December 31, 2013

2013: The Best of, the Back 10 of the Top 10 (aka 20-11)

Welcome to the back ten of the top ten, more simply put this is the countdown from 20 to 11. This is the beginning of a list that contains titles that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. It is not that I know any better, it is just I have different tastes. I actually hope that there are movies here that you have not seen and that you may be enticed to seek them out. The only real rules are that I had to have seen it in a theater. I do not see everything, I do not get paid for this, and this is my opinion based on what I have seen in 2013.

In 2013 I have continued to learn more and more about myself as a movie fan. I am gaining better focus of what I like, what I want to see, and how I see it. I am getting better at avoiding being influenced by the masses. I am sure we line up sometimes, but not because of outside influence. Anyway, on to the list!

20. Go Goa Gone. Here is a movie that completely caught me off guard. All I knew going in was that it was a Bollywood film, that's it. What I found was an atypical Indian production. It still had the expected cultural and some stylistic differences, but it was shorter than usual and had no musical numbers. Beyond that, the movie turned out to be a pretty clever zomcom. Yes, that's right, a zombie comedy that works. It is just a lot of fun from start to finish and while not exactly the greatest of zombie files, there is something fresh and energetic about this movie that really got to me. It is certainly spending some time to track down.

19. Dead Man Down. This is a stylishly made film. It presents interesting characters who have gone through a lot and are unable to find their way out except through each other. It is definitely worth seeing, just don't expect much from the plot, this movie is all about the lead characters, their damages, their desires, their needs. A well made straight forward tale of revenge. It is one of those movies that did not get enough attention when it first came out but will hopefully find a fan base.

18. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Sure, this movie has a pop culture appeal to it, but it also has some grimy undertones. It is a movie cast against type. A Hollywood production to satisfy the young population, separating them from their money, while depicting a world where the majority of people are oppressed and contemplating revolution while a game of death is played to remind of them of the generosity of the rich to the thankless poor. It is an interesting production that benefits from a talented cast that help raise it well above the level of pop pulp.

17. Spring Breakers. This is a crazy movie that makes little narrative sense. It is filled with moments that I criticize in other movies that actually work in this context. It is the moments where a simple conversation could change the course of events, a slight injection of logic where none was previously. If logic was employed by our intrepid Breakers, it is likely that nothing at all would have happened. So, I guess we should be thankful for a writer who fails, purposefully, to give our protagonists logic. Take in the experience, watch as it takes you down the rabbit hole. Follow these girls over the rainbow to a world that tantalizes them with the idea of self discovery, but that promise is a lie. It is a uniquely modern grindhouse flick that should be celebrated.

16. The Conjuring. In the case of The Conjuring, we have a movie that never tries to break out of the familiar. Instead, the movie works within that which we know, rather than focus on transcendence, the focus is on execution of the known. There is a reason these formulas came to be, and it is not because they don't work. There is a way to break out of the idea of "familiarity breeds contempt". You want to be familiar and effective? You must work on the execution. Take those tropes, beat them into submission and use their power against the audience.  The beauty of this movie is that it takes what is ostensibly a simple tale and makes it involving, it makes it scary, it makes it downright creepy. There is an understanding of material going on here that ensures a roller coaster ride of creepy thrills. 

15. Much Ado About Nothing. Here is another movie that surprised me. I had even considered not seeing it in theaters, I am glad I did. Joss Whedon adapts and directs this Shakespeare play with an eye to the modern day. He retains the old English but dresses everything on the present. It is very effective and involving to the point I forgot they were using the Shakespeare style line delivery. This is a very good film.

14. Mama. This is not a straight up scary movie, it is more of a tragedy. The movie is surprisingly sad and completely not what I was expecting. It is a tale that has a seriously creepy vibe, but is able to let the sadness and tragedy come through. There are some interesting risks taken, including a certain moment near the beginning, as well as in its ending. It is not your typical happy Hollywood ending, there is a certain amount of joy to it, but it also takes a chance with the tragic aspects. It is nice to see a ghost story that can appeal to a wide audience and still feel fresh and take some chances. It is a bit of a roller coaster that will leave you drained.

13. Insidious Chapter 2. This was a pretty good year for horror in the mainstream. This is one of those movies that proves that you can be mainstream, creepy, and a sequel. It is a movie that pays homage to the past with an eye on the future. This movie builds on the groundwork built by the original and keeps it feeling fresh, as well as very creepy.

12. This is the End. One of the funniest films I have seen in some time. This had me laughing from start to finish. It is kind of like the the geek version of Grown Ups (only, you know, good). A bunch of friends getting together to have fun and make a movie, the difference being this is actually good. It is a movie that amplifies personalities, plays against type. Examines the effects of stardom, and acts as an excuse for some of the more over the top stuff you are likely to see this year in a theater. See this and laugh, then repeat.

11. About Time. Every once in awhile a romantic sort of movie will get through my defenses. At my core there is something of a sap. This movie brings in the science fiction element of time travel and fuses it romance in an absolutely delightful fashion. About Time is about living in the moment and being able to accept the finality of things. It is a sappy, tear jerking sort of movie, but it is one that got through my defenses and won me over.

Stay tuned for the top ten!

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