Best Films of 2013 (so far)

Last week, just about every pop culture/film-related web site ran writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s Top Ten Movies of 2013 (so far) list. On it, he includes some critical and audience favorites, and at least one enormous box office flop. I’m not usually in agreement with him when it comes to favorite movies, but I admire his eclectic tastes. For your interest, his list, from 1 to 10, includes Afternoon Delight, Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine, The Conjuring, Drinking Buddies, Frances Ha, Gravity, Kick Ass 2, The Lone Ranger, and This is the End.

I am rather fond of lists myself, and I always keep a running Best of List throughout the year. That way when I get to December, I don’t have to think: Now what did I see again? (It’s not that I’m that forgetful, it’s just that I see so much during the year that at some point it becomes a blur.) Sometimes, I agree with Tarantino’s list, but this year, we have no titles in common.  I actually hated two of his picks (The Conjuring, and Gravity), and the rest, I purposely avoided. Romantic relationship anything films hold absolutely no appeal for me (Before Midnight, and Drinking Buddies) and I would rather eat glass than endure a comedy (Afternoon Delight, This is the End, and Frances Ha). I will eventually see Kick Ass 2, Blue Jasmine, and The Lone Ranger, I just didn’t want to have to pay for them. That’s why I have Netflix.

For what it’s worth, here is my Best Films of 2013 (so far) list. Talk amongst yourselves.

1.       Byzantium – Directed by Neil Jordan, this feminist vampire film centers on two nomadic women – Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton) – who end up in a seaside town, where the secrets of the past are revealed. This also contains romantic elements – Eleanor falls in love with a very strange, sickly boy (Caleb Landry Jones) – and she has to decide if she is staying with her female companion or moving on. What I really liked about this film is it plays with the vampire mythology in a very creative way. And Arterton is breathtaking. I’m a Jordan enthusiast from WAY back, too. He can do no wrong in my book. I saw this on Cox Communication’s On Demand a few months ago, and have been waiting for it to come out on DVD with much anticipation. The Blu-ray release date is Oct. 29, just in time for Halloween and my birthday! I know what I’m getting myself!

2.       StokerWritten by Wentworth Miller, who is famous for acting in the TV series Prison Break, and helmed by cult favorite Korean director Chan-Wook Park, this mystery/drama/thriller is very Hitchcockesque. After her father dies, India (Mia Wasikowska), and her mother (Nicole Kidman), have an unexpected house guest in the form of Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), a suave, worldly man who hides many secrets. There is a Burtonesque feel to this, as well. Dark, psychotic, twisted … just how I love my films. And it’s gorgeous to watch. I bought my DVD copy a while ago, and I really need to rewatch this, so I can savor it all over again.

3.       Despicable Me 2 ­– One word: Minions! I love and adore them, and they are all over in this film. Singing, dancing, and getting into all kinds of hilarious mischief. I’m not one for comedies, but I usually am a bit more open-minded when it comes to animation. I liked this film so much that I saw it in the cinema, and within a few days, saw it again. I follow a few Minion-related Facebook pages that give me a daily dose of the cute, Twinkie-shaped troublemakers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewatched clips from this film. Just waiting for the DVD release. Dec. 10, can’t get here soon enough.

4.       Pacific Rim – I am a Japanese enthusiast, a Guillermo del Toro aficionado, and I love monsters (kaiju) and giant robots (Jaegers), so this one was a given love affair. Just got my Blu-ray copy at Nebraska Furniture Mart. The studio was wonderful enough to include a ton of extras. I guess my upcoming break is spoken for. Pacific Rim and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the same year. How did we get so lucky? (As an aside, I’m glad that Charlie Hunnam, who is the lead actor in PR, dropped out of the Fifty Shades of Grey project. He will be able to hold his head high when Pacific Rim 2 becomes a reality.)

5.       Oblivion I really like Tom Cruise films, especially ones made post- 1988. He might be a bit strange in his real life, but as an actor, he’s an amazing athlete – he does almost all of his stunts – and he is charming and talented. Oblivion has a few things going for it: Cruise, and the visionary direction of Joseph Kosinski, who helmed Tron: Legacy. I didn’t get to see Oblivion when it came out this summer, because I was in Japan, so I had to wait until it came out on Blu-ray. My reaction was Wow. It has such a unique vision, and an unexpected plot twist. I was so blown away by it that I watched it, and then watched it again. And then the extras. It’s a post-apocalyptic story (my favorite) about an Earth destroyed by a human-alien war. While all of the other humans have fled the planet, Cruise and his partner (Andrea Riseborough, who is quickly becoming a favorite), have stayed behind to drain Earth of its water. I won’t say much more, because you will just have to watch it.

6.       Killing Them Softly – Technically, I think this is a 2012 release – its release date is Nov. 30 -but I didn’t see it until it came out on DVD. No matter. I’m still including it. Written and directed by Andrew Dominik (based on the novel by George V. Higgins), this crime/thriller is stylish and very violent. Three guys rob a Mob-protected card game. Their thought is that since the guy (Ray Liotta) running the game has been hit before, the Mob won’t pursue them, instead the Mob will assume it was an inside job. They have their perfect fall-guy. Well, not so perfect. The problem is that Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), an enforcer, gets called in, and he’s no dummy. Liotta, who played a total scumbag in Place Beyond the Pines, does a 180-degree turn in this film. You almost want to cry when he gets beat to a pulp. (The sequence is brutal and almost wince-inducing.)  All of the actors are at the top of their game in this film, especially Pitt, Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, who is also in Place Beyond the Pines; and James Gandolfini, in one of his last roles).

7.       Man of SteelDirected, and reinvented, by Zach Snyder, this Superman origin story earned so many points from me for nixing a full blown Lois Lane (Amy Adams)/Superman (Henry Cavill) romance, for keeping Kal-El out his Clark Kent glasses and away from his nebbish act until the end, for having Superman beating the crap out of everyone and everything, and for having his foes, General Zod  (Michael Shannon) and gang, as menacing not cartoonish. I know that a lot of people love the 1980s Superman, but I have always hated him. He is so two-dimensional, goodie-goodie, and “weak.” I’m looking forward to the next installment in this franchise. Kudos also for casting Cavill. What a force of nature. Russell Crowe, playing Jor-El, was also a welcome surprise. I am a massive Snyder fan. Like Guillermo del Toro, he can never do wrong.

8.       World War ZYou say that Gravity is “intense,” I say that World War Z is. But then the idea of a worldwide pandemic – a realistic/possible future – is more terrifying and relevant to me than a woman floating around in outer space. From the minute this film begins, director Marc Forster keeps the pressure on, and Brad Pitt races across the globe looking for answers and a cure. What I liked about World War Z is that it is less Resident Evil than it is The International but with zombies. Guess who couldn’t wait to buy her copy on Blu-ray? Already watched it a few times. You might see me around town, sporting one of my four World War Z T-shirts, too. Anxious for the second installment to arrive at my local cinema-plex.

9.       The Great Gatsby – I saw the trailer for this, and really had no desire to see it. I like Leonardo diCaprio – the boy never lets me down – Tobey Maguire, and Joel Edgerton … I would even consider myself to be a Baz Luhrmann connoisseur, and yet … F. Scott Fitzgerald, yawn. Just, nah. But then the film appeared in Netflix’s New Releases, and I thought “what the heck.” I was spellbound throughout. Luhrmann is a true visionary, and Gatsby is a feast for your eyes. The story also moved me to tears. Sorry, Fitzgerald. I misjudged you. Just bought my Blu-ray copy today. (You can get it at Nebraska Furniture Mart for less than $15!)

10.   Iron Man 3I love Tony Stark. He’s smart, a smartass, quippy … and he’s wounded, deep inside. He’s perfection. And yet, I had heard so many negative things about this third franchise film that I avoided at the cinema. What a stupid mistake. It’s fun, has a surprising plot twist, and contains about 40 Iron Man suits. Forty! The bonus is that Guy Pearce, only the greatest actor ever, plays the antagonist. Stay after the credits. There’s a scene between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Had me in stitches.


Runner’s Up: The Iceman, Mud, and Rush.

Author: Julien R. Fielding

Julien R. Fielding has been reviewing films, and covering the entertainment industry, for more than a decade. Her favorite genres are sci-fi, horror, action, and anime. She authored the book, Discovering World Religions at 24 Frames Per Second.

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