Sunday, March 29, 2015

MrMovieETC's TOP 10 FILMS of 2013

As explained on my Facebook teaser post (3 or 4 weeks ago, my sincerest apologies), this year marks the Big 30 for me. In the grand scheme of things, that's not a huge milestone but one only gets so many after 21, so I'll take what I can get. Regardless, I decided it would be fun to countdown my Top 10 films from each year of my life, starting from 2014 and working down to 1985.

I suppose this starts on a bit of cheat since I've already done my list for 2014, which you can find here ( and here (; however, I did have to put some thought in 2013 because I never ended up making a list for that year. I did rank the 2013 Oscar films, although I can hardly count that because a decent handful of those films did not make it onto this list. There were some difficult delegations I had to make, but all in all, I'm happy with this final cut and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Let's begin!


For well over the past decade, I have been an outspoken soldier for Pixar and have talked them up to anyone that would listen. Granted, Pixar has made billions of dollars so it's not to say they really need my opinions, but it still feels fulfilling to converse about a studio that had one of the biggest impacts on changing the shape of modern animation. I do concede slightly to the fact that the studio hasn't had a tip-top release since "Toy Story 3" in 2010. "Cars 2" is what it is, and "Brave" hit a majority of the aspirations they were aiming for, yet not quite all of them. "Monsters University" was Pixar's first attempt at a prequel, and putting aside that, no, it didn't need to exist, the film was a solid effort all the way through and nearly as enjoyable as the original. The same characters that made the first film great are all here and are just as dynamic, and some new characters are introduced as well to add enjoyable layers. While some films show all their colors too early, "Monsters University" easily saves its best for the Third Act, and for me, was well worth the journey getting there.


I would consider it impressive to make one film about a man and woman walking together in an exotic location and doing nothing but talking about life and love, and yet Richard Linklater does it three times over and, in my opinion, saves his best for last with "Before Midnight". This and the other two films do require some patience and are not for everyone, though Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have such an undeniable chemistry that it's a special treat to watch their characters' lives unfold over the span of a decade and then some. The concept may sound somewhat familiar due to the Linklater's most recent release, "Boyhood". While that film's premise is something different entirely sans the timeline, it never connected the same way that the "Before" trilogy did. The latter at its bones was more ambitious, and certainly had more to say. No pun intended. Each production was well worth the wait, and "Midnight" was a cap that elegantly brought it all together.


If there were ever a documentary that turned heads and changed minds in recent memory, the one that likely could come to the foreground is "Blackfish". In fairness, the film is not an easy watch, nor does it pretend to be, and all it sets out to do is emphasize the historic lesson that humanity refuses to acknowledge: Nature cannot be controlled and Nature will always find a way to break free. Personally, I've been obsessed with marine life for as far back as I can remember, and also have had a deep-seeded desire to visit SeaWorld so I could see these magnificent creatures up close - not so much anymore, at least as far as the latter is concerned. I have no doubt that the trainers at SeaWorld have the best intentions at heart, but raw footage doesn't lie and to see these huge Orcas so visibly distressed is heartbreaking. You can tell this film made an impact, because SeaWorld has been trying to publicly defend itself ever since. To make something like this knowing the repercussions takes heart and courage, and both manifest on the screen during "Blackfish".


I've been saying for the past few years that I feel James Wan could possibly be the new face of cinematic horror. He visions don't always connect, but when he's on, he's really on. If not for him, the "SAW" series would not be one of my top guilty pleasures and my horror collection would look rather pitiful. More to the point, what sets Wan apart is he just seems to "get it". Yes, you can make horror bloody and disturbing, but you can also make it suspenseful and intriguing, and that's exactly what he accomplished with "The Conjuring". What starts as a slow tension builder soon escalates into a fist-clenching climax in the likes of nothing I've seen come out in the last decade. Wan also realizes the value of a talented cast and bringing on Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga was a wise decision. For me, "The Conjuring" was a breath of long awaited fresh air.


I know what some of you may be thinking, "Gee, a highly sexually explicit film about the romantic relationship between two women - what possibly could have been the attraction??" Admittedly, yes, this film pulls no punches when it comes to sex in a way that I have never seen before (I say "never" because I refuse to count the pile of shit that is "Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II"). That being said, I also have consistently been of the opinion that those types of scenes, such as they are, can be a valuable weapon if used for the right reasons. "Blue" takes full advantage of that idea and makes a skillfully crafted, and frankly, beautiful work of art. I don't think the filmmakers were out to make a statement about gay rights as much as they wanted to show that these relationships are real whether you're willing to acknowledge it or not, and that they do come with their own set of trials and shortcomings. Even at its surprisingly long 3 hour run time, the film did a wonderful job at making every minute count.


I cannot deny the fact that I could be slightly biased towards "Nebraska" with it being my home state and all, but putting this in my Top 10, even Top 5 of the year, was an easy choice. I have a large soft spot in my cinematic heart for stories about the older generation telling the younger where to "stick it" when it comes to venturing out and finding a sense of purpose and independence. Alexander Payne has enough experience under his belt to find the right notes to hit as well to make this simple film about a simple man (played perfectly by Bruce Dern) going across multiple state lines to collect what he feels is his destiny. The subtle score and black and white filming was a nice touch, and really, the performances across the board made this quiet, yet mighty film a true pleasure to watch.


If any film caught me absolutely off-guard from 2013, it was "Prisoners". The film was twisted. The film was brutal. The film was outstanding. Hugh Jackman makes one of his most emotionally charged performances of his recent career, and Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a fine effort about a small time cop that cannot quite fill the lofty shoes that hero status requires. One thing is for sure, the film's gritty nature rubs off, and if you don't feel slightly dirty and paranoid when the end credits roll, then the film did not do its job. Thankfully, I can't picture that being an issue, because while no one is the "good guy" in this story, you almost cannot help but be sympathetic towards their desperate situation. "Prisoners" was certainly my big surprise of the year and one I'll be happily revisiting in the future.


After going to the theater and watching what I thought was easily the best action blockbuster of the year, I was also certain that no film could push "Pacific Rim" from #1. For the longest time, that did end up being true, but once Oscar season rolled around, I delved a little deeper into what 2013 truly had to offer, and obviously by its placement, I found a few more films that I enjoyed more as a whole. Don't get me wrong, "Pacific Rim" was Del Toro showing off what he does best. There's no deep meaningful messages here, just pure rock 'em/sock 'em bliss between giant robots and giant monsters. To see its performance at the box office fall short is puzzling to me to this day, especially since it did right in one offering that the "Transformers" series has still failed to do with four. I certainly wouldn't turn away a sequel because watching Del Toro go bananas is the definition of fun in many ways, but I would be content just the same if "Pacific Rim" was able to stand on its own mountain.

2. HER

With the kind of output that Spike Jonze is known for, I can only imagine how many offers he gets to direct a film. I find that significant because Jonze really doesn't direct films too often, and clearly that's not a bad thing because in my mind "Her" is his best film to date and easily one of my favorite romantic dramas in a long time. Joaquin Phoenix was an excellent choice for the lead, and I loved how Jonze gave the film a modern, technological flavor to make it feel fresh and relevant. I don't suspect I'll come across another one of these in the near years to come, and with that, I also know I'll be looking back and re-watching this film many times over.

And finally, my Top Film from 2013.

DRUM ROLL.........





Alright, so probably not the most suspenseful reveal since I've done nothing but pour praise for this film every time it comes up in conversation. Honestly, though, I simply cannot help that because "Philomena" is a superb film. From the acting, to the writing, to the directing and everything else in-between, this movie gets it right. Steve Coogan and Judi Dench have a fantastic chemistry that I was not fully expecting given Coogan's comedic background, and they both bring humor to a story that, at its core, is morose enough to tug even the most stubborn of heartstrings. Having already done a full write-up about "Philomena" in the recent past (, I won't go overly long here, but I will say that if you have yet to give this film a watch, I hope you can trust me when I say that you are missing out on not only what I felt to be the best 2013 had to offer, but one of the best of the 2010's.

See you next week for my Top 10 Films of 2012!

No comments:

Post a Comment