I saw 140 films released in 2013. That's 46 more movies than last year. I started with Texas Chainsaw 3D and concluded with The Wolf of Wall Street. The year began in the dumps, lingered in the mediocre, and concluded with some serious great cinema. It felt a little schizophrenic, but I'm going to enter the new year thinking 2013 was a great one, especially when compared to the suck sandwich that was 2012. And it's all thanks to November & December. In the last two months I've watched over fifty new films. Six of which can be found in my Top Ten. Thank goodness cuz I was getting pretty damn tired of the OK.
I didn't necessarily hate Gangster Squad, Broken City, The Last Stand, Dead Man Down, or even Oz The Great & Powerful but it felt like an eternity before I saw a film I actually really liked. That movie was Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects - a Hitchcockian thriller backboned by three incredibly strong performances. It remained my favorite film of the year until three months into the Summer. Yeash. But let's talk about the Blockbuster Season. It nearly broke me. The big tentpoles like Man of Steel, Furious 6, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Wolverine deeply disappointed. Again, not terrible films (well...Into Darkness is terrible), but not a one got the heart thumping. Where was The Avengers? Or The Dark Knight Rises? It was obvious that comic book cinema was not here to save the day.
Of course, living in the suburbs of Washington DC certainly has its perks. Not only do we have the E Street Cinema and the great AFI Silver, as of May 1st we got our very own Alamo Drafthouse. My new home away from home. When modern cinema was dishing out the meh, I was still able to bask in the glory of movie history with big screen showings of Lawrence of Arabia, Kiss Me Deadly, and Sweet Smell of Success. And when I wasn't hunkered down in a theater somewhere I was streaming movie after movie through VOD services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant. I used to be so infuriated with the limited engagements of New York & LA, but now I'm no longer denied by the long distance relationship; those teeny tiny films beam right to my boob tube. Pawn Shop Chronicles, Wrong, Escape From Tomorrow, and How I Live Now - a solid batch of weirdo indies that came to me.
Now before we jump into The Best & Worst of the year, I need to confess to a little bit of cheating. Thanks to wonderful places like The Alamo & The AFI, I was able to catch a batch of films that are technically not released until next year. Unless you took part of the Fantastic Fest Tour or the AFI European Union Film Showcase than you're gonna have to wait for a few of these movies. Oh well. We live in a golden era of geek, and we no longer have to settle for the six or seven films being played at the multiplex. If you find yourself bitching & moaning about the modern state of cinema then you're just not doing it right. Get off your duff, do a little research, you'll find the great movies you seek.
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2013
10. The Dark Knight Returns - The Complete Cut: Originally released in two parts (the first one coming out at the tail end of last year), The Dark Knight Returns is a shockingly faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's oppressively grim comic book masterpiece. They said it couldn't be done. Maybe the world isn't ready for a live action adaptation (we've had to settle for bits & pieces in the Nolan films, and we've been promised a hefty amount of theft for Zack Snyder's upcoming Batman vs Superman or Justice League or whatever the hell it turns out to be), but producer Bruce Timm & director Jay Oliva show true faith in the material by refusing to shy away from the ugliness of the book and it's absurdity. The fanboy dream was always to put Clint Eastwood under the cowl, but Peter Weller's voice captures all the grit and anger of that particular dream. "You don't get it son, this isn't a mudhole, it's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon!" Yeah, that's right, Batman don't shiv. Not a traditional A to B to C narrative, The Dark Knight Returns has the stop and start structure of the monthlies. The first half of the film is concerned mostly with the troubled mental status of Harvey Dent as well as the Mutant Leader's stranglehold on Gotham City. But when The Joker crawls his way out of Arkham Asylum and Ronald Reagan lets loose his Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Returns proves itself to be the ultimate expression of the caped crusader. Do I prefer it to the recent works of Christopher Nolan? I don't think so, but it comes very close to owning my heart. It's a true shame that the internet didn't explode with love over this cartoon; it deserves massive attention and I'm making it my job to shine a little light. At the very least, this is certainly the best work of art to come from DC Entertainment, and Bruce Timm will be sorely missed at that studio.
9. 12 Years A Slave: The first film this year to seriously devastate me emotionally. Of course, you knew that going in. The film acts as a sort of Homeric Quest, a man's desperate attempt to survive imprisonment long enough to see his family again. Kidnapped from the North, dragged into the South, Chiwetel Ejiofor's Solomon Northrup is chained to the fields, the violin, and the self-entitled hate of various white masters. He does not rise up like a fictional warrior - this is not Django Unchained - the heroism is revealed in his sheer force of will to outlive this horror. Director Steve McQueen steadies his camera, refusing to blink from the shame of America. Some reduce it to torture-porn, but to hide such a nightmare would be a cruel act of revisionist history. Sure, certain cameos distract from the authenticity (Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt) and there is a touch of falsity to the resolution, but 12 Years A Slave will go down as an "important" films thanks to an astonishing lead performance and the emotional wallop of at journey's end.
8. The Great Beauty: Paolo Sorrentino, the director of Il Divo & This Must Be The Place, has made a film here that is an obvious homage to the works of Federico Fellini that also somehow manages to connect with me in a way that iconic figure has never managed. Detailing a moment of transition in the life of wealthy socialite Toni Servillo, The Great Beauty revels in the excess of his nightlife and never have I been more drawn toward or repulsed by such a scene. Disco Terror! However, when he's reminded of the failed romance of his youth - just a 30 second flash of a beautiful face - Servillo begins to look inward. What has he been running from? What should he be running toward? The film is at once somber and exhilarating. It's never to late to change, and change can be such a very little thing.
7. (TIE) The Wolf of Wall Street / Pain & Gain: The American Dream is broken. Get rich quick? Loose 30 lbs in 30 days? The Secret? We're a Self Improvement obsessed culture looking for the fastest possible way to happiness. Here are two examples of the Hell such mindsets can breed. When concocting this list I just couldn't put one above the other. They are a perfectly paired unit. Leonardo DiCaprio's Wall Street guru might as well be the hedonistic demon to plant The Do'er idea into Mark Wahlberg's catastrophic crime spree. Both films are wickedly, painfully funny and both films leave you utterly repulsed at any laughter they've stolen from you. I can easily see the simple headed confusing the actions of these characters as cool (in that Scarface kinda way), but for the sane & disgusted, Martin Scorsese and Michael Bay have produced two of the most delightfully hateful assaults on the Red, White, & Blue.
6. Why Don't You Play In Hell?: A group of wannabe filmmakers collide with the Yakuza when one gang leader desires to craft a film for his one-time child-star daughter. A plot boiled down into one sentence that completely fails to capture the grotesque heights in which this film propels its characters. The film has everything a film freak desires: Bruce Lee, oceans of blood, musical numbers, samurai swords, Chow Yun-Fat's Berrettas, and a ludicrous reverence for cinema itself. Honestly, I have never encountered such a beautiful expression of my own movie joy as when one character exclaims about the art, "It's Bullshit, But It's Holy!!!" Yer damn right. I love you.
5. Inside Llewyn Davis: I've said it before, and I will no doubt say it again, The Coen Brothers are the greatest living directors walking this earth today. Their films share certain themes, but every one of them feels utterly apart from the other. How do you follow up a raucous nightmare comedy retelling of The Book of Job? You make a stringent adaptation of Charles Portis's weirdo Western. How do you follow up a True Grit remake? You tackle an epic saga of failure set within Greenwich Village's folk scene of 1961. Inside Llewyn Davis doesn't necessarily track the downward spiral of singer songwriter, as it's more of an unseen slow squish from above . Wrong place, wrong time? No. He was most certainly in the right place at the right time, but the man was overcome by just too much damn pride...or fear. It's a brutally sad story. The schmuck. The Coens love to put their misanthropes through the wringer, and Inside Llewyn Davis is no different. Whenever given the opportunity to improve his standing, Davis refuses. It's a character that could have been easy to hate, but Oscar Isaac brings more humanity to this asshole than he deserves. A real deal triumph about a subject I never would have thought to care about.
4. A Field In England: I certainly enjoyed Ben Wheatley's previous two films (Kill List, Sightseers), but neither of them prepared me for the terrifying intensity of this tale of witchcraft and demonology. Three deserters from the English Civil War stumble out into a field and discover something unexplainable. The film taps into the same horrors as HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, and those whacky Poe Pictures from Roger Corman. It's dreamlike. It's scary. And it's a giddy experimental headtrip one would expect from David Lynch. A Field In England will be one of those films I pull out and show friends for years to come. Drafthouse Films has acquired it so be damn sure to hit the theater when it makes its way close to you. At the very least it will make for a helluva blu ray.
3. The World's End: The first time I watched Edgar Wright's latest I left the theater saying, "It's good, but not in the same league as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz." I've seen the film five times now (that's the most rewatches I've done of any 2013 movie), and although I still stick by that statement, I have to proclaim that The World's End is not only a fitting conclusion to the thematic Cornetto Trilogy, but also just a flat-out brilliant movie. Easily the most fun I've had with a film all year, and despite giant robots and gobs of blue blood, it's a riveting portrayal of friendship lost & found. Simon Pegg has never played a character this layered before. His Gary King is a selfish, depressing, loser given a chance of growth in the face of the apocalypse, but able to Fuck Off and still save the day. Nick Frost also goes against type to joyous results; a buttoned down suit just waiting for the right pint to unleash the Pink Hulk. My only wish is that the flip-the-script structure could have been hidden from the advertising, but I imagine any film coming from these boys was obviously going to involve genre smashing.
1. Only God Forgives: I've been pretty much anticipating this film from the very moment Drive's credits rolled. The first mention of Only God Forgives occurred on this blog on March 1st, 2012 when I fawned over a single image of Ryan Gosling's mug. Before we had a trailer, we just had a title, a photo, a brief description ("Western set in Thailand"), and the economy of cool crafted between Gosling & Refn for Drive. That was enough. But it also did not prepare me for exactly how much I was going to love their follow-up film. And it appears that I'm in the minority. But as much as I enjoyed their first film together, I think Only God Forgives is ten times better. I don't care how many people booed at the Cannes Film Festival, or how many domestic critics scratched their heads, or even how many of my friends & family just don't understand this film - Nicholas Winding Refn made this movie for me (and apparently my co-dork Matt - spoilers, it's on his list too). If you go into the film expecting another Drive, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you thought that film was a painful exercise on the cinema of silence, Only God Forgives is even quieter, slower, and more precise in its choices. Ryan Gosling is a drug dealing mini-mafioso feeding off the poverty of Thailand. When his brother rapes & murders a prostitute, Vithaya Pansringarm's Detective Chang coerces the father of the slain women to beat the killer to death. Enter the Shakespearean monster Kristen Scott Thomas as Gosling's mother. She commands vengeance, Gosling attempts to oblige, and things go downhill from there. Is Chang God? He's certainly a personification of Old Testament justice. And Vithaya Pansringarm steals the film from Gosling. He's an incredibly imposing force; his stare is as much of a beatdown as his rabbiting kung fu assault. When Gosling asks "Wanna fight?" I was snickering to myself cuz I knew this Karaoke-loving cop was going to take three seconds to pummel the prick. Their title bout is also my favorite singular moment of cinema this year, and the ultimate resolution to their conflict the most beautifully perverse. Only God Forgives is obviously not for everybody, but it's certainly a film meant for me. Crime. Western. Karaoke. Dismemberment. Yeah, that's all I need.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order): American Hustle, Before Midnight, Iron Man 3, Journey to the West – Conquering The Demons, Rush, Side Effects, Stoker, This Is The End, Trance, You're Next
Best Director - Nicholas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives): Haters love to throw around the term "Style Over Substance," but sometimes Style IS The Substance and no one does it better than Nicholas Winding Refn. Listening to the man in interviews can be painful. He's certainly full of himself. He got a little bit of Cultural Redemption in Drive, but now he's been swatted back down again. I'm curious to see what he does next. I don't think we're going to be seeing any big budget blockbusters from him any time soon (even though his Ryan Gosling Logan's Run remake would have been the best thing ever). I don't care. Keep it small sir. Keep your Cinema Of Silence cranking. Stay close to Cliff Martinez. Keep Larry Smith behind your camera. And whatever you do lock Matthew Newman in your editing chamber. I hope your next movie together is even quieter and hatefully mean spirited.
Runner Up - Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Best Leading Male Performance - Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis): Here is a guy who has been slowly crawling his way into my heart. His childish Prince John in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood was one of the film's few highlights. That jackass persona even worked well in Zach Snyder's ill conceived, and mind-numbingly boring Sucker Punch. And much of the human heart at the center Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive rests on Isaac's doomed patriarch. I'm curious as to what role spoke to the Coen Brothers when they were looking for their latest misanthrope, or if it was simply an audition process that went oh-so-right. Whatever the case, I cannot imagine another actor perfectly capturing the lovable asshole that is Llewyn Davis quite like Oscar Isaac. It's quite a feat to portray a character so wrongheaded in his choices and still leave the audience feeling sympathetic. A creative partnership that succeeds in telling a sadsack saga in which no lessons are learned.
Runner Up - Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt)
Best Leading Female Performance - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine): I've never been much of a Woody Allen fan, but I've been coming around with his last batch of films. Blue Jasmine was certainly one of the more painful viewing experiences I had this year. Blanchett's inward decent into benchlady madness was not necessarily a fun time out at the movies, but I cannot deny her ownership of that role. She sucks you in even when Allen's script gives the middle class the middle finger. A confused movie that I don't think I'll ever watch again, but this was certainly 2013's strongest performance.
Runner Up - Rooney Mara (Side Effects)
Best Supporting Male Performance - James Franco (Spring Breakers): From the year's strongest performance to the year's most scenery chewing. Franco had one strange year at the movies. He lingered in mediocrity with Oz The Great & Powerful and Lovelace. He experimented in the bizarre with awkward adaptations of Interior. Leather Bar. and As I Lay Dying. He attempted to go toe-to-toe with Jason Stahtham in Homefront. And he reached heights of obscene comedy playing a sideshow mirror of himself in This Is The End. I love him, I hate him. That's our big screen romance. Still, I gotta admit that I was utterly intoxicated with his grilled, bling-monster Alien. Even if I don't understand my own reaction to Spring Breakers (is it an indictment? is it a celebration?) I am overwhelmed by the "Look At My Shit, Shorts In Every Color!" blackhole Franco fell into with this character. And it's the first time where I forgot the man behind the performance. This is not Franco on screen - it's all Alien.
Runner Up - Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)
Best Supporting Female Performance - Nicole Kidman (Stoker): Holy cow, was there anything scarier or more depressing than Nicole Kidman's climactic spewing of hate towards her daughter in Park Chan-wook's Stoker? Don't think so. Look at that dead-stare above - Yikes! May I never be on the receiving end of such a gaze. As much as I love Kristen Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives, I got to give the Mother From Hell award to Kidman. She lingers for so much of the film in quiet disgust, but once she let's it all out, your world is devastated by the unveiled rage.
Runner Up - Shu Qi (Journey to the West - Conquering the Demons)
THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR!
5. Parker: Way back in April of 2011, when Jason Statham was cast as the latest incarnation of Richard Stark's professional criminal, I commented that The Expendable could play the brute well but I was weary of the "Code of Honor" plot description. Sadly, my reservations for Taylor Hackford's dumbfounded interpretation were proven accurate. Parker is certainly not the worst film I saw this year (just you wait), but it was the first punch to my hard-to-please fandom. It hurt all the worst since this was the first film allowed to actually use the characters name (Mel Gibson was previously Porter in Payback, Lee Marvin was Walker in Point Blank, Robert Duvall was Macklin in The Outfit, Jim Brown was McClain in The Split). Taken on its own, Parker is a middle-of-the-road, totally forgettable crime picture. A solid heist opens the film, J-Lo drowns in narrative shenanigans, and Statham is laughable with his pretend Texas accent.
4. Star Trek Into Darkness: Speaking of uncontrollable fanboy disappointment, no film hurt harder this year than Star Trek Into Darkness. If you think you can handle my whiney, grammatically horrendous opinion then click HERE for a sobbing, hateful review. A week after I saw this in the theater I probably would have made this my #1 Worst Film Of The Year, but time heals all wounds and blah, blah, blah. I've watched it five times now. It's a ridiculously dumb script that preys on your nostalgia of superior stories and practically remakes the 2009 film as well. JJ Abrams simply seems checked out. It's pretty looking. Astonishing actually. The actors still feel right in their roles even when screenwriters demand unnecessary squabbles & tears. Why is it not #1 on my disappointment list? Well, as we got closer and closer to the release date, the trailers started to reveal the flaws. When I sat down in the theater I pretty much already knew where the plot was going to take me, but I still wasn't prepared for Super Blood. Jesus.
3. Pacific Rim: My Number 1 Most Anticipated Film of 2013. Sad to see it land here. Kaiju vs Mechs - how could it possibly go wrong? As cool as the beasts are, and as exhilarating as some of the monster smackdowns can be, Pacific Rim is no better than a cheap Top Gun wannabe. Guillermo Del Toro's enthusiasm for various genre staples is infectious, and I will continue to watch this film for years to come. However, the human characters are abysmal. The film holds no emotional weight. And even I get sick of the rainy darkness. Hopefully 2014's Godzilla will not follow the same mistakes - character still matters. I expect more from the man that brought us The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, and yes, Blade II.
2. GI Joe - Retaliation: I thought The Rock could save any franchise. Silly me. I was wooed by that original trailer, but after nearly a year of delays, the sequel to Rise of Cobra failed to excite. I honestly don't know what I was expecting. John Chu, the man behind the ridiculously entertaining Step-Up 3D helming cliff top ninja fights? Sounds like solid gold. Nope. Bummer.
1. Elysium: Neil Blomkamp's District 9 is one of my favorite films of the last decade. The world needs more social science-fiction. The 99% saga seemed ripe for exploration. Too bad this film eventually revealed itself as a simpleton rehash of his previous work. Made for a great trailer. Sharlto Copley is a lot of fun as the cyborg samurai. There are hints of William Gibson's cyberpunk on display. But the shakey cam distracts. Jodi Foster is laughable. The twists & turns of the script are idiotic. The weird thing is that when I first left my seat, I thought I loved the movie, but as I played the film back in my head I slowly picked the film apart. And I can't bare another rewatch right now. What will I think of Elysium in a year? Hard to say...probably nothing.
THE WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR!
5. The Purge: There was probably a nifty little horror film to be found within the concept. As everyone loves to point out (myself included), the idea of the American Government legalizing all crime for one night a year is delightfully Twilight Zoney, and a mini-ripoff of an excellent episode of Star Trek. Unfortunately, The Purge is nothing but a dull siege film in which characters inexplicable split apart and obviously get offed. Good year to be Ethan Hawke though. He appeared in the excellent Before Midnight as well as this Box Office Bonanza. Maybe with a little extra money The Purge 2 can explore this disturbing concept a bit further. Probably not though.
4. Machete Kills: Enough is enough guys. The exploitation of exploitation must stop. It was cute for a hot minute, but Robert Rodriguez needs to go back to school. He needs to spend more time on his screenplays and less time patting himself on the back for his One Man Filmmaker approach. Get some help, buddy. You've lost what little glimmer of cool you once had.
3. The Host: I should have known better. I've seen all five of Stephanie Meyer's Twilights after all. But Andrew Niccol has made some pretty cool movies (Gattaca, Lord of War) and maybe he could squeeze some quality out of the bankrupt teen genre. Nope. This story of human rebellion from alien Souls (SOULS, really?!?!) is nothing more than a cheap excuse for polygamy approval. Cool, whatever. I'm hip. But I am just done with girls forced into action through mopey romance.
2. Black Rock: I am not a fan of rape/revenge stories. Not saying they've never been done well (Deliverance, anyone?) but as far as exploitation cinema goes, it's one of my least favorite narrative sparks. But what makes Black Rock so unbearable is the painfully to watch is the ad libbed script. Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth, and Katie Aselton struggle for any sense of reality. And most of the time it appears that they're just talking at each other when they're not screaming at or for their attackers.
1. Kick-Ass 2: I actually kinda love the original film. Matthew Vaughan made a snarky, mean-spirited sendup of the superhero genre while still adhering to its conventions. Two minutes into this sequel though, and you know you're in the hands of an inferior storyteller. The dialog is stilted. The performances are even more bland. And it's mean-spirited without an ounce of cleverness. I don't know if Jim Carrey was right to abandon this project, but I certainly wouldn't want to tour the country with this albatross rotting around my neck.
Most Overrated Film of the Year - Gravity: There is no denying the cinematic achievement of Alfonso Cuaron's movie. Seeing it in 3D IMAX is the way to go. It's the first time I actually felt that 3D added to the experience; not just a gimmick. That being said, I could not stand Sandra Bullock's character. This engineer with six months of training and her "I Hate Space" whining. Ugh. And the way the film reveals her manipulative backstory was rather aggravating. There are moments in this film that are hard to forget, but at the end of the day it left no emotional resonance. Solid spectacle, but a masterpiece? No.
Runner Up - Frances Ha
Most Underrated Film of the Year - The Lone Ranger: If I haven't lost you already, this will probably send you screaming to the hills. But I loved The Lone Ranger. The tone is all over the place. You've got hijinks, men digesting the hearts of their enemies, cannibal rabbits, potential duck foot rape, and more hijinks. Yeah, what were they thinking? Disney wanted another Pirates of the Caribbean, but I guess the world has hit Johnny Depp fatigue...or they just don't care about a hyper violent remakes of their favorite Western serial...uh...The movie is bizarre. Not traditionally "good." But where else can you see 200 Million Dollars thrown in The Wild West? Nowhere. And Gore Verbinski sure knows how to take apart a train. The final action set-piece is my favorite example of Blockbuster Excess all year. We may never get another one, but I'm fine returning to my blu ray every once in a while.
Runner Up - The Counselor
Best Film Score - Only God Forgives by Cliff Martinez: Half of the pleasure from this film comes from Martinez's Universal Monsters/Euro Techno fusion. As the tension mounts, and Ryan Gosling & Vithaya Pansringarm march ever so slowly towards each other, the score thrums through your head like the very best of black & white classical horror. Maybe not as drivable as Drive, Martinez's Only God Forgives sends shivers of goosebumps across your body and will keep you up at night long after the film's conclusion.
Runner Up - 12 Years A Slave
Best Soundtrack - Inside Llewyn Davis produced by T Bone Burnett: Maybe not as culturally significant as the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, the collection of folk music assembled here by Burnett and performed by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Carey Mulligan is just as enthusiastic. Made even more heartfelt by the juxtaposition of the tragic emotions being wrung up on the screen.
Runner Up - A Band Called Death
Best Poster - Wrong: Movie Posters are a dying art thanks to uncreative suits demanding floating heads photoshopped across dull landscapes. It's up to folks like Mondo & Phantom City Creative to keep the art of illustration alive. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed by Quentin Dupieux's Rubber follow-up, but there was enough weird in Wrong to have a good time. Still, the best thing about that movie is probably the above poster. Jack Plotnick's got dog on the brain. You have no idea.
Runner Up - Oldboy
Best Summer Blockbuster Support - James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, World War Z, The Lone Ranger): 2013's Summer Season was a bit of a bust. There were a few hits, and a whole lotta misses. But as I suffered through buckets upon buckets of popcorn, one face became welcomingly familiar to me. Whether he was grimacing around as a human bomb techno terrorist in Iron Man 3, or backing up Brad Pitt's last hope for humanity, or getting his heart munched by William Fichtner in The Lone Ranger, James Badge Dale brought all he had to the bit part. Does he have the chops for stardom? Don't know, but he can certainly succeed in the character actor game.
Best Femme Fatale - Rosario Dawson (Trance): Not a lot of love out there for Danny Boyle's Film Noir wannabe, but Trance was one of the first film's this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. James McAvoy's amnesiac art thief is forced by gangster Vincent Cassel to undergo hypnosis from Dawson's buttoned down head doctor. As is often the case with these kinds of things, what's originally introduced is not all that it seems. Frankly, it's just great to see Rosario Dawson in a film of any quality, especially one in which her character pretty much takes over. I've been digging classics like Detour and Double Indemnity this year, and it's nice to see their influence still popping up in modern cinema.
Best Final Girl - Sharni Vinson (You're Next): If you follow the horror genre at all then you've been reading about You're Next for years now. After every festival appearance audiences come away exclaiming the brilliance of this little siege film that could. When it finally came to my town I knew I had to be there opening night. Unfortunately, I was the only one in Norther Virginia with the same inclination. Saw this all alone. Too bad cuz I bet it would have had the teeny boppers jumping outta their seats. The film starts off as a fairly routine slasher, but when The Animals come axe-to-axe with Sharni Vinson...things take a turn for the ass-kickery. Another Step-Up alum proves herself. Badass.
Best Star Trek Moment - Simon Pegg Kirks The Computer (The World's End): This is hard to discuss without revealing some massive spoilers for The World's End. Let's just say that it's a pretty sad year when the most badass Captain Kirk moment comes from a tiny British movie while the actual Star Trek franchise farts in your general direction. Cheers to Edgar Wright, Live Long & Prosper sir.
Most Quotable Film - This Is The End: "Fuck Your House, Franco!" "Subway sandwich? That's art." "Call Me Your Prince of Persia." "I'm straight up lovable son." "Fuckin' GI Joe Loves Me!" "I call him Channing Taint-YUM!"
Best Remake - Maniac: If you had asked me a few years ago what the last horror film the Hollywood Machine would ever remake, Maniac might not have been the first film to leap off the tongue (that would be Madman), but it wouldn't have been too far behind. William Lustig's original is an ugly little slasher that takes most of its pleasure from Tom Savini's gore gags. A curio at the very best. Franck Khalfoun's version is another fascinating little experiment - an exercise in P.O.V. that really only succeeds thanks to Elijah Wood's absolute commitment to such a despicable character. I don't think I'll be rushing to see it again, but I admire it's audacity.
Worst Remake - Oldboy: Sure, I'm shocked this Americanization of the Korean film keeps much of the original's twists & turns. But it's so stringent to Park Chan-wook's flick that it offers absolutely nothing new. I'm afraid this is just one of those films that was never going to win me over. Too similar? Too different? Who cares? I got the original, I don't need A Spike Lee Joint. Josh Brolin is decent in the role. Elisabeth Olsen is solid too. Sharlto Copley seems to be living in a different universe, but I kinda dig his whole creepy kimono vibe. Still, I don't see the point.
Film Discovery of the Year - Keoma: Way back in January of this year, as I was reeling from the cinematic onslaught that was Django Unchained, I worked my way through a series of Spaghetti Westerns. On one particular Saturday I subjected a group of friends to my favorite Macaroni Westerns, but days after the party I was still craving some Franco Nero. I blind bought a Double Bill blu ray featuring Keoma & The Grand Duel. Wow. Just Wow. Leone & Corbucci just cannot prepare you for Enzo Castellari's surreal dreamscape. Franco Nero is a half-breed indian who returns to his homestead after the conclusion of the Civil War. A gang of Confederate soldiers have taken over, the same men responsible for the slaughter of his mother's people, and only Keoma can bring peace to the land as well as vengeance to his heart. It's a typically violent saga of the Italian tradition, made all the more effective thanks to Castellari's imaginative use of flashbacks - in which the main character can walk in and out from. The film also bears one of the most aggressive - nay - oppressive scores in the genre, with the titular theme song screaming & screeching the plot as the narrative chunters along. A negative? Nope. The "Keeeeeeoooooooooommmmmmmma" chant only adds to the nightmare. This is certainly an odd flick, but one I'm going to watch for the rest of my life. Franco Nero + Grizzly Adams Beard + "Keeeeeeeoooooooommmmmmmmmma" = Epic Western.
Film Rediscovery of the Year - They Live: Before 2013 I'd probably already watched this film twenty or so times. I've always loved it. But something about the combination of the Scream Factory blu ray & The Alamo Drafthouse screening, I rediscovered my enthusiasm for this John Carpenter classic all over again. Sure, it's got all the coolest one-liners: "I've come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all outta bubble gum." And it has the single greatest fist fight ever committed to the silver screen: Rowdy Roddy Piper crushing Keith David for five plus minutes with a variety of WWF maneuvers. However, what really struck me in 2013, as all of cinema seemed concerned with the evils of capitalism (see The Wolf of Wall Street, Pain & Gain, Spring Breakers, The Great Gatsby, The Purge, This Is The End, Blue Jasmine, You're Next, Now You See Me, The Counselor, Dallas Buyers Club) John Carpenter's sci-fi action romp is more relevant than ever. Of course, do any of these films have any real affect on me? I spend my life consuming product - comics, movies, tv. Obey? You're damn right.
Best Criterion of the Year - Seconds: I've always been the type of cineaste to drink the Criterion Kool-Aid, but in no other year have I drunk so deeply. In September, as a reaction to the drab Summer Blockbuster season, I basked in a movie month loaded primarily of Criterion releases. I discovered films like Black Narcissus, Things To Come, The Last Picture Show and rediscovered films like Homicide, 310 To Yuma, and Eating Raoul. Every week I listened to the Criterion Cast podcast, and I trolled the message boards in an attempt to decipher the next batch of releases. They're doing God's work, and when they announced the Zatoichi boxset I nearly wept with joy. Still, the disc I was most thankful for this year was John Frankenheimer's Seconds. I had not watched this film for over a decade. It was always one of those black & white gems I championed to the young when they dared to bemoan the film's of yesteryear. An unhappy man takes the invitation of a shadowy corporation to exchange his old face for a young one. He gives up the old life, but falls back into the routine of his doomed mentality. Twilight Zone tragic highlighted by James Wong Howe's brilliant shadowplay. Scary. Weird. Depressing. Truth. Yeah, this is the type of social science fiction I wanted from Elysium.
Best Silver Screen Classic - Kiss Me Deadly: E Street, Angelika, AFI Silver, Alamo Drafthouse. I live in an oasis of theaters willing to screen The Great Films. This year I was lucky enough to see House of Frankenstein, Phantasm, Phantasm II, Razorback, Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Enter the Dragon, They Live, 8 1/2, Jaws 3D, Gojira, King Kong, Star Trek IV, Hell Drivers, Gilda, The Visitor, Ms. 45, Sweet Smell of Success, and Zodiac. Damn. I'm one lucky fella. Kiss Me Deadly, however, is the Silver Screen Classic that knocked my socks off. I've seen it a half dozen times now (thanks to Criterion), but watching Ralph Meeker large & in charge from the front row of the AFI Silver was something special. It also helped that Matt & I went with our buddy Ben who had never seen the film before. Watching him watch the explosive climax was hilarious. He couldn't believe what he had just seen. Did she really open the box? Did that just happen!?!? Yes sir, Kiss Me Deadly just shattered your brain. You are welcome. Meeker is one mean dude. Try to take him down and he'll bash your skull against the wall. Send in your goons and they'll flop on the beach house floor. His only weakness, the dames. Too bad. We all might live happily ever after if not for his blinding libido.
THE ACTOR OF THE YEAR!
The Rock (Snitch, GI Joe - Retaliation, Pain & Gain, Empire State, Furious 6): The hardest working man in show business also happened to rake in the most amount of cash this year. He may not have proven to be the savior of every film, but Mr Dwayne Johnson never failed to bring heaps of charisma & charm to his pictures. Snitch was solid A to Be thriller. It was one of his strongest performances for sure, but it didn't prepare me for the coke fueled insanity that was his Pain & Gain Jesus freak. Wow. Give the man the gold statue. It doesn't get much funnier or scarier than his Paul Doyle. He stole the show right from under Mark Wahlberg's feet, and it's no wonder Michael Bay wanted to put him front and center of his next Transformer mega hit. Thankfully, The Rock is no fool. He's playing his career carefully. Sure, he may be partnering with hack Brett Ratner, but his Hercules project has been near and dear to his heart for several years now. I got high hopes and a little faith that the champ can make it work. No more Scorpion Kings.
Runner Up - Matthew McConaughey
THE MOST ANTICIPATED FILM OF 2014!
Guardians of the Galaxy: Here it is folks. It's all been building to this. Are you ready for Rocket Raccoon? I sure as hell am. No Thors here. No Iron Men. No Avengers. Just a big budget Space Pirate movie directed by the man who brought us such creepoid classics like Slither & Super. Marvel is going big. If it succeeds we are going to plummet down a rabbit hole of crazy that could possibly lead to another Howard The Duck. YES! Let's see The Peanut Butter Barbarian up on the Big Screen! There are a lot of possibly cool flicks coming out next year: Godzilla, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Raid 2, but from what I saw at this year's Comic Con, Guardians of the Galaxy is the film to beat. Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Benecio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, John C Reilly, Karen Gillen, and Glen Close!?!?!? That's a crazy big and wonderfully odd cast. I need this film to work. I need another Ice Pirates in my life.
Runner Up - Godzilla
Phew. Did you make it all the way through? You couldn't possibly have read all of this drivel? If you did, thank you. I love movies, I love compiling lists, and I love sharing my enthusiasm for my favorite art form. 2013 has been the best year of my life. No joke. I have never been happier. I imagine 2014 will only be better. I look at all that ranting above and I find myself incredibly satisfied with the cinema scene. There was a lot of dreck to trudge through, but I'm more satisfied with this Top Ten list than I am with any of the other previous Dorkies posted on ITMOD. Cool.
This was also the first year in which The Wife compiled her own Top Ten. That's a serious win for our relationship. I'm so pleased that she not only placates my obsession, but also enjoys taking a part in it. So let's sign off this year with her Favorite Films of 2013. Seeing both of Marvel's releases here fills me with great joy...and a little pride. Good night folks.
1. The World's End
2. American Hustle
3. Thor - The Dark World
4. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2
5. Iron Man 3
6. The Way Way Back
7. Journey to the West - Conquering the Demons
8. Much Ado About Nothing
9. Warm Bodies
10. This Is The End