Thursday, January 9, 2014

Erich's Top 10 of 2013

I hear a lot of great films came out in the last month or so. I look forward to seeing them sometime this Spring.

Between watching things for review, my job, and my real job (trainee dad), I don’t have much time go to the movies. I went to the theater more this year than I have in a while. I saw more than half of the films on my list on the big screen. I’m proud of that fact and don’t want your pity. I’ve offered excuses in years past for not watching “enough” movies but no more. I’m sure several of the shiny award movies would have been on my list, but I feel good about what I’ve got. My top five is pretty solid and I doubt even the most lauded 2013 films would push them off the list. These may not be the best movies of 2013, but they are the best I saw.

10. Frozen
I’m not the biggest Disneyphile, but I enjoyed almost everything about this movie: the music, the animation, the humor, and especially the way it updates the Disney princess template for my daughter’s generation.
9. The Heat
Solid action, a serviceable story, and strong female leads are reasons to give this underrated comedy a try, but it lands on my list because Melissa McCarthy’s ball-shriveling putdowns and artful obscenity made me laugh harder than anything in movies this year.

8. You’re Next
I’m not sure I fell in love with this F This Movie! darling as much as other site writers, but I can only think of one horror movie this year that impressed me more, and between the two I can already tell this smartly constructed thriller will be the one I return to more often.

7. Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
There may not be much Ricky Jay magic in this Ricky Jay documentary, but magic is about misdirection. How better for this illusionist extraordinaire slash card ninja to shift attention away from himself than by highlighting the magic greats who taught and inspired him.
6. Iron Man 3
I guess some people have problems with this movie, but I loved Shane Black’s sideways approach to the character and comic book universe, using Tony Stark’s suits as metaphor and building blocks for action set-pieces that focused as much on the man as his machines.

5. Upstream Color
It took several tries for me to get through this remarkable film, but each attempt brought me closer to understanding and appreciating what writer/director/star/editor/caterer/best boy Shane Carruth achieved with this sorta sci-fi visual poem. A film so good I didn’t care that it hit Netflix a week or so after I bought it on Blu-ray.
4. Monsters University
Depending on the day, Monsters, Inc. may be my favorite Pixar film, which makes this sequel/prequel even more impressive. It explores established characters while introducing memorable new monsters and a story with real stakes, set against the backdrop of the most thrilling private school tournament since Goblet met Fire.

3. The Conjuring
I don’t know whether this film holds up the repeat viewings. I’m a little afraid to find out. Still, letting director James Wan push every one of my buttons over two chilling hours is one of my most memorable theater experiences in years. I know it didn’t work for everyone, but this haunted house ‘70s homage is my kind of horror film.

2. Gravity
My favorite theater experience this year, Alfonso Cuaron’s ode to kinetic energy had me entranced from beginning to end. I don’t care about the scientific inaccuracies. I don’t care about the extensive CGI. This film is a marvel, the perfect balance of complex choreography and small character-driven story.
1. The World’s End
Although this latest from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost was my most anticipated film of the year, it didn’t grab me the first time the way the other films on my list did. I liked it, but I knew I had to see it again. A few months later I got to watch it on Blu-ray. Then I watched it again, and again, and again, and with each viewing I found more clues, more connections, and more humanity in a film that wraps insights about friendship, substance abuse, and nostalgia in a blue-goo-filled sci-fi shell. Simon Pegg has never been better, and frankly neither has Wright. I haven’t seen this film on many top ten lists, but I expect its reputation will only improve with the passage of time.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks both! I like the view from the middle of the road.

  2. Glad to see Monsters University getting a shout out. That movie was such a pleasant surprise. Billy Crystal totally redeemed himself from Parental Guidance.

    1. I was surprised how much I liked that movie. Too bad it's being lumped in with Pixar's recent subpar efforts because I see it as a return to form.

  3. One day when I become a grownup, I hope to fully appreciate UPSTREAM COLOR.

    1. I doubt I fully appreciate the movie and it's on my top 10 list. It seriously took me three or four running starts to get through, but I've never seen anything like it.

    2. Saw it all the way twice, and I still felt really far away from the movie. Anyway, I'm still excited to see what Shane Carruth is doing next; he's doing fascinating stuff.

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  4. World's End! Depth and complexity of fun wins again.

    1. Too many major award movies fall into obscurity a year or two later. Edgar Wright makes movies that do the opposite. Even if it gets almost no attention this year, we'll still be talking about The World's End a decade from now. At least, I will be.

    2. I agree with your assessment of Edgar Wright's movies there, Erich, and hope that will be the case. It certainly was with Scott Pilgrim VS. the World, which has made its way into my top 5 favorite movies ever.

  5. The ones where you agree with me are really good choices.

    1. Yeah but you loved Beasts of the Southern Wild :-)

    2. Hey! Beasts is great.

      Thanks to both of you for great movie suggestions in 2013. Just so you know, JB, when you wonder who watches movies like NO and 20 Feet From Stardom, it's me. Largely on your recommendation. Dug 'em both. A lot.

      I'm especially grateful for Deceptive Practice. It took me back to childhood, when I used to read everything I could about magic. I was always too lazy to practice the tricks, but I couldn't get enough of learning how they were done and watching pros perform them. Jay is fun to watch, but I also really enjoyed the "mentor" segments. And the description of that trick in the restaurant? Every bit as amazing as you promised. Wow.