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2013 Movie List, with Commentary

January 2, 2014

Since 2008, I have attempted to read a book a week, and watch a movie a week. In 2010, I saw 66 movies, in 2011 I saw 55 movies, in 2012 was the first year I didn’t meet my goal, watching only 47 movies. This year I saw even fewer movies: only 39. Although if we look at the statistics:

  • 9 movies in theaters, which is the same for three years running
  • 5 documentaries, up from 4 last year.
  • 4 rewatches this year, a big drop from 10 last year
  • 4 foreign films, way down from 12 last year (although most of those were binge watched kung fu movies with Jake and Babs).
  • 3 animated movies, up from 2 last year.

Let’s take a look at what I watched.

  1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (theatres). I expected this to be my Christmas movie last year, but my parents surprised me with Django Unchained. Instead, I watched this with friends. I remember it being enjoyable at the time, the dwarves killing Goblins in a comical fashion, the trolls being both silly and menacing, everything associated with Radagast the Brown, but looking back from the end the year, my mind is not as kind to The Hobbit. It doesn’t seem to be quite as epic, or satisfying as the Lord of the Rings.
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (re-watch). To be frank with you, I do not recall the circumstances surrounding my viewing of this movie I watched this movie. I assume I saw this again because someone had not seen it (possibly Katie?). My general impression remains the same: it is an excellent movie, a pinnacle of well-executed action from the 90’s with a strong female protagonist. Between this and Aliens, James Cameron is pretty good at action movies, I wonder what the new Avatar’s will be like.
  3. Sleepwalk with Me. I listened to a lot of WTF with Marc Maron, and this movie was plugged over and over during their ads. I liked Mike Birbiglia’s comedy, so when this popped up on Netflix, I tuned in. This movie was much more soulful than I was expecting, much less a straight up comedy. I liked it, but had far fewer ambitions than I expected, instead staying small and intimate. I think there’s something to be said about comedy I like being relatively intimate, coming from a discernable place rather than being incredibly broad (PEOPLE FALL DOWN HAHA).
  4. Indie Game (documentary) (x2). Jake happened to turn this documentary on one day, and I was pulled out from my room to sit and watch this because I was so fascinated by the culture and people making these games. I have not traditionally been a gamer, but I like the idea of games telling a story, because I am a story whore. I watched this movie later in the year because I kept thinking about the people who make these games. I’m totally Team Meat in this movie.
  5. The Hunger Games. I was hanging out with Charlotte, and I wanted to watch this, and thought I would make fun of it. This turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated because the movie is good. The action was riveting, the mood depressing. This was actually a survival film, which made making fun of it a non-starter. Very different than I envisioned in the book, but still good.
  6. Rescuers Down Under (re-watch, animated). I was hanging out with Babs, and she had not seen this movie. I insisted we watch. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, as it is kind of over-simplified kid fare. The mice world is fascinating though! I like Joanna the Goanna more, especially since she is voiced by Frank Welker, who does a lot of Futurama voices. Aaaaaaaaaand I rule 34ed myself searching for Joanna the Goanna. Good lord internet.
  7. Senna (Documentary, re-watch). I think I watched this when I was in Portland, hanging out with Peter, Kate, and Kim. It is still sad, and very well made. I find it affecting even as a person who has not been a fan of motorsport, especially about what Senna’s place on the world stage did for Brazil in the world’s standing.
  8. Winter’s Bone. Peter recommended this movie to me a while back, and I’d heard good things about the book. I was somewhat entranced by the movie’s simplicity: girl seeking to prove that her father is dead. And yet the weird family politics, rural politics, and utter alienation of the rural Appalachia make for an almost alien experience. Jennifer Lawrence embodies a quiet will power quite well, something she had drawn on later in her career.
  9. The Good, The Bad, and the Weird (foreign – Korean, re-watch). I believe made Babs watch this during one of our movie nights. The first time, the movie keeps taking turn after turn until it becomes crazy, escalating into dizzying heights. On rewatch, it seems like it really could have used an editor to get rid of about 10 minutes or so. Some meandering, some fat, but still a goofy movie.
  10. The People Vs. George Lucas (documentary). I was incredibly bored one evening, and in a fit, I threw this on. One of those central questions about art: who owns the piece once it is released into the world, the person or the public? Well copyright law still says the artist, but the fans can adapt. The movie did bring one thing to my attention: Lucas Arts has been pretty loose with what people can do with Star Wars, having extremely loose enforcement about their property. I wonder if this will continue to be true now that it is owned by the House of Mouse.
  11. Wreck-It Ralph (loved, animated) (x2) This is one of my two favorite movies of the year. It was astoundingly cute, well animated, great story, great redemption, tons of little Easter Eggs, great voice acting. I was utterly charmed, and just thinking about it has made me want to watch this again. I wonder what it says that some of the movies I’ve liked the most over the past few years have been animated, but have also had a childlike sensibility like Moonrise Kingdom.
  12. Le Samourai (foreign – French). Ever since I learned of its existence, I have been fascinated by the Criterion Collection. Also, in a still image standpoint, I have always liked New Wave Cinema, for creating some truly interesting and powerful images. This film, made in 1967, shows a seedier side of Paris, with a French assassin suddenly going terribly wrong. This movie was of great influence to John Woo’s The Killer, which I saw…last year? Two years ago? I think if I had not seen that movie first, I would have been more enamoured with this one. The moody middle left me drifting, although it dragged me back in toward the end.
  13. The Amazing Spider Man. Jake was a big fan of this film, and I grabbed it from Netflix. I really did not like the iteration of Peter Parker in the Sam Raimi movies because they ignored a chief part of Peter: he is a very good scientist. He’s a super-nerd. This movie nailed that better, although I felt the Lizard was underdeveloped, allowed to become a cartoonish psychopath rather than develop into something more compelling.
  14. Star Trek: Into Darkness (theaters). I liked the new Star Trek enough, but I found this over-long, over-actioned, not as funny, and actually visually hard to follow from time to time. The beginning started relatively well, but it developed into something much much worse.
  15. Source Code. I remember wanting to see this because I saw Moon and while I did not like it as much as Jake did, I found it fascinating. This started off as more straight forward science fiction/action, and then began to take some wonderful science fiction bends as the ramifications of the plot unfolded. It was carefully constructed, although there are some horrifying questions to be contemplated at the end of the movie vis-à-vis locked in syndrome. Anyway, this is good and well-made. I also sometimes am surprised that Jake Gyllenhall made it as an actor, especially an action actor. He can be so doofy.
  16. The Wrath of Khan (rewatch, loved). Since “Into Darkness” retreads the Khan plotline (although in a very different way), Lucinda invited people over to her apartment to watch the original Star Trek: TOS episode with Khan, and then The Wrath of Khan. I had seen it before, but I have a whole new appreciation for this movie now. The camera work was great, the plot moved quickly, the theme was given actual consideration and was relevant because the movie let the actors and characters age, and considered what that meant in their story line. Truly, the greatest Star Trek film.
  17. Caddyshack. I had never seen this all the way through, and watched it with some friends of my Dad’s while I was in Arizona right after his death. This is deservedly a comedy classic (Chevy Chase used to be attractive, charming, and funny!), although definitely in the wacky 80’s vein that apparently did set the stage for a lot of improvisational comedies made by the Judd Apatow crew.
  18. John Dies at the End (weird). My mom came to visit for Fourth of July, toting up my things of my dad’s that she wanted me to have. We watched this movie one evening, which is truly an amazing B-movie, made by the same people who made Bubba Ho-Tep. It’s almost Southland Tales good-bad, but with less familiar actors, more monsters, more insanity. A bunch of things just stop making sense, but that’s okay. Roll with it. Also, great delivery from the lead actors.
  19. Seven Psychopaths. Jake was right. A worse version of Adaptation, as done by Martin McDonagh. Basically less than the sum of its parts, although I did like some of the little vignettes, and I continue to like Sam Rockwell as this nutty wild card of a man. He is so enjoyable to watch.
  20. Iron Man III (theaters, okay). I saw this by myself long after it was very popular, because I heard it was a great answer to some of the other summer movies coming out. I wasn’t super impressed with the end. I liked the film more when Tony didn’t have powers, understanding that Robert Downey Jr. just talking is one of the movies central strengths. Also, I really liked that they viewed the events of the Avengers as pretty traumatic, and Tony was having a hard time dealing with that. The use of Ben Kingsley was quite magnificent as well.
  21. Crazy, Stupid Love. I thought this would really be more charming than it was. Sigh. Silly me.
  22. Big Trouble in Little China. I was introduced to the idea that Kurt Russell agreed to make a movie, but was not given the script and was forced to improvise during the entire film. He does ask a lot of questions. Tom and I turned this into a very enjoyable drinking game.
  23. The Brotherhood of the Wolf (foreign – French). Way back in high school, I briefly served as the host for a movie review show for our high school video department. My friends created the introduction to the show out of movie clips they enjoyed, one of which was from this film. I have always been intrigued by the film since, and finally watched it. Man, is this film ever French, man is it ever weird (even for the French), and will Victor Cassel ever stop being insane/damaged?
  24. Blowup (foreign – British/Italian) Blowup is one of the seminal mod/new wave films, made by Michelangelo Antonioni. Again, the film is wandering as it displays a day in the life of a feckless art photographer. There were moments I hated, and moments I loved, which I think is perhaps the point of the thing. It was made in a gorgeous way, but the character is, well not amoral, but very self-involved. I think the film indicts the very surface level mod style (a style I love) which never had the philosophical under pinnings of other movements at the time.
  25. Argo. Peter and Kate made me watch this. It was very well put together, and Ben Affleck puts in an understated performance. The film was tense, although I kind of want there to be more to it? I don’t know.
  26. Pacific Rim (Theatres, liked). This is one of the films that I keep coming back to in my head. Yes, Charlie Hunnam is not a charismatic leading actor, yes Idris Elba was often wearing a suit a little too big for him, and yes this is basically giant robots versus giant monsters, with maybe some ecological disaster underpinnings. But good god, can Guillermo Del Toro build a world. This world feels lived in, and dealt with the beginnings of the world in the first five minutes, and went to the middle, and the end of the conflict. Of course you had to see this in theaters, because the sheer scale of the things. This was amazing. Also, an excellent argument for more infrastructure.
  27. The World’s End (Theatres, liked). The last of the Cornetto ‘trilogy’. The most introspective and adult of the movies. While Hot Fuzz remains my favorite, I did really like this one. Each movie deals with the horrors of conformity, be it through becoming a shambling dead thing, one member of a creepy town, or part of an alien collective. In each wake, the solution is different, either by banding together to form the community, relying on yourself, or insistently pursuing your own way of life. This one may improve with rewatching.
  28. Invincible. The first movie in a long time I watched on broadcast TV, with commericals and everything. This was an enjoyable sports movie. A good representation of the drama, that wasn’t about winning a super bowl or anything, it was about just being good enough to play the game at a professional level at all.
  29. Killing Them Softly. I loved Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and took a chance on this film. It is an odd film, extremely talky for a gangster movie, concerned with politics of the time, and can be read different ways. Critics have been giving it different looks as the year has gone on, some arguing that everyone, absolutely everyone hated it, others excited by the ways that the film does not really conform to genre expectations. Me, I found it boring, and hope for something interesting to come up from Dominik soon.
  30. Shut Up and Play the Hits (documentary). I caught on to the LCD Soundsystem wagon late, only in time to appreciate their last record, right as it came out. It remains my favorite record of all of LCD Soundsystem. Normally I don’t go in for documentaries or concert films, not being a big concert guy, but for a band I liked, with a large interview by the provocative Chuck Klosterman, how could I resist? This was pretty good, and made me reconsider some of my concert decisions. I also found James Murphy fascinating, and the end, good lord, that was actually quite emotional.
  31. Tabloid (documentary). I have seen some of Errol Morris’s short work, and found it quite compelling. The trailer for this impressed me, so I took the leap. The woman featured in this is really strange, and man, I don’t even know who to believe in this thing, I suppose that is the point. A weird film, although I really did feel awful for the woman with her dog issues at the end of the movie.
  32. Margin Call. Jake and Jeremy threw this on late one evening. Tense, good acting, and entirely believable, which is frustrating.
  33. Gravity (theaters). The other best movie I saw this year. I generally love most of Alfonso Cuaron’s work, and this was no different. This movie helped bring back wonder. I have no idea how he made this film. Literally, I do not understand how these shots were composed, edited, and then put to film. I don’t know what was CGI, and what was not. For all I know, Alfonso Cuaron shot several actors into space, and then did terrible things to them for a few weeks. This is hands down some of the best filmmaking I have seen in a long time. It is tense, it is sensual, and it damn near made me cry. Above all, Alfonso Cuaron is a very human filmmaker, and he was able to give some language for why I fear space, and find it so alienating, because literally, some of the natural forces I experience every day do not apply. I know this movie had some casting issues in the lead part, and I was initially worried about Sandra Bullock, but really, she did something quite amazing in this film, and I’m glad it wasn’t anyone else.
  34. Anastasia (animated). I watched this on my way to Scotland, on the plane. I had wanted to see this film when I was a kid, and never got the chance. It was very silly, and weirdly white washed communism and the Bolshevik revolution. I was stunned by this turn of events.
  35. Prometheus. I watched this one on the back from Scotland. This movie was infuriating, which I am late to the party to. I actually looked up the plot synopsis on Wikipedia to ensure I wasn’t watching some weird airplane version of this movie. No, the movie really stops making sense, and narratively makes weird leaps and doesn’t answer many of the questions it brings up. Really, I am beginning to believe that Ridley Scott just isn’t a good filmmaker. The longer version of Kingdom of Heaven being one of the last movies he made well, right after Matchstick Men, which I kind of want to re-watch because it is one of the last Nicholas Cage controlled crazy roles.
  36. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (documentary). I appreciated and liked Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and figured I would like this as well, made by the same people. This film was good, but not quite as focused as I wanted. I did learn a great deal about wikileaks, and the film covers Bradley Manning, but so many people have such political agendas to maintain in this documentary, things get a bit skewed.
  37. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (theaters). I saw this in Portland, and there are elements I liked (Smaug himself! Some of the elf stuff!), but again: did we need Disney’s Barrel Ride from Hell, and other such extended sequences? I think not.
  38. American Hustle (theaters). I saw this with Emily Strait in San Diego! This movie meandered more than most heist/con movies do, but I think that was in greater service to the characters: who is conning who, and for how long, and how? It may not be different, but it is good. The actors may not be cast in quite the best roles, but they are so good, it barely matters. I think this even adds a level of conning/craziness. Also, Robert DeNiro becomes scary again.
  39. Inside Llewyn Davis (theaters). Saw this with Katie just before the end of the New Year. I have have seen most of the Coen Bros movies, and this one was like an excellent nap. It was soothing, just the right length, and waking up was pleasant. Some delightful narrative tricks, good music, and great niche performances that only the Coens could come up with. Fans of folk and the Coen Bros should definitely watch this.

 This year I canceled my DVD subscription to Netflix, and went Instant-View only. I live just a few blocks from a movie store, and still have a giant list of movies I would like to see. I plan to take advantage of them.

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