Best of 2013: Film

If not for a rush of intelligent Oscar-bait in the second half of the year, 2013 would have been one of the worst years for film in recent memory—filled with sequels which were more obligatory than anticipated and high-profile snores. The year lacked any kind of cohesive character or true risks, until the daring shock of 12 Years a Slave rocked the cinema out of its complacency. After that, things began to gel. We got one of the most resonant action blockbusters in years, David O. Russell playing at being Scorsese and Marty showing him how it’s really done, and Spike Jonze once again revealing the fragile core of modern life.

Also, there were robots fighting sea monsters.

Here, then, in a list culled from selections made by our staff, contributors, and fans, are our top ten films of an indefinable but still worthy year at the movies.

 

THE DRUNK MONKEYS
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2013

 

10.) THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Although it was slightly impaired by middle-of-the-trilogy padding that will likely infuriate Tolkien aficionados as it steers dangerously close to fan-fiction, the second installment was still a fun romp full of adventure, an amazing fire-breathing dragon, fun wizardly stuff, disturbingly sexy dwarves, and the inexplicable appearance of the chick from LOST recast as an ultra-violent ginger.

Michael Patrick Duggan, stand-up comedian and writer

9.) HER

A beautiful love story that’s as real as your 25 year marriage. Set in a very near future, technology has advanced to the point where human beings can get their needs met without spending very much time interacting together at all. What a crazy dystopian future, huh?!  What an imagination Spike Jonze has!  But the movie doesn’t judge this Brave New World, just presents it as is, and how you react to it might be your own personal Rorschach Test. The question of whether or not it’s possible for a human to fall in love with a sentient disembodied voice is quickly resolved and cast aside (the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’) leaving us with the next question which is “what now”? The implications are numerous and don’t really fully begin to occur to us until they also occur to our star-crossed lovers.  Scarlett Johansson may make Oscar history as the first acting nominee who never appears onscreen, and if so, she would deserve it.

Ryan Roach, staff writer

8.) WOLF OF WALL STREET

7.) PACIFIC RIM

Pacific Rim features Guillermo del Toro taking the big mech/big monster concept many of us have been adoring for years, amps the budget, jams a host of interesting characters into the spectacle, and sets it lose. The results are astonishing. Pacific Rim is the best kind of popcorn entertainment there is, and maybe even a little more than that. For many of us who grew up imagining a movie like this, as good as our imaginations are, del Toro delivered something that exceeds everything spectacularly.

Gabriel Ricard, Film Editor

6.) THIS IS THE END

This is the End is hands down the best comedy of the year.  Sure it’s stupid, offensive and riddled with genitalia, but the sheer amount of energy radiating off the cast is what makes it so funny.  It’s the end of the world and James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson are trapped in Franco’s new house.  The humor comes from their sad attempts at survival as they all play caricatures of themselves.  It’s a fun, sometimes mean-spirited, take on how famous people handle stress and it works perfectly.

Taras D.,  staff writer

5.) BEFORE MIDNIGHT

We have followed Richard Linklater’s story (written with some help from others) of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) for nearly twenty years. As a separate film entity, Before Midnight is funny and thoughtful, examining a marriage several years in without the usual obnoxious eye for exaggerated detail. Linklater’s best films are heavy in complex human interaction and the richness of conversation. Before Midnight provides both. On its own, it’s a wonder. As part of a (potentially ongoing) trilogy, it is the latest chapter in what will surely be considered Linklater’s masterpiece.

Gabriel Ricard, Film Editor

4.) AMERICAN HUSTLE

In any con movie, you tend to put your guard up, not sure who to trust, not wanting to be fooled.  You follow the plot closely, and trust little of what you see.  But in this con movie, the plot is almost beside the point. Come and revel in the great characters, stellar acting, bitchin’ costumes, and the hair—oh, the hair. Jennifer Lawrence plows through the story like a wrecking ball, playing a character that should by all rights be hated, but is somehow loved instead.

Ryan Roach, staff writer

3.) THE WORLD’S END

For the end of their “in no way an actual trilogy” Cornetto Trilogy Edgar Wright and longtime collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost trade zombies for shape-shifting aliens, but remain true to the themes of arrested development that have defined their works since the BBC series Spaced.

The World’s End, for all its head-popping, blue-blooded gore, houses a tender heart and a surprisingly sensitive turn from Pegg. Wright once again sets himself apart as the most intelligent recycler of action tropes since some guy named Tarantino.

Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

2. 12 YEARS A SLAVE

12 Years a Slave is possibly the most painful film of 2013.  It takes an unflinchingly honest look at slavery in 19th Century America by showing you the journey of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he is kidnapped from his home in upstate New York and illegally auctioned off in the Antebellum South.  Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt, nearly every white person in the film is horrifying, terrible, and disturbing.  It’s not for the faint of heart but it is easily the most powerful, moving film of the year.

Taras D.,  staff writer

1.) THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

It’s the rare sequel that surpasses the original in terms of pathos and invention—it’s all the more impressive when it’s a sequel to a movie that wasn’t particularly good. The first Hunger Games stuck rigidly, lifelessly, to Suzanne Collins’s novel, and by the film’s end the idea of traipsing through the jungle again with Katniss Everdeen wasn’t as thrilling a prospect as fans of the series might have hoped.

But a number of things happened between the original and the sequel. First, director Gary Ross was jettisoned for Francis Lawrence, who brings a steadier hand which invests the film’s action sequences with the suspense and energy they desperately needed in part one. Second, the original made a bajillion dollars worldwide, assuring that there would be enough of a budget to avoid any embarrassing moments like the poorly rendered “girl on fire” scene in the first movie.

And, most importantly, in the year between both movies Jennifer Lawrence became a for-real movie star as well as an Oscar-winner. She’s grown as an actress (which is saying a lot considering that she was nominated for an Oscar before she ever laid hands on Katniss’s bow), and she inhabits Katniss this time around with a steely “don’t fuck with me” vibe which finally brings Collins’s heroine as much charisma onscreen as she had on the page.
Intense and entertaining, Catching Fire was finally, in a year filled with misfire sequels, a second chapter worth cheering.

Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

LISTS OF NOTE

 

RYAN ROACHstaff writer
1.) Her
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. The World’s End
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Dallas Buyer’s Club
6. Gravity
7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
8. Nebraska
9. I Declare War
10. American Hustle

TARAS D., staff writer
1.) 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Pacific Rim
4. This is The End
5. The Conjuring
6. Iron Man 3
7. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
8. Don Jon
9. Prisoners
10. The World’s End

GABRIEL RICARDFilm Editor
1.) 12 Years a Slave
2. Warm Bodies
3. Stoker
4. Behind the Candelabra
5. Star Trek into Darkness
6. Before Midnight
7. This is The End
8. Monster’s University
9. The World’s End
10. Pacific Rim