I’m pretty 2013-ed out at this point, but I suppose this is the path we’ve chosen. The set quota I’ve made for myself now is to listen to 40 albums and see 40 movies in a given year, though I came in a bit short this year by seeing 38 films. But I listened to 42 albums. So maybe it balances out? Anyways, my list isn’t that exciting considering it features a lot of middle-of-the-road consensus favorites, but let’s take a look at it anyways…
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
I wasn’t sure whether to even put this on the list, since it was produced for British television, and doesn’t really work unless you’ve seen all the other installments of Michael Apted’s Up Series. But it did have a limited theatrical run in the U.S., so I’m givin’ it the ten spot. Also, I just can’t think of any other instance in which I’ll get to mention this series, which is still one of the most fascinating, beguiling, and wonderful uses of film as a medium that I can think of. I’m just afraid one of the people featured in this series will croak before they make the next one.
So many cons! Everyone in this razzle-dazzle caper seems to be trying to pull one over on each other, including director David O. Russell, who begins the film with a text reading, “Some of this actually happened”. Which is fine by me. With a film as fast-paced and fun as American Hustle, it doesn’t really matter if anything in this film actually went down. But most of all, there are just a ton of great performances in American Hustle. Even De Niro as the mob boss!
I watched this for the second time about a month ago, and related to it on an even deeper level than I did the first time. Probably because I was significantly poorer when I saw it a second time, but I figure it’s a film that’s easy to feel an affinity for regardless of your financial standing. Frances is just that kind of archetypical dreamer with a heart of gold, and this film does good by sticking to that kind of fanciful tone while also embodying the trampled expectations of being an artist in your late 20’s.
I feel like kind of an asshole putting 12 Years A Slave this low on the list, since it’s a pretty staggering achievement, and will probably end up being the defining film about slavery in America. But you know, I like movies that are at least somewhat comedic, and most of this list will reflect that. Still, I don’t think I had a more emotionally gripping experience at the theater this year than watching 12 Years A Slave. Not even 6 Fast & 6 Furious.
Out of all the movies I saw this year, Nebraska was easily the saddest movie that also happened to be pretty funny. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it’s another example of Alexander Payne’s mastery of the funny/sad equilibrium, which is anchored by a remarkably lived-in performance by Bruce Dern. Also, apparently 2013 was a pretty decent year for black and white movies (I saw three!).
Yeah I know, this movie made a ton of money and therefore should be disregarded critically. But considering all the other top-grossing films from this year were pretty safe and/or generic, I’d say the opposite is true. Any hundred-million dollar blockbuster that is simultaneously this unconventional and this thrilling from beginning to end should be celebrated, even if it is just one giant metaphor for George Clooney’s abandonment of women.
I didn’t go for this movie on quite as deep a level as a lot of critics did, but I think Sean pointed out in his review pretty perfectly why I should’ve. It’s timely, it’s intimate, it’s basically everything I wish big-screen science fiction would strive to be more often. Also, it creates the kind of somewhat familiar vision of the future that I really liked getting lost in and wouldn’t mind getting lost in again with subsequent viewings.
I always liked the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedies, but for some reason The World’s End was the first one that I really fell in love with. Maybe because the character’s relationships and the more human qualities that were always there in their earlier projects were even more at the forefront. And then on top of that, all the genre-bending and comedic riffing in this movie made it feel remarkably overstuffed, and I mean that in the best way possible.
It’s only fitting that my list would also feature a film that’s part of a franchise intent on becoming the Up Series of romantic comedies. I don’t know if this is my favorite film in the Before series, since it’s kinda hard to top the delightful brevity of Before Sunset, but I think this is easily the most fearless and emotionally satisfying of them all. I’ve always been a big fan of films that are considerably talk-y in nature, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any banter quite as witty, raw, and full of wisdom as the stuff you hear in Before Midnight.
Considering what a giant bummer this movie is, I didn’t necessarily come out of Inside Llewyn Davis absolutely loving it. But there’s just something about this movie that has managed to linger with me, like — dare I say it — a really good folk song. There are a lot of tragically funny moments (“I don’t see a lot of money here.”), and a lot of great musical moments that are equally charming (“Please, Mr. Kennedy”). But most of all, it evokes a specific time and place with a comforting sense of clarity. Weirdly enough, it’s a world I love revisiting just by thinking about this film, even if it is a world that’s ultimately filled with dejection and heartbreak. Well 2013, fare thee well.