Well, another year has come and gone: 2013. This marks the first full year of blogging for me, even though it’s been pretty disappointing in the second half. However, the first half was pretty darn great, as I was able to complete my mission of catching up on a lot of classics that I hadn’t seen yet. I still have a ways to go, but despite the setbacks I experienced this year I’m still pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished this year.
I’ve watched 171 new films (24 from 2013), written 140 film reviews and 5 TV reviews, participated in 4 blogathons (even if I didn’t finish the multi-part ones), undertaken 3 themed months (Hitchcock, Best Picture, and Sci-Fi), instituted the rating system, finished 2 director’s filmographies (Tarantino and Fincher), and created reference pages for 8 directors and one listing every film I’ve ever seen. Not too shabby!
Now, last year I was up on my game enough to do some best-of lists for 2012, but this is not the case for 2013, unfortunately. That will come sometime in January when I have seen everything I need to see (within reason). Instead, I’m going to do something that I saw on several blogs last year, and that is a best of “new to me” films from 2013. These are the films that were previously released that I caught this year, and this was hard I’m telling you because I caught a lot of classics this year. This list is mostly made up of films that when I say I haven’t seen them, people go “WHAT! You haven’t seen such and such!” But, I’ve been working on this ever since the summer so I’m confident in the films I’ve chosen (just maybe not as confident in the order).
Honorable mentions: Taxi Driver, The Lion in Winter, Bringing Out the Dead, The Social Network, and Kill Bill Vol. 2
Coming in at number 20….
King Vidor’s The Crowd (1928)
This is a film I didn’t have time to review, which is especially unfortunately because The Crowd can only be found on VHS. I saw it in film class as an example of silent film, and it really it is a good one. It brings up the number of silent films I love to three (I’m working on it okay), and the main reason for it is the great camera work. Vidor uses the cinematography to tell the story, which is of a working class man who fails to distinguish himself from the masses, but is sympathetic nonetheless. It’s impossible not to get behind him and hope he’ll achieve more.
Coming in at number 19….
Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947)
Another film I haven’t reviewed for some strange reason, Black Narcissus is Powell and Pressburger at their finest. The sensuous atmosphere of the Himalayas threatens to cut through the frigidity of an order of Anglican nuns, raising questions about human nature and how to control it that foreshadow the duo’s next film, The Red Shoes. Deservedly winning Academy Awards for Color Art Direction and Cinematography, the film was shot entirely in a studio in order to control the all important setting. Also featuring great performances from Kathleen Byron (pictured) and Deborah Kerr, Black Narcissus is an astonishing film.
Coming in at number 18…
Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Continuing on the trend of designed sets and sexual repression, we have Stanley’s Kubrick’s swan song: Eyes Wide Shut. This was not really the first Kubrick film I had seen because I saw Dr. Strangelove way before I started the blog, but it kind of felt like it was because it was the first one I had seen when I actually knew who Kubrick was and I knew a bit more about film. I saw it back in February and have been meaning to revisit it ever since but never got around to it. The weird atmosphere and offbeat humor of Tom Cruise failing to get laid stuck with me though, and I remember loving the film as soon as it started up.
Coming in at number 17….
Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993)
Another sexual repression film! Last one for a while, I promise. Anyway, I absolutely love this film. It shows the violet emotions that lurk underneath New York society in the 1890s. Every subtle decision made by the characters carries enormous weight as they navigate what exactly society finds acceptable. The social maneuvering here is remarkable. The film looks amazing, the performances are great, and the story is entrancing. It’s well worth a watch even if you don’t like costume pictures and can’t figure out why Scorsese’s not making a gangster film here.
Coming in at number 16….
John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939)
Not a huge fan of westerns or John Ford but this is a great one. It’s more like a road movie really, as the final shootout is really underplayed. There are themes of revenge to navigate, but all in all John Wayne’s character is more of a good guy than most western heroes are. Everyone is riding together and has to overcome their prejudices, and it’s pretty interesting to see. I got very invested in the characters and watched it twice in row! There was a while when I though I would be writing a paper on it, so that’s why I didn’t review it. I will definitely have to correct that one of these days.
Coming in at number 15….
David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007)
Zodiac is police procedure at its finest. Fincher is able to create a highly suspenseful atmosphere, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s central performance is masterful. I love the sixties and seventies recreation, and Fincher outdoes himself (in my opinion) in the serial killer genre.
Coming in at number 14….
Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Charles Laughton’s first and only film is incredibly unique. It combines a serial killer suspense story with a cautionary tale about false faith. The images are poignant and the use of music is inspired. With great performances by Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish, The Night of the Hunter is a bit puzzling but nevertheless a very worthwhile film.
Coming in at number 13….
Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995)
Casino is definitely one of my favorite Scorsese films. It’s a fast paced look at the mob’s activities in Las Vegas. It is both very informative and very entertaining, as well as giving a interesting look into its characters. It features the great team of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and added to this is a great performance by Sharon Stone. This is Scorsese at his best, lots of voice over narration, quick editing, buckets of violence and great camera work.
Coming in at number 12….
Steven Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
This is definitely one of Spielberg’s best films, and incredibly intriguing. It questions why people have children, and what they mean to parents. It addresses a lot of questions normally addressed in films with robots, like if they can ever feel human emotions, but the film still feels relevant. The effects are pretty good and the acting is top-notch. The film wavers a bit towards the end, but it can’t undo the magic it establishes at the beginning.
Coming in at number 11….
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007)
In many ways, one could dub There Will Be Blood as “The Modern Citizen Kane,” and it is almost as great as that film. It tells the story of a greedy and solitary man in battle for the town of Little Boston and the oil that comes with it. Planview and his film are hard to analyze, but it very rewarding to try.
Coming in at number 10….
Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978)
Days of Heaven was my introduction to Terrence Malick, who has since become one of my favorite directors. I had no idea of the caliber of film I was in for but I sure do now; I have had very high expectations for Malick’s films ever since. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the Malick’s style is a revelation.
Coming in at number 9….
David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Definitely my favorite film of David Fincher’s, hands down. The characters are so compelling and interesting, that basically makes the film on its own. Add to that the chilling atmosphere and a gripping plot, plus some fantastic transformative performances, and you’ve got yourself a great film.
Coming in at number 8…
Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957)
Paths of Glory will always be a highlight for me (which is obvious, because it’s on this list) because it’s a film that I immediately “got.” I could mostly see what Kubrick is going for here, and it’s genius. He expresses his attitudes about all the characters involved with his camera movements, and I think that’s just about the coolest thing ever! The story itself is pretty compelling as well, condemning war and the hypocrisy of those in higher power. All around, it’s a pretty great film.
Coming in at number 7….
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Wow, these films really seem to come in pairs: this time it’s two war movies in a row. This one definitely doesn’t take itself as seriously, but it’s still an interesting film, especially given the historical context. It’s Tarantino through and through, lending his talents to a story will an unparalleled scope. It also offers a great performance by Christoph Waltz, as well as the rest of the cast. And of course, there’s nothing sweeter than revenge.
Coming in at number 6….
Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980)
Raging Bull, for me, is Scorsese’s masterpiece. I’m still not sure if it’s my favorite, but I definitely think it’s the best. It’s an incredibly dark film featuring an incredibly unlikable character, but nevertheless Scorsese and De Niro are able to find Jake La Motta’s humanity in with all the jealousy and cruelty. De Niro’s performance is astonishing, and watching this film is an experience that is almost unparalleled in my movie-watching career.
Coming in at number 5…
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966)
Persona is a film I absolutely hated when I first saw it, but after mulling it over for a few weeks and then giving it another shot, I grew to love it. It’s kind of strange and a bit terrifying, but also incredibly fascinating both thematically and formally. It’s disorienting and confusing, but ultimately illuminating and beautiful.
Coming in at number 4….
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)
The Shining! Oh man I love this film. The camera work is fantastic, thank goodness the Steadicam came to Kubrick’s attention. You have great performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall, plus a creepy atmosphere and weird inexplicable stuff happening. This movie was created out of ambiguity, so it is definitely open to interpretation, and all the better for it.
Coming in at number 3….
David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001)
Mulholland Drive is another film that is hard to understand. It’s a little bit creepy (especially with that monster in the beginning, that scared the shit out of me), and kind of wanders around a bit, but it incredibly interesting because of its ambiguity. Naomi Watt’s performance is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen; she literally becomes a different person halfway through the film. It explores a lot of interesting themes about dreams, perceptions, and identity, and it an incredibly engrossing film.
Coming in at number 2….
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994)
These last two are pretty obvious as they are the only film in my newly rearranged top ten that I’ve seen this year. I’ve talked both of them to death so I’ll keep it brief, but Pulp Fiction is without a doubt one of the best and one of my favorite films of all time.
Coming in at number 1….
Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
Ah The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. I haven’t written a post on this yet, mostly because I can’t stop watching it long enough to write anything about it. It’s a great, great film, one that seems to encompass life itself. It covers 40 years in a man’s life and 40 of the most exciting years of history. Shot in breathtaking technicolor, this film features brilliant performances by Roger Livesey and Anton Walbrook, and a equally brilliant triple performance by Deborah Kerr. It is unequaled by anything before or since.
Well, there’s the list. It’s taken me a while to put together, so hopefully it’s pretty accurate. Hopefully I’ll get around to reviewing the films in the coming year. That’s not the only goal I have moving into 2014, however: I want to get all the director pages up, grade all the films I’ve seen (and generally get better at grading because I still don’t think I’m that consistent), work on a top 100 list, finish Kubrick and Scorsese filmographies in particular, and as always just to view more films and get better at writing. Hopefully I’ll be able to do at least some of those! Thank you to everyone who’s subscribed, liked, and commented on the blog over the past year, it means a lot, and I hope to see you all next year as well!