2013 in film: Creams of the crop, disappointing flops

2013 was an interesting year for movies, especially within the past couple of months when all of the films deemed Oscar-worthy were released. I’ve heard enough about “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” – we all know they’re both going to clean up at the Academy Awards. So here are my top films of 2013.

“This Is the End”:

I had been excited for “This Is the End” since I heard about the possibility of it happening two years ago. What part of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and James Franco playing exaggerated versions of themselves while trying to survive the apocalypse doesn’t sound great? How about if the apocalypse begins at a party at James Franco’s house, where every celebrity who matters (also playing themselves) is in attendance? Still not selling you? The Backstreet Boys are in it.

“Spring Breakers”:

This Harmony Korine-directed piece of film noir is already capturing a cult audience. Anyone who hadn’t seen any of Korine’s previous films didn’t know what to expect when they went to see Disney’s queens Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez play bored college students who wouldn’t let anything get in the way of their spring break vacation. It was awesome seeing the actresses shed their innocence in a very R-rated movie, and James Franco’s portrayal of Alien, a rapper and drug dealer, made it one of his more bizarre roles. “Spring Breakers” was a movie that people either loved or hated. I loved it.

“Don Jon”:

One wouldn’t think that a film about a 20-something with a porn addiction would be a feel-good romantic comedy, but it is. Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his directorial debut and stars in “Don Jon.” He plays a guy who gets lucky with plenty of girls, but has never had a real relationship, and still prefers Internet porn to real sex. “Don Jon” is about love, sex and the connections and disconnect between the two.

“Dallas Buyers Club”:

Based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, “Dallas Buyers Club” opens viewers’ eyes to the AIDS epidemic in 1980s. Matthew McConaughey plays Woodroof, a drug-addicted, homophobic cowboy who is infected with HIV through unprotected sex. With AIDS medications being scarce and expensive at the beginning of the epidemic, Woodroof sets up a buyers club, with smuggled drugs from other countries providing AIDS patients with alternative medicine. McConaughey’s portrayal of Woodroof doesn’t show him in a particularly good light, but it shows him in a real light, and that’s what gives the film so much heart.

“The Wolf of Wall Street”:

Based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort himself, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is probably a very biased, very exaggerated look into the life of one of the most corrupt stockbrokers of the 1980s and 1990s. But that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street” shows the excess that money can buy you: yachts, prostitutes, cocaine, helicopters and a few years in prison. It got some criticism for focusing too much on Belfort’s extravagant life and not telling the stories of victims. But really, which story would be more fun to hear?

“American Hustle”:


The year hasn’t been all fantastic, though. There were plenty of movies that I had my hopes up for, expecting them to blow me away, only to leave the theater thinking they could have been so much better (I’m looking at you, Ryan Gosling.) Here’s a list of my 2013 disappointments.

“Gangster Squad”:

Set in 1949, the only thing redeemable thing in “Gangster Squad” was the costuming. With a cast consisting of Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, one would expect quality.
Unfortunately, the lines were cheesy, the action was comical, and the whole film was a mess in and of itself.

“The Place Beyond the Pines”:

To be fair, “The Place Beyond the Pines” starts off strong, but it quickly loses steam at two and a half hours. Broken up into three parts, it tells the story of Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a stuntman/bank robber; Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), the cop set out to bust him; and the two men’s’ sons. It was a valiant effort, but somehow it just didn’t work.

“The Great Gatsby”:

Nothing broke my heart in the year 2013 more than the weak adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it falls short and is somehow boring despite the glitz, glamour (unnecessary 3D effects included) and the soundtrack by Jay-Z. This is the fifth failed attempt at putting the classic novel to film, so maybe everyone should stop trying.

“Only God Forgives”:

Starring Ryan Gosling and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, “Only God Forgives” was expected to be the second incarnation of the stylish “Drive,” until it was booed at the Cannes press screening. I wouldn’t go as far as to boo it, because it really was visually dazzling, and I watched it alone in my living room. But that was the best part of the seedy crime drama. It kept my attention, but left me puzzled and underwhelmed.

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