Favorite Movies of 2013

Let me ask you guys something…how did YOU feel about the movies of 2013?

If there was one thing I could clearly say, it was the year with the most debating, mostly concerning the blockbusters.

Film-goers fought and argue over the entertainment merits of The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness etc.

I guess it makes sense. When you have a year that had a major film phenomenon like The Avengers, the following year will always feel like a let down.

But, I don’t believe there is ever been a year in film in which we came out empty. Impossible. I am always bound to see something that truly works on me.

Every year I write a Top Ten Favorite List….and I want to be real clear, FAVORITES, not best. Who am I to judge what is “the best”? I can only explain my favorites. I can discuss and defend my opinions on a FAVORITE film, but not argue over what makes “the best” movies.

I like to think I know my taste very clearly, and I judge my favorite movies on things like, “Am I still thinking about the film? Even if I haven’t seen it a while.” and “I wanna rewatch it a billion times.”

Now, before we go on to the Top Ten, allow me to tell you guys my runner ups. In no particular order….

Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon directs the Bard’s words as if he wrote them himself. A fantastic adaptation, the film is hilarious and showcases some great acting from performers who SHOULD be getting bigger roles. Made with a fraction of the cost compared to the last time the film was adapted (Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 version), this film feels like it nails the play even better, despite it changing the setting to present day.

Frozen: For the first time in ages, I truly do think that Disney films finally made a film that FEELS like classic Disney, yet allows itself to some modern day reinterpretations. Amazing songs, beautiful animation, and a great new take on the concept of “true love.”, Frozen feels right at home next to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

Fast and Furious 6: Of all the franchise movies that came out this year, (hint: Some even made it to my Top Ten), I think FF6 might have actually been successful in pleasing it’s fanbase. The film delivers on EXACTLY what you paid for: great, old fashioned Hollywood action scenes (perfectly directed by Justin Lin), enjoyable characters, and just a balls to the wall fun time at the movies. I can’t believe this series still works, but it does…and this one worked like gangbusters.

The Spectacular Now: Had the film only had the amazing chemistry of Shailene Woodly and Miles Teller, I still would have been recommending it to people. But, the film has MORE than that. The writing is stellar, with fully realized characters that feel like real people. And while director James Ponsoldt visually delivered on making the film looks stylish but controlled, the performances from Teller and Woodly are the real reasons to watch, as they are astounding in this film.

12 Years a Slave:  This film deserves every single accolade that it’s been getting. Director Steve McQueen delicately directs this film, with the tone never going too far in it’s portrayal of the horrors of slavery nor the sentimentality of the main character’s plight. It takes the material and gets the right amount of emotion out of you, but it never once feels like forced manipulation. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender deliver amazing performances on two different levels. Fassbender is the scene stealer, the magnetic force that draws you into his character despite how awful he is. Ejiofor is the internal performer, giving you everything you need to know about his pain with just his eyes. So why is it not in my Top Ten? Because I could probably only see this movie once every 5 years due to how brutal the subject matter is. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a great film. I will support the hell out it when it is nominated for best picture in the awards shows (which it should win, no question.)

*****

Ok, and now, here is the Top Ten. Before I get started, I want you guys to know…this listing isn’t permanent. Those runner ups I mentioned above? All of those could easily rank higher as the years go by. The list below? The Number One could very well be lowered if I start liking the other ones more.

It just how it goes. I change and grow, as does my taste. But instead of looking at my list as a definitive way of how I see last years movies, see it more like I feel about the movies RIGHT NOW. It’s a bit of a time capsule of my opinions. Of how I feel right NOW. How my life is NOW.

One thing I can say, a lot of the movies on this list affected me because I can personally relate to the story of the characters.

So as of today, and I’m writing this on January 13, 2014, this is how I feel and see the films of 2013.

10.) The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese directs a film that has the energy of a first time filmmaker, but the controlled skill of a 55 year veteran of the craft. This is a beast of a movie, in which the pace is relentless. It draws you in, and grabs hold of you without letting go till the very very end. Within the film you also have Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill giving some of the most entertaining performances of the not only the year, but also of each respected actor’s entire careers.

9.) Frances Ha

I shouldn’t relate to Frances as much as I do, but I’m just gonna admit it that I do. Frances is a beautifully flawed character. One of the most realized characters of last year, she is everything that most of us who are artist types in their late twenties and early thirties are: unsecured futures, in the moment ideas, and the inherent fear of “growing up.” Greta Gerwig (who wrote the script with director Noah Baumbach), crafted a role both on paper and on the the screen perfectly. Any wrong step in her portrayal would have made Frances unbearable, but Greta delivers the perfect performance. You can get why people can both fall in love with her, but also be very annoyed with her as well. The beautiful black and white photography helps make this look like one of the most stripped down movies that Noah Baumbach as made, but it also turned out to be one of his best.

8.) Stoker

Whenever a great foreign filmmaker, like Chan-Wook Park, comes to America, they usually have a hard time bringing the qualities that make them so unique to the Hollywood movie system. But, apparently Chan-Wook Park is unlike other filmmakers. I’d say that Stoker is even better than his last two Korean films. This film is wicked fun, and you truly don’t know where it’s going to take you. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman are just so great to watch in this, but it’s all about Chan-Wook Park’s visuals. It’s his film through and through, and I love it for that reason alone. (Sidenote: I’ve been listening to the films ending credits song on a loop while writing this. Great song in general, and also a great song to listen to while writing.)

7.) Inside Llewyn Davis

Every struggling artist has to ask this very tough question….is it time to give up? The latest film from the Coen Brothers has that question as the underlying theme, and the brothers do an amazing job of laying out this film. This is not a film about a life changing plot, but a story about a character examining his life, and wondering….what the hell am I doing? Filled with the Coen’s sense of humor, unique and realized characters and great authentic songs.  While I loved the performances from John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and the rest of the entire cast, this is Oscar Issac’s show as he succeeds in creating this very broken, but entertaining character.

6.) A MARVEL MOVIE TIE!! Iron Man Three AND Thor: The Dark World

Is it a cheat to have them tied? Sure…I guess, but for pure fanboy enjoyment, when all is said and done, I kinda like them both equally. I will say that one film does one element better than the other (i.e. I personally think the script is tighter on Iron Man Three, but Loki is still one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel Movies.) but both movies gave this life long comic/film fan what I wanted. Great superhero action, lovable characters who are put through the ringer, crowd pleasing heroic moments, and just a grand old time at the movies. Iron Man Three gave me a great big budgeted Shane Black movie. Thor: The Dark World gave me the best Star Wars movie that Natalie Portman has been in. More importantly, I had fun seeing these characters that I love on the big screen again. (Sidenote: I’m in the camp that not only didn’t mind the Mandarin twist…I LOVED IT. Sorry.)

5.) Pacific Rim

As a genre fan, I CRAVE new. Yeah, I’ll get excited about a superhero movie based on a comic book. Of course I hope to love the new Star Wars/Star Trek movies, but I will always applaud the brand new. Pacific Rim fed that craving. Like Star Wars before, it was inspired by many things, but fine tuned it to be it’s own film. It’s a blast in a half of a film. I WISH I watched this a kid. I think when I talk about this movie to some older fans, they talk about the film AS older jaded fans. Of course you know all the plot points. Of course you’ve seen the character types before…but how old were you when you saw Star Wars/Anime/superhero comics for the first time? For this generation, they have a film that is completely their own. I think in years time, Pacific Rim’s fanbase is gonna grow. The kids who saw it today will be writing blogs about it in their future. Thankfully, I’m kind of a big kid, and I f***ing loved it now.

4.) Gravity

When was the last time you saw a film that you knew the best way to see it was on the biggest, best screen possible? Gravity was a film experience that I haven’t seen in ages. A movie that was expertly crafted, so tension filled, and just an exhilarating film to watch. But beyond the technical marvels this movie accomplishes (of which there are many) the film wouldn’t have worked as much if I didn’t care about Ryan Stone, played by a career best from Sandra Bullock. Some friends of mine had issues with Ryan, calling her boring and depressing, but I just don’t see it. Ryan is the perfect lead in this story. She isn’t the best at her job, she isn’t the most experienced, and her motivations to live or not to live is the most unconventional answer to a movie like this. And to the people who want to keep pointing out all the inaccurate science stuff that a certain famous scientist call out on this, do remember…it’s just a movie that’s trying to tell a story first. A beautiful movie to boot.

3.) The Worlds End

I think there have been some misconceptions on what people thought this movie was suppose to be. It sorta makes sense. Shaun of the Dead was the “funny” zombie movie. Hot Fuzz was the “goofy” buddy action film. But what people don’t realize is that the thing that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg does in these movies are not 100% comedy spoofs of the genres films. They are comedies, yes, but they are also dramatic and can even get really sad. They are full rounded films. So when I hear people complain that The Worlds End wasn’t as clear cut of a riff like the first two, I feel they missed the point. The Worlds End is actually the duo’s most mature film yet. It’s not a direct riff on something like the last time, but it’s own creature that still gets inspiration from various sources. For the most part, the film is a legit, great adult dramedy, portraying alcoholism in a true and unique but still painful light. Some how, once the SCI-FI elements start coming in, the film never loses steam nor direction. Even though our guys are fighting alien robots, they are all still dealing with problems of an alcoholic friend, and are finding ways to stop him before he kills himself. I love the twist on the Simon and Nick friendship. Seeing Nick play a character who HATES Simon is actually kind of painful, and it works even better if you have been a fan of their previous work. Edgar continues to deliver on the stuff that he always excelles in; amazing visuals, great editing, awesome music choices and his ability to shift films from a grounded reality to an energetic world of lunacy.  Once you know that The Worlds End is not the style “parody” that you thought it would be, you can hopefully accept it as what it actually is…a really great movie.

2.) Short Term 12

This a film where execution is key. Any wrong turn in it’s writing, directing and performances the movie would have felt like a forced film full of easy drama and sentimentality. What we got was a film full of straightforward and beautiful story telling. It’s equally funny and dramatic while filled with characters with amazing depth. This movie has no easy questions and no easy answers. It’s feels simple on the surface, but the story and the characters will hit you long after you see it. And yes, do see it for Brie Larsons great, great, great, great, great performance.

1.) Her

You hear that the film’s concept is “Guy falls in love with his phone”, you think it’s going to be stupid and silly. You hear that SPIKE JONZE is making that film, than that’s a different story.

I mean, come on, the man who can make this IKEA commercial knows how to create an emotionally powerful story, yet still have a comedic edge.

Her surprise you in just about every way. It’s truthful, and painfully relatable themes on love and falling in love. It’s Joaquin Phoenix’s most heartfelt performance. It’s Scarlett Johansson impressive acting, giving us a full range of emotions and character traits with JUST her voice. It’s Amy Adams proving she is still the chameleon that she is, and creating a character that is the 180 from her performance from American Hustle.  It’s the fun look at seeing a VERY possible future. It’s the most original way of shooting Los Angeles I’ve ever seen in a film.

Her is full of surprises, but the biggest surprise to me is how this officially became my favorite Spike Jonze film. In a career of amazing movies, the one that got me the most is his most stripped down, emotionally naked film he’s ever made. Why is that? Maybe because I can see this is Spike Jonze being completely honest and sincere with us, and that honesty shines through.

Looking at several other favorite films list from last year, I feel like a guy jumping on the band wagon because I saw Her as so many peoples number 1. But, who cares. This movie is just that good.

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So, that’s what 2013 brought me. It was less on the fun spectacles, and I honestly don’t care. What it gave me was a year of great character pieces and filled me with emotional satisfaction, and in a time when most movies can’t do that, to have this many is an amazing accomplishment.

Good on you 2013.

Justin Quizon

About Justin Quizon

Film fanatic who can't stop writing about/talking about/ and even make films. Follow me on Twitter: @JustinQuizon and on Tumblr: http://justinquiz.tumblr.com/