Sunday, December 29, 2013

THE BEST OF 2013 - The Best MOVIES Of The Year


- This was, quite simply, a phenomenal year for movies. Rarely has it been so hard for me to put together a Best-of-the-Year list, and rarely has it been so difficult to figure out what would and would not make the Top 10, let alone the Top 25. In any other year, great movies like ALL IS LOST and RUSH would have made the Top 10 list, no question. But this year, the quality level is so high that there were close to 30 movies that I'd call absolute must-sees. 2007 was probably the last real landmark year for film. Years from now, I think people will look back at 2013 and put in a similar category - a year that produced great movie after great movie.

Not only did 2013 have some incredible films from well-known directors, but it also had a lot of smaller-scale surprises. On one hand, you had arguably Alfonso Cuaron's best film yet in GRAVITY, arguably Alexander Payne's best film yet in NEBRASKA, arguably Spike Jonze's best film yet in HER, Scorsese's best film in several years with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, another Coen Bros. classic in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, and another great action-comedy from Edgar Wright in THE WORLD'S END.

On the other hand, there were any number of films from up-and-coming talent that sort of blew me away. One of the biggest cinematic highs I had in 2013 was seeing a double-feature of The World's End followed by YOU'RE NEXT. I can't wait for more people to discover this absolutely kick-ass horror film. I love how there's this thriving indie horror movement going on, led by people like You're Next director Adam Wingard. I love that movies like this one are putting a new, clever, witty, self-aware spin on horror, and getting me re-energized about a genre that I've been mostly indifferent to for a long time. I was similarly thrilled with Lake Bell's IN A WORLD. What a cool, interesting, hilarious movie. I hope Lake Bell keeps 'em coming. THE WAY WAY BACK is another one that has me excited about its writer/director team. I can't wait to see what Jim Rash and Nate Faxon do next. The list could go on and on ...

One interesting trend this year was that some of the best Asian directors made their first American films. The results were surprisingly awesome. Oldboy director Chan-wook Park did STOKER, which was phenomenal. And I Saw The Devil director Kim Jee-Woon did the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick THE LAST STAND, which I loved, and which was severely underrated by critics and under-seen at theaters. 

Speaking of action movies, the year's best blockbuster was, to me, PACIFIC RIM. While by no means a perfect film, it was so filled with awe-inspiring visuals and jaw-dropping imagination that it ultimately was, no question, my geek-out movie of the year. The fact that it's the Guillermo Del Toro version of a fetish film kept it from becoming a Star Wars-sized hit at the box office, but the fact that it serves as a love letter to giant robots and giant monsters ensures that it will be a cult classic for all eternity. 

Meanwhile, many movies that I really enjoyed this year either proved very divisive with critics, or just got unanimously trashed by critics. Perhaps the year's two biggest lighting rods were MAN OF STEEL and STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. Personally, I get some of the criticisms, but I also think both films work very well as popcorn flicks and as pop-art. Critics and internet geeks alike love to pick on Zack Snyder and JJ Abrams, but I think the fixation on some of their specific directorial tendencies unfairly overshadows the fact that both of these guys are phenomenal action directors. I get it: these kinds of movies are easy targets for nitpicky nerd-rage. Do I wish that Zack Snyder better addressed the wanton destruction that Superman caused in Metropolis in Man of Steel? Yes. Do I wish that JJ Abrams and co. concocted a better way to reveal Khan's true evil than via a Leonard Nimoy spoiler-from-the-future? Yes. But in both cases, I think what works about these films far, far outweighs what doesn't. Man of Steel has its flaws, but it was absolutely cathartic to see this epic, action-packed, sci-fi take on Superman after the dull and toothless Superman Returns. And stubborn Star Trek fans seem to have conveniently forgotten how bad the majority of old Star Trek films really were. Into Darkness had well-drawn characters, impeccably-choreographed set pieces, and was jam-packed with fun moments.

That brings me to the thing that bugged me the most about film in 2013. As great as the movies themselves were this year, the level of discourse around movies this year, in my mind, hit an all-time low. People call Man of Steel the worst thing ever. Seriously, The AV Club names it the 4th worst movie of 2013. Have they *seen* Superman III or IV?! How is a film with top-to-bottom quality acting, exciting action, and gorgeous visuals the worst of the year? Have the Into Darkness haters ever seen the show Enterprise? *That's* how bad it *could* be, folks. I saw a number of reviews that absolutely buried THE HOBBIT sequel. So it's a bit too long? Really? Guys, circa 1995 any nerd worth his or her salt would have absolutely killed for a high-fantasy epic that was anywhere in the ballpark of the quality of The Hobbit. But you're telling me it's awful? 

The conversation about movies is sometimes so ridiculous - it kills me. I've heard people call everything from Gravity to American Hustle "horrible" in recent weeks. On Facebook, people are posting an inane open letter from the real-life daughter of Jordan Belfort, whose life is the basis for the film The Wolf Of Wall Street. The letter misguidedly denounces all involved in the film for making Belfort out to be a hero, and people seem to be blindly agreeing with her. And I have to wonder if the whole world's gone crazy. Should we only be telling stories about good men from now on? What's more, if you see The Wolf of Wall Street and don't see that the movie is demonizing and condemning Belfort, you need to take off the blinders. 

In this climate of sound-byte social media posts and click-baiting headlines, there's an absolute deluge of knee-jerk reactions, overreactions, and misguided anger towards films. Online and in real life, from critics, film-fans, and casual fans alike, there's people making blanket statements about actors, directors, or genres they purport to hate, people completely dismissing a movie without articulating why they disliked it on a non-superficial level (i.e. "too long" or "too depressing"), and people jumping on a bandwagon of haters just because it's easy.
I suppose that's what makes it so fun to do this blog. More and more, I sometimes feel like I'm in the minority when it comes to advocating for certain movies. I don't set out to be contrary, but I also don't like being a sheep. I don't mind trashing a deservedly bad movie, but if I see something like Kick-Ass 2 - which I loved - I'm going to sing its praises even if I'm the only one. 

There are, of course, always going to be the obvious masterpieces that are universally praised. The indisputable great movies that quickly enter the cannon, and go on to win awards and get taught in film classes. But what I found so cool in the early days of the internet was finding like-minded folks who appreciated stuff on the fringes. People who thought that films like Robocop and Evil Dead belonged on the all-timers list, who were early champions of guys like Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson, and Edgar Wright. I think about the way movies get reviewed and ripped apart now, and wonder if today's cult classics would ever have amassed their cults if they came out now. Imagine the internet reaction to Donner's Superman if it came out today. It would have been eviscerated. And you know what - there are a lot of aspects of beloved movies that make it easy to pick them apart. But what made them beloved was that they had magic. And what I ultimately look for in films is whether or not they have that magic, that spark - whether they have those "wow" moments that feel like a revelation of some kind. A great film can be a crazy comedy, a pulpy action flick, an out-there sci-fi story, or an epic drama. It could be Gravity, or This is the End, or The Last Stand. The problem is that today, when everything is communicated in shorthand, when opinions are based on what's trending, articulating a movie's true quality is too complex of an undertaking. The Lone Ranger must inevitably suck, because ... #JohnnyDeppPlaysTooManyWackyCharactersInMakeup. Gravity must be great because #OMGSandraBullock. And, what's that? Martin Scorsese made a three hour movie about Wall Street? #Ain'tNobodyGotTimeForThat. That's three hours I can't check my cell phone!

All I can do is try to fight the good fight, and try to articulate why, exactly a film does or doesn't strike a chord with me. At the same time, I don't want to let outside factors influence my thoughts. Let the movie speak for itself. Let's see if it does or does not have that magic. Luckily, many movies had it in spades in 2013.

As always, I'll mention that though I did see a lot of movies in 2013, I didn't see everything. Some notable films that I have not yet seen at the time of this writing include Before Midnight, Saving Mr. Banks, and August: Osage County.


1.) Gravity

-Gravity floored me more than any other cinematic experience in 2013. It looked amazing - this was one of the first films in a long while that absolutely *had* to be seen in IMAX 3D. But I also think that the journey that director Alfonso Cuaron takes us on in Gravity is more than just a roller-coaster ride. He achieves a sort of transcendence that goes beyond that: the sensory-overload experience of Gravity is also a powerful reminder of the human spirit. Space travel has always represented the pinnacle of human achievement, and that to me is what Gravity is really about - the will and desire to literally reach for the stars. Sandra Bullock does career-best work here. We are right there with her for every harrowing moment, and for every moment of triumph. For me, Gravity is a visual masterpiece, but it's also thematically rich and poignant. At a time when we as humans often feel powerless against a world that seems hurtling towards apocalypse, Gravity stands as a testament to just how much we can accomplish - to the strength of the human spirit to persist and survive in even the darkest and most hopeless-seeming of times. Gravity is truly next-level filmmaking that should be seen and experienced by as many people as possible.

2.) 12 Years a Slave

- Here is a film that is important, Oscar-worthy, and a stark reminder of the horrors of slavery. But man, this is also a cinematic tour de force - an utterly captivating, tension-packed narrative filled with unforgettable moments. What strikes me as so brilliant about Steve McQueen's film is that it tackles the underlying psychology of slavery more so than any other film I've seen. The set-up here is unusual - a smart, highly intelligent African-American man gets kidnapped and forced into slavery. He is then systematically stripped of everything that made him a respected, successful man in his previous life. We watch as he is forced to help perpetuate the lie that enables slavery, and we watch as that lie is reinforced over and over by slave-owners and ordinary people alike in some sort of nightmarish mass-delusion. This is a film packed with astounding performances that make this American nightmare come to life, and it's a must-see reminder of the lies we tell ourselves to justify injustice.

3.) Her

- What could have been a gimmicky film in other hands becomes a mind-melting stunner in the hands of Spike Jonze. Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore - a person, and Scarlett Johansson's Samantha - a computer operating system, have the on-screen romance of the year: a strange, funny, emotional, and all-too human courtship that is, also, a pretty spot-on commentary about the world we live in today. Her is a digital-age romance, but it's also surprisingly thought-provoking sci-fi: a near-future parable about the way that our lives are changing - for good and for bad. Jonze doesn't cast judgement, but he does make us wonder if we can, or even want to, appreciate the real-live people in front of us as we once did.

4.) The Wolf of Wall Street

- Perhaps it was the accumulated wisdom of age that allowed director Martin Scorsese to so brilliantly satirize the greedy excess of real-life "Wolf of Wall St." Jordan Belfort. But at age 71, Scorsese has created a film that rockets along with the unbridled rock n' roll energy of a punk kid looking to give a hearty middle-finger to Belfort and his money-grubbing cronies. That's why the criticisms and negative open letters directed at this film are, to me, utterly baffling. Scorsese isn't glamorizing Belfort's drugged-up lifestyle - instead, he's telling this man's story and using it as a parable to show the dark side of the American Dream. We like to tell ourselves that this country was built on the backs of great men doing great things. But through his films, through work on movies like Goodfellas, Casino, and now this, Scorsese - in gripping and darkly hilarious fashion - pointedly reminds us that there is an ugly truth behind the curtain.

5.) Nebraska

- Alexander Payne's latest is, I think, his best. Nebraska is a darkly comic, very personal-seeming road trip movie that features some incredibly memorable performances from Bruce Dern, June Squibb, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, Stacey Keach, and more. This is a classic father-son tale, a great story about sticking up for one's family, and a story that finds the heart at the center of it all in a way that I found to be moving and poignant. I'm not sure that Payne has ever fully gotten there before, but he hits the bullseye here. As you watch Nebraska, you'll likely be reminded of some quirk of your own family. You'll think about the hidden lives people lived, the things they accomplished, the people they touched. You'll smile and laugh and get misty-eyed and applaud.

6.) The World's End

- How does Edgar Wright do it? How are movies this cool, this punk-rock, this level of geeky-awesome also so damn heartfelt and poignant? The World's End is a more than fitting capper to the thematically-linked trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz. In fact, this may be the best of the three - a film that's at once an all-too-relatable meditation about how you can't go home again, a hilarious comedy about old buddies looking to recapture their wild youth, and oh, right, a crazy-ass sci-fi action flick about invading alien pod-people. Awesome? You'd better believe it. Wright is so good at what he does - part of me can't wait to see him get his hands on more big-budget blockbusters, but part of me just wants him, Pegg, and Frost to keep making these indie genre-benders forever.

7.) Captain Phillips

- Perhaps the single best piece of acting I saw in a film all year was Tom Hanks in the final scenes of Captain Phillips. Hanks is so good here that it gave me chills. I knew he was good - one of the best - but here, he totally destroys you. Paul Greengrass' true-life thriller is just that intense, as a whole. So many have tried and failed to imitate his you-are-there directorial style, but only Greengrass pulls it off with anywhere near this level of success. Captain Phillips is packed with white-knuckle intensity, but it's also not afraid to do the character work to show us who these people are and what makes them tick. And to its credit, the movie is not afraid to show us the politics and the social realities behind this situation. It does so smartly, evenhandedly, and soberly. There's nothing ra-ra about this film. Instead, it's a movie that operates on a human level, showing us what drives simple people to do extraordinary things - good, and bad.

8.) This is the End

- Great comedies don't ever get enough credit, but they should. This is the End is one of the flat-out funniest movies in years, and it deserves to be lauded for its sheer comedic brilliance. This movie made me laugh hard and often, and I know I'll be re-watching it, quoting it, and laughing still for years to come. There's an art to good comedy that isn't necessarily tied to matching it with world-shaking satire or the usual things that deem comedy awards-worthy in the eyes of critics. The key here is great jokes, great writing, and performers who can deliver those jokes in a way that makes them even funnier than they were on the page. Danny McBride in this movie? A comedic force of nature.The apocalypse has never been this funny.

9.) Inside Llewyn Davis

- Inside Llewyn Davis is many things - a story about the New York folk music scene in the 60's, a story about an artist's struggle to remain true to himself, and a metaphysical mind-trip about the way life's great comedy keeps repeating itself despite our best intentions. More so than that, this is a Coen Brothers movie, and it's the Coen Brothers operating at or near their full powers - delivering great dialogue, haunting images, and - bonus - an array of folk songs that range from hilarious to moving. Oscar Isaac is winning in the lead role, and the supporting cast - everyone from John Goodman to Justin Timberlake - is on top of their game. What I love about the Coens is that they never give you just a straightforward story. Inside Llewyn Davis is a strange, funny, layered story brought to you by the best in the biz.

10.) Frances Ha

- What a fantastic film from director Noah Baumbach and star/co-writer Greta Gerwig. In my original review, I called this Woody Allen for the millennial generation - and I don't think that's an overstatement. As Frances navigates post-college New York life, there's a mix of aimlessness, optimism, and self-doubt that I found all too relatable. Gerwig has been on the rising-star list for a while now, but to me, this is the movie that solidifies her as a star. She is a perfect match for this material, and it is a perfect match for her. Baumbach directs her with rock n' roll style, and the film as a whole - shot in stunning black and white - has an energy and pulse that seems like a revelation. Here is the definitive movie for the generation that was told that "everyone's a winner," now discovering that that may or may not be the case.


Like I said, this year was jam-packed with A-grade films that, in any other year would have made my Top 10. And I really struggled to leave these next five out.

11.)  Stoker

- From the visionary mind that brought us films like Oldboy (the original, not this year's poorly-received remake) comes this hypnotic, darkly-gothic coming-of-age tale about a teen girl blossoming into womanhood. The twist is that Mia Wasikowska's India Stoker has - in addition to all the usual teen angst and confusion - a growing feeling that the woman she was meant to be is a violent, vengeful killer. And so begins a dark descent into the abyss, told in an eye-popping, gorgeously-shot manner by Chan-wook Park. Wasikowska is amazing here, and so too are Nicole Kidman as her going-mad mother and Matthew Goode as her uncle and mentor. If you think your family is messed up, Stoker shows that you ain't seen nothing yet.

12.) Fruitvale Station

- Talk about a stunner of a debut film - Fruitvale Station instantly puts writer/director Ryan Coogler on the map. This is another true-life story about a young man, Oscar Grant, who was tragically shot by Bay Area cops after a minor scuffle. Michael B. Jordan is one of the year's breakout stars - he brings multiple dimensions to Oscar, showing him at his best and at his worst. We see that Oscar was a complex character who had his flaws, but who also had so much potential that was suddenly cut short. The film avoids heavy-handed sermonizing. Instead, it simply tells this story and shows us this man's life in its final days. It leaves us - powerfully and poignantly - to draw our own conclusions about how and why this young man's life ended the way it did.

13.) Pacific Rim

- Guillermo Del Toro has had a lot of false starts in recent years. At one point, he was set to direct The Hobbit, but that fell through. Later, he was set to tackle his dream project - an adaptation of HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness ... but that too was a nonstarter. Fans were clamoring for Del Toro to do something, anything. Why? Because the man has an imagination like no other. He has a passionate love for cinema - for sci-fi and horror and fantasy, and a professorial knowledge of movies and literature and art. When Del Toro is on his game, his movies are cinematic love letters, filled with awe-inspiring visuals and geek-out moments aplenty. And man, Pacific Rim is just Guillermo Del Toro unleashed: a kick-ass ode to kaiju and mechs and monster movies and all things awesome. This is a world that I want to go back to, to see more of. This was the year's best blockbuster - brilliantly larger-than-life in all manner of speaking.

14.) Short Term 12

- On the opposite end of the spectrum is Short Term 12, an intensely personal and small-scale story that nevertheless feels important and vital and about themes that are big and universal. This is the story of twenty-somethings who work in a short-term care home for troubled kids. The workers are often former residents - in some cases, still trying to get over their own lingering psychological traumas. But here they are - the gatekeepers, the best and possibly last hope that these kids have to turn a corner. Brie Larson is absolutely phenomenal in the lead role here. As one of the counselors at the clinic, we see her struggle to help these kids, even as their issues hit all too close to home. It's an incredible performance - raw and vulnerable and real.

15.) Blue Jasmine

-There were a number of great films this year about American greed, but Woody Allen's latest was one of the best. Additionally, this is one of the best Allen films in years - a funny, witty, sharply-pointed satire about one upper-crust, upper-class woman's fall from grace. Cate Blanchett is a tour de force in the lead role, playing a woman who married her way into money - carefully plotting her upward ascent into the 1% - only to see it all come crashing down. Allen's film is a surprisingly timely social critique, and it's great to have Allen back in the here and now, applying his still-sharp observational wit and satirical eye to the modern day. Filled with great performances (who would have ever thought: Andrew Dice Clay is fantastic, a total scene-stealer), Blue Jasmine is something special.


16.) Mud

- Another formidable performance from Matthew McConaughey, and another mesmerizing movie from director Jeff Nichols. Mud is a twisty, pulpy, neo-Mark Twain-esque yarn about two boys who discover a small river island, only to learn that an on-the-run fugitive calls it his home. Mud is a great coming-of-age story that mixes adventure, action, and hard lessons about life and love with thick southern-gothic atmosphere.

17.) You're Next

- It's hard to talk about why, exactly, You're Next is so badass without giving too much away. But just know that the movie's marketing, which made it look like a run-of-the-mill home invasion horror film, was very, very misleading. And that's a good thing, as this movie turns itself on its head and completely subverts expectation at every turn. This is one of the most fun, funniest, craziest, and most unpredictable horror movies I've ever seen. Get a group of friends together to watch this and prepare to have a blast.

18.) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

- Peter Jackson ups the ante from the first Hobbit film, delivering a sequel that feels more sure, more confident, and better-paced - with some absolutely phenomenal set-piece action scenes and striking visuals that are among the best we've yet seen in any of the Lord of the Rings films. More importantly, Jackson's love for Middle Earth is on full display - he once again paints a gorgeous picture of this fantasy universe, bringing all of its creatures and landscapes to stunning life. Even more importantly, Jackson again captures the heart and soul of this story, mixing epic moments with more personal tragedy and triumph. Bilbo and company again inspire and entertain.

19.) Dallas Buyers Club

- Yes, this was the year of Matthew McConaughey. And while I'm getting sick of typing his name, I'm now excited every time I see his name pop up in association with a new film. This guy has just taken his acting to another level over the last few years, and his work in Dallas Buyers Club is him at his absolute best. As HIV-suffering Ron Woodruff, McConaughey is doing Daniel Day Lewis-level stuff - physically transforming to the point where it's almost uncomfortable to watch him on screen, and just fully inhabiting this character. Jared Leto is also amazing here as an outwardly flamboyant, inwardly hurting drag queen. Moreover, this is a powerful film about the AIDS epidemic of the 80's and the kind of political and financial roadblocks that prevented people from getting the care they needed.

20.) American Hustle

- An electric, energetic film from director David O. Russell, American Hustle is an over-the-top, go-big-or-go-home look at 70's-era excess. It's a funny and mesmerizing look at con-men and con-women and the people who love them. The cast here is so good that they could make basically anything great: Christian Bale kills it, Amy Adams is incendiary, Bradley Cooper brings his A-game, Jeremy Renner is fantastic, and Jennifer Lawrence is a scene-stealer. But this cast, matched with Russel's knack for staging escalating scenes of manic energy, help produce one of the year's most entertaining films.

21.) In A World

- As a fan of the TV comedy Children's Hospital, I've come to appreciate the sizable comedic acting talent of Lake Bell in recent years. But her big-screen debut as a writer/director - a smart and silly tale about a woman trying to be the next iconic movie-trailer voiceover narrator - made me realize that she just might be a great new voice in comedy. This film is all Bell, and it's funny as hell. And not just that, but it's a smart, pointed commentary on gender equality and gender politics. Think that sounds preachy? Not to worry: you'll be way too busy laughing to care.

22.) The Way Way Back

- A funny, heartfelt coming-of-age comedy, The Way Way Back is a nostalgia-tinged look at an angsty teen who learns to come out of his shell one fateful summer. Three things I'll say here: a.) Sam Rockwell is fantastic here, as the man-child owner of a water park who takes said teen under his wing. b.) Toni Colette is also amazing as the teen's stressed-out, trying-to-cope mom. c.) If this is the kind of movie that the writer/director team of Jim Rash and Nate Faxon are capable of producing, then all I can say is "more, please."

23.) Man of Steel

- At the end of the day, Man of Steel gave me what I wanted from a Superman movie. It got my adrenaline pumping with its epic action scenes, stretched my imagination with its ultra-cool look at Krypton and Superman's sci-fi origins, and it gave me chills with its inspiring story of Superman's public introduction to the people of earth. Henry Cavill proved to be a more-than-worthy Man of Steel, and Amy Adams was the best big-screen Lois Lane yet - finally, a whip-smart, take-charge Lois who seemed to exist independently of just being Superman's gal-pal. Sure, there is room for improvement in the coming mega-sequel, but I personally am thankful to Zack Snyder for giving us the sort of epic, action-packed big-screen Superman movie that, until now, I'd yet to see in my lifetime.

24.) Rush

- Ron Howard's best film in years, Rush is a fantastic sports movie, and the riveting, true-life story of a rivalry that isn't quite as simplistic or one-dimensional as you might suspect. Chris Hemsworth does his best-ever work as rockstar 70's-era Formula One racer James Hunt. But it's Daniel Bruhl - as rival racer Niki Lauda - who steals the show. Bruhl's turn as Lauda is one for the record books - making the cold, calculating Lauda surprisingly sympathetic. The genius of the film is how it turns Lauda - presumably the villain of the story - into its ultimate hero.

25.) Zero Charisma

- This indie comedy is a must-watch for anyone who's ever felt even just a little bit nerdy. It's the story of an old-school geek who finds his carefully-calibrated man-child existence threatened, when his D&D-playing friends fall under the spell of a of hipster-cool, geek-chic dude who seems impossibly stable and social for a guy who reads comics and blogs about movies. Yep, this one hit slightly close to home, but it's a credit to the movie's spot-on humor that it works so well, and never feels pandering.


26.) All Is Lost

- A harrowing tale of survival at sea, All Is Lost features an amazing lead performance by the great Robert Redford - made all the more impressive by the fact that it's largely wordless. Redford's movie-star charisma makes us think he's got a shot to survive, but his aging body and egoless acting makes us realize that it won't be easy.

27.) Star Trek: Into Darkness

- Some couldn't stand this updated take on The Wrath of Khan, but I say give JJ Abrams his props. The guy brought Star Trek back to life, giving us another adrenaline-shot of pure pop filmmaking. Filled with some of the best set-piece action scenes this side of Spielberg, and populated with a cast of characters that we really care about, Into Darkness was, to me, one of the most riveting big popcorn movies of the summer.

28.) The Last Stand

- An ultra-badass, insanely fun neo-Western action flick from South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon, The Last Stand was a great comeback vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a high-energy, surprisingly funny, insanely entertaining action film. 

29.) The Croods

- My favorite animated film of this year, The Croods featured spectacular animation, a fun story, great voice-acting, and lots of heart. It's yet another great film from the folks at Dreamworks, who once again this year produced a film that rivaled the competition's. The best movie about cavemen ... maybe ever?

TIE: 30.) Spring Breakers

- On the surface, this appears to be a candy-colored exploitation film. But dig deeper, and you'll find that Spring Breakers is a pitch-black comedy about misguided youth-gone-wild. On top of that, it has one of the single greatest monologues ever put on film - a hilarious extended riff from Jame's Franco's cornrowed drug dealer, Alien. "Look at all mah $%^&!" indeed. 

TIE: 30.) Kick-Ass 2

- I'm not sure why critics were so sour towards this uber-fun, uber-funny sequel, but I had an absolute blast with it. Chloe Moretz continues to work wonders as Hit-Girl, and seeing Hit-Girl hit high-school was a gleefully subversive spectacle - a superhero version of Mean Girls on acid.


The Kings of Summer
The Conjuring
Side Effects
The Spectacular Now
Warm Bodies
The Place Beyond the Pines
Lee Daniel's The Butler
Thor: The Dark World
Despicable Me 2
Monsters University
Out of the Furnace
Anchorman 2



1.) Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
2.) Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
3.) Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
4.) Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
5.) Tie: Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station, Bruce Dern - Nebraska, Christian Bale - American Hustle


1.) Jared Leto -Dallas Buyers Club
2.) Daniel Bruhl - Rush
3.) Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave
4.) Will Forte - Nebraska
5.) Sam Rockwell - The Way Way Back


1.) Brie Larson - Short Term 12
2.) Scarlett Johansson - Her
3.) Cate Blanchette - Blue Jasmine
4.) Sandra Bullock - Gravity
5.) Tie: Mia Wasikowska - Stoker, Great Gerwig - Frances Ha


1.) June Squibb - Nebraska
2.) Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
3.) Amy Adams - American Hustle
4.) Toni Colette - The Way Way Back
5.) Nicole Kidman - Stoker


1.) Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
2.) Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
3.) Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
4.) Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street
5.) Tie: Joel and Ethan Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis, Alexander Payne - Nebraska


1.) The Wolf of Wall Street
2.) Her
3.)12 Years a Slave
4.) Inside Llewyn Davis
5.) Nebraska
6.)This is the End
7.) Frances Ha
8.) Fruitvale Station
9.) The World's End
10.) The Way Way Back

- And that's that, another one for the books - my picks for the best films of 2013. Look forward to even more great movie adventures in 2014.

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