I need to make it very clear from the outset that Sharknado is not one of the 10 movies that most struck a chord with me this year*.
Yes I have used it as the title shot of this post but frankly it was all I could do to get to the end of it.
I know it was a tongue in cheek, gloriously cheesy exercise in self-aware kitsch cinema, and on that level I sort of enjoyed it but it was also painfully cheap, badly acted and annoying.
Even so it made its mark on the pop cultural landscape and for that at least it must be acknowledged.
It stood in stark contrast to the 10 movies I have picked, which were chosen because they were brilliantly written, consummately directed, impressively acted and said either something entirely new, or old in a highly creatively fresh way.
At heart though they were films that I left the cinema thinking about for quite some time afterwards, movies that connected both with my head and my heart and which made me glad I place such a premium on seeing all the cinematic storytelling I can.
* Please note that I have picked movies that came out in Australia this year which is why Silver Linings Playbook made the cut despite its 2012 release stateside.
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen.
Beautifully filmed, Gravity is a film without an ounce of storytelling fat on it, gripping and action-packed without once feeling like it has any surplus scenes that are there simply to artificially up the tension, supremely well acted with Sandra Bullock in particular excelling in the role of Dr Ryan Stone and packed with all the searing edge-of-your-seat emotion you could ask for.
I never once wondered when it was all ending or whether I left the iron on at home, testament to its all-consuming, masterful storytelling, a triumph for Alfonso Cuarón, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and Sandra Bullock who richly deserves all of that Oscar buzz.
* In place of the usual movie trailer, here’s the short film Aningaaq, which tells the other side of a particularly tense scene in Gravity when Ryan Stone, desperately trying to alert the world below of her predicament and in the relative safety of the battered Chinese space station, thinks she has reached someone on Earth who may be able to help her.
I have always been a bit take it or leave it when it comes to Woody Allen’s movies, but much like Midnight in Paris before it, Blue Jasmine marks a return to form for the prolific auteur, replete as it is with a flawed, almost delusional main character Jasmine (triumphantly brought to life by Cate Blanchett), an unflinching depiction of the foibles of flawed humanity and a rich spread of witty, incisive dialogue that you wish you could commit to memory.
I particularly liked its less than tidy ending, which was fitting for the story Allen told but hard to pull off in a Hollywood where happy endings are an addiction regardless of whether the movie merits it or not.
I love quirky characters.
Especially quirky characters who are determined to forge their own idiosyncratic way regardless of whether they have any idea what they’re doing or not, and do it with the sort of guileless purity we wish we all possessed, and dialogue so witty and clever you ache to speak with some eloquence and insight afterwards.
France Ha is a delight from start to finish, another thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking film from Noah Baumbach, which gets you thinking every bit as much as it entertains you.
World War Z surprised me by not being your average zombie tale.
It had an intelligence and narrative elegance I wasn’t expecting, managing to balance whippet-fast action sequences with some genuinely affecting interactions between the various characters, proof that all that talk about a “movie in trouble” before its release was just that – talk and nothing more.
Plus those zombies could move! Scarily fast, in fact.
Tour de force performances by both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (who shared an impressive amount of chemistry), skilled screenwriting and directing by David O. Russell who has shown a knack for bringing flawed characters to life in a sympathetic way, and a pleasing mix of humour and drama made Silver Linings Playbook a movie that had me totally engaged from start to finish.
It’s rare to find characters you like as much as Pat and Tiffany in any movie, but what made them even more compelling was their willingness to get over each and every obstacle placed in their way.
So winningly wonderful to watch were they that you couldn’t even begrudge the little-bit-too-perfect ending.
One of the most realistic coming of age stories I’ve seen, The Way, Way Back manages to accurately capture both the hopefulness and angst of growing up, testament to both the insightful, sensitive and funny script by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash and their commensurately good direction.
Liam James as Duncan is a delight and Alison Janney’s hilariously over the top performance as summer time neighbour and drunken neglectful mother Betty is one to be remembered.
It also benefited from a fittingly realistic ending which resisted the urge for a happily ever ending in favour of one we can all identify with.
I am convinced that Richard Curtis, who gave us the sublimely wonderful classic Love Actually can do wrong.
In About Time, he has given us another funny, poignant touching movie about life, love and both the sadness and joy of the impermanence of our time here on earth.
Ultimately as much a movie about the enduring bonds between father and son as it is about living our life as if we do get a do-over – which of course we don’t but many of us act as if we do a second chance, squandering precious moments in the process – this one for the head and the heart.
And one for the tissues, definitely one for the tissues.
This is not an easy movie to watch.
Not because it is deficient in any way – the script, acting (especially the performance by Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant III) and direction are all top notch – but because it is enormously watching a man begin to get his derailed life back on the tracks only to have it cut so tragically and unnecessarily short.
But watch it you should – it is one of those movies that stays with you long after the credits have rolled and reminds you of the importance of cinema in not just telling a story but telling one with meaning and purpose.
I am a man who loves romantic comedies – the Meet Cute as its termed when the two lovebirds cross paths, the courtship, the inevitable misunderstanding, the forever reconciliation – and could happily watch them all day long.
If they’re well made that is and don’t simply tiredly tick all the same old cliched boxes.
Enough Said is as far as box ticking as you can get, with realistic portrayals of falling in love later in life, the awkwardness and joy of finding someone new, and pin point perfect performances by both Julie Louis-Dreyfus and the much-missed James Gandolfini in his second last movie role.
It is a movie you can easily fall in love with and I am fairly sure I already have.
This is a movie that breaks your heart and builds it back again over and over in the most profoundly moving way.
Centred on Maisie (played by the preternaturally talented Onata Aprile), a wise beyond her years child who witnesses the explosive breakdown of her parents’ rocky relationship (tour de force performances by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) with a quiet, vulnerable acceptance, it explores what happens to a child when love goes horribly wrong.
And it does without being sensationalist or emotionally manipulative, choosing instead to let you see it all through Maisie’s quietly expressive eyes, which it emerges hide a world of pain behind their all-seeing knowingness.
It is hard to watch at times but ultimately one of the most rewarding, satisfying movies of the entire year.
* I also ADORED Saving Mr Banks and American Hustle, both of which I have JUST seen and which were damn near excellent.
And now for the four movies I really disliked this year and one misunderstood movie that I thought deserved more loving than it actually received.
A “triumph” of style over substance, it was an interminable, artfully stylistic bore with nary a redeeming bone in its storytelling body (save for Kristin Scott Thomas’s powerfully good performance as utterly amoral family matriarch Crystal)
This was supposed to be funny, really funny … no, no, it wasn’t with dislikable characters and a pointlessly stupid storyline.
I want those two hours of my life back please.
I like Simon Pegg and his comedy partner in crime Nick Frost but The World’s End left me cold.
Awful characters, silly jokes and a storyline to nowhere in particular.
I love, nay adore Sandra Bullock and think Melissa McCarthy, given the right material is damn near hilarious but despite fine performances by both ladies, they were saddled with an absolutely unfunny, narratively chaotic turkey of a movie.
* And for the movie I really liked but which was generally penned, I give you OBLIVION, which I thought was visually imaginative with an engaging, intricate storyline and some damn fine acting from Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko. Not the best movie ever made granted, but far better than most people gave it credit for.
Now what would a year end movie review be without the best movie posters of the year.
Flavorwire have nominated their 30 favourite posters, making the point in the process that there aren’t that many standout movie posters, and while I’d agree with them to some extent, I thought the posters for Gravity, The Way Way Back and Oblivion were all particularly eye-catching and worthy of inclusion on the list.
As for Flavorwire’s picks, I loved the suite of posters released for American Hustle, the stark black and white beauty of the Nebraska poster, and the cartoon fun of both The Heat and Spring Breakers.
What are your choices?
The video (above) is an amazing effort by Louis Plamondon who leaves my ample love of movies in the dust with this brilliantly realised six minute mashup of all the trailers 258 of the 2013 film releases.
You can access the full list of all the films featured in this ode to 2013 film trailers at his tumblr site, sleepyskunk.tumblr.com
(Thanks to laughingsquid.com for bringing this to my attention.)
And you may want to check out the 50 best un-official movie posters, curated by Film.com, comprised of re-release posters and fan made creations.