Timmmaaaaay's Top 10 of 2013

Holy cow, it's that time again!  Time for my now yearly (thanks for screwing things up 2011) Top 10 list.  I found myself having a more difficult time compiling my list this year than I thought I would.  As has become customary, here are the parameters I use while making my list:
  1. The list is pulled only from the movies released in 2013 that I actually saw (a second list comprised of the films from 2013 that I would still like to see appears after my Top 10).
  2. These are the films that I enjoyed the most when I saw them not necessarily the best based on their award winning potential (although that may be a happy coincidence in some cases).
  3. All of these films have had a full review posted here on the blog. If you have more interest in a particular film, click on the movie title and follow the link to my previously posted review.
Just as last year, there were a few films that I wasn't able to see that probably could make an argument for inclusion on this list.  Some I missed in theaters locally and some hadn't been released yet here in Roanoke when I put this list together.  With a little luck, I'll be able to catch those here at the beginning of 2014.  As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the best/most enjoyable films of the year so feel free to chime in!  Without further ado, I present to you My Top 10 Films of 2013:

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): Dear Mr. WattersonElysiumEuropa Report, Sound CityThe Way Way Back,  The WolverineThe World's EndWorld War Z.

10) 12 Years a Slave - The first entry on the list and I'm already breaking my own guidelines.  12 Years a Slave wasn't exactly what I would call an enjoyable movie.  I certainly had more fun watching any one of my honorable mentions than I did with this film.  However, I find myself thinking back on this movie over and over again, probably more than any other film that I saw in 2013. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender also gave two of the most powerful performances of the year.  Because it had that kind of impact, I can't ignore it when making my Top 10 list.  It should probably be even higher, but it's just so brutal and heart wrenching, I'll leave it here.

9) Mama - This paranormal thriller was creepy, well made, and based within a few hours of Roanoke (Clifton Forge and Richmond).  Andrés Muschietti's first feature film (based on one of his previous short films) was my kind of horror flick (scares over gore) and was produced by personal favorite Guillermo del Toro.  Personally, I felt that this was more creepy than The Conjuring which received a good bit of attention later in the year.  Adding a bit of a bias to my placing Mama here at number nine is the fact that, for some strange reason, my review for this film has taken on a life of its own, wracking up over a thousand more views than any other post here on Nerd in the 'Noke.

8) Star Trek: Into Darkness - Into Darkness was a great follow up to J.J. Abrams' successful 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise.  We saw the Kirk/Spock relationship grow into what we remembered from the original series and they threw in a new incarnation of Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) for good measure.

7) Pacific Rim - Made from the blueprints of every little boy's childhood imagination, Guillermo del Toro created an epic monsters vs. robots film.  So what if the story isn't as deep as some of his other works?  Anyone who says they went to Pacific Rim for the story is a liar.  Giant human-piloted mechs battled Kaiju in an effort to save our planet from destruction and it looked damn good.  How a film like this was beat out for a Best Visual Effects Oscar nomination by The Lone Ranger, I will never understand.

6) Nebraska - Nebraska was such a pleasant surprise when I saw it in the theater.  I had heard good things, but really had no idea what to expect.  What I found was a very endearing, heartfelt gem of a film with wonderful performances from Bruce Dern and Will Forte.  This is a different kind of road trip film.  One that is equal parts drama, adventure, and comedy.  It's a father and a son dealing with family members and family history while traveling to claim a marketing sweepstakes prize.  There are deep motivations behind the characters, but the tone of the film keeps it from getting weighed down.  It even manages to have a happy ending without being too sappy. It just feels right.  

5) American Hustle - American Hustle has a little bit of everything. And I mean everything.  Great cast.  Great direction.  Great design.  Unique characters and a crazy story that takes the phrase 'loosely based' to heart (the film opens with the line: 'Some of this actually happened').  The stars of this film are balanced nicely, which is a pretty impressive feat considering that there's five of them (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner).  Adams and Lawrence especially stand out.  Adams jumping in and out of a British accent at will and Lawrence for injecting a good deal of drama into things whenever she pops up.  Bale, Cooper and Renner also sport some of the craziest hairdo's you'll find in cinema.

4) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Last year's The Hunger Games was a great adaptation of the YA novel by Suzanne Collins.  Catching Fire may be an even better follow up.  Jennifer Lawrence continues to carry these films with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen.  Especially here as she begins to realize that her decisions and actions effect a great deal more than she she ever anticipated.  Catching Fire does a great job of adding depth to all of the returning characters and adds Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and Jeffrey Wright into the mix.  The Hunger Games now finds itself as strong as it could possibly be heading into of the two part finale that will be Mockingjay this November.

3) Her - This was the most unique film that I saw from 2013.  Spike Jonze took a seemingly off the wall concept (a guy falls in love with his computer's operating system) and turned it into an entertaining case study on relationships.  Scarlett Johansson's voice over for Samantha (the OS) is particularly impressive.  She conveys Samantha's emotions extremely well, which is a bit of a challenge considering she never appears on screen.  This film touches on just about every aspect of a relationship, good and bad.  There is something in this film that any viewer can relate to, which is both brilliant and extremely difficult to pull off when you think about it.  

2) Thor: The Dark World - I loved Thor when it came out in 2011 and this sequel ranks right up there with its predecessor (and may even surpass it).  The Dark World takes full advantage of the fact that the origin story has already been told and delves head first into the sci-fi/fantasy corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Much like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, its greatest aspect is the continued character development.  The Thor/Loki relationship might be the most entertaining thing going in Marvel's films right now and The Dark World ratchets things up a notch between the two.  It also tosses in a classic Thor villain from the comics (Malekith) and the mid-credits scene sets up this year's Guardians of the Galaxy.  As far as flat out fun goes, this film takes the cake for me in 2013.  I loved every second of it.

1) Gravity - I thought for a while that Thor: The Dark World was going to occupy this spot, then I saw Gravity.  The Dark World was the most fun film that I experienced in 2013, but Gravity is far and away the most awe-inspiring and tension filled.  I first saw it on my laptop (a fact that I'm not proud of).  It hit theaters while we were in final preparations for the wedding, then out of the country on our honeymoon and I was too impatient to wait for a dvd/blu-ray release.  I loved it but wished that I had seen it on the big screen.  I lucked out and it was just re-released in theaters along with the reveal of this year's Oscar nominations.  I just got home from seeing the 3D version at the theater and it was everything that I had hoped for.  This is a film made that should be experienced in theaters.  It reminds me of something like Avatar in that it is just too big to be confined to a computer or television screen (although you better believe I'll be adding it to the movie vault as soon as I can).  I had already penciled Gravity into the top spot on this list, but that thinking was solidified this afternoon as I found myself on the edge of my seat and holding my breath even though I already knew what was going to happen.

Films from 2013 that I still want to see (listed alphabetically):
  • August: Osage County
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Don Jon
  • Fruitvale Station
  • Out of the Furnace
  • Philomena
  • Prisoners

What were your favorites from 2013?  Are there any stragglers you still want to check out?


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