2013 was a great year for film. Unfortunately, I missed out on a whole lot of those films. Between personal and financial issues, I just didn't get out to the theater as much as I would have liked. To be honest, I could easily write a list of the top ten (probably even fifteen) movies I missed out on this year, and there are some big ones that would have probably made this list. Gravity, 12 Years A Slave, Elysium, Upstream Color and a whole bunch of others. And why am I posting this with twenty-one days left in the month? Because I'm probably not going to get a chance to go to the movies again until after the new year. Otherwise, I have a feeling that American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Out of the Furnace and Anchorman 2 would be vying for spots on this list as well. But, you have to play the cards you've been dealt, so while my top ten list might not be as excitingly diverse as others, it's the best I've got. I'll go ahead and rank them (people like ranked things, I guess) even though it feels pretty arbitrary for most entries. I'd say the top five are the only ones that really have a whole lot of calculated thought behind them. ...That sounds awful. Let's just get started.
Special Award: The Wizard of Oz 3D
Why?: Because of some stupid self-enforced rule about the films on this list needing to be released this year, I'm not including The Wizard of Oz in the regular ranking, but if I were, it'd be a top three entry without question. This is my mother's favorite film since she was a kid and she had never seen it on the big screen before. Sitting in the theater, we both had physical reactions to a film we've both seen countless times. We were bouncing up and down to the songs, laughing at every moment involving the Cowardly Lion, and crying like babies when Dorothy said goodbye to her new friends. This was one of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life and had to be represented here.
Favorite Moment: All 101 minutes. This is a perfect film that will never sour in any way. The true definition of a classic.
10. Escape from Tomorrow
Why?: This spot could have gone to quite a few other films that I enjoyed just enough to ignore their flaws, but the sheer importance of this film knocked any other contenders out of the running. Escape from Tomorrow is brazenly weird and surreal to the point of being off-putting, but the fact that portions of the film were shot on Disney property without their permission and that the film is a direct criticism of the packaged happiness Disney sells makes it necessary viewing. It's not the best story to be told, but what it's rallying against and the way it's doing so is landmark filmmaking that can't be ignored.
Favorite Moment: Instead of all the wonderfully insane and horrific imagery, this has to go to, "Find my Hidden Mickey!" One of my biggest laughs of the year.
9. The Lords of Salem
Why?: (Review here) I'm willing to concede that this film is a mess, but what a glorious and original mess it is. This is Zombie's most intimate film to date, and that intimacy can come at the cost of coherence. However, the phantasmagoria is part of the movie's appeal and aesthetic. While The Devil's Rejects is still his best film, The Lords of Salem feels like the kind of maniacal delirium Zombie was born to produce. I'm also willing to forgive the film for being a butchered and unfinished version of Zombie's true vision. I have a soft spot for compromised works. One day, I'll read the novel and probably shine even more favor on this strange but beautiful bit of grotesque eccentricity.
Favorite moment: Easy. The three witch sisters and their scene with Bruce Davison. I'll say it again, I want an entire movie featuring them!
8. Iron Man Three
Why?: (Review here) As much as it pains this DC fanboy to admit it, the House of Ideas easily won the "Comic Book Film of the Year" award with this expectation-destroying start to their Phase Two films. The risks that Shane Black's script took paid off in spades and made this entry the best in the series. It didn't hurt that the climactic action sequence was loads of fun. But, it's the way the film decided to kick a whole lot of status quo off of a cliff in service of a better story that cements this as one for the books. Marvel Phase Two looks to be an exciting continuation of this cinematic experiment.
Favorite moment: The entire Mandarin debacle. When it happened, it took me a minute to actually understand what was going on, but once it clicked I was mentally applauding its audacity.
7. You're Next
Why?: (Review here) 2013 was a really good year for horror. At least, in terms of box office. While I wasn't as emphatic about Evil Dead as everyone else seemed to be (review here), it made lots of cash. That's kind of a bummer, because You're Next is a far superior film and it pretty much tanked. Hopefully, it will find its audience on video because this is a simple but effective little piece of macabre fun. You're Next is the kind of small and inventive horror that just doesn't get a lot of play anymore. While I'm happy to see grander fare like Mama or The Conjuring (review here) make a splash, You're Next is an example of a film that shows a lot of promise for the future of the genre.
Favorite moment: "Fuck me next to your dead mother."
6. Blue Jasmine
Why?: I did not like Cate Blanchett's character in Blue Jasmine. As written, I found her to be annoying, idiotic, selfish and utterly unrelatable. That only speaks volumes to her performance in this film, which made me sympathize with her immensely. If she doesn't win the Oscar, I'd be flabbergasted. Even more amazing is Andrew Dice Clay and his ability to make you sympathize for him. While the overall film feels kind of minor for a Woody Allen picture (excluding his return to New York City), the performances he gets from his actors elevates everything to an incredibly high plane. The experts never lose it.
Favorite moment: The ending. I didn't know I could feel so sad for someone I didn't like.
Why?: (Review here) With the exception of my number one pick, this was the standout horror offering of the year. A remake that actually compliments the original, rather than trying to surpass it? A horror film that actually feels horrific? A lead performance by Elijah Wood that manages to be terrifyingly repulsive but also somehow sympathetic? Whatever dark magic was summoned to help craft this modern masterpiece needs to make its way through the big Hollywood horror offerings. This is a film that will grip even the most jaded of viewers, myself included.
Favorite moment: Man, that's tough. I'll say the opening scene, simply because it captures the experience of the film in a nutshell and forces you to choose whether or not you can be in this character's head for 90 minutes.
4. This is the End
Why?: I can't remember the last time I laughed in a theater as continuously as I did while watching This is the End. I expected the film to be self-deprecating and crass, but what I didn't expect was for it to be a tightly written and expertly plotted piece of outlandish comedy. The fact that the Backstreet Boys were a narratively fulfilling moment in the movie speaks volumes. For what appeared to be an easy comedic target (making fun of one's own celebrity), everyone involved did a whole lot more than just that. And it doesn't hurt to have a gargantuan lava demon holding his mammoth severed penis. That's an instant laugh for me.
Favorite moment: Best use of "I Will Always Love You" ever. EVER.
3. The World's End
Why?: While This is the End gave me more laughs than this other slightly apocalyptic entry with "End" in its title, The World's End provided a lot more to mentally chew on when I left the theater. Although it's technically part of an informal trilogy, this feels like a strong statement by Edgar Wright and the rest of his usual suspects about growing up and learning what you want to get out of life, even if it's not what everyone else says life is supposed to be about. It's incredibly moving stuff that also happens to be hilariously executed. Edgar Wright is one of our best and brightest and this film will definitely be remembered as a turning point in his career, when he proved that somber and silly can both occupy the same cinematic space beautifully.
Favorite moment: I don't know whether to go with a laugh or a pulled heart-string. But I definitely loved, "Yeah. ...Fuck it."
2. Pacific Rim
Why?: (Review here) With all the vapid commercialization and childhood franchise pillaging, it's getting harder and harder to recapture the feelings you had when you went and saw a movie as a kid. Studios are mining the hell out of our nostalgia by churning out sequels to dusty intellectual properties and film adaptations of toys in the hopes that brand loyalty will get your ass in a seat. Pacific Rim put them all to shame by showing you can take the influence of those childhood loves and craft something fresh out of them. Every year, I hope there will be a movie that shrinks me back into that nerdy kid I once was, and I'm often disappointed. Pacific Rim more than made up for all that disappointment. Rewatching it just the other night, I still couldn't help myself from punching the air in tandem with the Jaegers and their pilots. This is juvenile boyish glee crafted by a master. It's impossible for me not to adore every hyper-violent, action figure-y second of it.
Favorite moment: That Hong Kong fight. It's every action cartoon I ever watched made tangibly real. Now I want to watch it again.
Why?: (Review here) It was the first film I reviewed for my blog, and somehow it still stands out as my favorite film of the year. Since we got an extremely mediocre remake of Chan-wook Park's masterpiece Oldboy, I hope that dismay will point more people towards this other masterpiece. Stoker is unlike any other picture in the director's filmography, and the level of transgression on display is far beyond anything he's done before. To call this film Hitchcock-ian is not only a comment on the tone, but the level of mastery being performed. The places this film goes feel so invasive that it is bound to be too much for some viewers. But for me, it's the perfect sheen of polished darkness that I like to see. If you passed this one up, do yourself a favor and brace yourself for a demented trip into gorgeous evil.
Favorite moment: India's orgasm. It's the most disturbing thing I've seen on the big screen in a long time and it still makes me feel dirty each time I see it.
I hope I'll have time to play catch-up in the coming months, but even if I don't, I get the feeling 2013 will go down as an extraordinary year in American cinema. What were some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!