Macklemore said that one man's trash is another man's come-up. Which is just another way of saying that we all put our own value on different things. Look no further than this year in film review for proof of that sentiment.
I've been doing this year-end 20 questions article for four years now. Why? Because personally, it's my favorite article to read this time of year about the previous year at the movies, let alone assemble together from the thoughts and minds of ten different film aficionados from across the country. Some of these guys saw two hundred movies last year. Some just a couple dozen. Some get paid to do this. Some pay to play. Some are voting members of critical societies. Some are critical of critical societies.
This is easily the most exhaustive, comprehensive - most entertaining - guide to film I think you'll find anywhere on the internet. Here's who I grabbed to answer 20 different questions about the movie landscape in 2013:
Here's what I asked them:
1) Favorite Scene in a Film in 2013:
Tim Hall: Alien trying to convince Faith to stay in Spring Breakers. Franco and Gomez were both amazing in that scene.
David Wangberg: There were quite a few great scenes in great films this year. The first was the “Roll, Jordan, Roll” scene in 12 Years a Slave, which shows that not only can Chiwetel Ejiofor act, but he can sing – and well at that. The second was the scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) shows off his incredible salesman skills and everyone in the building is looking at him in awe.
Tom Santilli: In a year where Cameron Diaz f**ked a windshield (The Counselor), Michael Cera was impaled by a light post (This Is the End) and Leonardo DiCaprio has a Qualude-induced brawl with Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), the one scene that stands apart for me is the night club torture sequence from Only God Forgives. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) cuts a dude’s eyeballs out, then sticks a spike through the man’s ears. Just in time to work a karaoke set in front of his loyal soldiers. The thought of that night club set still gives me chills.
Chris Sawin: Pretty much any of the really destructive sequences where everything turns to sh*t in a matter of seconds in Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron is so talented in crafting these extended sequences that are one continuous shot that are absolute marvels to watch unfold and Gravity is littered with them. I'm also quite partial to the hotel sequence in Drug War since it's reminiscent of Mia Wallace overdosing on heroin in Pulp Fiction yet the performances of Louis Koo and Sun Honglei are powerful enough to push the sequence into unique and memorable territory.
Brian Zitzelman: Every single scene of the movie Her works. It’s a perfectly crafted picture. It also has my favorite scene, one which I don’t care to spoil this early in its release. However, to slightly pinpoint it, the scene features an epiphany by its lead character (Joaquin Phoenix) about who else his OS Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is talking to in a given moment.
Jason Roestel: Mine are all related to music numbers this year. Loved the "Let It Go" sequence in Frozen and the "Everytime" sequence in Spring Breakers, but the "Please Mr. Kennedy" scene in Inside Llewyn Davis...? That's the reason I am, and always shall be, a massive fan of Joel and Ethan Coen.
Glenn Percival: The ending of the battle between Superman and General Zod in Man of Steel. I actually yelled when Superman did what he obviously had to do, and it surprised the hell out of me. It's a scene that stands-out in my mind, and even though I'm not a huge fan of the character (because he's such a boy scout) I liked what they did in this film.
Jorge Carreon: The club scene in David O. Russell’s American Hustle. I’ve never thought of Amy Adams as being particularly sexual on screen (unlike her co-star Jennifer Lawrence, who is a live wire). But, hot cha cha. Adams lit the fuse to her inner sex bomb in this sequence, particularly in that game of grab ass with Bradley Cooper in a bathroom stall. Adams scored a winning trifecta of diversity, from Man of Steel to Hustle to Her, dominating the screen in three of her best performances ever. I declare her the MVP of 2013. Runner-up: The unforgettable Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northrop as he yields to the emotions of this plight as a slave when he sings a traditional hymn in 12 Years a Slave.
Nick Tiffany: Like most people, my favorite scene came from The Wolf of Wall Street. The scene comes in the middle of the film when Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill's characters take Lemmon 714 Quaaludes. Due to taking multiple and a late reaction, the two men experience a new phase of being high. The result, is the funniest scene all year that had me howling in my seat. I went back to see the film a second time with friends and I loved seeing their reaction. DiCaprio is so dedicated in his role and this scene highlights why he should win the Academy Award. The scene is genius and will stick with all who see it.
Erik Samdahl: The final scene in Captain Phillips where Tom Hanks nearly made me cry. What’s with that.
Ruben Rosario: The wake/photo session halfway through Blancanieves had me in stitches. Antonio Villalta, a well-known toreador, “fell off” a flight of stairs under dubious circumstances, and how does Encarna, the grieving widow, celebrate – er – mourn the loss? By having people over so they can pose with the just-embalmed bullfighter. This is ferocious dark humor of the most delectable order, and yet another way in which director Pablo Berger gives his own, very Iberian, early-20th Century spin on the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale while keeping the source material's fangs completely intact.
2) I Could Have My Critics Card Pulled For Admitting This... But I kind of Liked:
Tim Hall: Escape Plan. I thought it was way more fun than it needed to be. Good to see Sly and Arnold team up.
David Wangberg: I actually found myself liking Cassadaga, even though it’s a pretty standard horror film. Alan Rickman’s performance in CBGB was the only reason I recommended that film. And I should get my card pulled for that, since the rest of the movie is a huge mess.
Tom Santilli: Here goes my credibility. But I was the lone critic who stood by The Lone Ranger. I had wrote that it, “…doesn’t take itself seriously, but manages to honor the iconic American hero in a way recent films have failed to do so (re: Superman in Man of Steel).” Today, I stand by that assessment. Not everything needs to be reshaped and reimagined through a cynical, dark lens of our current culture. If you’re going to remake a classic character, honor the spirit of the original. The Lone Ranger wasn’t perfect and Tonto may have been Jack Sparrow with a head-dress, but believe it or not, the script did the characters justice and, as I wrote in my review, “Was not seemingly written in crayon by a pack of unruly chimpanzees and presented for consumption to the popcorn cavemen of the world who eat this sort of crap up, lurking in dark multiplexes.” You know, like pretty much every other Summer blockbuster. Now can I have my critic card back please? No?
Chris Sawin: I really enjoyed Charlie Countryman. It had terrible reviews that mostly labeled the film as unnecessarily violent, the film introduced a lot of concepts that didn't properly pan out (like talking to the dead when it was convenient to the story), and the script was too impulsive for its own good, but I liked it a lot. I'm a sucker for Mads Mikkelsen and Shia LaBeouf can be talented when he's able to set his insanity and douchebaggery aside.
Brian Zitzelman: I stand by The Internship as a perfectly serviceable comedy. Yes, it’s a big old product placement, but just because it focuses on one product versus several dozen (Iron Man 3) doesn’t equate bad to me. The core duo is amusing more than they aren’t and it even has a cute scene between Rose Byrne and Owen Wilson. Destined to be watched on cable in years to come.
Jason Roestel: I shouldn't have to defend my whole-body-heart-mind-and-soul love for Snyder's Man of Steel - nor will I. But as for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? I might. I really liked it. I might have even like-liked it. Maybe I'm still holding on to some residual pain and torment that early Disney animated sorceresses and the Wicked Witch of the West put me through as a lad, but seeing witches getting beat up, burned, and put into the hurt locker felt cathartic and refreshing. You bet I'll be there for the sequel.
Glenn Percival: A Good Day to Die Hard - After Die Hard With a Vengeance I fully expected this one to suck even more, but what I got was an amazing thrill ride with great action and a pretty good script. I fully expected to not like this one, and imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed it. The last action scene was really well done, and the effects were top-notch.
Jorge Carreon: Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat. We all know women can bring the funny, but who knew they could also revive the buddy cop genre with some real raunch and sass. McCarthy makes the F-bomb our best friend, but Bullock has never been looser or more engaging as a comic actress. Runner-up: The utterly charming and scary and poignant Warm Bodies.
Nick Tiffany: Okay... Here's where I lose my credibility. As much as people hated Pain & Gain, I actually kind of enjoyed it. Now before you jump to conclusions about me, I promise that I'm justified in my reasoning! I read the 3-page newspaper article about the true story that this film is based off of and it really blew me away. It's such a misogynistic, gratuitous, jacked-up story and Michael Bay hit every nail on the head. I actually think that it's one of the few movies that he's directed, that actually works with his style of direction and how he sees the world. The acting is all great and the story is bizarre and fun. It has issues, but it's not as terrible as everyone suggests.
Erik Samdahl: Riddick was surprisingly entertaining but not at all critic-friendly, and I still don’t get how people didn’t enjoy Man of Steel in spite of its flaws.
Ruben Rosario: Oz the Great and Powerful. There, I said it. I loved what Sam Raimi did with L. Frank Baum's beloved characters. Loved how he turned what could have been yet another generic Alice in Wonderland (Burton's) into a distinctively Raimian thrill ride. Yep, he made Drag Me to Hell for kids, yet many of my colleagues fell over themselves expressing how shocked, SHOCKED they were about how Mr. Evil Dead approached such venerated territory. It's called baggage, folks, and I think posterity will be kinder to this film than a lot of critics think. Just you wait.
3) Best Opening:
Tim Hall: Star Trek Into Darkness had a pretty badass opening sequence.
David Wangberg: The nearly 20-minute opening scene of Gravity is pure brilliance. Nothing else needs to be said.
Tom Santilli: This is a tough one. Knowing I’m going to get asked this question by year’s end, I normally make note of worthy opening sequences throughout the year. But this year, nothing sticks out. So I’ll go with the first one that comes to mind, Inside Llewyn Davis. Oscar Isaacs’s opening number was pretty memorable, if the film, for me anyways, was not.
Chris Sawin: There are so many, but just to include something that isn't on everyone else's radar I really liked the opening to Drug War where we see a drugged up Louis Koo speeding along and fleeing a dilapidated meth lab that's obviously on its last legs. Koo vomits all over the driver side window, meanders through a few streets and intersections, and finally crashes through the wall of an unsuspecting restaurant. A very close second is Christian Bale adjusting his comb-over for five minutes straight at the beginning of American Hustle.
Brian Zitzelman: Before Midnight had a metric ton of expectations, with 18 years worth of history building to it. The creative team slyly set the stage for their third outing and took a step to the side with their opening, as Ethan Hawke’s Jesse spends a few moments with his son in an airport. Where’s the airport located? Is he a single dad? Where the hell is Celine?! These facts are slowly revealed in this moment with perfectly scripted dialogue and a dynamite closer to the scene.
Jason Roestel: We can't ignore the 18 minute opening shot in Gravity or the three minute, thirteen second opening shot of The Place Beyond the Pines, but gawdamnit, the opening birthday party sequence in The Great Beauty really zapped me.
Glenn Percival: Man of Steel - Come on, a huge battle takes place on Krypton, and Russell Crowe as Jor El kicks all kinds of ass. The opening completely blew me away and exceeded my expectations. The fact that we're in an age where something this epic can truly be displayed on-screen simply makes me giddy. I know some have a problem with the slow nature of the rest of the first half of the film, but you can't deny the epic nature of that opening. Man of Steel took me by surprise and entertained me all the way through.
Jorge Carreon: The beginning of World War Z was an effective way of getting you to the heart of a terrifying zombie apocalypse scenario. You went from zero to 60 with nary a chance to catch your breath, which is why we go to the movies in the first place: to be transported. Director Marc Forster may have been pillaged and pilloried by critics, but he earned my attention.
Nick Tiffany: I'm stuck between a hair-piece and a vast space for this one. American Hustle's few minute opening scene with Christian Bale putting on a hair-piece was a perfect way to start the film. It was such a subtly funny sequence that really spoke words about him as an actor and what his character is about. That large belly also speaks words. On the other hand, Gravity is a hard film to beat for this topic. Those opening 16-17 minutes of that film are the most beautiful and terrifying things that I saw all year. You really felt like you were there and everything looked so believable. The destruction really stands out as memorable, as does the whole movie.
Erik Samdahl: I don’t know… Gravity grabbed my attention within the first second.
Ruben Rosario: Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty hits the ground running with a Felliniesque showstopper of an opening sequence depicting a sightseeing day out in Rome. A Japanese man appears to suffer a heart attack, and this should be the focus of the scene, but Sorrentino's juggling several things at once here. It's loopy and brazen and show-offy in the best possible sense. Bravo!
4) Best Ending:
Tim Hall: Fast 6 by a mile. Everyone in the theater would've purchased tickets to Fast 7 as soon as the movie was over if they could.
David Wanberg: The last 15 minutes or so of Captain Phillips showed the greatness of an actor like Tom Hanks. Even if Paul Greengrass used some of the same music from United 93 for the finale, Hanks’ performance was as real as it could get.
Tom Santilli: Prisoners had a pretty cool ending, leaving things off where other, lesser, films would have kept going. Stand Up Guys’s shoot-out ended things in a cool way. But how can you give the Best Ending award to anything other than a Marvel movie? The stinger scene in The Wolverine – setting up next year’s X-Men flick – is second only to the wet-panty-inducing scene at the end of Thor: The Dark World, where we see Benicio Del Toro as The Collector. If I had seen that when I was 15, I would have inadvertently impregnated all of those in the front row of the theater.
Chris Sawin: The World's End. It really surprised me just how much I enjoyed Edgar Wright's latest and the third and final film in the Cornetto trilogy. It was a complete 180 degrees from what you'd expect from Simon Pegg. While the final scene may leave many with mixed emotions, I'm always quite partial to apocalyptic wastelands. The big climax after reaching the final pub on the pub crawl is also much more intelligent than it has any right to be. You'll likely get sick of me mentioning the film, but I also love the ending to Drug War. It's so bleak, doesn't hold back in terms of action, strong performances, and death, and proves that Johnnie To isn't afraid to end a film on a depressing note.
Brian Zitzelman: Part of me wants to say Captain Phillips, with its miraculous Tom Hanks breakdown, yet it’s music slightly overplays things. Hell, I will pick it anyways, Hanks is too good here to be ignored.
Jason Roestel: Inside Llewyn Davis's ending was brilliant. BRILLIANT. I won't spoil it, because I know so many people haven't seen this yet, but the Coens quite literally capture the cycle of creation and subjugation of the struggling artist in Llewyn's innovative ending. It's pretty much perfect. PERFECT.
Glenn Percival: Iron Man 3 - I'm a fan of Shane Black, and I'm also a fan of Robert Downey jr. Together, they're such an unstoppable team (see Kiss kiss, Bang bang for reference.) Iron Man 3 wasn't a perfect movie, but for a "superhero" movie we got even more than what you would normally expect, we got depth. The amount of time that Tony Stark spent out of his suit was a risk, but they pulled it off so well, all culminating in an ending that tied things up so nicely. Not only was it one of the most frantic and action-packed battles we've seen in a while, we also got to see an almost touching ending to a trilogy that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'll be honest, I rolled a tear or two when this one ended.
Jorge Carreon: Solomon Northrop’s return home in 12 Years a Slave. Director Steve McQueen eschews the Spielbergian habit of having multiple endings that edge our emotional release without regard to the damage caused by teasing an audience. Instead, he allows for a subtle and dignified closing which sums of Northrop’s odyssey for us all in a matter that is ultimately shattering to witness. Runner-up: Octavia Spencer’s final moment in Fruitvale Station. I dare you to watch it and not feel a torrent of emotion. If you don’t, you’re made of stone.
Nick Tiffany: Lone Survivor has a poetic and sweet ending that moved me to tears. I've seen the movie twice now and that ending... The whole film is a triumph and expertly demonstrates what our NAVY SEALS go through and the slides dedicated to showing the men who served is quite possibly the only ending that makes sense. As we see the pictures of the men who fought for our country and died for our country, Peter Gabriel sings a rendition of David Bowie's Heroes that will leave goosebumps all over your body. If you didn't cry during the rest of the movie, you're sure to cry here.
Erik Samdahl: Side Effects has one of the more messed up endings, and I like stuff that is messed up.
Ruben Rosario: The door opens, and there's Solomon Northup, his haunted gaze fixated on the family he has not seen in over a decade. His (now much older) daughter hands over the baby in her arms. “This is your grandson,” she tells him. He gingerly holds up the child, his eyes welling up, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is mirroring my own reaction. The ending of 12 Years a Slave reduced me to a blubbering mess, eliciting tears Steve McQueen's clear-eyed, unsentimental portrayal of slavery in the U.S. rightfully earns. It packs a wallop.
5) I Was Really Liking This Movie, But the Lame Ending Ruined It For Me:
Tim Hall: Mama. WTF were they thinking with that ending?
David Wangberg: I was enjoying Now You See Me, and then the end came and changed my opinion. Well, there were some things before the end that started to ruin it for me, but all the twists and turns just got ridiculous.
Tom Santilli: This has got to go to Don Jon. A slick, confident movie that…get ready for it…fell a bit limp towards the end. Here is a movie that tackles a taboo subject – porn addiction – and compares the sexual expectations that men have to the same expectations women get from watching unrealistic romances on the big screen. Yet as the film went into its final stretch (pun!), it landed on a highly unrealistic happy ending itself.
Chris Sawin: I'm going to get a lot of sh*t for this, but Gravity. I adore Alfonso Cuaron and the film was absolute cinematic bliss to watch with my nearly 30 year old peepers, but Sandra Bullock's final speech kind of ruined a perfect rating for me. It just felt very corny in comparison to her first big speech which gave a little depth to the Dr. Ryan Stone character. The "hell of a ride" bit just felt so bleh. Listen Dr. Stone, I know you're skyrocketing towards the earth as if you're riding an atom bomb like Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove, but that doesn't mean you have to spew a bunch of gibberish to ruin your reputation.
Brian Zitzelman: Ruined may be strong, though a major scene in the last act of Short Term 12 knocked it down a notch that it can’t get up from. Still a very good film, simply not the great one it flirted with.
Jason Roestel: Nobody really talked about Brian Percival's The Book Thief when doing up their end of the year lists. Why? Because Percival attempted to emotionally super-charge the ending and it came off as tacky and fabricated. What works on the page won't always work in a film - The Book Thief is proof. It's a bummer too because there's some pretty incredible performances in this otherwise likable movie from newcomer Sophie Nelisse and old safeties Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.
Glenn Percival: Gangster Squad - Yes, I know they felt they had to re-shoot the ending because of the tragedy in Colorado, and it was still looking like a pretty sweet battle would take place. Unfortunately though, a couple of things completely bothered me. First, I assume because scenes were edited out early in the movie, we really never got to know anything about Robert Patrick's character, but then they expect us to be emotionally attached enough to care that he's killed in the shootout. Second, it ends with a fistfight? Really? Everything just felt completely anti-climactic to me, and honestly, it was a complete letdown.
Jorge Carreon: I’m going to have to go with Philomena. Most of the film is a bittersweet trek across some challenging emotional terrain. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan handle all of it with such graceful care. But, whoever told Coogan to script the tacked on ending exchange between himself and Dench in a car to “lighten the mood” for closure deserves to get slapped.
Nick Tiffany: For me, American Hustle had a really lame ending. The movie kept my interest almost the whole way though and the ending started to build, similar to that of Ocean's 11. When only a few things were revealed, I got kind of upset. Then, the film ends on a sweet note and it doesn't fit at all. I was hoping for a big bang, but the fireworks weren't even brought out for this film's finale. In my opinion, they should've gone big and had they, it would have made the film even better.
Erik Samdahl: The Call was a lot of fun until the third act destroyed it, and The Best Man Holiday was fun until the third act destroyed it. Next year, my answer will be Gone Girl, as the book is a lot of fun until the ending destroyed it.
Ruben Rosario: Nothing I've seen this year comes close to the jaw-droppingly inane ending of (500) Days of Summer – “I'm Autumn?!” Really?! – but the plot-twist overdose at the end of Danny Boyle's Trance, coupled with some straight-to-DVD-thriller hijinks, conspire to sabotage what was, up until at least the film's halfway point, a gripping cat-and-mouse yarn. There's only so much rug-pulling a movie can inflict on viewers before we throw up our hands in consternation. The wait-we're-not-quite-done-yet shenanigans at the end of Side Effects also left a sour aftertaste.