The Bobbit: the desolation of film 2013

Our movie critic battles a beastly, terrifying cinematic year

This year's best movies list contains no superheroes, sequels, or super mega budgets. This was a great year for the brain at cinemas, but it was also one that was mind-numbing and hard on the eyes in many instances.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug represents, to me, the very worst in filmmaking. A once great director is shitting the bed these last couple of years with his atrocious take on the J.R.R. Tolkien classic as far as storytelling goes. As for the presentation, high frame rate digital 3-D might work for future films, but it fails miserably when your cast is in a bunch of artificial sets and wearing makeup prosthetics and wigs. The movie is boring beyond belief, it looks awful, and I hate it … so there.

Other big budget letdowns included Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s attempt to darken the legend of Superman, Christopher Nolan-style (who helped produce the film). The only thing human about Superman is his upbringing. Otherwise, he’s an alien, and he has a different set of emotional and physical tools than your average guy. I don’t want a Superman film with Supes constantly crying about his mommy and daddy. That’s Batman’s thing.

For big movies, I did like Star Trek Into Darkness: The Wrath of Khan Again, Iron Man 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Pacific Rim: I Totally Wish Guillermo del Toro Directed the Hobbit Movies! but not enough for any of them to crack the top 20. This is also a landmark year in that I really liked The Hunger Games: Catching Fire after bitterly deriding the first film. A man can change. It’s true!

So, here we go, with the best films in a great year if you like movies that make you go “Hmmm?” rather than “Yeeeeahhhh!” (with the exception of one survival film set in outer space, of course).

The best movies of 2013

1. The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese has made a lot of good movies in the latter part of his career. But he used to be quite the provocateur with films like The Last Temptation of Christ and Taxi Driver. The year’s best movie represents Scorsese back in the provocateur mode with a vengeance, putting things up on the screen that drop your jaw, perhaps even embarrass you while watching, and crack you up. With the subject of Jordan Belfort, a scummy stockbroker who robbed millions from the rich during his late ’80s and ’90s heyday, he’s pulled out all of the stops and made one of the more shocking and hilarious films of his career.

I’m hoping a little guy named Leonardo DiCaprio builds up some steam going into awards season for his fire-breathing portrayal of Belfort. (Smaug ain’t got nothing on Leo!) It’s high time Leo took home an Oscar, and he deserves it for this fearless performance. It’s probably too much and too naughty for many Academy voters. Screw them.

2. Inside Llewyn Davis: In a lot of ways, this year was a tie for best film, but I ultimately gave the edge to Scorsese over the Coen brothers. With their latest, the Coens take a look at the early ’60s folk scene in New York City, but they don’t do it from the vantage point of an idealistic, peace and love, sweet spirited protagonist. Instead, we get the title character, a cynical and mourning raw talent played by Oscar Isaac in a breakout performance. Isaac does his own singing and guitar playing, and it’s all downright astonishing.

Throw in John Goodman simply killing it as a messed-up jazz musician, Carey Mulligan cursing with eternal grace as Llewyn’s angry love interest, and an awesome orange tabby, and you have yet another wholly unique, fantastic Coen brothers cinematic experience. (See full review on page 17.)

3. Her: Spike Jonze (who also had an awesome cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street) wrote and directed this beautiful love story about a man smitten with his computer’s operating system (voiced by a lovely Scarlett Johansson). Johansson deserves an Oscar nomination for her voice work in this movie. She makes you believe a man (albeit a somewhat strange one played by Joaquin Phoenix) could fall in love with his computer.

4. Gravity: Alfonso Cuaron directs one of the better space adventures in recent film history, an immersive experience that makes you glad you didn’t stick with your kindergarten declaration to become an astronaut when you grew up.

5. 12 Years a Slave: Director Steve McQueen has given the world the ugly, nasty, vicious film about slavery that the world needed, and he has done it in extraordinary fashion. Chiwetel Efjiofor, whose name I will never be able to spell without looking it up, delivered one of the year’s best performances as a free man kidnapped into slavery.

6. Mud: Yes, I liked Dallas Buyers Club, but I was more impressed with Matthew McConaughey’s turn as the title character in this dark fable. It’s a movie about a dude living in a boat in a tree, and I love it.

7. Fruitvale Station: Michael B. Jordan delivered a breakout performance in this heartbreaking movie based on the real life murder of Oscar Grant. Octavia Spencer is equally good playing Grant’s mom. Director Ryan Coogler made an astonishing debut with this pic, and he’s slated to reteam with Jordan for Creed, about the grandson of Rocky’s Apollo Creed. Yes, please.

8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Ben Stiller makes one of the most beautiful, heartwarming, introspective and curiously funny films of the year, and he takes a critical drubbing and earns lackluster domestic box office. Meanwhile, that Hobbit eyesore continues to vacuum money from wallets and get accolades. I feel so alone, sometimes. Hold me.

9. Blue is the Warmest Color: Adele Exarchopoulos is dynamite in this three-hour epic about a young woman falling in love for the first time with a blue-haired female painter, played by the equally terrific Lea Seydoux. The sex scenes caused a lot of controversy, but the more I think about them, they really just don’t bother me all that much.

10. Blue Jasmine: Cate Blanchett blew my ass out the back of the theater with her sheer power in this, the best Woody Allen film in many years. Take note: I did not like Midnight in Paris, and I rarely raise a glass to Allen’s latter film career, but he’s made up for many duds with this one. Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. do standup comedians proud with their dramatic roles in this one.

OK, grab your hard hats, your chocolate bars and your bottled water because we’re going to 20!

11. The Spectacular Now: A high school romance film unlike any ever made, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are more than memorable as a confused couple that drinks a little too often. It’s bittersweet moviemaking at its best (and it has Bob Odenkirk!).

12. Before Midnight: The third go-round for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is perhaps the best one yet, containing what I think may be the most honest depiction of a marital squabble I’ve ever seen. I seriously hope Richard Linklater keeps making these movies through the years.

13. This is the End: This is a movie that gets better with each viewing. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make their directorial debut in obscenely grand fashion with their version of the apocalypse where they play themselves and all of their friends die gnarly deaths. The death of Michael Cera is a 2013 comedic highlight. “Say cheese for me, baby.”

14. The Stories We Tell: The best documentary of the year comes courtesy of Sarah Polley, who goes on a highly engaging search for her birth origins. Mixing real footage with staged stuff usually doesn’t work, but Polley makes the presentation seamless. Polley is quietly becoming one of the best directors on the scene, with this gem, Away from Her and Take This Waltz as sparkling examples.

15. Lone Survivor: When I saw that Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) was in charge of makeup for this one in the opening credits, I knew it was going to be hard to watch. Director Peter Berg makes a nice comeback after Battleship with this tribute to the 19 men who died in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings. A stellar ensemble including Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch work hard to show us what type of hell our soldiers endure on a daily basis. It’s a tough film to watch, and it should be.

16. Saving Mr. Banks: Disney whitewashes the story of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) trying to get the rights to make Mary Poppins from author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson). That might irk some of you, but it’s too good a movie to complain about it. Hanks and Thompson are very charming, and Colin Farrell is excellent in flashbacks playing Travers’s troubled dad.

17. Dallas Buyer’s Club: Jared Leto seems cued up for his first Oscar nomination for playing a transvestite helping an entrepreneurial AIDS victim sell illegal drugs to fellow sufferers. Matthew McConaughey is awesome in the lead role, but Leto is the one gaining all the steam.

18. Enough Said: James Gandolfini deserves posthumous Oscar consideration for his gentle bear portrayal of a man trying to date in his 50s. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is equally good as a woman dealing with a very unique situation while getting to know him.

19. Prince Avalanche: David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) takes a break from straight comedy to return to his more ethereal roots with this terrific soul-searching movie starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. Features a great soundtrack from Explosions in the Sky.

20. Sightseers: A dark, twisted, funny road movie wherein a new couple (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram) find out some disturbing things about one another as the death toll rises.

And now we shall address … THE PAIN AND THE SUFFERING.

The worst movies of 2013

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: The shiny, HDTV appearance of this movie left me feeling like I was watching The Hobbit: The Variety Special. Cameos by Stephen Colbert and Peter Jackson (in which he, at the beginning of the movie, takes a bite out of a carrot and looks right at the camera as if to say, “Enjoy the movie folks! Popcorn in the lobby!”) helped to reinforce the TV vibe.

2. The Lone Ranger: Say kids, let’s go see the new Disney Western with Captain Sparrow in it! Say, did the bad guy just cut out a dead man’s heart and eat it? Err … sorry about that, kids. Blame the nightmares on me. On second thought, toughen up. Bad guys eat people’s hearts all of the time. It’s everything Disney stands for. Stop crying.

3. 47 Ronin: A $175 million dollar nightmare in which a samurai Keanu Reeves never cracks a smile and mopes a lot. Supposedly based on a real legend and most certainly not worth your time.

4. The Host: This alien yarn wants to be Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a side helping of Twilight and a pinch of Cocoon without the old people. It’s nothing but terrible.

5. Kick-Ass 2: The first Kick-Ass managed to mix vulgarity with super violence and got big laughs. This one tries to do the same, but gets nothing but pained, noxious groans in return. Suffers from a lack of Nicolas Cage, and that’s when you know you have a real problem.

6. Grown Ups 2: I expected it this to be bad because it has Adam Sandler and the words “Grown Ups” before the number.

7. Spring Breakers: An incoherent, incontinent, sloppy mess that many critics mistook for clever, this supposed satire is proof that improvisation can be deadly at the movies.

8. The Internship: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reteam for a Google commercial that will probably make you hate them in The Wedding Crashers retroactively.

9. Insidious: Chapter 2: Director James Wan delivered his best film to date with The Conjuring in 2013, then promptly followed it up with this ghostly garbage.

10. Getaway: Ethan Hawke starred in Before Midnight this past year, which was great. He also starred in The Purge, which was pretty bad. Then, he showed up in this thing, which was downright execrable.

Amazingly, there were enough bad movies to keep the Ryan Gosling twin bill of Gangster Squad and Only God Forgives out of the top 10 bad list.

My single most anticipated film of 2014

For me, it's one word: Godzilla!

Yes, Legendary Pictures will be rebooting Godzillathere’s already a teaser trailer for it that gives plenty of reason for excitement. I was at San Diego Comic-Con this year—yes, I’m a geek—and I got my first glimpse of the big radioactive monster.

If this movie sucks, I will be a crestfallen, non-showering slob drinking gallons of Ripple at the local watering hole. The one-two punch of lousy Hobbit movies and another bad Godzilla will finally do me in.


Best Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Chiwetel Efjiofor (12 Years a Slave), Robert Redford (All is Lost)

Best Actresses: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Enough Said), Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Best Supporting Actors: Matthew McConaughey (Mud), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis), James Gandolfini (Enough Said). Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Best Supporting Actresses: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Scarlett Johansson (Her), Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Worst Actor: Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger)

Worst Actress: Mila Kunis (Oz: The Great and Powerful)

Worst Actor in a Good Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch (August: Osage County)

Worst Actress in a Good Movie: Natalie Portman (Thor: The Dark World)

Best Actor in a Bad Movie: Jim Carrey (He ties himself with Kick-Ass and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone)

Best Actress in a Bad Movie: Elisabeth Olsen (Old Boy)

Single Worst Movie Moment of the Year (and it’s actually in a good movie): Spock screaming “Khan!” in Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Pastry: I’m partial to Napoleons

Best Animal Performance: The orange cats in Inside Llewyn Davis

Worst Animal Performance: Kevin James in Grown Ups 2

Best Cameo: (Tie) Michael Cera in This is the End and the ghost of Stonewall Jackson in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Overrated: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Spring Breakers, Rush

Underrated: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Out of the Furnace, The Great Gatsby

Best Reason to Say You are Sorry: Because that’s when the healing really begins!

Worst Reason to Say You are Sorry: Because somebody is forcing you to do so by putting a big spider in your ear. Let’s face it; you simply aren’t being honest in such a scenario.

Best Soundtracks: Prince Avalanche, Her

Worst Soundtracks: 47 Ronin, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Worst Racetrack: Saratoga Racetrack (I lost a lot of money there back in the day!)