Wednesday, January 1, 2014

DC Outlook's Top 10 Movies of 2013

Sandra Bullock & George Clooney (r) in Gravity

Gravity Tops American Hustle for Year's Best

On its surface, 2013 didn't appear to be a great year for film; but that didn't stop us from falling in "heavy like" with several films... some of which couldn't crack our annual Top 10 list (Fast & Furious 6, Prisoners, Rush, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Wolverine.) Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street was particularly difficult to omit; but three hours is too long for any movie nowadays, even one that boasts Leonard DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and miles of debauchery.

10. This is the End: Fuckin' awesome. There, I said it; but if you think that's salty language, you ain't seen (or heard) nuthin' yet. Silly, totally inappropriate and even vulgar... you won't stop laughing until it's over.

9. Mud: Could this be the year of Matthew McConaughey? Mud, Dallas Buyers Club and a shining cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street finally put one of Hollywood's most underrated actors in the running for an Oscar. Mud is a great coming-of-age story, with all kinds of goodness hiding inside. Nobody beats Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) at showcasing "middle America."

8. 12 Years a Slave: I won't pull any punches: Steve McQueen's film is hard to watch, bravely scratching the surface of the cruelties of slavery. An absolute must-see, but be prepared to wince. Chiwetel Ejiofor is magnificent, as are Michael Fassbender & newcomer Lupita Nyong'o. Would rate higher, but it's not the kind of film you want to see again.

7. Jerusalem: Daniel Ferguson's 45-minute peak at "the closest place on Earth to God," is a marvel to behold, custom built for IMAX (and even those pesky 3D glasses they make you wear sometimes.) It's the best doc of the year (by a mile) and a travel agent's dream: I was ready to grab my passport, and jump on a plane immediately after.

6. Pain & Gain: Can you feel the love in the room for black comedies? Two cracked our Top 10, and another almost made it. All three films made me laugh uncontrollably at times, but none as consistently as Michael Bay's wild take on the trials & tribulations of body-building run amuck. Marky Mark and The Rock? How can you not love it?

5. Dallas Buyers Club: This is where it gets interesting: Any of our Top 5 films could easily be #1, depending on my mood at the time. McConaughey delivers the best performance (male or female) of the year, with Jared Leto not far behind. The last half an hour skews serious (AKA depressing) which keeps it here, at #5. Still powerful throughout, however... Don't be surprised if both actors win Oscars.

4. Stoker: This choice is bound to raise eyebrows; but I absolutely loved Park Chan-wook's English-language debut. Daring visuals and a stellar cast (Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman & Mia Wasikowska) make this one thriller you simply can't afford to miss. Creepy and delicious at the same time.

3. Elysium: If you weren't surprised by my inclusion of Stoker, then Elysium is gonna knock your socks off. Neill Blomkamp's followup to District 9 is absolutely revolutionary... the best sci-fi movie in years. Kudos to Blomkamp for displaying a class warfare film that's smart, void of cheesiness and often spectacular to watch. Matt Damon makes a perfect hero, displaying his usual low-key effectiveness, that some mistake for "ordinary" acting. Hardly.

2. American Hustle: In some ways, David O'Russell's Abscam tale is the best movie of the year. It's certainly the most effective & entertaining movie, start to finish. All four main actors (Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence) will grab Teacher's Pet nominations (not to mention Oscar nods/awards) and O'Russell firmly establishes himself as one of Hollywood's best directors alive. Not bad for the guy who gave us I Heart Huckabees. Best writing, second best soundtrack (after The Great Gatsby) and superb chemistry amongst the top cast of the year. How is it not the best movie of the year?

1. Gravity: This is why. With all due respect to American Hustle, nothing can replicate the sheer awesomeness of Alfonso CuarĂ³n's visual masterpiece... quite possibly this generation's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Minutes 10-25 transcend phenomenal. Anytime I utter the term "Wow!" out loud, it has to be special. Speaking of wow, hats off to Sandy Bullock for looking absolutely scintillating one year shy of 50. P.S. She displays a remarkable blend of strength and vulnerability, that's worthy of a third Oscar nomination later this month. Don't wait to see this at home... Run, don't walk to your nearest cineplex (preferably IMAX or something close, definitely 3D.)