Instead of doing a traditional best of 2013 countdown or list post, I wanted to mix things up a little bit, for a few different reasons. First of all, I’ve only had the blog since June so considering what movies I saw before then might be tricky and so I in no way claim that these are, indeed, the best films of the year but merely my favorite out of those I managed to see. This brings me to my second limitation which is that I studied in Berlin for a semester this past spring, so I really didn’t see a lot of movies from Hollywood that came out around this time last year; I mean, I managed to see a Russian film and a French film as part of the Berlinale, and I also got to see a German raunchy rom-com (with no subtitles, I am proud to say), but none of that will be factored into this post. But what I thought might remedy these factors would be looking forward to 2014, and considering what movies being released in the coming year might compare with those I loved so dearly this year. So think of it as not only a wrap up of 2013, but also a very eager anticipatory post for 2014, broken down somewhat by genre.
This past year we had an exciting renaissance for horror films, and since that is (as you all know by now) my favorite genre, I thought I’d start us there. Last January, we were given Mama, which I watched on DVD this past Mother’s Day (go figure). Its ending was one of the most fascinating and polarizing horror movie endings since 2007’s The Mist. While director Andres or Andy Muschietti doesn’t nail any kind of social commentary with this film like Frank Darabont had with that Stephen King adaptation,Muschietti did, in my opinion, start the year right, ushering in a plethora of unique and terrifying and surprisingly successful horror films, and his is arguably one of the scariest and most artfully done. I absolutely loved it.
But, my favorite horror film of the year is going to have to go to You’re Next, with Contracted as a close second. As much as I loved the Evil Dead remake as a bloody spectacle and the more subtly chilling mega-hit The Conjuring, it was really these two films that stuck with me most and I think they both say something about a sort of sub-renaissance happening within the horror genre at large– both films play to themes of youthful self-absorption and play off the talents of its young, independent filmmakers in different ways. Adam Wingard’s tragically mis-marketed You’re Next playfully and mercilessly uses and then dismantles home invasion tropes and traverses them with glee and self-referential ease, and a kind of yuppie-cynicism and humor and brutality. Eric England’s Contracted, on the other hand, utilizes gross-out body horror to manifest far more human sources of decay in what proves to be just as scary as it is intelligent.
Both films are indie-horror masterpieces within a year that gave us a lot of great horror to choose from in the first place. With that said, I think I should note that zombies specifically had another great year in the mainstream movie culture; I can’t choose between World War Z and Warm Bodies because I thought that both were really well-executed and interesting films, playing with the norms of the subgenre and giving us some really different zombies and really different and effective stories as a result. With I, Frankenstein and Dracula Untold slated for this coming year, it looks like we won’t have any great zombie films of their kind, but perhaps these classic monsters will have some kind of renaissance of their own instead.
So, what horror films are on the docket for 2014? This week, we have Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones which I have very mixed expectations about, and later in the year Paranormal Activity 5 will be in theaters, and I can’t say I have high expectations for the franchise’s next installment unless they get back to its roots or do something totally different altogether, which I can only hope The Marked Ones achieves. There is also Nurse 3D, which I have similarly mixed feelings about, but maybe it will be unexpectedly great, if we’re lucky.
I think in terms of genre, the coming year will do much better for sci-fi, action, comic adaptations and franchises in general, at least for me personally, than anything else. We have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes whose newest teaser trailer is absolutely perfect, Transcendence in which Johnny Depp finally plays someone normal and human… sort of, X-Men: Days of Future Past, RoboCop, Guardians of the Galaxy (which boasts an epic cast and was originally set for 2015), The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Godzilla. That is a lot more than what this year offered me: I managed to miss both Iron Man 3 and the Thor sequel in theaters, but did rent Star Trek: Into Darkness and wasn’t that impressed with it, honestly.
I think my favorite sci-fi films of the year then would have to be Elysium and Pacific Rim. They may not have done as well in theaters or with critics as they could have (or even should have, perhaps) but Elysium is truly a smart and exciting work of science fiction, while Pacific Rim is more of a fun, albeit imperfectly put together monster flick, both deservedly vying for the title of my favorite of 2013.
The World’s End, then, was one of two great genre hybrids that came out this past year, both being met with critical and box office success; The World’s End successfully plays with sci-fi as only Edgar Wright could to round out his Cornetto trilogy, but it is the other film here which has to take the number 1 spot, and that film is This is the End. I think this film pleasantly shocked everyone and I’m confident that not much in 2014 will compare to it. It’s unlike anything else and not as silly as it would seem, and I especially loved the nods to genre greats, like The Exorcist. As a comedy alone, it is endlessly hilarious, always taking the apocalypse more seriously than the actors take themselves as they play exaggerated versions of their personas, which adds to its appeal and its success, I think.
I will say though, in terms of comedy, there are two exciting ones landing in theaters in 2014 that I am really looking forward to and I hope they do well. One is 22 Jump Street and the other is Neighbors. Both look hilarious and boast great casts and promise a lot of laughs just from their red band trailers, so we’ll see how they match up with this years comedy hits: besides This is the End, this summer also saw We’re the Millers which I enjoyed, but I think these upcoming comedies will be even funnier and hopefully less formulaic and predictable as well.
I thought two of the smartest independent films of the year, again considering how many I didn’t get to see unfortunately, were Her and The Way Way Back. Both had humor and wonderfully crafted scripts and really human characters played by impeccably talented actors. Next year, hopefully Jason Reitman’s Labor Day can fulfill some of those same indie characteristics, but there’s no comedy of these sorts I can think of that I’ll be eagerly anticipating.
One of this past year’s most anticipated films for me personally was actually a comedy of a different sort: Monsters University. It is probably one of the biggest merchandising entities 2013 saw, but it was also a great animated film from Pixar, really honoring its characters and giving us an enjoyable and morally-minded college back story. Next year, I think Maleficent will be the most interesting Disney release, though. I’m really intrigued by its trailer and premise.
Finally, I am forced to choose what my favorite film of 2013 was and what it might be in 2014. Given my recent infatuation, obsession and dedication to it, I must choose The Wolf of Wall Street as my favorite film of the year. It has wrought so many strong and opposing reactions from critics, and it has been a thrill to be a part of that debate. I have loved Martin Scorsese ever since I took a course on his films, and this much-awaited and much-contested 3 hour release did not disappoint me one bit; I even saw it twice and will continue to defend it, especially after a more careful second viewing. It is fast and frenetically paced, giving its audience a high but also planting all the evidence we need to condemn Jordan Belfort as a character; Scorsese has never been concerned with doing all the work for us, after all, and to say Belfort is being glorified is missing the point of the movie, particularly its conclusion. Instead, we are given a whirlwind of a film, artistic and entertaining, with Leonardo DiCaprio as deserving as ever of any accolades he is either given or snubbed for his dynamic, infectious, charming performance of a man we are then left to love to hate, or hate to love.
So what film will take the proverbial cake in 2014? I’m going to have to say it will probably be Gone Girl. With Gillian Flynn penning her own film adaptation of the bestselling book, and David Fincher (my other favorite director) behind the camera, and the first few images from the film being released recently, I am very excited to see how the book plays out on screen. I think Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were perfect casting (which is nice, since Ben Affleck’s Batman casting faced less desirable feedback, and I still feel kind of bad about that), and if there is anyone to take this intricately constructed and intensely paced thriller to the cinema, it would be Fincher. I thought it wasn’t going to be in theaters until 2015, but the sooner the better (if we’re considering October of 2014 to be soon, of course, and if the film doesn’t get delayed for any reason either).
Anyway, there you have it! I’m very excited to see what this year in movies will have to offer. Thanks for reading! And for a more comprehensive list of 2014’s releases, complete with tentative release dates, please visit the site I referred to in writing this post: http://www.movieinsider.com/movies/-/2014/