December 27, 2013

The Year in Review: 2013

To date, I've seen 41 films and counting, as I close out 2013 with this annual post. I want to echo something Village Voice film critic Stephanie Zacharek said in her recent article listing her favorite movies of the year: it's not so much about ranking them as it is about taking stock of the movie year and noting which films mattered to us the most. As I've perused the myriad 'best of' lists of different film critics circulating on the web, I'm encouraged to see such variety. It's one of the good things about living in a hyper-connected world: increased availability of what might have been called "small" movies some time ago, but what is now just lumped into that dreadfully vague and loaded word "independent."

I'm happy to report that there were a number of enjoyable movies sprinkled throughout the year, despite the fact that there is still that December imbalance of too many highly acclaimed movies to see. Why is no one acknowledging how good Danny Boyle's Trance was? I have very fond memories of it, yet Trance has been absent from every major critic's list I've seen. Inventive and fun thrillers are so hard to come by these days, especially ones that manage to work art theft and psychological trickery into the plot.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt proved his merit as not just an actor but also a writer and a director with the sharp, fantastically clever and thoughtful Don Jon. This is one of the most intelligent romantic comedies of the modern era, and an apt commentary on 21st century social problems (like ignoring the real world with your cell phone). Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig sent me into the thralls of delight with Frances Ha (my favorite movie of 2013), which proves that movies really can give you hope.

I had a surprisingly good time with Brad Pitt as he battled a zombie epidemic in World War Z (I don't think of it as a zombie movie really, just a really fun adventure film). The last thirty minutes were taut and exciting, and the irony of the scientist--the key to solving this pandemic--getting killed early on (and accidentally, no less!)-- was just too ingenious. Sophia Coppola tapped into the nature of vapid materialism and youth culture with shatteringly adept and admittedly depressing results in The Bling Ring. Julia Louis-Dreyfus made me sit up and say, "oh yeah...why hasn't she been doing more movie roles?" in Enough Said. I cheered for The Kings of Summer and the fact that we had two thoughtful and understated summer movies with young people as the lead characters (the other being the imperfect but equally charming The Way, Way Back).

I was surprised by how much I liked the rock documentary A Band Called Death. It was like a detective thriller in a way: uncovering this rock band that was seemingly lost to us forever. And the proof (the recordings) were stowed away in someone's attic in Detroit. I was equally thrilled to watch those background singers get their due in 20 Feet From Stardom. What a belated triumph. (Apparently this was the year of the music documentary.)

December is always equal parts exhilarating and exhausting for me as I try to play catch-up, but I'm really thankful that so many of the movies being raved about are available on Netflix and iTunes. I'm also particularly thankful to my local independent movie theater, Sun-Ray Cinema, which is doing the Lord's work here in Jacksonville. If you live in the area or are visiting them, please check them out. They're the most fun movie-going experience in the city.

And now, all the lists. Enjoy and feel free to comment with your own lists.

Favorite Movies of 2013: 

Frances Ha 
20 Feet From Stardom 
Hannah Arendt
The Wolf of Wall Street
Don Jon
A Band Called Death
The Kings of Summer
World War Z
The Bling Ring
Enough Said

Favorite Performances of 2013:
Amy Acker, Much Ado About Nothing
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Vincent Cassel, Trance
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon 
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Jacob Lofland, Mud
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club and Mud
Janet McTeer, Hannah Arendt
Jeremy Renner, American Hustle
Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street
Elizabeth Rohm, American Hustle
Nick Robinson, The Kings of Summer
Tye Sheridan, Mud
Barbara Sukowa, Hannah Arendt 

Worst Movies of 2013

There were probably a lot more than 5, but I chose not to see such films as Iron Man 3, A Haunted House, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, and The Hobbit 2 (which I've heard was pretty dismal). 

Here are my greatest cinematic regrets of 2013:
Broken City: Always discuss explicit bed scenes with your actress-wife before the premiere.  
Elysium: A real bummer, especially considering the cast.  
R.I.P.D.: Men in Black minus the fun.  
Runner, Runner: Justin Timberlake fails to hack it as a leading man, and Ben Affleck is too banal to be a good villain.  
Spring Breakers: Shoot me now and get it over with.

Haven't Yet Seen, but Want to

Inside Llewyn Davis
Stories We Tell
A Hijacking

Favorite New-to-Me Movies of 2013

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
The Queen (2006)
Real Genius (1985)
Serial Mom (1994)
An Unmarried Woman (1978)
The Untouchables (1987)
Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008) 


Tom E said...

I was hoping for an honest review of CBGB. The premise was great (a short history of punk? I'm in!), and the cast was promising (Alan Rickman, Ashley Greene, Stana Katic, Rupert Grint). Evidently, the screenplay just couldn't pull it off.

pannedreview said...

Yeah, I heard bad things about it, which is a disappointment because some of my favorite bands came out of the CBGB scene. Malin Akerman looked pretty good as Debbie Harry from what I could see. If you're interested, the Village Voice podcast talks about this movie in one of its recent "episodes".