I was sitting here and thinking about what it was that I wanted to do with the Film section here on theguysfrom.com and I know that lists have always done the best, not just on traffic, but in drawing interaction from y'all on Twitter (or even, occasionally on Facebook) so I thought that I would take a look back at my favourite movies from the past years (nice, round numbered amounts of years)....this would mean that the lists could always shift around, and that I would never talk about a year more than once every five years (unless there is some podcast weirdness).
Regardless, I want to see how this goes with everyone, so if you enjoy this concept of me talking about films from years past in lists like this, do let me know and I will keep doing it...
Or if you're silent and I see good traffic, I mean, I'm not going to stop doing it if you're just quietly judging me....
2013 (Five Years Ago) is quite frankly a bit of an underwhelming year overall for me film wise, however there are definitely some gems here, and perhaps some that you never got around to seeing that I will talk about below:
Six by Sondheim: This is an absolutely wonderful HBO Documentary about the life and career of Stephen Sondheim who, if you know my at all, is someone I am a big fan of-- I have about half of his Broadway shows' original recordings on CD, and the rest I probably have digitally. The best part is that the documentary spends most of its time on various interviews with Sondheim himself (from many sources), and musical numbers (some of which are filmed specifically for the doc.). A great documentary for anyone who likes Broadway Musicals, or Sondheim himself.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: This is one of the sweetest films I have seen, and I think I like it just a little bit more every time I see it. Technically a remake of a Danny Kaye film, this Walter Mitty is a perfectly reserved Ben Stiller (doing some of his very best work) as an assets manager at Life Magazine as it is closed who finds he is missing the "perfect cover photo" for the last magazine and has to track down the photographer on an adventure that pushes him from just imagining an exciting life, to living something truly special. If you passed this one by, don't: it feels really, really good to enjoy this one.
10- Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow makes riveting, realistic American military films better than anyone I can think of working today, and Zero Dark Thirty is fantastic. Essentially following the ten-year manhunt to find Osama Bin-Laden, largely through the eyes of a fictional CIA Intelligence Analyst (played brilliantly by Jessica Chastain). It's not an easy watch, and Bigelow is amazing at working at, and shifting tempo to create tension, and urgency in a story that takes a decade to complete, and with some stand-out performances (again, Chastain, amazing), Zero Dark Thirty holds up as an excellent film about a very difficult subject.
Full disclosure: I don't really care about racing. If there is an auto racing that I like, I suppose its' F1, but even that is strectching it as I have never been a gearhead, or much into cars...ever...but Ron Howard's film about the Niki Lauda/James Hunt rivalry in the 1970s was wonderful. The racing felt exhilarating, and the story of these two men at the height of their game facing off with each other was fascinating. Larger-than-life sporting characters, and some of the best shot racing I have ever seen (and I even sat through Le Mans once), Rush is a film I always like to recommend to everyone, even if you only have a passing interest in F1.
I have been growing a great deal fonder of DC Animation, and I think it's thanks in part to the Dark Knight Returns films, with the second one here coming out in 2013. The Frank Miller graphic novel is excellent, and this does a fairly good job of telling the story--essentially Batman has been gone for 10 years, but resurfaces when Gotham goes sideways, but finds the world changed. The authorities view him as a menace (again), his return means others start to resurface, and the President literally asks Superman to stop Batman before things get out of hand.
Which means they fight.
And it's way better than Batman v. Superman .
7- All is Lost
All is Lost is Robert Redford on a boat.
The whole film is about a man who is sailing alone in the Indian Ocean when his sailboat collides with a stray shipping container and tears a hole in the hull. Very few words are spoken in the film, and the camera is rarely farther away than a person could be comfortably (meaning that you are essentially put in the situation with Redford), and the rest of the film is a survival adventure wherein the Man does everything he can to survive, alone, in the ocean, on a ship with a hole in it.
Oh, and one more thing: the sound (and score) of this film are spectacular.
I cannot say that Dallas Buyers Club is an easy watch, but it is a fantastic one, as this film easily has the best performances of the year, top to bottom, especially from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (both winning Oscars in the process). The story is about Ron Woodroof, a (straight) rodeo cowboy who gets AIDS in the mid-1980s, and is forced to deal with the misconceptions of the era, as well as fighting around the American medical system (which sucks at the best of times) in order to help AIDS patients (including himself) get the medication they need, or sometimes just experimental medication to help treat/manage the disease.
It's a brilliant, heartbreaking (and occasionally heartwarming) film that deserves to be remembered as such.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is a lovely documentary by Mami Sunada who was allowed unfettered access to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki (not to forget Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki) as they work to release two films simultaneously: The Wind Rises (my favourite Studio Ghibli film), and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. It also just so happens that it was during the year of filming that Miyazaki suddenly announced his retirement (again).
I'm just going to say it: for anyone who likes Studio Ghibli this is a must watch (I think my favourite quote is this film is "like being granted a guided tour of Santa's Workshop. Magic happens here." (Variety) and it's true; this is such a wonderful look into one of the absolute masters of filmmaking and storytelling, and one of the worlds' greatest studios.
It would be super weird if there was not a horror movie on my list (it is me afterall), but fact of the matter is, I am very picky when it comes to modern horror films as I find so many of them lapse into being a "take on a gimmick" or "terribly written and acted", but James Wan's The Conjuring is something special. Based on the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring takes them to a farmhouse where a family is being tormented by something sinister. In its own way, it's one of the better "haunted house" films that I have ever seen, and used bits and pieces of "found footage" better than 90% of the films that...well frankly that's their whole shtick.
Creepy, well-shot, well-acted, spooky horror will always have a place in my heart, and there have been few better than The Conjuring in recent years.
3- Pacific Rim
There was zero chance that Pacific Rim wasn't going to be high on this list. Call it a guilty pleasure if you want, but I am not guilty about loving this film.
BIG ROBOTS FIGHTING KAIJU (BIG MONSTERS).
ALL THE YES.
It's occasionally ridiculous, it's downright silly a couple of times, and weirdly complicated, but none of those things have stopped me, at all, from absolutely loving this movie. On this list, it is probably the one I have watched the most since it came out, because I have a great time, every time.
An absolute technical masterpiece, Alfonso Cuarón's tale of two astronauts trying to survive in space after an accident renders them stranded. This film is a thrill to watch (and if you haven't seen it, and it is ever in cinemas near you, for whatever reason go), not just from a storytelling standpoint (as you basically have everything you need in my mini-description) but the way it is put together visually, and in sound is....frankly it is still one of the best films, from a technical standpoint, that I have ever seen.
I don't want to say much else in case you missed this one (somehow), because it's much more exciting to go in cold and just let Gravity carry you.
There are some occasions when I agree with the Academy when it comes to the Best Picture winner, and quite frankly, for me, they nailed this one. 12 Years a Slave is a brilliant film about Solomon Northrup, a free black man from upstate New York, who is abducted and sold into slavery in the South.
This is not an easy watch...and probably falls in the category of "you must see it, but you may only watch it once) territory, but it is 100% worth it.
However, you must know that I am incredibly biased toward the work of Director Steve McQueen (as I have adored everything he has ever made) so understand that when I talk about 12 Years, I am talking about one of my favourite storytelling directors winning an Oscar...
There is a scene in this film that I always mention whenever I talk about it, and I feel like I should here as well, but there is a time when Northrup is (almost) hung and forced to stand at near strangling...and I cannot imagine that there would be a way to shoot it better to give the scene more grounding, or power.
If you're up for it, watch 12 Years a Slave, it is, in my opinion, the best film of 2013.
Well there you have it, my Top 10 Films of 2013 (Five Years Ago). I hope you enjoyed taking this look back, and if the response is good, I'll take a look at Ten Years Ago (2008) next.
Let me know what you loved from that year, or what you think I missed either in the comments below, or I will link my twitter at the bottom of this again.
Have a wonderful week