It's the end of the year, and I've put together a list of five of my favorite movies from 2013. This doesn't mean I consider these the best of the year, but these are the ones that have stayed with me. Narrowing down the list was a little tricky, and there are some on the cutting room floor that deserve a little more (sorry, Pacific Rim). But what can you do? Also included at the bottom is my single biggest regret of the year, cinematically speaking. The favorite list is ordered chronologically.
The one ray of light at the beginning of the year was this piece of sci-fi from April. This is a movie that I liked then, and has grown on me since. The whole thing feels cohesive, that it is all a part of its own world. The design, the story, the music, all work together to produce a couple of hours of entertaining getaway. It has a peculiar beauty and emotional current running through it that resonated with me. I know there were haters then, and you've probably forgotten about it now, but I'd say to give it a shot one night.
2. The Kings of Summer
This one is I think less divisive, but also less circulated. It was a hit at Sundance, but I don't know that much of our local theatre-going public saw much of it. It is on DVD now, so there isn't any excuse. This movie really freshened up the coming-of-age genre for me. It is hilarious and touching and exciting, and it has a distinctive flavor. It is one of those that is as enjoyable watching the second time around as the first, because there is so much to experience. It isn't overwhelmingly dense, but each frame is loaded with summer and adolescence and things to be relived. It is sure to have something that you thought only you and your teenage friends ever did.
3. Blue Jasmine
My favorite character movies of the year came from one of my most idolized directors, Woody Allen. I feel that this is among his strongest movies to date, and much of that is because of Cate Blanchett. She is wonderful. There are so many layers to her character that many actresses might overlook or overexpose, but her precise, delicate touch is at once thrilling and tragic to watch. It is a tragedy for the 21st century. For all its drama and weight there is still some dark humor, but do not look for any comic neuroticism here. Allen writes best when he writes like this, and it is a treat.
Of the movies I've seen this year, Gravity was the most unexpected and surprising. I do not remember such an engrossing, pervasive experience at a theatre. Fun-killers will say that its science is dubious, but since when are we watching a documentary? The elements that make it such a great movie are all sterling: the visual effects, the story being told, its sheer experiential quality. It is movies like this, not flashy action hoedowns and gaudy studio look-at-me's, that make going to the movies the special event it can be, and I'm glad that can still happen in our skeptical age.
5. 12 Years a Slave
I'm the first to be wary when people call a movie "important". It's a movie, not a movement. It is first a piece of art; anything else comes later and is often fleeting. I think the title "important" can only be bestowed decades later, when history has given it a more objective scrutinization. But, 12 Years a Slave is a movie that feels momentous once it is over. Its narrative is vital, and its delivery is flawless. It is respectful, but truthful, and will eventually become a part of our canon of art and literature devoted to the story of slavery. It is still playing, and I urge you to go.
We have come to the real reason you are reading this, to discover what I was hating on enough to decry it in writing. There were disappointments this year, as there are every year. After Earth and Man of Steel come to mind. The one has suffered its anonymous death already, but the other has spawned offspring bred to combat Marvel's unstoppable box-office force. However the movie I speak of here was one that perhaps promised more, and has greater expectations trailing it. And that movie is...
Star Trek Into Darkness
To be brief, I will say that its sins are many and grievous, but the chiefest of these is the central conceit itself. The character of Khan and his consequences for our heroes mean nothing more to uninitiated fans, and ruin the greatest entry of the franchise for everybody else. I am not worried about the rest of the Star Trek franchise, because nothing worse can be done to it, but I am most concerned about a certain other intergalactic property to which JJ Abrams is attached. I know not all of a film's problems can be pinned to the director (I look now at writer Damon Lindelof, who almost ruined the Alien world with his Prometheus meddlings in addition to killing Star Trek) but he most certainly signed off on their being given life. Star Wars: Episode VII has a LOT of convincing to do.
Those are my year-end thoughts, so what about yours? What were your favorite discoveries and hurtful let-downs?
by Chase Harrison