long after the end credits - and you'll certainly be thinking about it too.
Ben Stiller doesn't get nearly enough credit for his own filmmaking. He directed the classic Reality Bites along with comedy gems Tropic Thunder and Zoolander. With Walter Mitty, he goes back to his more serious roots and frankly, this is a wonderful film about taking chances, letting go of your past and being bold. The film is gorgeous and Walter himself is the underdog you're rooting for the whole time. The film is expertly edited and the sequences between reality and daydreaming are seamlessly stitched together. A film that's inspiring and aspirational, Walter Mitty just barely got cut from my top 10.
A sequel worthy of the demigods, Thor: The Dark World is at times hilarious and also pretty badass. Chris Hemsworth is back as Thor, a role he's pretty much born to play and does so with even more authority this time around. There's more humor, more action and more character development in this sequel - plus you have the return of Loki and Tom Hiddleston steals every scene he's in. The Marvel train keeps rolling and there's no sign of it slowing down!
A brilliant movie that takes the charm and humor from the book and does a very good job translating that onto the screen. The film rides a fine line between cheeky and horrific, but the charm with the cast (Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer) holds the film together. This would have been a mess in any other hands, but Jonathan Levine (50/50) manages to keep the humor fresh (pun intended!) and the romance grounded in a way that you really do care for these two star-struck lovers.
A really visceral, adrenaline-fueled ride - The Wolverine is by far one of the best X-Men movies. It doesn't get bogged down in mythos or having too many mutants clog the screen. Instead, the film is razor-sharp and focused - Logan is a drifter until he finds himself being caught up in a plot to take his powers. The setting - Japan - is a nice change of pace for this superhero and it works. The film can stand alone without having any prior knowledge of the X-Men and it's all the better for it. I hope there's more films like this on the horizon - not just for Wolverine, but for other X-Men as well.