I’ve never done anything like this before, but my friend Erin convinced me to make a “list” after she showed me hers. It was good to sit down and think about what movies stuck with me. There were some good ones this year! I certainly don’t have a tremendous amount of insight or anything to offer – you could probably write books on all of these pictures. But here are some movies I liked, and some basic reasons why I liked them:
#10 – AMERICAN HUSTLE
The consensus on this movie seems to be that it’s “over-rated,” which I guess I agree with in that I don’t think it’s at all the “best movie of the year” as its Oscar nominations would suggest. But I like the way David O. Russell is making movies these days, focusing on character and by proxy the actors playing them. Russell is clearly now in the camp (like so many of my favourite filmmakers) of directors who unapologetically fall in love with their actors, which is terrific for those of us who love getting to watch great actors work. I was deeply compelled by all of the characters and their corresponding motivations in this movie. The funny hairdos and low cut shirts and pop music were entertaining too, but for me it came down to getting to watch some of the best in the business play with each other for two hours. It seems like all Hollywood movies should be like that, but it’s just not the case, unfortunately. The process of making the movie and the way it’s put together always seems to always get in the way.
#9 – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
I just saw this last week and I couldn’t believe (like I was still talking about it the day after…) that I didn’t know going into it that Dallas Buyers Club is directed by French-Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee, the man behind terrific films I’ve really enjoyed in the past like C.R.A.Z.Y. and Cafe De Flore. I don’t know how this pinko commie Frenchie Canadain weirdo managed to put himself in the position of directing a picture that could in many ways be considered “Oscar bait,” but I’m sure glad he did. I liked this movie way more than I thought I would – I was so intrigued by the characters, and the movie is shot in a way that really lets them work. As an extension of that: there were clearly almost no lights if any, and the result is a movie that looks pretty ugly. But hey, it’s a movie that takes place almost exclusively in hospital rooms and trailer parks and cheap motels – would you really want it to look pretty? That would be pretty dishonest.
#8 – SPRING BREAKERS
When I was watching this movie, I was having an internal conversation the entire time: “Am I enjoying this?” I went back and forth. Then the movie ended and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days and days. It’s such a delightful, subversive examination of youth and excess, and the dreamlike music video quality of the filmmaking is a visceral ride that will stay with you. There’s a real punk rock element to taking Disney starlets like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens and putting them in these intense, deviant situations. I’ve had quite a few conversations about this movie with friends and we all agree that it will be remembered for sort of encapsulating a particular generation’s vanity. Consensus: yes, I enjoyed it.
#7 – HER
I was excited to see this movie because of the concept. It could have been so cheesy and horrible, but instead it’s really endearing and wonderful, and that’s a real testament to the writer/director Spike Jonze and his actors, particularly Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, who do an amazing job under really unconventional acting circumstances (i.e. not getting to be in the same physical space making eye contact). The movie paints a really vivid and interesting portrait of the near future, too, a real subtle marvel of production design. I really delighted in the way the movie “predicts” fashion trends and the future of video gaming, to name a few examples. Her also does a great job of expanding on the “do androids dream of electric sheep” sort of philosophical conundrum of whether a machine can have a soul. The film takes that idea and makes it intensely personal, provoking us as an audience to really consider what comprises a relationship and whether those criteria, perhaps different for everyone, could indeed ever be fulfilled by a machine…or perhaps fulfilled better by a machine. Really enjoyed this picture.
#6 – STOKER
This is another movie I wasn’t really sure I was enjoying until it was over and I thought about for days and days. Park Chan-wook, famous for Oldboy, directs this odd film about a family with a healthy dose of criminal psychosis. I really dug Mia Wasikowska’s character: this teenager coming of age, coached into embracing her most primal instincts by her creepy and fresh-out-of-the-loony-bin uncle, played skin-crawlingly by Matthew Goode. I also loved the look of the picture, especially the production design and the costumes; it was a very interesting world to inhabit for ninety minutes: so inviting and earthy in some ways and so creepy and alienating in others, sort of like a good cult. This movie is no Oldboy to be sure, but it’s very interesting and absolutely worth seeing.
#5 – MUD
While I was watching Mud, I thought “this is the best American coming-of-age story since Catcher In The Rye.” Then the ending got a little ridiculous with this grandiose shoot-out and everything, but hey, Americans like that shit. It wasn’t the worst ending. Just a little silly. Catcher In The Rye’s is better, anyway.
This movie had probably my favourite protagonist of the year in Ellis. In the world of this movie, kids don’t go to school, because everything they need to know they learn on the river – they teach themselves. Ellis is so capable and “grown up” in so many ways, but then so much of the plot ultimately revolves around how he really believes in love in a way that’s irrepressibly childish and unjaded and wonderful. Mud is romantic and mythological and simple and quirky all at the same time Tye Sheridan, who had his screen debut in Malick’s The Tree Of Life, has incredible presence and maturity, and I’m excited to see what he has in store over the next few years. And Matthew McConaughey has been on fire since Killer Joe. Mud is the kind of movie that really feels American, in a good way…like The Last Picture Show or Diner (not that it’s at all like either of those movies…). Anyway, there’s a lot more to be said about this picture, but there are more movies to get to.
#4 – GRAVITY
Gravity was and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theatre. I was spellbound for 90 minutes, and I, like everyone else in the theatre, was not in a movie theatre for those 90 minutes -I was in space. I actually saw Gravity in 3D and everything, and while 3D filmmaking is usually about as exciting to me as a four-year-old throwing Cheerios at your face to try and get your attention, if you put that additional tool in the hands of a director like Scorsese with Hugo or Cuaron with Gravity they’ll not only use it tastefully and thoughtfully – they’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.
It’s rare that Hollywood blockbusters have themes these days, but Gravity is a movie about rebirth more than it is a thriller about escaping a doomed spacestation. Combine that with artfully constructed long takes as Cuaron’s camera floats seemingly autonomously through space and what you have is an art film that made over $500 000 000 at the box office. I’m really glad this movie exists, and I’m so glad I got to see it in the movie theatre. I know they had to invent all kinds of amazing technology in order to get this movie to look and feel the way it does, but after it came out I intentionally avoided reading anything about its production. I want to believe they simply made this movie in space, because that’s what it looks like to me.
#3 – BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Even more rare than a movie with themes these days is a movie that involves people talking to each other like adults. And that’s all Before Midnight is. I’m admittedly a big fan of the first two films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, because of their tasteful simplicity and delightful characters, so charmingly portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. But Before Midnight quickly became my favourite of the three just because it’s so great to see a mature couple in their 40s talking patiently, articulately, and (usually) respectfully about their problems. They get petty and horrible to each other of course, as we all do, but they realize when they’re being petty and horrible. It’s fascinating to watch, or at least it was for me, and I found myself wishing that everyone could be so honest and articulate all the time. We should all be so capable.
#2 – THE HUNT
The Hunt is one of the most difficult films I’ve ever seen. I’ll probably never watch it again, in all honesty, because I think my circulatory system is still recovering from my blood pressure being through the roof for the two-hour runtime of this movie (and I saw it months ago). I’ve never had such a powerful, visceral reaction to injustice as I did with this film, which is of course a testament to how well Mads Mikkelson gets you on his side early. Even just thinking about this movie again, I’m starting to get tense. An amazing piece of acting and storytelling and I never want to see it again. But you totally should.
#1 – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Surprise! Bet you didn’t see THAT coming. But I have to go with the movie that gave me the absolute best time I had at the movies in 2013. I loved everything about it, but mostly the fact that Joss Whedon, fresh off of directing a mega-blockbuster comic book movie, made a tiny little Shakespeare adaptation in his own house in black and white with his friends. And of course, my enjoyment is somewhat biased on account of one of Joss’s friends being Edmontonian Nathan Fillion, who cracked me up BIG TIME in this movie. But everyone’s sort of great – it’s hard to misfire with this play, I think. Everyone’s having a great time in this movie, and that energy radiates out from the actors on the screen and permeates the room. I can’t wait to watch this movie again, I can’t wait to show it to my kids someday. My favourite movie of the year! Crazy.
MOVIES I WISH I’D SEEN AND I’M SURE I’LL REALLY ENJOY WHEN I FINALLY SEE THEM:
Beyond The Hills
Short Term 12
Blue Is The Warmest Colour (we have it at Metro Cinema this month!)
Get at me on twitter with your agreement/disagreement! I like movies and the conversations they provoke!
Until next time!
Dylan – Edmonton, AB