The Re-watchable 13 of 2013
It really should come as no surprise that the film industry experienced another financial boom year, with 2013 domestic box office grosses of nearly $11 billion slightly surpassing 2012’s total. But year-over-year increases are the norm these days, partly because of increasing ticket prices and the higher cost of premium film presentations like 3D and IMAX. The year’s box office tally was helped tremendously by a strong summer, where superheroes (“Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel,”) and sequels (“Despicable Me 2,” and “Monsters University”) pulled in over a billion dollars alone. The year also finished strong, with films like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Frozen,” and “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” meeting or exceeding projections.
The real eye-opener for most people might be how few movies actually make money. According to the reputable website Box Office Mojo, of the 673 feature films released in the U.S. last year, over 70% earned less than $1 million at the box office, and over 80% made less than $5 million. If you throw in the losers like the year’s biggest flop “The Lone Ranger,” which probably cost twice as much as it made at the box office ($90 million) and other disappointments, a solid case can be made that nearly 90% of all movies lose money.
What other industry could survive if only 10% of its product were profitable?
But the most important thing for most film fans is the quality of the film itself. Now in his 14th year, your film critic presents the Best Films of 2013. There were plenty of interesting films this year to choose from, including plenty of edgier, art-house fare not intended for the average fan – the kind of films critics love to adore and often the weirder, the better.
So this year’s list strives for something different. The ability of a film to stand up over repeated viewings is at least one valid criterion for judging its merit. Here are the most re-watchable films of 2013 (In no particular order):
The Re-watchable 13 of 2013
Gravity: A space odyssey like no other, immersing the viewer using groundbreaking technology that brought filmmaking to new levels of thrills and vertigo-inducing chills.
Saving Mr. Banks: Promises a smart tale of how a famous Disney movie was made and ends up delivering a heartbreaking back-story led by a powerhouse performance from Emma Thompson. Oh, and that Hanks guy too.
Mud: Matthew McConaughey had a banner year. This gripping adventure of two kids in the Mississippi backwoods and the crime drama that emerges will be the one that is best remembered.
World War Z: With Brad Pitt in the lead, this film proves zombie films can provide creepy, tense, action-packed and nearly bloodless horror for the whole family. (Well, almost.)
Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen in fine form (again) in this riches-to-rags dark comedy. Cate Blanchett
reminds us, in case we forgot, of her acting prowess as a women in constant near-meltdown mode.
Rush: The most superbly crafted, original sports drama in some time, with an engaging story about the competitive drive to win. A whoosh of a thrill ride if ever there were one.
Frozen: One great song in a movie musical is practically a miracle, but the latest Disney adaptation of a Hans Christiansen Anderson story has four of them. No doubt headed to a Broadway stage near you.
Captain Phillips: Turns out the best pirate movie is about the real kind – Somali in this case. An intense, suspense-mounting action film that offers balanced perspectives and another great performance by Tom Hanks.
Enough Said: The late James Gandolfini and the underused in film Julia Louis-Dreyfus are the couple of the year in this wry, superbly written and acted comedy about love after 50.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The year’s box office champ is one of its best, improving on its predecessor and making for an enriching, dramatic and thoroughly entertaining middle installment.
Prisoners: This is a gut-wrenching, disturbing drama about a parent’s worst nightmare with an emotional complexity rarely found in crime dramas. Make your babysitter watch it.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Comedies are too often overlooked despite how difficult it is to produce one that satisfies everyone (especially a sequel). So Ron Burgundy’s comeback is crass buffoonery to relish.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Because sometimes a sweet, live-action movie for the whole family to enjoy is so rare, and because we weren’t expecting this much heartwarming uplift from Ben Stiller.
The Underrated: “Ender’s Game,” “Oblivion,” “The Book Thief,” “Austenland,” “Red 2,” “Snitch,”
The Overrated: “The Spectacular Now,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” ”Pacific Rim,” “12 Years a Slave.”
Breakout star: The “F-word” – now appearing gratuitously and tiresomely everywhere. In the future (“Her”), the 60s (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), the 70s (“American Hustle”) in every sentence of the military (“Lone Survivor”), and in preposterously historical quantities on Wall Street (“The Wolf of Wall Street”). What happened to the artistry of a great screenplay?
Worst Movie of the Year: “The Big Wedding”
See these documentaries: “Sound City,” “Stories We Tell,” “Blackfish,” “Tales from the Organ Trade.”
The best film experiences of the year: The glorious, digitally-enhanced versions of “The Wizard of Oz: An IMAX 3-D Experience” and “Jurassic Park 3-D,” proving that painstakingly improving the presentation can sometimes improve upon near perfection.