I saw 90 movies in 2013 (or shortly thereafter, if we’re being honest- I don’t know how anyone is expected to see all the Christmas releases in one week!). 90 is a lot of movies, or at least it is for me (I head up My Theatre and My TV, My Cinema is Rachael’s problem). I think 90′s a lot for anyone (to clarify- that’s 90 movies that came out in 2013, not movies in general). It’s especially a lot in a year that was something of a disappointment film-wise. Following up the greatness that was 2012, 2013 left me feeling a little uninspired. There were some highlights, certainly- some tiny movies, some huge, some blockbusters, some critical favourites, some flops that got a bad rap- but little of the excitement that I felt the previous year.
To recap the year, I decided to replace a top 10 list (or top 15, if you’re 2012) with a full ranking of My Cinematic 2013. All year long I kept tabs on what I saw, jotting down a few notes and fitting each film into the ever-growing list wherever I instinctively felt it should go. With the perspective of time, some have moved up or down a few spots but both #1 and #90 have stayed firmly in their hard-earned territory as the best and the worst.
50. White House Down
The better of the two “Die Hard in the White House” films of the year, for mostly stylistic reasons. This movie has really weak plotting and very clunky dialogue. But a strong leading man with fantastic comic skills (Tatum, of course), President Django, a good bit part or two (holla atcha, Nicolas Wright as “Donnie the Guide”!), standout kid star Joey King, a self-aware comedic tone, and Maggie Gyllenhaal can make up for a so-so plot anyday. It was entertaining and that’s all that matters in this case.
51. Now You See Me
Right up until the final twist, I was really enjoying Now You See Me as a sort of magic-tinged Ocean’s Eleven-style caper. A great cast, a snarky script, a cool style, a clever story- it all adds up to a really fun film… until a stupid ending undermines the whole thing. Oh well, can’t win’em all.
52. The Internship
I liked it. I know it was really silly and unrealistic and resolved itself in the cheesiest of happy endings, but I liked it. Sometimes I just want to see a happy movie with simple (but not low-brow) humour and a pair of charming leading men with good chemistry playing a predictable friendship story. It’s essentially a less-raunchy and less-romantic Wedding Crashers but, guess what, I liked that movie too.
53. August: Osage County
Julie Roberts is fantastic. Everyone’s good, really, but mostly this film reminded me how much I really love Julia Roberts. She’s just so compelling, I always want to listen to every word she says. I also enjoyed Cumberbatch playing someone simple and able to feel human emotion and Chris Cooper’s warm and settled turn as a reluctant patriarch. Meryl’s also good in a role too showy to mention. But there’s nothing to August: Osage County that really merits mention beyond its uncompromising domestic drama-ness. It’s quintessential domestic stage drama in the tradition of Long Day’s Journey Into Night (without the genius of Long Day’s Journey Into Night). It’s depressing without really evoking much and likely should have stayed on stage where a character like Violet Weston can really thunder to the cheap seats.
54. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
There came a point in 2013 when I got very tired of terribly boring films that made me feel guilty about finding them boring. Mandela was one such film. How on earth did someone manage to make the story of Nelson Mandela’s life so meandering and shapeless? Luckily, Naomie Harris is so triumphantly fierce as Winnie that she was always able to pull me back in.
55. Saving Mr. Banks
The trailers for this movie were Awesome. I was so psyched. Tom Hanks as Disney? Yes Please. Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, Paul Giamatti? Yes yes and yes. A dramatic showcase for the tragically underrated Colin Farrell? YES! I was also really excited about BJ Novak playing lyricist Robert Sherman. And then I saw the movie. All the aforementioned people are splendid, as I knew they would be, but the film itself is one of those 2-narrative debacles where half is fun and engaging and full of beloved stars and the other half is dreary and takes up too much time (if this description reminds you of Julie & Julia, you are on the right track, but that movie was better than this one). Surely the main Disney narrative could have filled an entire film without sojourning so often to Australia for a little bought of alcoholism and depression. The most memorable storyline is a small throughline about Paul Giammatti’s off-screen daughter that packs a real punch and the whole thing culminates in a prolonged shot of Emma Thompson’s face that is second only to her “Both Sides Now” scene in Love Actually in terms of tear-baiting. There’s also a “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” sequence that is the definition of happiness, but there’s a lot of depressing Australia filler between all these lovely things. A truly mixed bag that never had any chance of living up to its own trailer. But BJ Novak is delightful.
56. This is the End
The ending of this movie is my favourite thing to ever happen. I also like that Jonah Hill gets possessed by an evil sex demon, that James Franco’s glee at having his soul saved sends him back to earth, that it’s ultimately a friendship story between likeable sell-out Seth Rogen and his condescending Canadian counterpart (aka national treasure Jay Baruchel), and I like that Aziz gets invited to the party. I also like anything this cameo-rich and self-aware. But sometimes it’s just too juvenile to function.
57. Pacific Rim
A lot of my friends loved this movie. Trusting them, as I sometimes foolishly do, I ordered it on-demand one night. Big Mistake. What I’m sure is thrilling for its dramatic visuals and impressive effects on the big screen seems like a standard silly monster movie on the small one. In the middle of summer, with a bag of popcorn and low expectations, I’m sure Pacific Rim was a nice surprise. There are some unexpectedly intriguing elements (the two-pilot idea and resulting search for compatibility is kinda cool) and a fun subplot from the inimitable Charlie Day, but that’s not quite enough to live up to the hype my misleading friends gave the movie.
58. The Lifeguard
This somewhat strange, ultimately conventional quarter-life crisis indie gets by on four things. The first is Mamie Gummer who, while slightly less impossibly adorable than her sister, is just so incredibly likeable even in a weird, underwritten/overwritten combination of a role. The second is Martin Starr who has found a cinematic home in the indie rom-com world that suits him beautifully. The other two things are Kristen Bell and the hella chemistry she has with her soulful teenage conquest (David Lambert, bringing lanky-sexy to new levels). Kristen Bell could sit idle at a traffic light and it would be compelling, so in a film that rests to firmly on the shoulders of one seriously questionable character, she’s exactly who you need. Also, Hella Chemistry (I apologize for the repeated use of the non-word “hella”; I realize I cannot pull that off).
59. The Bling Ring
It’s an interesting story but Sofia Coppola didn’t manage to make it any more interesting. Israel Broussard’s desperate Marc is the only compelling character (and then only slightly) while Emma Watson chimes in occasionally with a one-liner worth waiting for. A little bit fun, a lot boring.