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.
30. Before Midnight
Rough. A Heart-hurting test of every empathetic bone in your body. In anticipation of this film, I watched its predecessors for the first time. Before Sunrise is one of the most beautiful film romances I’ve ever seen (have two characters ever fallen in love with such simple fluidity?). Before Sunset grows the series up in tone, adding darker, more realistic shades of life but keeping the romantic optimism of the first film. Before Midnight is Rough. There were times I wanted to throw things at Julie Delpy’s head. But it’s mesmerizing. And Raw. And tangible in a way that the film world rarely is. Both Delpy and (especially) Ethan Hawke are tremendous in roles that the audience has had the rare privilege of seeing develop over decades. The trilogy itself is such a rare cinematic gem that the pain of its third instalment is as fulfilling as it is painful.
31. Frances Ha
This black and white Greta Gerwig indie is a little bit overrated but it scores a ton of points for being a frill-free examination of grownup friendship and its sad and under-explored insupportableness. I also loved the debunking of Paris’ transformative powers and the portrait of real struggle in Frances’ artistic pursuits. There’s also a pair of lovely supporting turns from Michael Zegen and the always-interesting Adam Driver.
32. Inside Llewyn Davis
It’s shot beautifully, the music is great, and Oscar Isaacs is captivating in the title role. But while I appreciate a character portrait that doesn’t follow film school story guidelines, I do appreciate even a little bit of actual plot.
This film is very scattered but very interesting. A huge ensemble cast (highlighted by James Badge Dale’s stirring performance as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother) shows the Kennedy assassination and the following days of chaos from almost every angle, except the crazy conspiracy ones. No artificial dramatizing here; the actual drama is compelling enough on its own (Jackie handing the head nurse a piece of her husband’s brain? Yikes).
34. Warm Bodies
I don’t do zombies. But I do do Shakespeare. By filming Romeo & Juliet as a zombie comedy, writer/director Jonathan Levine made zombies a thing that I enjoyed watching. Is it weird that I think Nicholas Hoult is cuter in this movie than he’s ever been before? Yeah, actually, now that I write it down, it’s definitely weird.
35. Delivery Man
This movie looked fairly stupid and was actually fairly charming. I’m all for Cobie Smulders building her movie career (let’s put her in everything) and the giant ensemble of attractive young people who play Vince Vaughn’s children very easily won my heart (highlights include Amos VanderPoel’s Taylor, Adam Chanler-Berat as weirdo Viggo and Dave Patten as the troubadour guy in the hat; I’m also weirdly loyal to Britt Robertson). They could have gone immature boy comedy on this one but instead they went heartfelt family comedy and what a good decision that was. Oh, and Chris Pratt. Chris Pratt forever. Chris Pratt always. Chris Pratt for President.
36. The Spectacular Now
I really wanted to like this movie more than I actually did. I want to get on the Shailene Woodley train before Divergent comes out and it gains too much speed (actually, that movie looks kind of bad; it’ll be The Fault in Our Stars that catapults her I think). I want the rest of the world to get on the Brie Larson train (United States of Tara, what what!). Meanwhile, Miles Teller is a huge talent and, after a slew of star turns in small roles, this was his first big lead where he got to really show off. But, after the first few scenes (which are splendid), it started to drag a bit. Teller is fantastic as an impossibly charming high schooler with a dark side, but I never felt fully invested in the romance that’s supposed to save him or the demons that are preventing that from happening. Quite possibly a victim of high expectations.
I really like Steve Coogan but I felt like this film left a lot of comedy on the table without going far enough into the tragedy and corruption of the tale to get away with leaving comedy on the table. It was marketed almost like a feel-good film but the story is shockingly dark. The film doesn’t balance those two identities very well at all. Which is not to say that it doesn’t have its emotional moments, it just doesn’t have enough of them.
An odd little rom-com starring the kid who’s about to steal The Fault in Our Stars from Shailene Woodley (what up, Isaac!). Also Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, you may have heard of them. Like its stars, Admission is very likeable, pretty smart, and sometimes a little too formulaic. But the kid (Nat Wolff) is good- quirky and interesting and believably genius. It also made me very glad that I never have to apply for University again.
39. The Big Wedding
One of the great surprises of the year, this movie looked really bad but is actually really pretty good. I love Topher Grace anytime anywhere and Katherine Heigl came back to prove why we all liked her in the first place, before we all started hating her. A great cast, a cute story, a fun surprise.