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2013 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year

February 16, 2014 1 comment

Rush - Chris Hemsworth

FINALLY! The moment I’ve been building up to for far too long! It’s been a busy month… and a half… for me, but I’m finally done, and this is my last of my 2013 in Review articles! (Consequently, while none of these are exactly final reviews, many of them may as well be and portions of what is stated here may show up in a future review. For the sake of my sanity and my time, however, I’ve decided to present what I felt the need to write without very many edits!)

The format I’ve chosen for my annual Year in Review articles is a bit insane, I know, but while it’s time consuming, its also quite fun, and it’s just as much about sharing all the films released in the last year (or at least most, as I probably missed some in the sections where I went over films I didn’t get around to seeing) as it is about me locating films that you and I have both overlooked, which is also why a lot of the films I didn’t see this year made repeat appearances, as I couldn’t resist the urge to watch them, and it’s not like I’d be able to do another year in review for them, too, you know? This year, one of those movies I didn’t see at first but did during my writing these articles even made it onto this list, My Top Films of the Year!

The Wolf of Wall Street - Jonah Hill, Marching Band

So why don’t I call it “The Best Films of the Year”? It’s simple, really – it’s subjective, yes, but it’s also because even I switch around the order at times. I guarantee you that at some point in the past and future, I might have ordered these films differently. It took some time and thought, and this is ultimately what I felt comfortable enough with to publish, but I’ll tell you that this was a hard process, particularly in the top 10.

All of this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominees are on this list. Seriously – I’ve even decided to mark the Oscar nominations this year. They were all very good and justifiably nominated, and while I might have my preferences as to who should win, they’re all remarkable, worthwhile films if you should ever consider watching them. Some of the other movies on this list, however, are also quite awesome, some of which I like better than the films that were nominated, and one of which I’m still very annoyed didn’t at least get the tenth vacant slot in their nominees list, just out of principle for how awesome it was. (I’m just going to tell you now, that movie is Inside Llewyn Davis.) How annoying!

The World's End - Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan - beer

So what of the rankings? Lists like these tend to demand them, so I include them, and I do think they are helpful in making priorities in our very busy lives as to what to see first and give preference to. Since the rankings are so subjective and sometimes even arbitrary, my main rule is to go with my gut on these things. Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a mixture of favoritism, enjoyment, entertainment, and, yes, the actual skill behind the scenes and within them. As such, films that were without a doubt brilliant masterpieces that will go on to receive tons of accolades and be remembered forever may be outranked by flash-in-the-pan popcorn films that have very little to say except, “Hey, look at this awesome thing we did!” but were also very skilled at doing so and are films that I will revisit time and time again whenever I want to be entertained. It’s hard to rank films of these sorts against one another, and if I felt that I could be that much more objective about these things and take out the entertainment factor, I would probably top load this list with all the heavyweight dramas and such. But I don’t think I can, so I don’t put up any airs of being able to do so.

But, you know, I think that’s alright. Variety is the spice of life, you know, and to say that dramas should be exalted at all times above the comedies and action films is, I think, false doctrine when it comes to film criticism and lessens the true value of joy and wonderment that isn’t always found in those serious dramas – so long as that joy and wonderment is done very well, of course.

So, with that all in mind, I feel I’ve prepared you for this eclectic list of my picks for not just the best films of the year, but also the ones that are my favorites, the ones I find most enjoyable, and the ones that blew me away with their spectacle. Read more…

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2013 IN REVIEW: Neither the Best, Nor the Worst Films I Saw

February 1, 2014 2 comments

Elysium - Sharlto Copley and Alice Braga

I apparently watched a lot more movies in 2013 than I had realized… The films below represent not the worst, not the best, but certainly not always good, but also certainly not always bad movies that I saw in and from 2013. Only films released theatrically were counted, and film festival debuts did not count. Some of these films were truly great, others were truly awful, but none of them were seen fit to be placed in “the worst,” “the best,” nor “my favorite” categories. And so, they go here. Here are some of the films I watched in 2013, in order of release! Read more…

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2013 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)

January 18, 2014 2 comments

Monsters University - Mike Wazowski

Blockbuster season. Typically the season where most of the most anticipated films of the year — the ones that were hyped perhaps years in advance — are released. Since 2012 was the year when The Avengers gave us the first superhero team-up film and the year when The Dark Knight Trilogy came to a close, 2013 looked like it was going to be rather underwhelming this time of year. I already mentioned that Iron Man 3 was released in April, starting the season early, but Thor: The Dark World wasn’t coming until October!

So that left us with two major superhero films to look forward to: Man of Steel, which divided audiences and critics alike in its more serious, violent portrayal of Superman, and The Wolverine, which made good on its promise to improve upon its abysmal predecessor and managed to be both coherent and quite entertaining. Pixar and DreamWorks continued their rivalries, however, with the release of Pixar’s first prequel, Monsters University, and DreamWorks’ first sequel to cash-cow Despicable Me. (The less said about Turbo, the better.) World War Z finally came out and, predictably, did very well for itself, what with people being starved for zombie entertainment until the next season of The Walking Dead started. Summer also saw the release of some fairly big “prestige” films, however, the likes of which you’d normally expect to come out during the fall and winter Oscar season: Fruitvale Station, The Spectacular Now, and Blue Jasmine each received widespread critical acclaim.

Perhaps my most anticipated films of the summer were Star Trek Into Darkness, Pacific Rim, and The World’s End, which were all released during this time, and I personally actually enjoyed each of them immensely, though to also varying degrees. This was the time period where I did get promoted at my job and also got a raise, so I was able to see a few more films that I just wanted to see during this time. Nevertheless, I couldn’t see them all, so, as with the last time, here are the films that, as of this writing, I did not see from May– August 2013, in order of release, as noted on Wikipedia. Please note that, as in the past, I still reserve the right to watch any film that is listed here and then re-remark on the film in one of the upcoming articles on films I did see from 2013. So, yes, again, you might see some of these films again, and soon… Read more…

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2013 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)

January 11, 2014 3 comments

Iron Man 3 - Robert Downey, Jr.

With a few exceptions, this is the time of year when studios tend to dump lesser films and films not expected to do well during the blockbuster and Oscar seasons — stuff like low budget horror films, foreign imports, romcoms cashing in on Valentine’s Day, and films held off because the studios would rather market them at a time when nothing else is really out, and they might be able to get a few bucks out of those who crave a blockbuster but don’t want to wait a few months. Naturally, being the thrifty, frugal person I am, there were quite a few films I didn’t see during this time period, though with the summer blockbuster season creeping earlier and earlier into the year, such as with the high profile March release of Oz the Great and Powerful and the April release of Iron Man 3, it certainly seems like studios are catching on to the idea that, hey, there’s room to spread them all out. One can only hope that if that trend continues, filmmakers would be more likely to try harder and make films that standout in quality for your dollar… but that’s probably unrealistic.

Anyway, here are the films that, as of this writing, I did not see from January – April 2013, in order of release, as noted on Wikipedia. Please note that, as in the past, I still reserve the right to watch any film that is listed here and then re-remark on the film in one of the upcoming articles on films I did see from 2013. So, yes, you might see some of these films again, and soon… Read more…

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2013 IN REVIEW: It Begins

January 6, 2014 1 comment

World War Z - Brad Pitt

Hello, everyone who reads this blog, and Happy New Year! I haven’t written in a couple weeks, mainly because, well, I really needed a vacation and was visiting with family. But I’ve actually been really looking forward to getting back to writing (even if my lazy mindset often convinced me of doing otherwise), and I’m ready to start blogging again. It being January, that means it’s time to look back at the past year in film and, at least for me, reflect on the movies I liked, loved, hated, and, yes, didn’t even see. That’s right — I start off my year in review with a look back on the films I managed to not see and comment on why that was. (If you’re thinking that this involves quite a bit of blind judgment on my part, then I’m willing to admit that, yes, that is indeed the truth in many cases, but never without reason, however sound, but, more often than not, it’s just because money and time did not allow for it.)

Before I get into all that, however, I figured I’d use this opportunity to reflect publicly about what the year 2013 in film meant for me, specifically. 2013 was a pretty big year of changes for me, after all. One of the biggest factors that took place in my life was the fact that, at the beginning of March, I not only remained a bachelor, I also became one without a roommate, as my best friend moved back to our mutual hometown to be closer to his family after his grandmother had passed away within the last year. Fearing change already but also having a very steady job I was not inclined to leave, I faced the challenge of staying where I was while simultaneously moving on in another way. This being a movie blog, I’m not so inclined to talk too much about how this impacted me emotionally and all that schmaltzy stuff, it did nonetheless inspire a special review of what is perhaps the “bromance” comedy of my generation, Superbad, a movie I note again that I unapologetically include on my list of films that have made me cry, and one that my friend and roommate for the better part of 6.5 years had given to me as a Christmas present not long ago on Blu-Ray (he got my DVD copy, which I was more than happy to bequeath, since that movie is actually quite beautiful to behold in HD).

Superbad - I love you!

Part of living alone (apart from two cats) is the fact that, suddenly, things become more expensive. My one room apartment is certainly cheaper than the total of our two bedroom one, but I’m personally paying more. I also have to cook all my own meals now, even when I’m tired from work, or otherwise obtain it in some other manner, whereas before my ex-roommate and I had a system of alternating halves of the week where one of us was responsible for providing both of our meals. This meant that, by Thursday, I was already either tired of the one thing I cooked in large portions so that I wouldn’t have to cook again or I opted for eating out — a factor that not only contributed to some unfortunate weight gain, but also an impact on my wallet.

The Twilight Saga - Bella's Revenge

And that’s why this happened…

How does this relate to movies? Well, I was certainly less willing to go to the theatre for just any movie for a good portion of the year (I got promoted midway through, so that helped), and I began relying upon Netflix delivery (thanks to my closest Blockbuster closing down — you know, before they all closed down) and streaming to fulfill most of my needs, renting at Redbox whenever I came across free rental codes and buy-one-get-one coupons… or a movie I just really, really wanted to see. The impact this had on my blogging was a lot of theme month reviews for me. Girly Movie Month. Guy Movie Month. I even had a period of doing friend suggestions that resulted in my first TV movie review in Ballet Shoes, wound up reviewing a TV special in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (which I’m actually pretty proud of), and did nearly end up doing a Christian Movie Month due to some annoyances I was having regarding the state of Christian entertainment, but I only popped out a couple reviews — Johnny, Fireproof, and Chariots of Fire. I even contemplated Controversial Movie Month and had even watched a few films in preparation (Brokeback MountainMysterious Skin, The Woodsman, and was also planning on including The Last Temptation of Christ). Let’s also never forget my binge review of The Twilight Saga, borne of morbid curiosity and my giving my willingness stepsister the films for her Christmas and birthday gifts over the years when no one else in my family would. Hell, I even wound up reviewing two Tyler Perry Madea movies this year, including one I had doomed myself to reviewing early on, as if it were some kind of bad omen to look forward to for nearly 12 months.

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas - Larry the Cable Guy, Tyler Perry, and Kathy Najimy

… Never forget. Never again….

This limitation did, however, also result in my first anime reviews — Macross IIPerfect BlueFrom Up on Poppy Hill, and Tokyo Godfathers — and I think I’ve finally gained a better appreciation for the medium’s potential, even though I never really outright hated it before. Overall, I think the financial limitations ultimately resulted in some solid personal growth for me as an amateur film critic. Luckily, I also happened to have gotten some theatre gift cards at the end of the year (which I’m still using up on some late year releases) from some friends and family, so while my movie habits have not exactly been as current as years past, I felt like I’ve been able to make up for lost time, more or less, so I should still be able to build a sizable list of films I saw, films I hated, and films I loved.

Pacific Rim - Jaeger drop

Awesome…

Regarding the films of 2013 in general, I do have to admit that it was an up-and-down year, but, overall, 2013 turned out to be way better than I expected. With films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises coming out in 2012, what we had to look forward to in 2013 seemed to be a bunch of cash-ins and sequels: Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Thor: The Dark World… heck, even Twilight fans had to deal with The Host. And yet those actually turned out to be pretty good (well… except for The Host, which I currently still have no clue about), with Marvel’s films in particular proving that Phase 2 of The Avengers Initiative is going to continue to be quite entertaining, at the very least. But we also got several original surprises out of the year, as well. Pacific Rim and Gravity were phenomenal sci-fi spectacle films on polar opposite ends of seriousness, and dramas like Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street showing us that even formerly seemingly-irredeemable actors like Matthew McConaughey could, in fact, redeem themselves with great performances. I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises, but, overall, despite all the downs, the ups certainly made up for much of it, and I was certainly happy for it.

Mud - Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan

And, so, that’s my introduction to my third annual year in review. I look forward to going back in time with you all and exploring both those highs and lows. Just so you know, I’m going to be following the same model as my 2012 in review, only in how it actually ended up. In other words, here’s the order I will be following:

Hope you enjoy the next few weeks! Here’s to an awesome 2014!

* …in order of my favorite
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