Sunday, January 5, 2014

Brian's Favorite Films of 2013

Here we are, the first week of January 2014, which can only mean two things: Kicking off the year-long advent for the arrival of hoverboards, and Brian's list of his favorite movies from 2013. 

I always like to note that these aren't necessarily my picks for the best crafted films of the year, just my most memorable and enjoyable film going experiences.
 

HONORABLE MENTION:  

BREAKING BAD
No, not a movie, but Breaking Bad's final season (and the entire series as a whole) was one of the most enthralling entertainment experiences of last year - or any other recent year for that matter. If I could wipe it from my memory and start over again I would in a heart beat. It was storytelling that, against all odds, remained strong until the very end. So. Damn. Good. 

And with that out of the way, onto the movies...!

8.  ANCHORMAN 2
My brother and I first saw this as a two-and-a-half-hour-plus test screening this past summer and the mood in the theater was like a rock concert. We left with our sides hurting from laughing so hard. I saw the theatrical cut recently and while it didn't pack the punch the first screening did for me, Ron Burgundy singing to a shark he's nursed back to health will always be funny to me.  


7.  GRAVITY
This film is more of an experience than it is anything else, but it's an exceptionally well done one at that. The real-time tension and enveloping visuals made this one of the most worthy reasons to get your butt into an actual theater this year.


6.  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
The clever thing about this film is that I don't think it's a celebration of despicable people behaving despicably (though people with their priorities out of whack may revel in it that way), it's really a deceptive pitch from DiCaprio's disarmingly charismatic character, and occasional cracks in the facade he paints reveal what an unreliable (and deluded) narrator he actually is. Few people do sprawling rise-and-fall stories better than Scorsese and this is no exception. Three hours long and I never checked my watch once. I suppose it should be noted for more sensitive viewers that this movie doesn't hold back. Like, at all.

5.  PRISONERS
A dark, heavy story that had its hooks in me from the get-go as the mystery of two families' kidnapped children continued to unfold and change courses. A truly captivating film.

4.  AMERICAN HUSTLE
A goofier character piece than I think the Scorsese comparisons could lead one to believe. The whole ensemble is solid and once you realize the movie is less about the con they're trying to pull and more about the interplay and cons they're pulling on one another, the more enjoyable and entertaining the film becomes.


3.  CAPTAIN PHILIPS
A gripping story from start to harrowing finish. And Tom Hanks' confident and unrestrained performance reminds you that as an actor, there really isn't much he can't do.


2.  RUSH
With so many sports movies seemingly following the same, requisite fill-in-the-blank template, this one feels like a welcome breath of fresh air. Based on real life events, this is a solid character story about two opposite but equally interesting racing rivals that's packaged with all of the thrills that competitive sports movies bring along with them. An engaging, enjoyable story most people missed last year.


1.  HER
A love story that strives to be truthful featuring a romance between a man and his computer's operating system simply shouldn't work, but in the hands of Spike Jones, who crafts a credibly dreamy but grounded not-to-distant future, and Scarlett Johansson (as the program's voice) and Joaquin Phoenix's committed performances, this movie works as equal parts comedy, drama, satire, and unbelievably, genuinely affecting love story. 


And finally, I also enjoyed: 

BLUE JASMINE
A Grade A character piece about a deluded wealthy woman slowly deteriorating as her world falls apart around her. Her relationship with her far less worldly sister who only wants to help is sweet and at times awkward to watch. This one rattled around in my mind long after it ended.


ALL IS LOST
Basically Gravity on the ocean with Robert Redford. A much quieter and slowly doled out journey but an interesting, grounded, what-would-you do tale.


SAVING MR. BANKS
Sappy? Sure. Not entirely true? Most likely. But I still enjoyed it for the sweet and harmless story that it was. 


INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
An ambling story about the trials of a penniless folk musician. Anyone not ready to watch a guy make frustrating decisions and play four or five songs in their entirety beware, but I thought the Coen Brothers made this slice of life story intriguing. Almost like you were a journalist following the lead around for a weekend, taking in what a struggling entertainer's life is all about.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
A couple degrees off from what it was aiming for. But a nice, beautiful looking journey.


So there it is. And as I say every year, I'd love to hear what YOU loved from last year so put together your own list and send it my way. 

Have a happy 2014!

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