Favorite Movies of 2013: Revisited

As 2014 prepares to close and my ensuing Favorite Movies list takes shape, I find myself looking back not just on this past year but the one before it as well. 2013 had plenty of great movies, and for all of the good movies I did include on my list last year I wonder if there were others to which I didn’t give due credit… or maybe some that I gave too much credit. While film criticism tends to be built around immediacy and forward motion, I thought it would be worthwhile to look backward for just a moment and reconsider the movies of 2013, and see what might have fallen through the cracks.

For the most part, I think I did a pretty good job with my list last year. I still absolutely consider The World’s End to be my favorite film of 2013, and most of the rest of the list (Frozen, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, Wolf of Wall Street, Her, In A World… and Spring Breakers) feel right to me as well. It was a nice collection of big fun tentpoles and exciting auteur efforts, as any good year should be. On the other hand, I do feel like American Hustle and Pain and Gain could potentially be dropped. I still think that they are both fun, entertaining films, but I also think that maybe my endorsement of those films was due to my being contrarian as much as anything. Because of the filmmakers involved and the buzz around them, I felt that these films were getting a worse rap than they deserved and I stood behind them. But in the intervening 12 months they’ve had less staying power in my mind than I’d like. There are a few films here besides them that I haven’t felt the need to rewatch either, so I won’t remove them from the list quite yet, but they’re certainly at the bottom of the list so far.

With that being said, what other films from 2013 do pass that test? Which ones have I been drawn back to, or which ones did I finally get around to seeing that I missed the first time? I’ve still got eight films on my Favorite Movies of 2013; which others will join them?
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The Wolverine: While I certainly liked it when I saw it last summer, it wasn’t until rewatching The Wolverine this year that I fully appreciated how well-made it is, and how outside-the-box it is for a major studio superhero movie. Much like my beloved Iron Man 3, it’s a story about an over-exposed character being stripped down to his most essential elements so we can get to the very core of who he is. The result is a much more emotionally engaging version of Logan than we’ve ever seen on screen before, in a film that uses the superpowers and scifi gimmicks as a garnish, rather than as the main event. That’s not to say that the fight scenes here are underwhelming, far from it: that bullet train fight is one for the ages. But as with any good movie, it comes back down to character, and The Wolverine does so much for Logan (and even for his supporting cast) to create an engaging, compelling arc. It’s a smart, measured approach to a character that is very easy to screw up, and now I’m more excited for James Mangold’s next outing with the character than I’d ever thought I would be.

Emma-Bates-Jillian-Morgese-and-Amy-Acker-in-Much-Ado-About-Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing: It’s funny to think that Joss Whedon put out a movie last year that I didn’t really consider for my Favorite Movies list, but that’s exactly what happened here. And the more I think about it, the more ashamed I am that I didn’t support Whedon’s fun little lark more, and probably for no greater reason than it isn’t his usual fantasy fare. But even without the Whedon name brand (and the accompanying cadre of actors), this would be a great movie, one that tackles Shakespeare as if it were a Howard Hawks rom-com and nails it. The Bard has never been funnier to me, and the simple black-and-white style works wonders as well. It’s also really great to see Whedon’s usual day-players get a chance to shine under a different spotlight. Above it all though, Much Ado is a great ode to the comedy of errors that is love, and all the minor tragedies that accompany it. Like any of Whedon’s work, it highlights the power of the good by challenging it very directly with the bad, and as always he nails it.

this-is-the-end
This Is The End: I always knew that This Is The End was funny, but I guess initially I felt that it wasn’t deep enough to really stick with me. But after watching it again, I realized that This Is The End is actually the apex of the friendship themes that have carried through all of Rogen & Goldberg’s stories. It’s the perfect sort of high-concept dramatic situation for that thematic concern, and they also take advantage of it for all kinds of ridiculous and fearless comedic possibilities. Jonah Hill getting raped by a thigh-dicked demon will never not be funny, nor will the ensuing mockery of exorcism scenes. Danny McBride is one of the best villains of the last several years, and everyone shows a great deal of self-awareness in their deconstructive performances. It shows a great deal of visual panache and inventiveness from a pair of first-time directors, and even if The Interview had been outright terrible (and it wasn’t) the strength of This Is The End would want me to see Rogen & Goldberg directing for years to come.

3-youre-nextYou’re Next: Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are one of the better creative teams working in genre film right now, and You’re Next proves this ably. The duo uses classic home invasion/masked killer tropes for what is ultimately a Hitchcockian murder plot, and mixes in a bit of commentary on top of it. It has all the hallmarks of a great horror film, but is able to keep the murderers grounded and real without deflating the drama and tension of the situation, which is no easy feat. Not to mention Sharni Vinson, playing a Final Girl who actually earns her survival, and the opportunity to see Joe Swanberg turned into a giant wuss before dying painfully. It’s a flat-out fun film, tense without being debilitatingly scary. This is a horror film that subverts expectations enough to provide a truly fun and engaging thriller, and to put Wingard & Barrett right at the top of my Have-To-Watch list.

Of course, there are still a bunch of movies from last year that I have yet to see, or that I never got to rewatch, but honestly at this point if I haven’t felt compelled to seek them out it’s probably fair to assume they wouldn’t stick with me. So with all of that being said, let’s take a look at my REVISED Favorite Films of 2013:

American Hustle

Frozen

Her

In A World…

Iron Man 3

Much Ado About Nothing

Pacific Rim

Pain and Gain

Spring Breakers

This Is The End

Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolverine

You’re Next

And my Favorite Movie of 2013 remains: The World’s End

Now with all of that out of the way, 2014 is almost done, and my next Favorite Movies list is imminent! Stay tuned!

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