Derek John’s Top 5 Movies of 2013
Ever since Avatar was released, every major movie studio has tried putting 3D into their would-be blockbusters in an increasingly half-assed attempt to cash in on Cameron’s creativity. Once in a while though there are films like How to Train Your Dragon or Life of Pi that prove that when 3D is used correctly it can be a truly mesmerizing experience. This year, Alfonso Cauron’s Gravity added its name to that list. While Sandra Bullock has been understandably credited with carrying the movie, I think George Clooney gave a very underrated performance and find it a little sad that he’s being overlooked in the Oscar conversation this year. Admittedly, while the story of Gravity isn’t quite as strong as last year’s Life of Pi, it was still an exhilarating film.
4. 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave appears to be the most likely candidate to win Best Picture this year and I’m perfectly okay with that. Director Steve McQueen takes a well-written script and thanks to some Oscar worthy performances from Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyongo and of course Chiwetel Ejiofor makes a film that while far from easy to watch, is nonetheless an excellent movie more than worthy of its critical praise.
3. Monsters University
Pixar really had me worried in the last couple of years. Their recent films could best (and generously) be described as underwhelming. Thankfully, with Monsters University, they were finally able to buck this trend and at the same time remind me what made them such a great studio in the first place. They took what could have easily been just another half-assed prequel and instead make a film with the surprisingly mature message that sometimes your best just won’t be good enough but that its not the end of the world. Monsters University contains that delicate balance of being an enjoyable experience for kids and adults that Pixar has excelled at over the years but has been conspicuously absent from their last couple of movies.
2. Pacific Rim
Okay, it’s going to be really difficult for me to describe the awesomeness of Pacific Rim without sounding like a nine year old (hence the use of the word awesomeness). While admittedly there’s not much to it past the basic premise of giant robots vs. giant monsters (I myself, more than once, have affectionately referred to it as “Power Rangers with a budget”), Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant direction more than makes up for it. The special effects are stunning and there was seldom a moment that I wasn’t in awe of this movie. Basically, Pacific Rim is everything the Transformers series could have been if they had decent director. Also on a bit of side note, Gipsy Danger has the coolest sword ever.
1. Before Midnight
This isn’t my favorite entry in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise series (that honor goes to the first movie) but it’s still more than enough to be my favorite movie of the year. It’s equal parts funny, thoughtful and heartbreaking and as a result it’s also by far the most honest film in the series by showing that even the greatest love stories have their share of ups and downs. The dialogue is as natural as ever and even when Jesse and Celine are inevitably at each others throats, I had no doubt in my mind that they still loved each other every bit as much as they did when they met on that train 18 years ago. I sincerely hope Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Linklater reunite in another nine years to do it all again but if they don’t, Before Midnight still makes for a satisfying conclusion.