Well, it has been a strange year in cinema. We’ve had movies without plots, without dialogue and without acting—although I guess as long as Vin Diesel is in the business, that’s always a possibility. We’ve had Oscar winners churn out stinkers and first-time actors deliver award-worthy performances. Without further ado…
The Ten Best Films of 2013
If Matthew McConaughey weren’t so busy pounding the pavement looking for nominations for his ho-hum role in Dallas Buyers Club, he might realize that his charming, effortless performance in this endearing coming-of-age story was his best in years.
This Jackie Robinson biopic is just a great reason to go to the movies. The true story is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, and the performances--especially Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey--are moving.
Woody Allen delivers with this compelling modern tale of a woman on the verge. Cate Blanchett stars as the destitute widow of a real estate swindler living through a reversal of fortune in a tiny San Francisco apartment.
Several big-name films tackle racism this year. In my opinion, this film does everything right. It explores the microcosm of one man’s tragic life, and the sickening combination of bad luck, stupidity, anger and fear that fuel circumstances.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers hit the nail on the head this time. Their signature black humor and offbeat narrative is perfect in this sad and strange and charming story of a folk singer trying to put the pieces of his life back together. And hey, Justin Timberlake didn’t ruin a film, for once.
I’ll be the first to admit the acting here is hardly Oscar-worthy. If I have to listen to Sandra Bullock mutter to herself in one more film, I’m going to lose it. That being said, the film itself is profound and quite beautiful.
Saving Mr. Banks
If you’ve ever heard yourself gripe while perusing the movie listings at this time of year that you can’t find a good family holiday film, problem solved. You can usually find ‘holiday,’ and you can always find ‘movie,’ it’s the ‘good’ that provides the challenge. This story of Walt Disney’s decade-long attempt to secure the rights to Mary Poppins is your film.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Scorsese waited years for his Academy Award. Now, it seems he may be bombarded with statues. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as financial high-roller in this despicable and fascinating look at greed and corruption on '80s Wall Street.
The Way Way Back
This film is proof that a movie doesn’t have to be outrageous to be refreshing. This is a simple coming-of-age story about a boy struggling to find his voice. He struggles free from a clueless mother and her demeaning boyfriend, and finds solace and support with a group of misfits at a local water park.
This is the movie of 2013. It has the rare trifecta of substance, talent and fun. It’s a period sting story that features the up-and-coming Hollywood A-list. Enough said.
…And the worst...
I would like to point out that there’s a challenge to compiling the worst movies in a given year. Sequels like The Hangover III, Grown Ups 2 and Die Hard 17 don’t make the list because they’re a given. It’s the same, sadly, with Vince Vaughn comedies. The Internship and Delivery Man gave Vaughn a beach house (and me, a migraine). This year, I’m pleased to say, every single movie on the list stars an Oscar nominee or a winner; and in some cases, a multiple winner. Even a squirrel falls out of a tree every once in a while.
Important life lesson: If you are a huge movie star (Will Smith) and want to forge a similar action hero career for your teenage son by setting him up as the star of a huge summer blockbuster, maybe read the script first.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
As far as I’m concerned, Jeremy Renner has no one to blame but himself. The title says it all.
Don’t worry. Justin Timberlake still can take a decent movie script and send it right down the toilet. Here, he plays an Ivy League math genius (o-ho-kay) who tries to take on the corrupt world of online gaming.
Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro star as married mobsters in witness protection in a small town in France. Oh, I get it. It’s France, not Nebraska. So the guy at the market is snooty rather than doofy, and there’s slightly more sex.
I think Bruce Dern thought this could be his Crazy Heart. He’s an aging actor looking for an Oscar playing an aging character looking for meaning in his life. The only problem here is that this movie has no story—it’s as bland and colorless as the cinematography.
Shhhh! Just pretend we never made it and maybe people will forget about it. Naomi Watts has to be wondering what she was thinking when she signed on to this pointless, lukewarm biopic about the late princess. To make things so much worse, it’s hard to imagine more interesting source material from which to draw. You’d really have to try to turn her life into a bad movie, and it appears they did.
All is Lost
And speaking of movies with no plot…This film about a man lost at sea has no dialogue, no interaction and no story. Robert Redford’s brave but forgettable performance lacked depth and nuance. I once said that Robert Redford is so beautiful, I could sit there for two hours and watch him watch paint dry. Turns out I can’t.
And we hit a dip in the roller coaster ride that is Tom Cruise’s career. This story of a soldier from the future tasked with extracting the last resources from an abandoned earth leaves audiences pondering how this movie ever made it to the big screen.
The real shocker here is not that they made a comedy about a murdered cop who joins an afterlife police department, but that they actually got Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds to star in it.
August: Osage County
First of all, the only reason there should be a colon in the title of a movie is if it’s a sequel to a nine-figure action blockbuster. Second, if I want a dysfunctional family shoved down my throat, I will go to Sunday dinner. Third, Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment set the bar so high for these kinds of films, I fear nothing will ever come close.
The Lone Ranger
It’s quite an achievement, but this movie has done it: It joins Howard the Duck, Pluto Nash, Ishtar and Catwoman in an exclusive club of atrocious movies with unlimited budgets and tremendous talent. Makes you wonder how they did it.