Another year, another pile of movies. 2013 has had its ups and downs, its hits and flops, its brilliant moments of acting and its dire moments of “acting”. How do the films of 2013 rack up next to each other in the view of NFB?
It should be noted that this is a list of 2013 movies I’ve seen, per Irish release dates, not American.
38. Movie 43
Good Lord. There’s Something About Mary it most certainly wasn’t. Minus one Farrelly Brother, the other and producer Charles B. Wessler could only come up with one of the most painfully unfunny attempts at comedy you could ever have the misfortune of seeing. Worse, the creators decided to compound their incompetence by bitching about the negative reviews as if they were anything but searingly accurate. An embarrassment for those behind it, an experiment that did not work.
An attempt to reach the high point of “good bad” from the denizens of The Asylum, that fell nearly completely short. With its funniest moments used up in the first half hour, Sharknado becomes very tedious, very fast from that point on. The rest of its faults, some of them intentional, bare little mentioning. Suffice to say, bad performances, bad scripting, bad visuals, all wrapped around a bad story.
36. Zero Dark Thirty
Easily the most over-rated movie I have ever seen, and even more tedious than Sharknado. A movie that is split between its pre-assassination beginnings as a look at the futile hunt for Osama Bin Laden and its post-assassination change into a ridiculous story about pig-headed single mindedness and revenge, what Bigelow came up with in the end is an astonishingly dull trawl through covert operations with a main character so thoroughly unlikeable and played so badly, that I was stunned Jessica Chastain was ever even considered for an Academy nomination. A pissweak approach to the morality of torture, moronically inserted action sequences, one-dimensional side characters and laugh out loud moments of scripting, not even the competent recreation of the compound raid could save this one. Oddly appropriate that it was “honoured” with only half an Oscar, which is almost worse than nothing.
The movie that apparently caused Jeremy Renner to nearly quit Hollywood, and it isn’t hard to see why. Cast alongside the painfully bland Gemma Aterton in a steampunkish fairytale, this movie is of “B” quality while pretending that it is anything but. A terrible cast, script and CGI is intermingled with some bizarre production choices, like the hero’s weakness being diabetes, the love interest changing her accent half-way through, and random introductions of seemingly key characters only for their deaths to come along just randomly. A few glimpses of “good bad” save it from being a complete waste of time, as does the make-up department’s work, but everything else is various shades of dire.
The prequel nobody asked for and that nobody involved seemed that interested in anyway. You expect James Franco is plank it up alright, but it’s the terrible over-acting of Rachael Weisz and Mila Kunis, recycling a script so lame and being aided by direction so obviously poor that you can’t help but laugh. Stuff with the Little China Doll and the visually impressive and somewhat clever finale shows that there were some kernels of a good idea within this mess, but it’s all let down by a cast that are among the worst ensembles I have seen this year, who have failed to really do justice to the works of Frank Baum.
The kind of movie where, despite acknowledging its manifold flaws, you can’t help but like just a little. With plenty of really good action and CGI, and even some half-decent showings from the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce and Byung-hun Lee, Retaliation offers a competent, basic action/thriller story, doing the best that it can with the gigantic cast it has to try and fit in. Of course, it’s this low for a reason, and that’s mostly due to plenty of phoning it in, unnecessary exploitation, some bizarre plot holes and a general shallowness. A fun “popcorn movie” though, that actually improves on the first one.
Despite some excellent marketing and a distinguished cast, Epic fell apart in all of the places that really mattered. Its big guns, like Farrell and Waltz, aren’t firing on all cylinders, uninterested in a story that is as dull as it is repetitive. Taking its cues from Fern Gully, Epic tries to bring a gigantic good vs. evil tale to the screen in a micro world, but fails to really make it in any way distinguished, with even the visual side of things rarely rising above that 5/10 range. With little else going for it, and seemingly just a vehicle to keep kids distracted for an hour and a half, Epic will be little noted nor long remembered.
31. The World’s End
As a finale to the “Three Colours Cornetto”, I expected much, but was horribly disappointed. Badly paced, with nowhere near enough humour, the real problem was its main character, an unsympathetic dickhead who I was actively rooting against for much of the running time. Some jarring tonal and genre shifts, plus an overblown ending, capped it all off. Some elements, not least the performance of Nick Frost, mange to save a bit of it, but The World’s End was a drab addition to the comedic masterclasses of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
30. This Is The End
The zenith of stoner comedy, this apocalypse themed offering had a decent hook and a very good cast who were all revelling in playing slightly warped versions of themselves, but falls down with its repeatedly crass humour, length and the wild turnaround in its final act. The likes of Danny McBride have some fantastic lines, but the overall experience was lacking once you got beyond the rape and dick jokes. In the end, it seemed very much like one big in-joke among the cast, and the kind of movie where the production team was indulging themselves just a little too much. Still, it made me laugh more than The World’s End, and that’s not nothing.
Going against the grain of most reviews, I was distinctly unwowed by this Cooper/Lawrence vehicle. While it had a positive message, some heart-warming scenes and an enjoyable ending, I disliked the way that it approached a subject as serious as mental illness, the throwaway nature of the supporting cast and some of the more bizarre plot points (not least the psychiatrist deliberately provoking a panic attack in the Cooper character, without his consent). The movie has plenty going for it, and features good performances in its leads, but I just could not get past some of its more obvious flaws as others were able to. That being said, the continuing praise it has gotten does mean it is the film from 2013 I am most likely to give another shot to at some point.
28. Europa Report
A low-budget “found footage” film, Europa Report does its best to create a taut thrilling experience, within the claustrophobic environment of a not-too-distant mission to the titular moon of Jupiter. And while it succeeds in creating some tension and a genuinely engrossing mystery, the terrible acting talent on display, drawn out first act and underwhelming finale really let it all down. An impressive production for the budget that it had, but it had problems that could have been rectified with a greater emphasis on characterisation and a willingness to keep the central mystery intact when the credits rolled.
Taking so much of its plot and design from a host of other sources, Oblivion is probably the most derivative film on this list, straying a dangerous line between “lifting” and outright theft. Tom Cruise does his usual sterling work, but being on his own for so much of the movie means that he has more than he can really handle. With a supporting cast who seem to be struggling to find reasons for really being there and an antagonistic that is as boring as she is predictable, Oblivion just had way too much going against, far more than a techno soundtrack and some decent visuals would be able to fix.
Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart do their damndest to save America while aping the general structure of Die Hard, just replacing the love plot with a story of their own bromance. While so much of the other cast are phoning it in and the villain needs some serious work, it’s still a very watchable thriller, which exults in being able to show off a devastated White House and makes Butler a credible action star. Some well choreographed action sequences, from bullet storms to brutal hand-to-hand, mark this one out, but it won’t be the kind of film to keep you engaged to the full.
25. Gangster Squad
A pastiche of every other noire influence it is possible to be influenced by, Gangster Squad succeeds where it would otherwise fail due to the general high level of its cast, but mostly due to the hard intensity brought by Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, a vicious gangster who simply oozes menace. Matched by the stern-faced Josh Brolin and cynical Ryan Gosling, the movie offers some decent set-pieces and a few sub-plots that, while not fleshed out very well, still bring Gangster Squad up a few notches it might otherwise struggle to climb. A mob movie about the dangers of decadence and the unrelenting hope of a post World War II generation, Gangster Squad offers solid entertainment.
24. Wreck-It Ralph
A solid offering from Disney, that manages to find the right balance between laughs for the kids and references for the adults. A general celebration of video games in its visuals and some of its more obscure jokes, the plot of Wreck-It Ralph is largely generic and unremarkable, but features some competent VA work and flashy CGI. Working better as a love letter to the media of video games, Wreck-It Ralph also succeeds whenever it heads into darker territory for humour. Still, its closing message was surprisingly negative for a movie of this genre and from this studio, which left a bad taste in the mouth as the credits rolled.
23. Pacific Rim
A movie that I was largely prejudiced against before I even went to see it, thanks to an overblown and whiny fan reaction to its marketing campaign. A disappointing affair for the most part, Pacific Rim dazzles with its universe building work and CGI, but falls utterly flat in some many other areas, with a plot chock full of clichés, acting performances that are, with a few exceptions, quite poor and a script that was beyond dire. The film gets some kudos for the work of Rinko Kukuchi and Charlie Day, its uniquely positive message and the sheer power of its camerawork and computer imagery, but it is still far from the unique snowflake that so many wanted it to be.
22. The Heat
A surprisingly passable comedic attempt from the unlikely duo of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The plot is straight out of the book of cop movie tropes and brooks little analysis, but the film works more as a series of sketches that could have been on SNL. The worlds strangest foot chase, the best interrogation scene ever, and a tracheotomy sequence which is sure to horrify as much as it provokes laughter, The Heat is one of the most unintelligent films of the year, but is still pretty damn funny where it counts.
21. Iron Man 3
As a follow-up to The Avengers, Robert Downey Jr largely failed to meet expectations with this third instalment of a character that he has rapidly made iconic. While an improvement on the dross that was Iron Man 2, 3 still struggles with finding anything meaningful for Tony Stark to do, and falls back on well-worn plot points and “suit overload” to find its way. Full of ill-placed comedic elements, Iron Man 3 thinks that an only occasionally effective PTSD angle is enough characterisation for Stark and the central plot of the villain is full of plot holes. Its shining light is its brave treatment of the Mandarin, giving one of the more hard to approach Marvel villains a wonderful twist to do with the perception of terrorists. Guy Pearce and Gwyneth Paltrow all do just fine, but poor Don Cheadle is even less than a sidekick. Leaving off on a decent place for the Stark character, it seems clear to me that the cinematic universe might have run out of workable ideas for Iron Man from this point on.
I came out of the theatre hating this movie, but more mature reflection made me realise that its positives outweighed the negatives, by a wider degree than it appeared. Those problems are startling though, and the reason this is as low as it is: some appalling treatment of female characters, a very poor attempt at recreating a character as iconic as Khan Noonien Singh and a flailing effort to copy a far superior movie in the form of The Wrath of Khan. J.J Abrams fails in that, but he still comes up with a very enjoyable romp through space, that captures much of what makes Star Trek so intoxicating in the first place. The performances are generally of a high standard, the plot is paced and followed through well, and the general production work can only be described as stellar. Into Darkness dallies with some deep ideas, and almost takes a plunge with some brave and commendable ending choices, but veers away from greatness by eventually taking a safer route. Even with that though, this movie is better than its weakest parts.
You worry that the creative team behind one of the best comedies of my generation wouldn’t have it in them to make a decent sequel. But that’s an underestimation of the Ferrell/Rudd/Carell/Koechner/McKay team. #2 matches its predecessor beat for beat, with all of the same random humour, sure to be inspiring internet memes for years to come. The plot is threadbare and just a vehicle for sketch after sketch with these amazing characters, all of whom get a chance to shine over and over again. Casting a wide net in search of comedic material, The Legend Continues catches some great stuff far more than it misses, with stuff on race and journalism, parodies of recovery and family drama movies, and then ends with a bombastic, but imminently enjoyable finale, featuring one of the largest selection of celebrity cameos ever. Anchorman 2 is certainly a bit self-referential, but not to a damning extent. One of the funniest movies of the year, and a testament to this little frat pack band of comedic actors.
18. The Wolverine
Hugh Jackman clearly loves this character, to the extent that he has continued to commit to him after the horribleness of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Thankfully, The Wolverine avoids many of the pitfalls that doomed its predecessor. An adaptation of one of the better Wolverine comic runs, The Wolverine has a decent story to tell, a really great amount of locations to work in, some interesting supporting cast members and a love sub-plot that is actually enjoyable to watch, something so rare in this genre. The titular super hero has an interesting journey to go on here, from recluse to acting hero again, and while that arc has its bumps, it’s still more than passable. Logan losing his powers was a bit of a let-down, as was the bombastic finale after the seriousness that preceded it. But I still enjoyed The Wolverine thoroughly, as a step-up in one of the longest franchises of the genre. It certainly set the scene well for Days Of Future Past anyway.
17. Despicable Me 2
I went into this, largely against my will, contemplating something that I was sure would be the worst kind of cash grab, a lame sequel that essentially replicated the better elements of the first one to just get people in the door. Instead, it switches things up and creates a comedy that is both hilarious and heart-warming, with plenty of dark elements to keep the adults interested. The story of Gru getting over his fear of women is funny enough, but the stuff with the eldest daughter and her Mexican heartthrob crush is just as good. Throw in the minions for some wacky hijinks, and you’ve got a well rounded production, that looks visually stunning and features great VA.
A sequel I had been looking forward to for a long time, with the franchise having a somewhat special place in my heart. Vin Diesel goes back to the idea of Pitch Black to move the series forward, with a movie that replicates a lot of elements from that movie, and is at pains to cut the cord with Chronicles. But despite that, it’s still an awesome ride, with Diesel excelling and plenty of the supporting cast giving it socks. Some great CGI, a wonderful survivalist feel and top notch set-pieces keep it going, and help to eliminate the bad taste from the terrible way that the film treats female characters. The Riddick franchise has gotten the shock it needed, but another movie along these lines may just kill it off again.
15. The Great Gatsby
With a really stellar cast and the director who injected such life into various productions, this film had a whole lot going for it right from the off, and mostly delivered, mostly. Di Caprio shines as the deluded but ever hopeful Gatsby, the centrepiece in an array of colour and music that matches anything that Romeo + Juliet or Moulin Rouge had to offer. The glittering world of the roaring twenties is created to an anachronistic tee, and Fitzgerald’s story is always going to be engaging, a terrific commentary on class divides, unrequited love and the way people’s lives tend to crash into others, all portrayed excellently. But Tobey Maguire could be doing a bit better as the narrator, Carey Mulligan fails to really make the Daisy character stand out and there are numerous minor irritants that bring down the whole thing. Still one of the most ridiculously pretty films of the year, and another fine effort from Luhrmann.
“Don’t let go” ran the tagline, and the audience will be following that advice strongly, in a wonderfully thrilling tale of outer space survival. While the plot is so so, further let down by some phoning it in from Clooney and some terrible scenes around the mid-point, Gravity still shines thanks to the performance of Bullock, showing us why she actually is worthy of being an Oscar winner, and the astounding graphical presentation, a look at our planet from the most spectacular viewpoint possible, that Alfonso Cuaron takes his time showing off. Aside from that, the general CGI and 3D is mesmerising, in sequences as varied as Bullock’s character being cast adrift or the ISS being shattered into pieces by roaming space debris. Some decent scoring rounds off the experience, one of the most positively gorgeous films I have seen in ages. It is as that kind of experience that Gravity succeeds, but it does fall down in most other areas to some extent.
Phase Two got back on track in a big way in a sequel that I felt outdid its predecessor in a lot of very key areas. While much of it seemed to be the same movie as Thor, an increase in graphical budget and the popularity of Hiddleston meant that The Dark World was always going to have a bit more fun. It has its negative elements, but more positive ones. The main plot struggles a bit because of the sheer monotony of its villain, but more than makes up for it with plenty of Hiddleston verbally sparring with everybody that he comes in to contact with. The love plot is lame, but the finale is one of the most visually interesting fight scenes a comic book movie has ever produced. Some of the female characters struggle with the material but it has a funeral sequence that is simply majestic. Shot beautifully, scored well and written well, The Dark World is the kind of movie that Marvel should be looking to for future inspiration, not Iron Man 3.
12. Man Of Steel
Finally, a Superman movie that actually lives up to the comic character where it really counts. After the unforgivably dull offering that was Superman Returns, who better to inject some much needed vigour into the character than Zach Snyder? You want to see an all out slobberknocker between Superman and some Kryptonians, and that’s what you get, with some of the most awe-inspiring comic book combat scenes ever made. Of course, the carnage threshold gets breached fast, but the movies set-piece finale was far better than many gave it credit for. Aside from all that, it has a wonderful cast, with Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon all doing fantastic work in their parts, not least in an intensely alluring prologue section on the doomed planet of Krypton. It has a suitably epic space saga story, it has depth when it comes to the dichotomy of Clark Kent’s Kryptonian birth and attachment to Earth, a well explored plot line. Amy Adams is a weak Lois Lane and some will be turned off by the sheer scale of destruction that Metropolis goes through, but this is the Superman movie I have been dying to see for a very long time. Snyder met nearly all of my expectations and more. Roll on the encounter with the Caped Crusader.
Katniss Everdeen has become the new benchmark of female characters on film, and it’s no wonder really. Through Jennifer Lawrence’s sterling portrayal, we see a three dimensional individual, damaged, trying to hold on, to resolve her feelings for the two men in her life, all while becoming a pawn in a much larger revolutionary game. With the consistency from the leads that marked the first one out, matched by the likes of Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sam Clafin, who either arrive to shake things up or get more to do, Catching Fire is a wonderfully acted production, that features some strong visuals now that the imagery budget has been souped up. While the story suffers from a sudden and unsatisfying conclusion that damn near ruins the final act, it’s still very entertaining for the most part, mirroring the same beats from The Hunger Games while injecting some key new material to demonstrate how things have changed in Panem. A lot of set-up has gone in to what is sure to be a thrilling, two-part finale, and while Catching Fire doesn’t solve all of the problems from The Hunger Games, it’s still one of the best films of the year.
One of the real surprising stand-outs of the year. A gritty, urban crime thriller from some of the best names in British cinema, cast and crew, it offers a whip smart plot that takes us through the London underworld, in a story juxtaposed between James McAvoy’s obsessive, damaged detective and Mark Strong’s vengeance seeking reformed criminal. Superbly acted, brilliantly written and with tension that is just built up and up, director Eran Creevy came up with a really intriguing and vibrant movie, that asks some hard questions about the nature of gun crime, in-between some of the most unnerving death scenes ever filmed. It’s also a very beautiful movie, with the vast majority of its running time taking place in the sleek shininess of the London night, something Creevy delights in showing off. A finale that hits the right note of a climax without devolving into soppiness rounds it all off, with characters going on satisfying personal journeys with suitable conclusions. One of the real dark horses of 2013.
An immensely entertaining addition to Tarantino’s catalogue, to match his last historical offering. Tarantino really is the master of engrossing dialogue, and his Django overflows with memorable lines and back and forth’s. In Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz we have two leads that have a wonderful chemistry, as they march across southern America on their noble quest, straight out of German folklore. Leonardo Di Caprio has a fantastic turn as the villainous Candie, but Tarantino pulls the intelligent move of leaving the real antagonist work in the hands of Samuel L. Jackson, with a nice relationship defined between the two “bad guys”. Visually stunning, and with nary a bad performance, Django also shines on the musical front, with one of the more unique soundtracks of the year. The director might have some bad impulses when it comes to editing (or the lack of it), but this film is simply stuffed with some of the best scenes of the year, not least the entire dinner set-up around the mid-point. While the violence is overblown and repetitive, and the act structure needs some fine tuning, Django Unchained is easily the best western of recent times, no small accomplishment for a genre that has almost become a by-word for genericness.
Taking the crux of the rather short source material, Ben Stiller stars and directs in a tale that goes far beyond the iconic piece of mini-literature that James Thurber wrote in 1939. One of the most genuinely uplifting and positive movies of 2013, Mitty takes us on a fantastic journey with its lead character. On the outside, he moves from a claustrophobic New York, through Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. On the inside, he goes from a man who lost his chance to live life years ago, to somebody who is ready to embrace it once more. Stiller shines as Mitty, but is only one part of an impressive enough cast, from love interest Kristin Wiig, to Sean Penn’s brief but memorable scene as an adventuring photographer. With some wonderful cinematography backing up its shining script and decent music choices, and with themes ranging from the dream crushing powers of major conglomerates to the beauty of nature, Mitty is a very surprising all-round film experience. Perhaps the nonsensical nature of the Adam Scott character and some redundant scenes towards the conclusion bring Mitty down farther than it should be brought, but it still captures the imagination with its commentary and visual metaphors on the struggle for individuals to reach their potential and find things to live for. With powerful scenes by the boatload, and an ending to match any of his previous directorial efforts, Stiller’s work is to be highly commended.
A real personal choice. Having been a gigantic fan of Jason “David Wong” Pargin since way back in his pointlesswasteoftime.com days, I awaited the adaptation of his amazing fantasy horror/dark comedy novel with baited breath. While the film shows its low-budget nature throughout, and makes a few choices I didn’t quite care for, it still nails the critical elements of the novel, offering a darkly humorous take on the sort of genre that frequently fails to mix laughs with horror. Some believable characters, almost too close to the bone, take on a variety of ghouls and monsters, where the true terror comes from dark concepts of our minuscule place in the universe as opposed to meat monsters. Filled to the brim with great performances and laugh-out-loud moments, Coscarelli manages to significantly cut down on the novels content and still come out with something that is very coherent and sublimely entertaining. While the character of Amy is sadly misused, the sombre narration of Chase Williamson is a real highlight. Fans of the book should love it, while those who haven’t read it will surely be inspired to after seeing this.
Tom Hanks has still got it, and got it in spades. In this searingly emotional recreation of the Somali piracy attack on the Maersk Alabama in 2009, Hanks embodies the role of the titular commander, who does his best to keep his crew alive, and then finds himself a pawn in a very deadly game, with a group of desperate young men on one side and the might of the U.S. Navy on the other. Juxtaposed against him is Barkhad Abdi’s Muse, forced into piracy due to his appalling circumstances, and just trying to keep his head above water. A movie about the clash of civilisations in that part of the world, Captain Phillips is a masterpiece of tension, on a par with Ben Affleck’s Argo, with it being racked up minute by unbearable minute. Hanks leaves nothing on the table at the finale, with a stunning performance in the last ten or so minutes that is sure to warrant yet another Oscar nomination, while Abdi does brilliantly in his debut role. Shot in a riveting, personal manner, that perfectly captures the cramped, tight quarters feeling of the real-life events, Captain Phillips is a credit to director Paul Greengrass and his team.
Early trailers had me fearing a rushed, unsatisfying production, but instead Joss Whedon has created something magical. Shooting at his own home and working with a variety of people he has close relationships with, his adaptation of one of the Bard’s best comedies is a real joy to watch. Denisof and Acker really nail it as the original bickering couple, utilising all of that interaction experience from their time together on Angel, and are ably matched by a supporting cast that never really puts a foot wrong, with what faults they have being laid at the feet of Shakespeare’s characterisation, not Whedon. Shot with a hauntingly nostalgic sepia tone and featuring some small, but subtly good musical work, it’s a real unique performance that captures much of the texts angst, humour, misunderstandings and inner bite. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious. When it’s serious, it’s tense stuff. With a really great love story at its heart, and plenty else besides, Whedon’s Much Ado is one of the great Shakespearian adaptations of modern times.
A masterpiece of sports related film-making. Ron Howard takes the story of Formula’s One most famous season, and one of its most famous rivalries, and crafts something truly magnificent out of it. The leads, Hemsworth and Brühl, are born to play their respective roles as the playboy British motor jockey and the clinical Austrian micromanager. They play off each other brilliantly, and are ably supported by a wonderful supporting cast, not least Alexandra Lara and Olivia Wilde as their respective spouses. Their lives are an effective mirror for each other, and speak vividly to the sporting archetypes of that decade. The racing scenes are shot with ingenuity and skill, the script is efficient and memorable and Hanz Zimmer provides a suitably epic score, one of the years very best. Centred around one of 2013’s best set-pieces with the near fatal Nürburgring race of 1976, Rush is a story of rivalry and sporting exhilaration, but also of hope, beating the odds and finding victory in the right places, with nearly all of its production elements approaching a level of flawless. Howard’s best ever film.
It would take a lot to match the effort that Jackson made in An Unexpected Journey, my 2012 film of the year. Where that film went for a slow boil set-up, the second instalment just drives its narrative on and on with a relentless pace full or action, suspense and memorable moments. Jackson and his team has long established their credentials when it comes to the art of adaptation, and this offering continues that fine tradition, as the source material is retained or altered in the right measure to suit the visual medium.
The core essence of the story remains firmly intact, as Bard becomes a better character, as a woman actually gets to join the cast (shocking!) and the dwarves get a crack at Smaug. Martin Freeman remains excellent, but has less to do here than he did this time last year, and is bettered by the likes of Armitage, McKellan, Evans and above all others, Benedict Cumberbatch, who brings the titular dragon to life in just the right way. The love-plot and repetitive action sequences towards the end does bring the whole experience down a bit, but The Desolation Of Smaug is still a brilliant adaptation of Tolkien’s first great work, full of great performances, great visuals, great universe building, great music and great amount of fantasy filmmaking at its peak.
A biopic of that most famous of Presidents, of this level, is long, long overdue. But it needed the right man behind the camera, and it needed the right man under that iconic piece of headwear. Enter the spellbinding team of Spielberg and Day-Lewis, offering us Abraham Lincoln: the man, the myth, the legend. Limiting itself to a very set period of time of a few months before his death, Lincoln is an amazing story very well told. A threefold plot guides us through the last moments of the American Civil War, as Lincoln tackles the abolition of slavery, peace negotiations with the Confederacy and his own fractious family life. Every plot thread is full of memorable and moving performances from the supporting cast, with the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Lee Pace, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader and Jared Harris all shining throughout.
But it is still the towering performance of Day-Lewis that carries Lincoln into true greatness, capturing the essence of this larger than life figure and giving the audience something truly human, whether he is arguing with politicians, appealing to his older son, or just playing with his younger. The movie is bursting at the seams with amazing moments of cinema, from Lincoln’s appeal to Euclidian geometry as the basis for equality through to the final vote on the abolition amendment and the closing look at the second inaugural. While elements of the production do come close to the status of hero worship on occasion, Spielberg still does enough to justify a “warts and all” tag, from Lincoln’s shouting matches with his wife or his outright endorsement of bribery as a political tool. Amazing production values bring the audience back to 19th century Washington, though John Williams’ isn’t doing his very best work as the composer. Still, Lincoln, like the man that it represents, is truly one for the ages.
An utter triumph of a film that, speaking as a long time fan of the source material, book and musical, gets nearly everything pitch perfect in execution. Ever since the musical first graced the stage, bringing such excitement and energy to the Victor Hugo novel, a filmed adaptation has been on the cards. Now, Tom Hooper has given us that, in line with a cast that was near perfect. Choosing to use on set song rather than anything from a recording booth was a master stroke, making this musical tale through 19 century France seem as realistic as was humanly possible. A completionist approach see’s nearly the entirety of the musical included, and while that makes for a long slog through the material, the quality of the performances and the delivery more than make up for it.
Whether its Hugh Jackman belting out “What Have I Done?”, Anne Hataway bringing us to tears with “I Dreamed A Dream”, Sacha Baron Cohen being as weasel-like as they come with “Master of the House”, Eddie Redmayne invoking the most raw feeling of loss with “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, Aaron Tveit soaring with “Do You Hear The People Sing?” or the entire ensemble nailing numbers like “One Day More” and “Epilogue”. Russell Crowe is one of the sole weak points, with a voice and pitch that isn’t strong enough or good enough to really encapsulate the critical character of Javert, but he still looks the part well enough. The pageantry on display is of the very highest quality, with some wonderful cinematography throughout. It is a very visceral, in your face production, with no absence of emotion, feeling or catharsis for the audience. It captures everything that made the musical great, which was more than just songs: it was the story of sorrow and redemption, of worlds turned upside down and true love conquering all. “For the wretched of the earth, there is a flame that never dies…” after all, and Les Mis is that tale, an uplifting, bittersweet one, which is damn near perfect in this screen offering.
And so, to the awards of 2013.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Truly mesmerising in the title role of Lincoln. Day-Lewis seems, at times, to be one of a dying breed of film actor, who throw themselves into their roles to the extent that they almost seem to become them for their time on screen. His performance as the great emancipator might just be his best ever, which is no small praise.
Honourable Mentions: Hugh Jackman, Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hanks, Alexis Denisof
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi
In his very first role, at least of any note, Abdi blows it out of the water, one half of a really fantastic onscreen pairing in Captain Phillips. His Muse is portrayed brilliantly as a desperate young man who gets swept up in events bigger than himself, offering the audience a lesson in the results of poverty, and a contrast with western command styles.
Honourable Mentions: Tommy Lee Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Christoph Waltz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
In the continuing morass that is the world of decent female lead roles in Hollywood, one young woman shines a lot brighter than most. Lawrence has rapidly become a treasure of the craft, and in Katniss Everdeen – and her lesser role in Silver Linings Playbook – she proved herself yet again this year.
Honourable Mentions: Amy Acker, Sandra Bullock
Best Supporting Actress: Kristin Wiig
While I would not say that she never really lit the world on fire, she was an important player in three films this year I regarded very highly (Despicable Me 2, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) and has a very obvious comedic talent that should be recognised.
Honourable Mentions: Anne Hathaway, Alexandra Lara, Andrea Riseborough, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rinko Kikuchi
Best Ensemble: Les Miserables
Who else was it going to be? With only one glaring exception, a near perfectly cast film, for both acting and singing ability.
Honourable Mentions: Lincoln, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Rush, Django Unchained
Best Director: Steven Spielberg
Probably the hardest one for me to decide, with an array of really fantastic behind the camera efforts. Spielberg gets the nod for no other extra reason than the importance of the dynamic he had with Day-Lewis in Lincoln, which must have been critical for that performance’s success.
Honourable Mentions: Tom Hooper, Ron Howard, Peter Jackson, Paul Greengrass, Joss Whedon
Best Production: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Jackson is now two for two on this award, and who would bet against a third? The big and little details of his Middle-Earth are so awe-inspiringly impressive as to easily outmatch other contenders.
Honourable Mentions: Les Miserables, Lincoln, Django Unchained, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Great Gatsby
Best CGI: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
It nipped in right at the end of the year, but once again it is impossible to look beyond Peter Jackson’s computer created world. Smaug alone would be worth this award, and there is so much else to look at.
Honourable Mentions: Pacific Rim, Thor: The Dark World, Man of Steel, Gravity, Star Trek Into Darkness
Best Score: Rush (Hanz Zimmer)
He isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but Zimmer created an intensely emotive and utterly perfect score for Rush, in every throbbing beat and electric twang, most notably the excellent “1976”, “Nürburgring” and “Lost But Won”.
Honourable Mentions: Les Miserables, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Man of Steel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Star Trek
Best Soundtrack: Les Miserables
Come on, who else was this going to be? If it’s song you’re looking to praise in 2013, it has to be none other than Val Jean and company.
Honourable Mentions: The Great Gatsby, Django Unchained, Rush, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Despicable Me 2
Best Song: “I See Fire” – Ed Sheeran (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug)
Just an entrancing melody, that combines a very folkish feeling with the right amounts of epicness near the end.
Honourable Mentions: “Do You Hear The People Sing? (Finale)” – Various (Les Miserables), “Main Theme” – Rocky Roberts and Luis Bacalov (Django Unchained), “Young and Beautiful” – Lana Del Ray (The Great Gatsby), “Sigh No More” – Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, William Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing)
Best Script: Lincoln
Brilliantly worded throughout, the script of Lincoln is a real testament to the skills of Tony Kushner, making all of those larger than life figures, not least Lincoln himself, sound just as they should have sounded, without becoming too inaccessible.
Honourable Mentions: Rush, Much Ado About Nothing, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, John Dies At The End, Django Unchained
Best Cinematography: Rush
I just can’t look beyond Howard and his cinematography go to guy Anthony Dod Mantle, who crafted one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen, doing just wonderfully when it came to making the inherently fast sport of F1 manageable in a cinematic context.
Honourable Mentions: Les Miserables, Lincoln, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Gravity, Captain Phillips
Best Make-Up/Hairstyle/Costuming: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
The trilogy missed out last year, but only just. Some tough competition this time round, but it’s time the continually great work of this team, to make the denizens of Middle-Earth, be they Dwarf, Orc or hobbit, look just right, to be acknowledged.
Honourable Mentions: Lincoln, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, John Dies At The End
Best Comedy: Much Ado About Nothing
Best Animation: Despicable Me 2
Best Romance: Much Ado About Nothing
Best Sci-Fi: Gravity
Best Comic Book Movie: Man Of Steel
Best Historical: Lincoln
Best Scene: Lincoln debates sending a telegram/Euclidian equality, Lincoln
Best Action Scene: Barrels out of Bond, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Best Battle Scene: Kryptonian Civil War, Man Of Steel
Best Delivered Line(s): “Blood has been spilled to afford us this moment, now, now NOW!…I am the President of the United States, clothed in immense power!…You will procure me these votes.” – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Set-Piece: Nürburgring, Rush
Best Hero: Jean Val Jean – Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Best Villain: Smaug – Benedict Cumberbatch, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
“Diamond In The Rough” Award (Good Performance In Bad Movie): Chris Pratt/Joel Edgarton, Zero Dark Thirty
“Turd In The Punchbowl” Award (Bad Performance In A Good Movie): Russell Crowe, Les Miserables
“Bang For Your Buck” Award (Best Movie In Least Time): Much Ado About Nothing
“Inception” Award (Good Movie Despite Plot Holes): Man Of Steel
“Walter Mitty” Award (Good Movie Despite Clichés): The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
“Starcrossed Lovers” Award (Best Romance Plot): Nicki Lauda and Marlene Knaus, Rush
“Limp Fish” Award (Worst Romance Plot): Hansel and Mina, Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters
“On The Shoulders Of Giants” Award (Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake): The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
“Has That Been Done Yet?” Award (Worst Sequel/Reboot/Remake): Oz The Great And Powerful
“NOOOOOO” Award (Over-Acting): Mila Kunis, Oz The Great And Powerful
“What Are Ee-Mo-Sh-Uns?” Award (Under-Acting): James Franco, Oz The Great And Powerful
“Equality Now” Award (Best Female Roles): The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
“T&A” Award (Worst Female Roles): Star Trek Into Darkness
“That Escalated Quickly” Award (Good Movie Idea That Turned Bad): Zero Dark Thirty
“Surprisingly Tolerable” Award (Bad Movie Idea That Turned Good): Despicable Me 2
“It’s Been Mixed” Award (Varying Performances): Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained, Epic
“Just Applaud” Award (Over-Rated Movie): Zero Dark Thirty
“Why Is No One Applauding?” Award (Under-Rated Movie): Man Of Steel
“Chekov’s Gun” Award (Most Painfully Shoed-In Scene): The first conversation with Sally, Oblivion
“Just Pick One” Award (Movie Trying To Be Two Things At Once…And Failing): Zero Dark Thirty
“We’re Going To That” Award (Best Trailer(s)): The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
“Are You Sure You Want To See This?” Award (Worst Trailer(s)): Rush
“Redeemable” Award ( Best Positive Aspect Of A Terrible Movie): Little China Doll, Oz The Great And Powerful
“So Close” Award (Worst Disappointing Aspect Of A Good Movie): Love plot, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
“Nuts And Gum, Together At Last” Award (Surprisingly Good Idea In A Movie): The Mandarin has a secret, Iron Man 3
“Don’t Cross The Streams” Award (Surprisingly Bad Idea In A Movie): Gore upon gore, Django Unchained
“The Pictures! They’re Coming…Alive!” Award (Best CGI Moment):”Inside Information”, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
“You Can See The Strings” Award (Worst CGI Moment): Running to the last pub, The World’s End
“It’s All Gone Wrong For Me” Award (Worst Casting): Morgan Freeman, Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion
“My Home Planet Needs Me” Award (Should Be Their Last Acting Job): Gemma Arterton, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Superman 64 Award (The Worst Thing Ever): “The Proposal”, Movie 43
“You Can’t Take The Sky From Me” Award (The Best Thing Ever): ”Tomorrow Coooooomes!”, Les Miserables
So, that’s a wrap for 2013. Movies to look out for here in 2014: 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The LEGO Movie, The Monuments Men, 300: Rise Of An Empire, Veronica Mars, Muppets Most Wanted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, The Fault In Our Stars, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One, Exodus, and The Hobbit: There And Back Again
See you next year!
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