Saturday, November 30, 2013

The best movies I saw in 2013

Paul and I watch a lot of films. This year we saw an unusually high number of very good films. Here are the ones I can remember.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Stunning, one of the best movies I've seen in years. It has pathos, humor, and life-sized metaphor. The best movie I saw this year. (1)

Moonrise Kingdom
So quirky that it gives new meaning to the word quirky. Funny and touching, too. I would give a lot to know these kids and see them on a regular basis. (2)

Paris, Je T'aime
Consists of 18 five-minute shorts. My favorite was the one starring Natalie Portman as an actress who falls in love with a blind student. I loved the one featuring mimes as well, its ending was intriguingly cryptic. The final short is funny and touching, about why Paris is beloved.

L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
A Romain Duris film, really well written and acted. (9)

Silver Linings Playbook
Very well written, and Jennifer Lawrence is a serious actress with a great deal of talent. (8)

Les Miserables
I never would have thought Hugh Jackman could do this good a job of singing. I don't know why some people seem to hate Anne Hathaway, I thought she did well. I bought this movie, knowing I'll want to see it again, though it's not easy to watch. (10)

Agonizing to watch, and spot-on, based on my experience caring for my mother and watching others care for the elderly. I don't think I'll ever forget the look on her face after getting slapped, it was so true to life and so deeply sad. (3)

Letters from Iwo Jima
Incredibly hard to watch, but brilliant. I don't like Clint Eastwood's politics or what he does on the political stage, and I never understood what anybody saw in Unforgiven, but I guess I've got to admit the man can direct. (4)

The Sessions
I tried to put my head into the head of this therapist, and couldn't. I love Helen Hunt, she's so versatile. I had seen John Hawkes only in Lincoln and look forward to getting to know him better as an actor. (6)

The Intouchables
Wonderful! Funny, touching, perfect. I didn't know while watching this film that it was based on a true story (somehow missed that in the credits). Both men's performances were off-the-charts good. I wound up seeing this a total of 3 times after we watched it twice with friends, and it held up magnificently. (5)

The Kids Are All Right
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were both excellent, and Mark Ruffalo as well. I've seen both women in very diverse roles, which made their acting that much more impressive, and I'd never seen Ruffalo in anything. A difficult story.

The Butterfly
Charming, can't now remember much about it.

We Bought a Zoo
If it hadn't had such an amazing soundtrack by Jonsi, I might've forgotten this feel-good, fairly formulaic movie pretty quickly, at least if it weren't for the performance of Maggie Elizabeth Jones, who could charm the socks off anybody wearing socks. I bought the soundtrack CD, which I don't do often.

Antonia's Line
Wonderful, am awaiting a chance to watch it again with friends. (7)


In the Just Good category, we saw these as well.

Star Trek: Into Darkness. As a long-time Trekkie, I couldn't get past the obvious continuity errors as this movie rewrote the past. How is Khan suddenly not Latino? They couldn't find a good Latino or Sikh actor to play the part? How does Khan not recognize Kirk and crew when he's reawakened in the original series episode? Etc.

People Like Us. I wanted to see actor Chris Pine in something besides Star Trek, and he did a creditable job in this well-written movie that had only a few questionable character moves. Elizabeth Banks was even better as his sister.

Mozart's Sister. Touching to see how a family might have related in Mozart's time. Sad to see how a young woman's talent was wasted because her brother was so much more talented. Reminded me of the film about Rodin's lover.

How Art Made the World. A well-done documentary series but quite slow at times as he inexorably reaches for the climactic moment you know is coming.

Quest for Fire. Difficult to take seriously at first, but the image that lingers is the face of the male character when he watches someone making fire, a profound moment.

Le Havre.

How To Train Your Dragon. I should've written a short review of this right after seeing it because now I can hardly remember anything about it.

The Rebel. A Vietnamese action flick. Amazing how movie stars can get the s**t beat out of them and still be able to stand up and take some more, isn't it?

The Crazy Stranger. The only Romain Duris film I've seen so far about which I've less than raved.

Paths of Glory. Painful to watch, especially the execution. I watched a lot of movies this year that got me thinking about how I'd react if condemned to death. Why would I want to do that exactly?

All Quiet on the Western Front. Don't remember it much, sorry to say, though I know it's a classic. I do remember thinking that some classics are past their time, too much water has gone under the bridge since they were made.

Rome Open City and Paisan. A trip into WWII-era Italy, about which I had known very little. Very thought-provoking, and some scenes have stuck with me. It would work better to read about these films before seeing them, because the acting and writing are so bad it's helpful to know the context first.

Children of Paradise. See my comments on All Quiet on the Western Front.


Muppet Treasure Island. I've been hearing how great the Muppet movies are for a long time and finally succumbed to renting one. I shouldn't have risked it, this was awful, but the others who watched it with me liked it a lot, so I guess it's a matter of taste.

Iron Sky. Ridiculously awful.

The Serpent and the Rainbow. Absurd.

American Reunion. I really hate movies about American men acting immaturely.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. The title says it all, doesn't it?

Tarzan, the Ape Man. So badly done it's hard to believe anybody invested money in this. It really should be titled Bo Derek's Breasts, since that's what it's about.

Tarzan. (The Hindi film.) Silliness. Bad production numbers in the deep dark jungle.

The Last Airbender. Painfully bad.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice. (The Nick Cage film.) Weird.


Since I didn't do a best-of list for last year, I'll mention these that I saw in the final months of 2012.

In Bruges. Very violent but fascinating and well done. Brendan Gleeson is wonderful.

Owl and the Sparrow. A charming Vietnamese film about a little girl on the streets of Saigon.

Soooooo good, truly amazing. After seeing this film, dedicated myself to seeing anything else starring Romain Duris, an incredibly versatile actor. I've been trying to think of an American actor who's similar in scope and range and ability to become so vulnerable, and I haven't been able to.

I know a good deal about Lincoln the man and the president and didn't know how Daniel Day-Lewis was going to manage it, but he did a stirring and believable job. I think his body language was better even than his measured speaking. Two images have stuck with me: Lincoln's fingers hammering down on a table while discussing the passage of the anti-slavery amendment, and his hand on the leg of John Hay as Hay lies in bed. I would have preferred someone other than Tommy Lee Jones to play Thaddeus Stevens and someone other than Sally Field to play Mary Lincoln. Both are excellent actors, but in neither case did I forget whom I was watching, as I did with Day-Lewis.

Life of Pi
Not a movie I'd want to watch often because it has so many sad moments, but Claudio Miranda's cinematography is among the best I've ever seen. I guess director Ang Lee likes the magical, some shots reminded me of Peter Pau's cinematography in Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

There's still a month of 2013 left, and if I see anything memorable I'll post a comment.

1 comment:

Martha Lee Turner said...

Wow—thanks! A great list, and I've only seen two of them!