Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2013

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have no problem saying that my opinions on film are ironclad and correct, so I have no problem making a list called, "The Top Ten Best Movies of 2013". But here's the thing--I didn't get to see all of the movies I wanted to see for 2013. Her, Nebraska, and Dallas Buyers Club are three films I'm pretty sure deserve to be on any best of 2013 list, but I haven't seen them. This is mainly because two of them aren't playing anywhere until January, and because I missed seeing DBC when I had the chance. So there's that.

Honestly though, 2013 wasn't the best year for films (See my list of the ten worst of 2013 here). That said, there were some really damn good ones, with the ten presented here as my favorite. Have you seen them all?

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10. Sharknado

A lot of people think I have terrible taste in films because I say I like movies like Sharknado. But like one of my good friends, Raul, once said in defense of my taste in films (I'm paraphrasing, of course): Rich usually likes movies that are pretty good or really campy. And Sharknado definitely fits the latter. I mean, just look at the picture above. It's a dude with a chainsaw (But not just any dude, mind you, but the curly headed guy from 90210) jumping into a shark's mouth. How insane is that? A lot of crappy films don't play up the campiness enough and are just bland, but Sharknado realizes it's a crappy film and embraces it fully. It's no Troll 2, mind you, but it's close. It's damn close.

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9. White House Down

White House Down was a damn good action picture that didn't take itself seriously, which is why I think most people preferred Olympus Has Fallen to it. But this is the better White House siege movie. Jamie Foxx is hilarious as the President and Channing Tatum is a competent enough action hero for me to believe it. I went into this one expecting to hate it, but I fell in love with it from the very first scene. It's great, dumb, Summer fun and I loved it. Haters gonna hate.

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8. Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is another action movie that some people absolutely couldn't stand. Thin on plot and heavy on monster on robot action, PR is my kind of movie. This is also the kind of film that you MUST see in a huge IMAX theater, as the thunderous roars and slams need to be larger than life. This isn't the kind of film you can just watch on TV and appreciate. Either go big or don't go at all. That's what Pacific Rim was all about. Sure, too many of the fights were in the water, but the one really epic battle on land ("For my family") was worth the price of admission alone. If you didn't see PR in the theater, then you didn't see jack. Sucks to be you.

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7. Inside Llweyn Davis

The Coen Brothers are close to being my favorite directors ever, so I expect a lot from them, and Inside Llweyn Davis delivers. For the most part anyway. Let's just say it's more A Serious Man than Intolerable Cruelty. Featuring a folk singer having possibly one of the worst weeks of his life (Or maybe every week is just as bad for this loser), ILD is probably the Coen Bros. most endearing love letter to all the starving artists out there. It certainly hits all the right notes. The thing is, I wish it was a bit more surreal like some of their other pictures like the aforementioned A Serious Man, or my all-time favorite by them, Barton Fink. That's when I think they're strongest. But what's here is very strong already and the music is wonderful. It's not my favorite movie of the year, but it's up there. It's up there.

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6. Mud

2013 was a banner year for Matthew McConaughey. I mean, last year was good with films like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, but 2013 was his breakout year with Dallas Buyers Club (Which again, I haven't seen) and Mud, which was just amazing. Mud is pretty much a drifter who pines for his old girlfriend, who may or may not be a skank depending on who's telling the story. The viewpoint is from a teenager, and the film stays with that perspective pretty much all throughout, which is extraordinary. What I really love about the film, though is the feel of it. The story moves at a gradual pace, ramping up the tension when necessary, and it's a great coming of age story for both the young man AND Matthew McConaughey's character. it just works. See it.

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5. Gravity

While I didn't quite get the sense of floating in space like some of the critics made it seem like watching this film was like (liars), I did still feel a sense of awe and wonder. Especially since this movie only has two actors in it to speak of. Basically, to sum up this movie, all I have to say is this: It's about stuff going wrong in space. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true, and it works here, mostly because of the performances and the suspense. Who knew space junk could be mankind's greatest nemesis? There's problem after problem after problem in this picture, and the film works because of it. Plus, it's relatively short, so there's no filler in there. Gravity is a grand, spacey epic and definitely worth your time if you haven't seen it already.

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4. 12 Years A Slave

Unflinching is probably the best word I could use to describe this slave epic. Steve McQueen (I still can't get over the fact that there's a black director from England named, Steve McQueen, just like the famous actor of yore) doesn't compromise with his depictions of how terrible slavery truly was. Every grueling crack of the whip is palpable and terrifying, and you get a sense of how awful it was to be out there day in, day out. Based off of the book of the same name, the movie is actually better than the story it came from, which is a true testament to the power of film. Sometimes visuals truly are needed to convey the horror of a situation.

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3. American Hustle

Besides Paul Thomas Anderson, I think it's pretty hard to find a modern day director who is consistent in regards to quality, but David O Russell is yet another to add to that notch, as American Hustle is his third phenomenal film in a row (Personally, I wasn't a big fan of I Heart Huckabees, but that may have just been me). Playing to his strengths, O Russell has brought together a tremendous ensemble cast who all just seem to gel well together and make a relatively big story feel small and important. Sure, many of the events in this film are probably fake outside of ABSCAM, but this was never meant to be a history lesson. It was meant to be fun, and American Hustle is definitely that. If not for the next film on this list, I would say it's the most fun film of the year, but it's not. It's very close, though.

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2. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is like Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but with more context. That is to say that it's a wild, drug fueled trip with a bit more substance and background, with that background being Wall Street in the 1980s. I love this movie so, so much for three reasons, which are really my three fundamental factors that make any good story worth your time. One, is the pacing. At three hours in length, I thought I was going to be bored out of my mind watching this movie, but nope. Every last second is enjoyable, and you really felt swept up in the whole grand production. It moves at an electric, cocaine-fulled pace and it's incredible. it's one of the most enjoyable three hour sessions I've ever spent in a movie theater, by far. The second big factor is the characters, and most of them are repugnant, loud-mouthed assholes, and they're all the more enjoyable for it. Especially Jonah Hill's character, who you just want to strangle by the tie until his life blood is drained out of him. Yeesh, what a scumbag. And finally there's the conflict, and this film, while light on it for the most part, is staggering when it comes to the collapse you of course see coming. In many ways, The Wolf of Wall Street is an extremely energetic Greek tragedy, with hubris and greed being the cause for the ultimate downfall. I was tempted to put this as my favorite film of the year, but one movie kept me from it. I just couldn't deny it its rightful place. I loved it that much.

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1. Enough Said

I can't believe I'm saying this, but what pretty much amounts to being a romantic comedy is my favorite movie of the year. Let me explain. James Gandolfini's last movie is so great because it feels so real. The emotions the characters go through are subtle and to the point. And while I hate happy endings because they normally aren't logical and feel forced in, I actually felt a sense of happiness at the end of this movie, because the endiing felt deserved and real. Everything just worked in this picture. The characters are likeable but flawed, and the story is gradual and entertaining. Yes, there is a twist in the middle that some people find too much of a stretch, but it didn't bother me. In fact, it really felt palpable to me. I felt trapped just like the character it happens to, even though it really was all her fault entirely. In the end, though, Enough Said just registered with me. I said it's a romantic comedy, but it's not lovey dovey and it's not particularly a comedy. Not in the broad sense anyway. But it is something really special, and it's a fitting coda to Gandolfini's staggering career. This is my favorite movie of the year, bar none. Enough said!

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