With the calendar now reading 2014, what better time to look back at movies in the year that was 2013?
WORST FILM – OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
In any normal year Diana would have been hands-down the worst film 2013 birthed sideways. But, this was the year Gerard Butler decided he could do “Die Hard in the White House” with Olympus Has Fallen. The result was a Daily Mail fever dream of rampaging foreigners, scheming politicos and justified torture. Even worse was the fact the film made money.
BEST “I’VE SOMETHING IN MY EYE” MOMENT – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
Spoiler alert – look away now if you haven’t seen Captain Phillips. And go see Captain Phillips. The epilogue, with Hanks’ state-of-shock Captain getting a matter-of-fact medical check-up by a Navy nurse, the enormity of his experience overwhelming him, was devastating.
BIGGEST “ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS ROB?” – MAN OF STEEL
Four stars for Man of Steel? “Man of Steel’s true star may just be Zack Snyder”? Yeah, sometimes the critical scalpel is warped by the white heat of cinematic spectacle and the size of Man of Steel shielded its flaws from me on that first viewing. On second viewing… dour. Inert. Too hard-edged. Lacking in wonder. All this knocks a star off Man of Steel and proves again how fine Christopher Reeve’s first two outings were.
BEST “WTF” MOMENT – IRON MAN 3
Iron Man 3. Croydon. ‘Nuff said.
BEST EXAMPLE OF THE MAGIC OF THE MOVIES – GRAVITY
Gravity put you in space. In IMAX 3-D. Alfonso Cuaron took all the toys $100m of Warner Bros money could buy and used them to create arguably the most realistic depiction of survival in the wondrous, terrifying void. Bold, imaginative and intelligent, it’s also our…
BEST “SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE?” – GRAVITY
Gravity tells the history of humankind in reverse. Let me explain (and spoiler alert for those yet to see it). The movie opens with Bullock working on a Hubble like telescope. A piece of apparatus allowing us to peer deeper into the Universe than ever before, it’s the pinnacle of scientific achievement. The missile strike that creates the debris Bullock and Clooney must avoid is Russian, harking back to the Cold War paranoia that also made the space race an ideological sprint. The space stations the astronauts hopscotch grow more basic in design. Later we wind back further and Bullock’s character begins invoking religion and a Buddha ornament can be spotted in a Chinese capsule. By the film’s end Bullock is crawling out of a swampy lake like the first life on Earth, gingerly rising up on two legs. And you thought it was just an action movie.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2013 – PACIFIC RIM
Guillermo del Toro directed Pan’s Labyrinth, the best film of the noughties. Trouble is, give the big Mexican big budgets and it all goes wrong big time as Pacific Rim demonstrated. Del Toro had decades of Japanese kaiju monster movies and mecha anime to draw upon, yet this collapsed-logic belch in an echo chamber was the result. Yes it looked cool. Yes the IMAX 3-D frequently dropped my jaw. But, Pacific Rim played like the final part of a trilogy we’d not seen, making it hard to care about and easy to spot the kaiju sized plot holes.
BEST “PIN DROPPING SILENCE” MOMENT – BLACKFISH
Blackfish contains an astonishing amount of “caught on camera” footage. But most breathtaking is the sequence when a killer whale is shown repeatedly pulling its trainer to the bottom of its tank. The psychological stress of the animals and the water parks’ lack of concern for trainer safety are both captured in this remarkable scene.
BIGGEST SURPRISE – THE WOLVERINE
The arrival of The Wolverine was not hotly anticipated. That it turned out to be 2013’s best summer blockbuster was amazing. In a year of toppling buildings and numbing spectacle, it was refreshing to see a tent pole movie with an old school feel, where a fight along the roof of a Japanese bullet train was the biggest action set-piece. Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold wove in samurai movies, yakuza thrillers and Japanese robot B-movies for an X-Men instalment that got us X-cited for Days of Future Past.
BEST FILM YOU HAD TO READ – THE ACT OF KILLING
Joshua Oppenheimer’s extraordinary documentary is tough, but required viewing. Former Indonesian death squad leaders are given the opportunity to re-enact crimes committed decades earlier through movie genres of their choosing. As these men were lionised as heroes in their home country, they eagerly accept the challenge. Mass murderer Anwar Congo’s realisation of the enormity of his past actions is truly disturbing, but is just one moment in a film not easily forgotten.
BEST DRINKING GAME MOVIE – WELCOME TO THE PUNCH
To get through the dreary, predictable and clumsily titled Welcome to the Punch take a shot of liquor every time someone says, “Max” – James McEvoy’s character’s not-hard-to-remember name. You’ll be reaching for the stomach pump 28 minutes in.
HIDDEN GEM – DARK SKIES
Dark Skies remained within the low-budget constraints of the producers’ other movies, including Insidious, Sinister, Paranormal Activity and The Purge. One imperiled family, a poster friendly threat, recognisable cast members. But, strong performances, assured direction and a script that included economic anxieties as well as paranormal shivers made Dark Skies 2013’s best B-movie.
BEST FILM YOU FORGOT WAS RELEASED IN 2013 – CLOUD ATLAS
Cloud Atlas may have had you applauding one moment and groaning the very next second, but for sheer ambition and scope of vision no other film in 2013 came close. Cinematic marmite, but what wonders lie within.
BEST FILM OF THE YEAR – STOKER
Park Chan-wook has yet to make a bad film. But, there is a ravine at the bottom of which lies the dreams of many a foreign director who attempted the jump to English language moviemaking. The South Korean Park however glided across with Stoker. Alice in Wonderland as directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it is a coming-of-age story, psychosexual fantasy, revenge drama, mystery tale and black comedy in one irresistible bow-tied box. Here’s to whatever Park decides to do next.