Wednesday, January 01, 2014

List of Motions

Happy New Year, everyone. Time for my annual ranking of movies. I saw 27 this year, that's the most I've had on this list for years. It may be the most I've ever had. Still, there were movies I'm sorry I missed--Blue Jasmine, Blue is the Warmest Colour, The Wind Rises, and Her. Sometimes even piracy can't get around lousy distribution. I'll probably include them on 2014's list.

A lot of the films on this list may draw dispute--one in particular I'd be inclined to call a 2012 film except Sight and Sound ranked it with 2013 films. Mostly I just go on when the film had its first wide release in some major market, somewhere.

Okay, here they are, counting down from worst to best. Turns out there was only one movie this year I thoroughly hated:

27. The Conjuring (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

I probably wouldn't have seen this if I'd known it was from the same director as Saw. But The Conjuring sucks in a different way than Saw with less dull zaniness and more emptiness.

26. Man of Steel (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

There were some nice performances and action in this movie but they couldn't save it from one bonehead plot point after another, from a mentally unstable Jonathan Kent to a Lois Lane written as an after thought. All with a big bland Henry Cavill bow on top.

25. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Some funny, skit-like parodies and good performances were too out of context in an attempt at a sincere story which suffered more from a lack of commitment in its director.

24. Star Trek: Into Darkness (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Ineffective callbacks to Star Trek II detract somewhat from good performances by Cumberbatch, Pine, Saldana, Pegg, and Weller. The film also has some effective action sequences.

Truly incredible visuals and filmmaking technique are unfortunately directly opposed by a story based on the idea that everything is under God's benevolent control.

22. Pacific Rim (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Guillermo Del Toro's homage to anime and kaiju movies is a lot of fun.

21. An Adventure in Space and Time (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

I'm not sure how good this movie would be for anyone who's not a fan of Doctor Who but the story of William Hartnell's growing inability to perform a job he was extremely passionate about is heart breaking. David Bradley's performance is extraordinary.

20. Chennai Express (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Some really fun musical numbers, beautiful costumes and scenery and a couple of charismatic stars. A lot of fun.

19. Upstream Colour (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Some really nice, dreamlike filmmaking is sabotaged a little by the director's disapproval of sex and hypocritical stance on religion and Transcendentalism.

18. Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q Evangerion Shin Gekijōban: Kyū) (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Not nearly as good as the original series but it was nice to finally see Shinji and Kaworu get to spend real time together and there's plenty of beautiful, bizarre imagery of Superflat structures, bloody seas and giant entrails.

17. World War Z (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Although I like the film as a whole, this one mainly earns its rank for its first half hour, a really well made sequence of a family dealing with their city's sudden zombie infestation.

16. Iron Man 3 (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A group of characters nicely realised, more by the performers than the writers, play off each other really well. And Tony Stark coming to grips with who he is in the universe in a new way works too.

15. This Is the End (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A very funny film about authentically shallow people and their shallowness surviving the apocalypse and even death.

14. Europa Report (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A nice, found footage style film impressive for its credible depiction of space travel that easily eclipses Gravity.

13. Only God Forgives (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Gorgeous imagery and a great, Spaghetti Western story about loyalty and justice doesn't quite have the impact it perhaps ought to. But all the pieces are fantastic.

12. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Wonderful imagery and a complex world hampered by a couple needless subplots and action sequences. Nevertheless, even some of the unnecessary stuff is quite good. This film would have ranked higher had it maintained a better focus on Bilbo.

11. Frances Ha (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Really funny, vital dialogue and some charming performances. It may play it just a bit too safe with its hipster protagonists but you like Frances enough to want to stay with her on this ride.

10. The Place Beyond the Pines (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A good, slow burning story about how the world can work against basic human need.

Contemplative, beautiful imagery and subtle performances of subtle characters. It's people trying to crawl out from under oppressive identities and lonely circumstances.

8. The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭 Kotonoha no Niwa) (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

It's not hard to see why the director of this film has been called the next Miyazaki but his mood is more adult and the story less interesting. What makes this story work is in how brilliantly it conveys just a rainy day.

7. Devil's Pass (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A brilliant chain of established tension through well written characters and effectively weird situations spooled out with good story telling instincts.

6. The Counsellor (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A terribly cruel, philosophical film noir.

5. The World's End (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

An engaging portrayal of a group of old friends and a small tale of responsibility versus hedonism that rather amusingly becomes a big tale of responsibility versus hedonism.

Frightening production design, costumes, makeup and effects all serve a genuinely wonderful story about characters and their relationships. It's a story that doesn't pass judgement on the needs of the dead or the living.

3. Shield of Straw (藁の楯 Wara no Tate) (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A movie that pares the question of morality to the very bone, every scene finding just the right question to ask in order to reach a far larger question.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A gloriously unrestrained Martin Scorsese made a film about rich people purchasing a lifelong, culturally accepted mental dormancy.

1. The Act of Killing (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A strange technique is used to surreptitiously cause an unrepentant mass murderer to slowly come to realise just what his actions mean. A tremendous piece of filmmaking made all the more horrifying and saddening for how easy it was for so many others in Indonesia to live happily after committing atrocities. It's a frightening and enlightening film about just how deeply malleable morality is.

Twitter Sonnet #581

Ill fitted forks refrain from the fight club.
Drama dribbles charmed basket ball crumb cake.
Nuclear socket paint sunk the wood sub.
Mucus porkpie hat says Hutt's on the take.
Blank stilt walker cassettes jangle above.
Recorded aromas bake the wine bread.
Gas station cafes sell a red bug.
Galactic pharmacies leave rock undead.
Robot mouse mannequins dance for spark plugs.
Animal malt shops maul trolley ice cream.
Pink hair freighters clutch their timid old tugs.
Foam egg arms embrace a flat pillow dream.
Magnetic teas tickle with white silk mitts.
Peas with black eyes write the New Year permits.

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