Friday, January 3, 2014

Magic a'la Mode's Best Movies of 2013

2013 has come to a close, and that means it's list making time over here in the blog world! As someone that's done a lot of film criticism this year, I wanted to give a list that reflected my favorite flicks of the past 12 months. The ones that will stick with me for years to come and should be watched by all of you lovely people that take the time to read this sparkle insanity of a website.

Keep in mind this is my personal list, as in some of these movies might not be considered Academy Award winning by many out there, but I believe they bear mentioning. So here we go!

10) Pacific Rim




I couldn't make this list without including what was hilariously dubbed among my friends as "Dalin: The Movie". Featuring my dream cast, director, and scenario, Pacific Rim took the action genre films of 2013 to new, cheesy, epic heights that hadn't truly been achieved prior.

Yes, the script is less than stellar, and yes there are tons of tropes from both of the respected sub-genres (Mecha/Kaiju) showcased. But the charm of Pacific Rim is that it comes off more as an homage than something trying to advance what had been done in the past. It breathes life into the stone cold path that Bay's Transformers films had left, and yet doesn't take itself too seriously. So bravo Del Toro, you achieved what every fanboy has dreamed: giving the audience the ride of a lifetime.

9) This is The End/The World's End



Yes, this is a tie. Both these films are excellent and both deal with the same subject matter. But they are in no way shape or form the same movie. But why couldn't I pick one over the other?

Well for starts, lets discuss the American side of this story with This is The End. I can say without a doubt that The End is the best comedy film of 2013. It jumps leaps and bounds over its competitors in both it's biting dialog and incredible boldness. The last 10 minutes of this movie are some of the funniest moments put to film, ever. Channing Tatum, need I say more.

But The World's End has a slightly more serious edge that made it equally as enjoyable. This story of friendship is oddly aided by the surprise genre twist towards the middle of the movie, one that is best experienced without knowing anything when seeing it for the first time.

So in essence, if you are looking for an easy double feature, give these two a try. Just remember to bring the tissues, and the Backstreet Boys t-shirts.

8) Don Jon



Sex is a really awkward topic to deal with in Hollywood. It either comes off as incredibly over the top or never gives both angles to the partners involved. But who would have thought the kid from Angels in the Outfield would be one of the only filmmakers to get it right? I sure didn't. 

In Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial/writing debut, we get an equal side representation of romance. Levitt's character is a porn addicted wise guy, who falls for Scarlett Johansan's rom-com addicted girly girl. But what puts Don Jon beyond it's competition is it's honest, realistic take on the tropes and moments every human has in a relationship. With surprising supporting work from 80's dad Tony Danza and the effortlessly beautiful Julianne Moore, Don Jon is 2013's When Harry Met Sally, except with a lot more smart phones. 

7) Spring Breakers


I'll be blunt, you are either gonna love or hate Spring Breakers. For me, I was on the positive side. It could easily have been the worst thing to have ever been made, or the best. But during a long train ride home after seeing this MTV style art house attack on the senses, I came to the conclusion that the end result was something way ahead of it's time.

Directed by the ever so annoying Harmony Korine, we see what could be his most "accessible" film. But by no means should this give you an idea to watch this with say your mom or dad. No, this is the kind of film that midnight showings were made for, the kind you will quote for years to come.

All I can say is: "Spring Break .... forevah."

6) American Hustle



Ever since last year's Silver Linings Playbook, I've become a huge supporter of David O. Russell's work. He has an excellent handle on his actors, and gives equally great parts to women and men. But nothing got my attention more than the perfection he put into his latest effort, American Hustle.

With tons of charm, spunk, and attention to detail, American Hustle is a film that sits comfortably on the shelf with other crime tales such as Goodfellas or Casino. But what makes it stand out is the brilliant female leads. Amy Adam's shines here, with Jennifer Lawrence being absolutely unstoppable in her charm. With the addition of an effortlessly composed soundtrack and set design, American Hustle screams to be 2013's awards winner, and deservedly so.

5) The Wolf of Wall Street 




If American Hustle is the 101 for Oscar winning filmmaking, The Wolf of Wall Street is the rebellious guidebook in the back of the library. No, Wolf will probably win no awards this season. It might not even get nominated past the always interesting Golden Globes (though, by god, is this Leo's best performance.) But unlike all the other films that will be nominated/win, Wolf is a movie people will talk about 20 years from now.

From the ads, this looks like a modern day Wall Street, but this ain't your daddy's Gordon Gekko. No, this is one of the boldest films to come out in 2013, and even with it's 3 hour running time stays fresh, exciting and incredible in every detail. It has easily skyrocketed to my favorite Martin Scorsese film, which was almost unthinkable after The Departed.  

4) Prisoners


When many people first saw the trailer for a little crime film called Prisoners, most regarded it as a straight up ho-hum drama. But in actuality, Prisoners is by far the scariest film I had seen in all of 2013. Sure, films like The Conjuring and Insidious 2 were amazing in the horrors they offered to the audience. But for me, those are more popcorn flicks by comparison. 

In my case, a true horror is something that could happen in real life. Prisoners is definitely one of those kind of films, and was so intense that afterwards myself and the rest of the audience were completely silent. For weeks I couldn't stop thinking about the pain and power this film had over me. It truly left a mark that I will remember for years to come. 

3) Saving Mr. Banks


As many of you know, anything related to Disney will always be a favorite of mine. So of course, I had to put one of their releases this year on the list. And as much as I adored Frozen to pieces, Saving Mr. Banks just had something a little more memorable than the other. 

Maybe it was the fact that the actual Disneyland (my favorite place in the world) was on screen, or maybe it was the affection given to the old time charm of the original Disney classics pre-Walt's death. But I think what really grabbed me was how obvious this film was a love letter to nostalgia. From the opening titles sequence, to the Mary Poppins score references, to even the reflections of history within key moments (like Walt hearing Feed The Birds for the first time), Saving Mr. Banks is incredibly charming. 

But many would wonder why this isn't my number one? Well maybe it's the Disney "expert" in me, but I think with what the public actually knows about what happened during the production of Poppins, its hard to watch something that comes off much more like a fairy tale. But maybe that's the way Walt would have wanted it. 

2) The Place Beyond The Pines


The Place Beyond The Pines was a film that actually was completed in 2012, but was officially released earlier in 2013. But regardless of the release date, Pines is one of the most surprising films I have ever seen. The marketing and editing truly led you to believe that this film would go one way the whole ride through, but trust me this story is as layered as a Shrek approved onion. 

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper give both of the best performances of their career, with equally stunning cinematography by Sean Bobbitt to go with it, making this film is truly one for the ages. It's a modern American fable that I hope finds a wider audience in the future. 

1) Her

Films can sometimes be an incredibly personal experience. One that changes and shapes you into the person you are meant to be, touch you, and stay with you. Many of the films in 2013 did that unlike in years past, but the one that sticks the most to my heart is Her by Spike Jonze. 

Her tells the story of a lonely guy from the not too distant future who falls in love with his Operating System (computer.) Sounds awkward and possibly awful? At least interested? Well prepare yourself because this possibly bizarre plot is one of the most touchy and beautiful pieces of cinema to ever be created (in my opinion.) No film has felt more human than one that involves Joaquin Phoenix talking to his OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) for 2 hours.  

Maybe it's the simplicity in the stylistic choices, the amazing acting by every single person in the cast, or the relatability of the characters, but this movie truly reached through me and gave me this big hug of emotions that I just never wanted to end. 

And there you have it! That's my top 10 list of movies for the year of 2013. I hope there are some surprises you weren't expecting! 

What are your favorite films of the year? Let me know in the comments below!

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