2013: THE YEAR IN CINEMA THAT WAS
By Peter Gray
The cinematic year that is 2013 is coming to an end and, as seems to be tradition, the annual “Best & Worst of…” lists start doing the rounds, and we here at Hush Hush Biz are no exception. Though Box Office takings were at an all-time high, it’s still safe to say 2013 wasn’t an all-around solid year for movies. The sequel proved to rein supreme over the year with Marvel’s big boys ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Thor’ more or less living up to expectations with their respective third and second go-arounds, and the continuation of ‘Star Trek’ earning much respected praise. Part 2 of ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise caught fire in a mammoth fashion whilst the animated extensions of ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ kept their audiences satisfied. On the opposite end of the spectrum ‘Grown Ups 2’, ‘The Hangover: Part 3’, ‘Scary Movie 5’ and ‘Kick-Ass 2’ were prime examples of less is more and in the final weeks of the year ‘Anchorman 2’ and ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ are still awaiting trial.
Comedy wasn’t exactly going for smart this year but that didn’t stop the public from lapping up the laughs where they could with ‘We’re the Millers’, ‘This is the End’ and ‘Identity Thief’ amongst some of the more fruitful titles of 2013. Lesser exposed titles like ‘Frances Ha’, ‘Enough Said’ and ‘I Give It A Year’ were the real gems though whilst outings such as the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy match-up ‘The Heat’ gained both commercial and critical success proving once again that women are the real driving forces of current comedy.
Though it’s seen as the genre that Australia tends to shun, horror was a real winner this year with the haunted house tale ‘The Conjuring’ proving a victor in both numbers and word-of-mouth. The much-hyped ‘Evil Dead’ remake fought off going straight to DVD and drew record figures but sadly the result wasn’t the same for the duo of ‘Sinister’ and ‘You’re Next’ which reaped critical acclaim but disappeared in multiplexes after a few short weeks.
Award season titles tend to tail each end of the year and the opening months presented us with such winners as ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, ‘Django Unchained’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ whilst the closing months has seen potential favourites as ‘Captain Phillips’, ‘Gravity’ and ‘American Hustle’ jumpstart audience awareness. More often than not these titles take precedence in ‘Best of’ lists and, unsurprisingly, a few of them have notched up on mine.
I love cinema and though I have sat through my fair share of theatrical drivel this year (*cough* ‘Movie 43’ *cough*), I will continue to do it so you don’t have to. Looking back at my choices it made me realise how many genuinely amazing films came through the multiplexes this year and that’s all I can really ask for at the end of the year.
PETER GRAY’S TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 2013
Ron Howard’s Formula One rival piece may be occasionally emotionally manipulative, as well as succumbing to a few of the sport movie clichés, but there’s no denying how well made a film it ultimately is. The director weaves through the material with comfort and whether you are aware of the history behind the film or not, it’s an exhilarating experience steered to the finish line by two outstanding performances from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl.
Matthew McConaughey once again proves just how compelling an actor he is with his turn as the titular ‘Mud’ in Jeff Nichols’ assured mystery piece. Accessible, understated and frequently amusing, ‘Mud’ was one 2013’s unseen gems that demands a viewing if not for the odd beauty imagined in two young boys finding themselves as they befriend an unlikely outlaw than for further proof on how McConaughey is reinventing himself as one of the bravest leading men in the business.
8. THE HUNT
An increasingly frustrating film to view, ‘The Hunt’ is a thought provoking, tactful and intense film that takes familiar subject matter and presents it in a new light. A stellar performance from Mads Mikkelsen grounds the film which draws us in on its study of human behaviour and how hearsay and gossip can be twisted enough to form the truth without any justification.
7. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Quite simply ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ is a superb and near-perfect blockbuster experience – it’s the definition of a big movie but one that doesn’t insult its audience. JJ Abrams has crafted that rarity in which a sequel outdoes its predecessor in almost every conceivable way, and considering the high calibre film ‘Star Trek’ was, that was no easy feat to achieve.
6. ZERO DARK THIRTY
The search for Osama Bin Laden was a manhunt that occupied public interest for the good part of a decade, and under the careful direction of Kathryn Bigelow, the pursuit and ultimate termination of the man responsible for the September 11th attacks is told in the most detailed of ways. Sensationalising such an event would seem like the easiest way for such a story, but thankfully Bigelow knew better creating an ethically complex tale rife with tautness, held together by a masterful turn from Jessica Chastain.
5. YOU’RE NEXT
‘Halloween’ by way of ‘First Blood’ may be a fitting way to describe the brutal, survival actioner mentality ‘You’re Next’ embraces, but regardless of whatever sub-genre it assumes it goes down as the best horror offering of 2013. The perfect mix of suspense, gore and laughs, the film may not present the most original premise – home invasion turning sour – but the arthouse-come-exploitation angle it has adopted gives the film its own distinct personality.
It seems particularly clichéd to describe a film as a “roller-coaster ride”, rarely does a film ever actually achieve the sensation of adrenaline experienced, but for Alfonso Cuaron’s space opus ‘Gravity’ it’s more than a fitting description. That feeling of fear and exhilaration one experiences when strapped into a compartment racing along an unsound track is amplified as Cuaron effortlessly immerses us in the outer-world, sumptuously presenting the serenity of space before highlighting its lethality.
Exploring the bounds of human behaviour and blurring the lines between right and wrong, Dennis Villeneuve’s ‘Prisoners’ is a slow-burning drama that manages to stranglehold you at any given moment as it poses the question in how far you’re willing to go to protect the ones you love. Constantly veering towards the unexpected as if to keep the audience unsure with their thoughts ‘Prisoners’ takes a seemingly straight-forward premise and refuses to play by the rules.
2. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
A career highlight for both Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass, the only thing wrong with ‘Captain Phillips’ is that it’s the kind of film you can only experience once as so much of its excitement, tension and emotion is derived from a natural place of never knowing what’s coming next.
1. DJANGO UNCHAINED
Truly a cinema experience like no other, I had said from the moment I finished viewing this film in January that it would remain one of my top picks of the year and here we are with it sitting atop where I believe it belongs. If you truly appreciate cinema I can’t think of any other film more worthy of your attention.
PETER GRAY’S TOP 10 WORST FILMS OF 2013
10. ANNA KARENINA
As bold and as visionary as Joe Wright’s take on the classic Tolstoy novel ‘Anna Karenina’ is, it’s ultimately too self-indulgent for its own good. Thankfully great works of literature don’t need authentic film variations to define them as this incarnate won’t be remembered as a distinguished, or necessary, adaptation.
9. THE GREAT GATSBY
Another classic novel given the film treatment, Baz Luhrmann’s extravagant take on ‘The Great Gatsby’ can’t help but leave the audience asking where it all went so wrong. Though he’s never been a flawless filmmaker, Luhrmann at least knows how to inject his projects with a bit of life force that keeps the engine running but here all cylinders are running on empty; Leonardo DiCaprio’s constant moping wears thin, Tobey Maguire never convinces of his characters cynicism, Carey Mulligan is wildly miscast…shall I go on? Overall a visually stunning but mind-numbingly boring experiment in 3D vanity.
8. OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
One of two ‘Die Hard in the White House’ films released through the year (the other being the far more satisfying ‘White House Down’), ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ lured audiences in with its impeccable cast – Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo – and then violently kneecapped them to lay witness to a truly degrading action film. Unnecessarily graphic in its depictions of violence, racism and sexism (basically this was a tough film to be in if you were a woman), director Antoine Fuqua was no doubt hoping to recreate the feel of a genuine macho 80’s action movie, but instead created something alarmingly dated that plays out more like an embarrassment than an homage.
A complete misstep in the careers of director Oliver Hirschbiegel and star Naomi Watts, this movie-of-the-week biopic of “the people’s princess” is a horrid production that reimagines Diana’s post-divorce life as some sort of melodramatic soap opera. Once tipped as a hot Oscar contender in the lead-up to its release, sadly the only award ‘Diana’ is likely to go home with is a Razzie.
6. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
There’s a fine array of talent involved in ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’, not to mention a worthy story to tell, but nearly every avenue explored is a dead end. Detailing when King George VI and his wife came to the United States to stay with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, this should’ve-been-fascinating drama is nothing more than a tedious made for TV affair that might as well of adopted the title of ‘What happens at Hyde Park stays at Hyde Park’ as we could certainly do without knowing what was offered here.
5. THE HOST
‘Twilight’ has so much to answer for! Hoping to keep the cash rolling after lucking out with her vampire franchise, author Stephanie Meyer optioned her novel ‘The Host’ for cinematic treatment and the result was an embarrassment for all involved. Perhaps it is bets to view the film as a comedy as it certainly delivered more than its fair share of unintentional laughs thanks to its insipid script and woeful “acting”.
4. SAFE HAVEN
Being a fan of ‘The Notebook’ and not entirely disliking ‘Dear John’ I am more than open to enjoying the Nicholas Sparks catalogue, and I can often forgive a lot of shortcomings if there is at least one redeeming feature but with ‘Safe Haven’ I was reaching. Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel are pretty enough cardboard cut-outs but, sadly, their combined blandness isn’t what truly lets the film down, instead a twist ending so involuntarily hilarious leaves this horrid romance as the ultimate cinematic betrayal of the year.
3. AFTER EARTH
‘After Earth’ is quite possibly the final nail in director M. Night Shyamalan’s coffin. Joyless and void of any substance, this insufferable sci-fi flop will hopefully inspire star Will Smith to start caring about his career again, and for son/co-star Jaden Smith to give up all together.
2. ONLY GOD FORGIVES
One of 2013’s love or hate films ‘Only God Forgives’ was, for me, a horrific experience. The reunion of Ryan Gosling with his ‘Drive’ director Nicholas Winding Refn was something I was looking forward to, and though it’s easy to put down displeasure with a film as a result of high expectations, what transpired in front of me was a perverted, sexist, brutal, unnecessary film that made me feel wholly unclean after viewing it. Let’s hope God truly forgives this one.
1. MOVIE 43
Oh where to start with ‘Movie 43’? An experiment in filmmaking and depravity, somehow the likes of Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Uma Thurman and Elizabeth Banks (to name but a few) were convinced to lend their talents to a series of skits that would ultimately be fused together in an attempt to make some sort of cohesive storyline regarding an unhinged screenwriter pitching a number of absurd ideas to hopefully land a film deal. The collection of talent is enough to pip curiosity but once you witness testicles hanging from Hugh Jackman’s face, Halle Berry attempt to make guacamole with her bare breast or Naomi Watts make out with her home schooled son, you’ll wish you hadn’t bothered. Bottom of the barrel material.