Favorites Of The Year 2013: Movies

It was tough picking my favorite movies of 2013. The problem is not because there aren’t any films to choose from, but I feel that 2013 has not been a very festive year for movies. For example, there weren’t many good animation and musicals. Most of the sci-fi films  were a disappointment despite this year’s unprecedented number of original and adapted sci-fi scripts. And let’s not even talk about Indonesian films – none of them made it into my list this year.

The ones I did pick, however, to be in the Top 10, I believe to be truly in a league of their own. The rest are okay; some are guilty pleasures and many others are important movies that I felt were educational for myself personally. What’s interesting is that I have movies in this list played by the same actors. Martin Freeman, Luke Evans, Vin Diesel, Chris Hemsworth, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba. Apparently, my taste is kind of obvious!

Favorite Movies of 2013

Note: The movies listed here aren’t all released in 2013, but I watched them all this year.

1. Gravity

Despite having only watched it once, Gravity tops this list simply because it’s a stunning movie. It has the guise of a scientific story with shiny and highly advanced special effects but the story is really about loss and grief, accepting and overcoming it, and then finally moving on. With a terrific performance by Sandra Bullock (if she doesn’t win an award for this role, I will hate award committees everywhere), and an entertaining turn by George Clooney, Gravity is a thrilling space adventure and a truly inspirational story. As brilliant as the sweeping 13-minute non-stop opening shot is, my favorite bit is the ending. Truly brilliant. I salute you, Alfonso Cuarón!

2. Pacific Rim

The Mexican domination continues in this list as Guillermo del Toro gives me my first favorite movie of the year. Pacific Rim is, on top of all, an achievement of vision, innovation and ideas. This is the movie that teaches us to dream so big, so crazy, that it makes sense. It is also a love letter to the mecha and Kaiju genre that del Toro and many of his fans, myself included, grew up with. I will be forever grateful to him for giving us Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi), one of the most badass female characters in an action movie ever. And good Lord, all those beautiful Jaegers… move over, Transformers! Clearly, you don’t stand a chance against Gipsy, Striker, Crimson and Cherno!

3. Cloud Atlas

They said the book was impossible to adapt. But I guess they didn’t count on the sheer determination of Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, who not only managed to adapt the book into a movie… but also do it in a grand, majestic sale and beautifully so. The biggest indie film you’ll have ever watched, Cloud Atlas is romantic, whimsical and thought-provoking all that once. All of the actors in the movie are in their element (that is to say, cross dressing and wearing prosthetics). The cinematography is gorgeous and the music is beautiful. If I should be so lucky, I’ll be like Halle Berry and meet you again in the next life.

4. Rush

I used to be a F1 fan once. Not anymore. But watching Ron Howard’s Rush, I remembered why I was into this autosport once. A racing biopic of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, this is the sport movie of the year. A lot of things about it surprised me, from the dynamic interaction between men and cars, racers and fellow racers, and men and women. It doesn’t feel like it glorifies a dangerous sport; nor does it favor one racer than the other. If anything, this is a well-balanced, brilliantly crafted movie, in which Chris Hemsworth finally shows his chops and Daniel Bruhl simply shines.

5. Thor: The Dark World

And speaking of Chris Hemsworth… Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor, is in this list for various reasons. But forget all of those reasons. The main reason is this: Loki. Specifically, Loki’s relationship with Thor. When you strip everything away – the grittier Asgard, the modern London and the sci-fi/fantasy mumbo jumbo, you get a story about two brothers who can’t seem to live with one another but need the other to survive. It’s intriguing. So everything is Thorki and nothing hurts. Ta-da!

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

If this second installment of Bilbo Baggins’ journey toward Erebor consisted of nothing else but a Hobbit and 13 Dwarfs riding wine barrels to escape from Elves and Orcs, it still would’ve been a great cinematic achievement (yet again) for Peter Jackson. Luckily, the movie is also about a dragon – a mighty, creepy dragon with claws like spears and teeth like swords. Combine them with excellent turns from the likes of Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Luke Evans, then of course you have movie magic in your hands no matter what Tauriel is doing.

7. The World’s End

The long awaited third part to Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s “Cornetto Trilogy”, The World’s End signifies the end of an era. To be exact, it signifies the end of youth – both in Pegg’s character, Gary King, and in mine. Sure, it’s not as funny as Hot Fuzz or as clever as Shaun Of The Dead, but anything Wright, Pegg and Frost do together – and do with Freeman, Marsan and Considine – can’t go wrong. I do hope there’s more… but if there’s not, then I’ll always have The World’s End.

8. Snowpiercer

Dear Hollywood,

This is how you make a movie from a comic book.

Bong Joon-ho

I’m proud to have been one of the people who watched this movie first in Indonesia. I’m also proud that this movie found its way to Indonesian cinema screens sooner than many other countries. This is a star-studded film filled to the brim with talented people, not least the director himself who transformed a French comic book into a ponderous yet action-packed cinematic wonder. If only more people adapt books and comic books this way…

9. Fast & Furious 6

Forget Man Of Steel, the best summer blockbuster of is this movie (which may also be called Furious 6). Fast Five‘s sequel has exhilarating set pieces and Marvel jokes! Also, Joe Taslim. (“Hantam mereka!” is my favorite line in any movie in 2013.) And, well, watching The Rock and Vin Diesel fight Luke Evans turns out to be one of the hottest things in cinema this year. Enough said.<

10. Iron Man 3

While a lot of fanboys are still smarting over Shane Black’s treatment of the Mandarin, here I am cheering for the utter brilliance that is Trevor Slattery. I’m also cheering for the fact that Robert Downey Jr. is once again the perfect post-The Avengers‘ Battle of New York Tony Stark and that he is entirely able to carry the whole movie by himself. The fact that Pepper Potts gets an upgrade from love interest to Tony’s ass-kicking partner doesn’t hurt either. More Iron Man, please!

11. World War Z

Another one of those adaptations of an ‘unfilmable’ book, Marc Forster’s attempt to bring World War Z to the big screen is surprisingly good. It’s a fast-paced zombie thriller that, while bloodless, still manages to pump your adrenaline while watching. Also, it turned out to be one of the more prophetic films ever as Peter Capaldi, who plays as W.H.O. Doctor, is cast as the next Doctor in Doctor Who series.

12. The Rise

A small British film that has the most confusing title ever (because it’s apparently called Wasteland on IMDb), this is a triumph of youth. Want to see Neville Longbottom all grown up? Here’s the movie to watch. The ensemble cast – consisting of Luke Treadaway, Iwan Rheon, Gerard Kearns and Matthew Lewis – is entertaining while the heist-y plot is intriguing.

13. 12 Years A Slave

Oh, what a film. My favorite of Steve McQueen’s films, 12 Years A Slave is one of those stories that punch you in the gut so many times but make you want to bear the punches because the end is so rewarding. Michael Fassbender is wonderful, but my hat’s off to Chiwetel Ejiofor who shines with quiet dignity even when he’s scraping himself off the floor after a sadistic beating. This would’ve been in the Top 10 but I found the whipping scenes too much to bear but that’s nobody’s fault but mine; Lupita Nyong’o is a star.

14. Mood Indigo

Another Romain Duris/Audrey Tautou film with Omar Sy? Yes, sign me up! Mood Indigo (or, shall we say, L’écume des jours) is quirky, sweet, heartbreaking, bittersweet, confusing, endearing, pretty and fantastical all at once. Some people might find that this movie is no big deal, but this Michel Gondry flick is nonetheless unforgettable, simply for the fact that you’ll want to know more about it after you watch it.

15. The Hunger Games: Catching FIre

Finally, a young adult film that we deserve! Director Francis Lawrence takes on The Hunger Games‘ sequel and makes it darker, bloodier and grittier. Jennifer Lawrence is even more comfortable in Katniss’ skin, so we get to see a truly powerful performance from the Oscar winner. There are pretty boys aplenty (Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin) but it’s Ms. Lawrence that keeps you sitting tight all the way through.

16. Riddick

I waited 10 years for this movie and now it’s here: Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick is back! Riddick tries to bring back the lone wolf quality of its main character that was seen in Pitch Black but it’s clearly a direct sequel to The Chronicles Of Riddick with its Necromongers and pale Karl Urban. The movie’s not at all artistic but, hey, it’s Riddick. I just wanted to hug the guy and say, “Welcome back!”

17. 47 Ronin

It is absolutely baffling how much people do not like this movie. So let me set the record straight: 47 Ronin is a good movie. If you like fantasy, you should like this. And if you, like me, grew up with J-pop culture, you might be as giddy as I am to see the likes of Kou Shibasaki, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano and Rinko Kikuchi here. Keanu Reeves’ is far from the narcissistic actor Tom Cruise was in The Last Samurai so there’s that too. I’m going to watch this movie again just so I can help it make more money!

18. Byzantium

Not a lot of people outside of the UK watched this movie probably but they should. Byzantium is a romantic vampire story that puts two beautiful women (Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan) at the center. Which is refreshing because we don’t get to see many female vampires in films that are as awesome as these two. X-Men: First Class alum Caleb Landry Jones is also great as Saoirse Ronan’s love interest. So forget Twifright; this is the vampire romance that needs to be watched.

19. Now You See Me

Another heist movie. It’s more glamorous and more polished than The Rise, with some plot holes along the way that would make people grind their teeth in annoyance, but it’s so much fun that I fail to be annoyed. This is Mark Ruffalo’s show but there are plenty of interesting characters here. The bright lights, the tricks and the cult references make for a magical time in the cinema.

20. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Some people are probably wondering whether I’m crazy for putting this movie to represent animation in any Favorite/Best Of The Year List instead of, for example, Frozen. But I only have two things to say to those people. First of all, MARSHMALLOWS. And then: N-WOO.

Honorable Mentions

Beasts Of The Southern Wild – It’s hard to believe that this is a film made by a first-time director! It’s so good it’s crazy. Quvenzhane Wallis is my new hero.

The Berlin File – Let’s just admit it: Koreans know how to make films. This espionage actioner is how the latest Bourne movie should have been. Are you watching, Hollywood?

The Grandmaster – Wong Kar Wai’s kung fu movie is not your average martial arts fare… and all the better for it. Probably my favorite WKW movie to date.

Stoker – See: The Berlin File. I told you Koreans know how to make films. Chilling, disturbing and featuring a creepy Matthew Goode, I wasn’t able to get this movie out of my mind despite feeling terribly unsettled by it. Now that’s what i call powerful.

Star Trek Into Darkness – I may never forgive J.J. Abrams for recycling The Wrath Of Khan but I have to admit that this movie was at least entertaining. As a Trekkie, I’m obligated to put this movie in my list somewhere. So, here.

The Wolverine – Hugh Jackman goes to Japan and has a furry time with his new friends. The lack of mutants in this Wolverine installment but it’s nonetheless a sharp-clawed chapter in Wolvie’s screen history.

Elysium – Two words: Sharlto Copley. And of course Matt Damon. Neill Blomkamp’s second film is one of the very few sci-fi movies that don’t disappoint this year and is actually very enjoyable.

Trance – 2013’s Mindfuck Movie Of The Year is Danny Boyle’s confusing, dizzying movie with the cool soundtrack. I have no idea what’s going on, but I really like it.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler – I wasn’t familiar with the Civil Rights movement in the US in the ’60s and ’70s… until I wanted this movie. I think the story is awkwardly edited and has a choppy flow, but the ensemble cast is classy and the story’s ties to history is very interesting/important to know.

Möbius – Jean Dujardin and Cecile De France team up in this distinctively French film with an espionage flavor. This movie features a very different – and utterly flawless – JDJ in a serious role.

I feel like I should thank everyone who read this massive list of movies. THANK YOU.

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