Best Movies of 2013

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Best Movies of 2013
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It is time once again to recount what I believe to be the best ten movies of 2013. I’m pleased that I am getting this article out before the Oscars this time around since often it can seem anti-climatic if my number one pick ends up winning best picture (like last year with Argo). What started off as an abysmal year in terms of quality of movies (by the end of the summer, I had only seen one movie worth talking about), I am pleased that by year’s end, all ten entries in the list are excellent films (especially the top three this year).

Best Movies of 2013


It is time once again to recount what I believe to be the best ten movies of 2013. I’m pleased that I am getting this article out before the Oscars this time around since often it can seem anti-climatic if my number one pick ends up winning best picture (like last year with Argo). What started off as an abysmal year in terms of quality of movies (by the end of the summer, I had only seen one movie worth talking about), I am pleased that by year’s end, all ten entries in the list are excellent films (especially the top three this year).


This is obviously a fully subjective list as I can’t see all the movies that come out during a year and since having a beautiful little girl, I see about half as many as I used to. The purpose of the article is to bring about some fun discussion and for you all to hopefully discover a film or two that you may have missed (impress your partners by making more inspired Netflix choices and so forth).  



Worst Movies of 2013


As always, let’s have some fun and call out the junk first. I only saw about four bad movies this year (it’s a record for me I believe) of which only two are worth mentioning on how horrible they actually were:


Runner up…

  • Man of Steel – although better than the last reboot attempt, it still very much missed the mark and was the most disappointing movie of the year.


Worst movie…

  • The Purge – As usual my bloodlust gets the best of me and I went to see this expecting something creepy or chilling and instead the only scary part was seeing Cersei Lannister as a natural brunette. What a colossally stupid movie.


Ok let’s not dwell on that and instead get right to the good stuff.


Honourable Mentions


The upcoming top ten were certainly not the only good movies of the year and I would want to give a special mention to a few that really rose up out of the crowd.


  • Oblivion – People really love to hate on this movie and I think that if you have not seen Moon (an amazing film), you actually might really like Oblivion and find many elements of it both original and sad. It wins my Ugly Duckling™ award for 2013, the best bad movie of the year.
  • The Conjuring – I would love to have found room for this in the top ten since good scary movies are so few and far between. Absolutely terrifying and a fun ride.
  • The World’s End – I went into this expecting to not like it and found myself laughing and being non-stop surprised and impressed time and time again.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Gah! I hate that this did not make the top ten. It was better than the first one (which I liked) and ended up being a terrific movie (with a bad ending, unfortunately). Looking forward to seeing more of the great late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the next one.



And now, la crème de la crème, the very best of 2013.


Top Ten


10. Blue Jasmine


I’m so glad this made my top ten in the end, it didn’t feel right having it in the honourable mention area (where it was anxiously waiting on the sidelines like your favourite colleague who’s at the top of the B list of your wedding invites).


Alec Baldwin said recently on Howard Stern that Woody Allen’s worst movie is probably better than any other director’s best movie. He may be right. He also makes a hell of a good casting agent. Cate Blanchett delivers the best female performance of the year and the rest of the supporting actors are bang on (including a couple inspired choices of Allen’s). I don't know how he does it, but he manages to get really fun performances out of Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. as well.


It’s basically the Ruth Madoff story. A woman who was running the circles of upper class socialites and then has to adjust after losing it all and now needs to rely on people her ex-husband betrayed. What’s she going to do? Be a dentist’s administrative assistant? It’s a great film and I’m sure Cate Blanchett will win the Oscar.


The usual moments of discomfort are present while watching this Woody Allen film but so are the laughs (make no mistake however, this is a drama through and through). It's a great story and you'll find yourself rooting for different characters interchangeably throughout the film.



9. The Spectacular Now


For a movie with such an awful title (I couldn’t remember it when I was telling the cashier what movie I wanted to see), this was completely amazing (I wanted to say spectacular so badly there). So soon after seeing Perks of Being a Wallflower, I wasn’t sure I was ready for another coming-of-age senior high movie, but this was even better!


My wife and I went through all the emotions while watching this, at times clapping and cheering, at other times screaming NO at the big screen (note: this never happens to us, we were completely enraptured in the film).

Shailene Woodley is incredible as innocent and happy little Aimee Finecky. I was floored repeatedly at how effectively she sold the character as being so happy-go-lucky and believably so. The movie is just very, very real. It's an excellent movie and very much a must-see.


It wins my Diamond-in-the-Rough© award for 2013 as being the best movie that apparently no one saw.



8. Nebraska


Really nice, simple film (I broke out the thesaurus to come up with better adjectives but those two really fit the bill best). If the movie poster strikes you as incomprehensibly boring and lifeless, this movie might not be for you. In fact, I think there will be a group of people who will absolutely abhor this film. But the large majority will like it. I think Will Forte might be miscast but the scenes with his brother fit very well so I could be wrong. It's a great little film on taking your confused father on one last fantasy adventure, if only to spend more time with him. 


It's the actress playing the mother who really glues this movie together for me, she gives a great performance as the spicy lifeblood that makes this family work. You'll be wishing she was in even more scenes as you watch the film. 

It's a special film, hard to really describe. There are great performances and various types of humour that had different people in the audience laughing at different times. But I still think this is a drama primarily. Really good flick.




Ok, I should mention that the next four movies were absolute hell for me to try and rank. It’s basically a four-way tie for 4th best movie of the year but I have to order them and although I’ve switched this around numerous times over the past few weeks, I think this final order represents the best way to rank them. Just remember that there are not any big jumps of quality between these. They are all excellent.


7. Dallas Buyers Club


What a great year it has been for strong male acting. I wouldn't want to be betting on the Oscars this year (but I will anyway). Both McConaughey and Leto are stellar, with Leto being a real stand-out for me (he’ll lock up Best Supporting Actor for sure). Some intense scenes going on there.

Jennifer Garner seems really out of her element being in a fantastic movie instead of a subpar TV series. She's the only thing that detracted a bit for me to bump this down to 7 from 4. Her performance is fine on an absolute basis but putting her into scenes with such strong leads makes it really noticeable. Hillary Swank, for example, would have been boss in this role.

Lots of layers to this movie which is based on a true story so I can't credit the screenwriters with coming up with all the various evolutions that the characters go through. It is a great story and finely brought to life by talented actors with strong direction. It is a great partnership (professional) between Jean-Marc Vallee and McConaughey.

There are some amazing scenes of what it was like having AIDS during that time period and the public's visceral reaction to it. It made me think for a moment about how bad it must be to have had AIDS back then and then I realized that was probably the stupidest thought I've had all year.



6. Captain Phillips


Good heavens does Paul Greengrass ever know how to make a white-knuckled stress-fest. I was about ready for a heart attack by the time the movie was ending. Tom Hanks’ performance starts as OK (that accent bothered me for some reason) but quickly gets to excellent and highly memorable by the end. In fact, I think it might be the best interpretation of being in a full state of shock I have ever seen on the big screen. I was as much a mess as the protagonist by the end of the film. So much so that I had to recompose myself before leaving the movie theatre lest there be womens who would get a glimpse beneath the armour of this macho reviewer.


I actually recognized that familiar stressed-out-of-my mind feeling near the end of the movie from when I watched United 93 and that dang Paul Greengrass had done it to me again. What a wild ride. The price of admission is worth it simply for the scenes where Hanks’ hero has to come down from being nonstop fear-adrenalized for too long a period. Brilliant.



5. American Hustle


I often hear smart people defend cinematic mediocrity by saying that some movies should be taken as entertainment value only, and that nothing else should be expected from it. The next time you hear that, draw the person’s attention to American Hustle. It is pure entertainment from the very first opening hilarious scene to the very last, and yet it has so much more that it shoots out the lights.

Speaking of which, if you don't get what this movie is aiming for, there is this one scene with an exploding spotlight that represents the film perfectly. A mix of great soundtrack with strong leads and beautiful camerawork, all the while just making it fun as hell.

It is at that moment (roughly halfway through the film) where the movie really ignites into something great. The second half is much stronger than the first (which was fine). Jennifer Lawrence steals every scene she's in but not in a bad way at all. I dare you to try and find one trace of Katniss in this character. It's impossible. As cute and adorably clumsy as this actress is, there is no denying her range and talent. Amy Adams and Christian Bale are both fantastic as well. Bradley Cooper (who I want to dislike so bad it hurts), is hilarious. Some insanely good cameos as well in this film that I do not want to spoil.

You also don't feel the length of this film at all, which is rare and a sign of a great movie.



4. Inside Llewyn Davis


Funny, touching, introspective, another success from the Coen brothers. I absolutely loved the soundtrack (buying it instantly after seeing the film) and the various folk performances making you feel like you're really sitting in the middle of the folk music scene in Greenwich Village.

Great performances from all leads both in terms of acting and vocals. You get so lost in Isaac and Mulligan's characters that you won't even recognize that they've been in a movie together before.

I would guess that many people, like me, will take some degree of issue with the ending but that is consistent with other Coen movies so I should not be surprised. I sure felt the need to talk about it to someone afterwards which is probably a good sign overall.

I want to watch the scene of that cat watching NYC subway stations go by over and over again. As much fun as certain scenes like that are, just be aware it's an emotionally-taxing film to watch. By the end, I had felt like I had made a winter road trip from NYC to Chicago and back, and that I had lost someone. The film does hit you and that's why it's so excellent and a must-see.



The following top three movies of 2013 are really a class apart from the rest. All are remarkable and stand above the rest of the list. They are all either perfect or near-perfect.


3. Enough Said


Absolutely fantastic and very realistic. It takes some really smart writing and strong acting to get audiences not seeing this as a movie with Elaine Benes and Tony Soprano. This is the first effort by either actor where I was able to not see them as those iconic characters. This also has one of the very best and most realistic first kisses you'll get to see. Made me want jump out of my chair like if I was at a hockey game.


This is another one of those comedies that actually ends up working much better as a drama (Crazy Stupid Love comes to mind, but this is far better). It made me miss James Gandolfini like crazy.  



2. 12 Years a Slave


With Oscar written all over this hard-to-watch film, you will have trouble deciding if it’s the performances or everything else that makes this completely spectacular. Not only does the best actor seem like a lock, but there are some amazing supporting performances as well. While not as insanely over-the-top violent as Django Unchained, this movie will still make you wish you were somewhere else when watching some of the more difficult scenes. It's powerful in how much it will make you feel powerless.

Chiwetel Ejiofor has come a long way since Children of Men, it is hard to believe this is the same actor in some ways. He is outstanding. He should win Best Actor, Lupita Nyong'o should get Best Supporting Actress (although Jennifer Lawrence of American Hustle has a real shot) and the movie should get Best Picture.

I believe it will be held in the same regard over time as Schindler's List in how it is very revealing and does not hold back for one second. Essential viewing. 



And it should come as no surprise to anyone that’s heard me speak since seeing it, but my favourite movie of 2013 is…


1. Gravity


So incredibly tense, awesome and beautiful, it would be an absolute catastrophe to miss it on the big screen, and I mean the big one. I saw it in IMAX 3D (20 bucks?!) and it was worth it (and I do typically hate 3D). I was extremely tense in some scenes and a blubbering fool in others (once you have a kid, you can't even entertain a scene where someone is talking about losing a kid, it's brutal and removes you from the movie immediately). All of my science and math geek friends had bones to pick but for once I'm glad that my suspension of disbelief was uninterrupted for almost the entire film. Enough to make this stargazer not want to be an astronaut for the first time since he was a boy. 

Both Bullock and Clooney are great (and I had great reservations about both going in). The movie is an instant masterpiece in my mind because it completely pulls a Total Recall or Avatar in becoming the new special effects standard that others will hopefully aspire to.

The director and cinematographer are both geniuses and I’m confident both with win Oscars. Please see it, see it on as big as screen as you can. It is a unique experience and we won't see another one like it for a long time or ever.




Well, I hope you enjoyed the list and will aspire to see some of these if you haven’t yet. Thanks for taking the time to read it and if you have comments or think that I have a made a serious omission, mention it below and I’ll tell you why that movie is for dumb people.

There Will Be Games
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