Alright, here we go again. I don’t actually go to see new films that often in the cinema. Having two kids and a full time job that largely happens in the evenings means that finding the time is challenging, and it’s so dang expensive here. The nicest multiplex in the area costs £9 a ticket, and I just don’t feel good about spending that for movies.
So this is not in any way a “Best Films of 2013” list. I haven’t seen many of the films that are going to win all the awards; many haven’t even come out here yet. This is more a list of my own personal year in the cinema. I cheated a little and counted a couple of the year’s big movies that I saw on DVD, so consider this my review of my year in new films. Okay?
Biggest Disappointment: Gravity. Yup, starting controversial right off the bat. Don’t get me wrong–the cinematography and effects were stunning in IMAX 3D, the acting fantastic. It just left no mark on me. I expected more–I expected to be sucked in and to be holding my breath the entire film. It was a fine film, but it just didn’t connect with me on any memorable level. I know a film has hit something when I wake up the next day and think about it sometime within the first hour. It was halfway through the next day before I remembered I’d seen it.
Best Loud, Explode-y Movie: Iron Man 3. Okay, most summer blockbusters these days, and forgive me for sounding old, all kind of run together–explosions, fights, special effects, CGI. I see less summer movies each year. They often fail to impress. But Iron Man 3 was highly, highly entertaining and continues the Marvel pictures trend of just generally being awesome. It was superior to its two predecessors; the action sequences varied in tone and pace, with the final one being very, very clever (all the bits of the suit and multiple suits flying around). It was hilariously funny in places (remember that one guard–“These people are weird”) and even a bit subversive. Note its treatment of Iron Man’s most well-known nemesis from the comics, turning him into…Trevor. Ultimately fluff, but very, very entertaining fluff.
Most Underrated: The Lone Ranger. Ooh, controversial again. Now, don’t get me wrong–this is by no means a great movie. But it annoys me when films are proclaimed to be bombs before even critics have seen them or a paying audience has had a chance to decide for themselves. People stay away because they’re being told by the media that everyone else is staying away. So I saw it because I thought it looked fun. And guess what? It was fun! It has its terrible moments–some of Johnny Depp’s Tonto antics are over the top (but not as many as you think), Helena Bonham Carter serves almost no purpose, some of the humour is out of place and it probably should have been cut by 20 minutes. But it is far, far better than either the third or fourth Pirates movie, and maybe even the second. Armie Hammer does a great job in the title role, and the final action sequence, when the William Tell Overture finally kicks in, was just crackers. I had fun. Empire Magazine, whose reviews I happen to like, agrees–their DVD review gave it a defiant four stars.
Most Ridiculous Moment: I saw Man of Steel on DVD. It was okay. The tone was all over the place. Some of it worked for me, some of it didn’t. It was more science fiction-y than expected with more fight scenes than character development. I liked the way flashbacks were structured in, as well as Russell Crowe’s characters multiple appearances after he is dead. But there is one moment that made me laugh out loud when it wasn’t supposed to. General Zod has come to earth and announced that earth better turn over Superman or they’ll be in trouble. Superman has to decide whether to turn himself in or not. He goes into a church and speaks to a priest while deciding whether to save mankind by giving himself up. If the metaphor wasn’t obvious enough, there’s this shot:
Yes, that’s Superman thinking about it, with a medium close-up on his face, and the background behind him a huge stained-glass image of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsename. It was so much the opposite of subtle that I name it most ridiculous moment of the year.
Biggest Cry: Saving Mr. Banks Fine, I’ll be vulnerable. It hasn’t been an easy year, and I’m prone to crying at random times set off by random things. Joshie has been watching Wall-E a lot and the moment where “Thus Spake Zarathustra” kicks in and the Captain stands on his feet makes me tear up almost every time. But in the cinema, I found myself bawling for no clear reason two or three times in this tale of how Walt Disney convinced P.L. Travers to grant the rights to Mary Poppins. I felt like I was crying for broken humanity and for the possibilities of a redeemed humanity. Or maybe I was just tired. But when they get Ms. Travers to dance to Poppins closing number…my tear ducts opened and didn’t shut for awhile. Luckily, I was the only person in the Showroom that day.
Biggest Surprise: Monsters University. As you know, I’m a huge Pixar fan, but their last two films before this, Cars 2 and Brave, had somewhat tarnished their reputation. Cars 2 was a fun James Bond parody but not much more, and Brave was beautiful with a somewhat cliched story. Monsters, Inc. was never one of my favourite Pixar films, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about its arguably unnecessary sequel, which is not much more than an Animal House for Kids. To my surprise, I found it hilarious and had such a good time watching it that I look forward to seeing it again. The jokes and story just worked for me.
My Favourite Picture of the Year: No big surprise if you know me, but of what I’ve seen thus far, my favourite movie is Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. Filmed in his house with a bunch of his actor friends during his two week break between filming Avengers and editing Avengers, Much Ado is modernised Shakespeare the way it should be done. Granted, it was a setup for me–my favourite writer-director directing actors from all his previous works in one of Shakespeare’s funniest, lightest works. I saw it at the Showroom and smiled through the whole thing. It’s the only film this year I felt inclined to buy and re-watch, and I’m even nerdy enough that I plan to watch it with commentary soon. Be forewarned: it is PG-13 for some unnecessary sexual content (no nudity, but two scenes of uncomfortable implication), but if you skip those two scenes, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had watching Shakespeare. And Fred and Wesley, together again!
Lastly, some quick acting awards, again reminding you that this is just for films I’ve seen:
Best Actress: Amy Acker in Much Ado About Nothing–how she is being overlooked in awards season is something I can’t quite grasp–most of the cast is good but she is superb as Beatrice.
Best Actor: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips–I’ve never been a huge Tom Hanks fan one way or the other, but the last five minutes of this movie, where Hanks’ rescued captain goes into shock, is some of the most powerful acting I’ve ever seen.
Best Supporting-Actor: Tom Hiddleston in Thor 2. Okay, I’m sure there are loads more serious performances I could put here. But without Hiddleston, Thor 2 doesn’t work. His Loki, 75% villain, 25% hero, is the most interesting character Marvel currently has going, and he has never been better than in Thor 2.
I’ve got nothing for Supporting Actress. Just haven’t seen enough. Sorry.
Well, that’s it for today. Stay tuned for the next in my Best of 2013 series.