It's been a crazy year. At the start of it all I was still a mod helping out where I could with spare articles and now I'm running the joint. I've tried to see more movies and watch more TV because of it but seeing everything that is put out there is practically impossible. Sure I could have emptied my wallet and gone into hiding trying to fill in the gaps but that takes some of the fun out of it.
So here is my top 5 list, in no real particular order, of movies I saw in 2013. There are still I want to or need to see, specifically some of the more recent Oscar bait films, but that could take a few weeks before I get around to it. That doesn't mean 2013 was devoid of some good movies and so here are my best for 2013:
World War Z:
This was a last minute addition and I was surprised at how well this movie was done. Brad Pitt stars as a desperate father both trying to escape a sudden zombie outbreak and searching for someway to cure the disease. Pitt anchors the film with subtle acting with an unclear background as a 'fixer' for the UN. Someone who can go in and get out of dangerous situations through quick thinking, he's a problem solver. It's this background that gets Pitt's family to safety and this skill which sends him back out into the world.
On one hand you have an action thriller featuring hordes of zombies swarming over helicopters and overwhelming everything in their path. On the other hand you have silent scenes and mystery surrounding the nature of the infection that is more intriguing than more moments of zombies biting more humans. Pitt always seems to be at the center of the action which makes his character seem more like a bad luck omen rather than the savoir looking for a cure.
Where this could have been a perfect zombie outbreak film is does trip up in parts leaving me hoping the sequel could fill in the gaps and be better.
Initially I didn't want to see The Butler. On the surface the film seemed like pure Oscar bait of the worst kind, striving to win awards more than it was trying to tell a good story on film. Instead The Butler was a great adaptation of a butler who worked for the White House while his son fought and protested on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement. The stories of Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, and his son Louis, played by David Oyelowo, parallel one another in wonderful ways showing that even if you aren't fighting in the streets you can still make a stand.
The co-stars of the film are no slouch either. Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., and so many more do well enough that they melt into a background of Gaines' story. His stern dedication to doing his job to the best he can to prove his color is of no benefit or consequence.
Some movies are meant to get you to stop and think, to make you look at the world differently, to tell a story that could change your life. Some films want to take you on a ride. Pacific Rim doesn't want to convey an emotion of somber understanding about a true to life plight, it wants to show you giant robots fighting giant monsters. Pacific Rim is the reason we still manage to go to theaters to watch giants we can't really imagine existing and let our imaginations be proven wrong. Directed by Guillermo del Toro and clearly having his touch for design the film has a wonder for size with anime sensibilities, and that's a good thing.
For some of you Pacific Rim just isn't something you'll enjoy. If I didn't have you convinced at 'giant monsters fighting giant robots' then you may be alright with skipping this one. But if you can't just sit down and enjoy something that is pure entertainment you need to turn off your brain and just enjoy. Not every film needs to really examine itself but instead just needs to be fun. Pacific Rim is just fun.
I am a baseball nerd. Ever since I really started watching the sport somewhere around 10 years ago I have, every year, found a different way to dive deeper into the nuances around the sport. Eventually these deep dives found the rich history of baseball and all the crazy wonderful stories that are often a big part of the game. New amazing players are almost never described off of their own individual merits but instead compared to greats and legends of the past. Most of us probably can name a legend of two. A player, as it's often put, who is "bigger than the game". Someone who's impact changes the very sport he plays in just by showing up.
Jackie Robinson is one of those players and despite the level of knowledge I can spit out about baseball, his full story was mostly unknown to me. 42 tells how Robinson went from baseball prospect to baseball lore. Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, and Harrison Ford, who plays the Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, play well as the two pillars that pushed drove the integration of baseball. Perhaps this movie is simply preaching to a baseball obsessed choir in me. But I think it says volumes about Robinson as a player and as a man that his number, number 42, is retired for every team across all of baseball.
I listened to Public Enemy, I didn't believe the hype. When a film comes along and simply overtakes every reviewer, every website, and every twitter post for a weekend or two, I get suspicious. As time wore on and Gravity continued to pop up in conversations about awards and on best film lists I finally conceded that I would have to see it. And I'm glad I did.
Gravity has few actors in it, most of whom only provide their voices. You only really see Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts working on the Hubble Telescope in Earth's orbit. As the film marches along it creates a real sense of terror as space balances between a beautiful frontier we're exploring and a terrifying vacuum that could kill us on a whim. Alfonso Cuaron, the director, allows Bullock's character great moments to grow and change as a person. Bullock's acting and Cuaron's directing almost meld together and you can't quite tell which is impressing you more. When the film finally ends you breath a sigh of relief and comfort despite the horrible and stressful ride you went through.