You might have recently read my Worst Best of 2013 post in which I highlighted some of my favorite movies of the year. Wanted to do things a little differently this year, and wanting to give you guys some more bullshit to read, I reached out to the people responsible for my favorite films of 2013 to see what they really dug throughout the year. I limited myself to movies, but everyone I got into contact with I left their entry to be interpreted how they wanted. You’ll see a lot of movies, but also some albums and even just experiences that really stood out for people. It was really cool to see how many movies popped up multiple times, and how unique some others were. Some made lists, some wrote paragraphs, some just a few sentences. The one thing all of these entries have in common is highlighting how many awesome things happened in 2013, and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting together and getting responses.
Adam Wingard, Director of You’re Next and V/H/S/2
By and large, the movies that I strongly disliked made a bigger impression on me than the ones I did, with the exception of Spring Breakers and Gravity. Those two movies were the most pure cinematic experiences I had all year. My favorite filmgoing experiences beyond new films were seeing Donald Cammell’s White of the Eye on 35mm and for my birthday I watched The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day back to back on 35mm which was a beautiful experience to put it mildly.
I enjoyed two 2013 movies that many people thought were garbage, The Lone Ranger and To The Wonder, the latter I didn’t particularly love in the same way that I do a lot of other Malick movies, but the simplicity of the story left me reflecting on many of my past relationship failures, so I still managed to take a lot from it.
Going back to the ones I disliked, they mainly comprised of directors I usually enjoy. I thought Stoker was an unrelatable, pretentious, super-inflated student film and The Counselor was a self-congratulatory fuck fest. I’m sure both of those guys will bounce back again, so here’s hoping for “Prometheus 2”! Obviously these are just my opinions, I know that a lot of people really like Stoker, I simply did not.
Because I spent most of the year filming and editing The Guest, I’ve been super backed up on my movie viewing so I need to catch up on all of the new James Wan films which look great and The Wolf of Wall Street. No better excuse to miss new movies than making one yourself.
Simon Barrett, Writer of You’re Next, Writer/Director of V/H/S/2
A couple of notes: I obviously haven’t seen every film that came out in 2013, including a few that I really wanted to. Like my recent viewing of 2012’s Detention, every year I miss a few masterpieces during their initial runs, so this list is certain to be incomplete.
Also, a few of the films on my list haven’t been released yet and therefore I guess are 2014 movies, but I figure if there’s any point to me writing this, it’s to recommend films that I had the chance to see in advance at festivals, etc. Similarly, some excellent 2013 releases such as The Act of Killing or No aren’t on this list because I already put them on my Twitter/Facebook lists last year (leading directly to those films’ critical and financial success, probably).
I’m listing them alphabetically rather than ranking them because I’m lazy and also I wanted to show off my alphabet skills.
Beneath – I think a lot of critics misunderstood the dark humor of Larry Fessenden’s lake monster movie, which plays its satire totally deadpan. They missed out. This movie is a blast.
Blackfish – Thoroughly compelling issue documentary about how orcas are scary and therefore must be imprisoned for our safety. Or something like that; I wasn’t really paying attention both times I saw it, but I got the gist of it.
Blue Ruin – I was a huge fan of Jeremy Saulnier’s previous micro-budget feature, Murder Party, and his follow-up is one of my favorite industry success stories of the year. The movie itself is a family feud revenge tale played mostly straight, but with dark humor in the details.
Cheap Thrills – Full disclosure, I helped out a bit on this film and am friends with many of the folks involved. But I don’t have any stake in it, and I regularly hate the vast majority of my friends’ movies. Cheap Thrills, on the other hand, is probably the best film of the year. Watch it and see if you don’t agree.
Dirty Wars – A thoroughly depressing but informative documentary about our military’s covert actions overseas.
Gravity – The most purely enjoyable theatrical experience in years and a new standard for both special effects and pacing of action scenes.
The Green Inferno – Eli Roth’s ridiculously cynical homage to Italian cannibal horror movies approaches its subject matter in all the right ways.
The Heat – Maybe it was the shock of seeing a mainstream American comedy that didn’t overtly insult my intelligence, but I thought this movie was funny and great.
Inside Llewyn Davis –With its rambling semi-narrative structure and lengthy musical performances, Inside Llewyn Davis contains many things I regularly despise in other films. But between Oscar Isaac’s beautifully understated performance and the Coens’ detail oriented filmmaking, it’s stuck with me more than most films on this list.
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons – Stephen Chow’s triumphant return to directing is his best movie since Shaolin Soccer. I assumed I would miss his onscreen presence, but the cast perfectly captures his deadpan style of humor.
Rush – Ron Howard and Peter Morgan’s first collaboration since Frost/Nixon is an equally clever and entertaining study of obsessive personalities driven by competition.
Side Effects – In supposedly retiring from directing, I think it’s great that Steven Soderbergh decided to go out with an homage to 1990s erotic thrillers. Scott Burns’ twisty, clever script is the MVP of this film, but Rooney Mara’s lead performance is also one of my favorites of the year (though she was even better in the lesser-seen Ain’t Them Bodies Saints).
A Teacher – A lot of people slept on this movie during its limited release, which is a shame, because its quietly unsettling study of compulsive behavior and romantic fixation is perfectly suited to its style of filmmaking. I wish more low budget dramas had this film’s pacing and sense of purpose.
Willow Creek – I’m a connoisseur of found footage Bigfoot cinema, and Bobcat Goldthwait’s micro-budget, relatively straightforward horror film sets a new standard for that particular sub-subgenre.
The Wolf of Wall Street – I remain dumbfounded at how enjoyable this movie is. Terence Winter, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese all clearly inspired each other to greatness here. Probably my favorite major studio release of 2013.
Xan Cassavetes, Writer/Director of Kiss of the Damned
Spring Breakers was a mind bender. It was totally fuck off and loving at the same time. A work of art and a major finger flip at the status quo, not just the story but the way the movie was made. Beautiful.
Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Herman ‘Whitey’ Salvador in The Lords of Salem
In the current state of the film business, I feel it’s important to search out the indie that’s not necessarily playing at the local megaplex. It’s important to put the effort into finding the personal films, the films that have a unique voice and vision, that are not more of Hollywood cookie cutter drek being churned out. The indie filmmakers need our support.That being said, I need to add a disclaimer to my 2013 Horror Film List; as many cool festivals that I went to, that could have turned me on to amazing films, I was really only there busy promoting The Lords of Salem, in which I’m extremely proud of being a part of. Hopefully next year I’ll have more recommendations. I consider all the following titles horror films for different reasons. Here is my favorite 2013 Horror Film List, in no particular order:The Lords of SalemContractedThe Act of KillingThe Curse of ChuckySpring Breakers
Pat Healy, Craig in Cheap Thrills
The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese’s return. His first truly great film since Casino. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the performance of a lifetime. Plus a sequence involving Quaaludes, cocaine, cold cuts and Popeye is the best, longest, most-sustained belly-laugh scene I can recall for many, many years.
Evan Katz, Director of Cheap Thrills
A Big Ass List Of Movies I Really Dug In 2013
Blackfish, Act Of Killing, A Band Called Death, You’re Next, Inside Llewyn Davis, Olympus Has Fallen, The Conjuring, This Is The End, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, Don Jon, The Dirties, Drinking buddies, Iron Man Three, Only God Forgives, Warm Bodies, Side Effects, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Behind The Candelabra, A Touch of Sin, Mistaken For Strangers, The Congress, The Rambler
Graham Skipper, Seth Hampton in Almost Human
2013 was a pretty fucking awesome year for entertainment, particularly of the “genre” variety. I had the fortunate opportunity to see lots of cool shit this year and while it was exceedingly difficult, I was able to distill down my top five “things” entertainment-wise that came out this year. If you haven’t experienced any of these, do yourself a favor and after slapping yourself in the head, go check this stuff out. We all need a good face-melting once in a while…
So here they are, counting down to the number one most awesome thing of the year:
5. Commando: A One Man Army (Film, Hindi Action-Thriller, directed by Dilip Ghosh)
This movie is awesome on so many levels, all of which are only surpassed by the complete and utter ridiculousness of every second of this explosion-filled, ass-kicking, musical action-romance experience. At the top it tells us how all of the actors did their own stunts, no wires or CGI were used, and boy is it hard to believe when you see these ripped Indian guys soaring through the air delivering punishing roundhouse kicks, wall climbs, and sweat-slinging that put Jackie Chan to shame. Seriously this movie is fucking wild, and when you add in the bizarre over-the-top song and dance numbers it just goes from “fun” to “instant classic”.
NOTA BENE: The following drinking game is mandatory: every time the villain, AK-74, takes off his sunglasses, you drink. Trust me, you’ll see.
4. An Adventure Through Time and Space (TV docudrama, BBC, directed by Terry McDonough & written by Mark Gatiss)
This made-for-TV biopic tells the story of the creation of Doctor Who in 1963, specifically focusing on the lives of producer Verity Lambert and the actor who played the first Doctor, William Hartnell. David Bradley, who plays Hartnell, delivers such a touching, complex performance that it leaves you breathless and inspired, and the story of how what is now the longest-running show in television history got off the ground (helmed by a woman in her 20s, no less) is fascinating. The writing is touching and sincere, and the performances, sets, costumes, and the production as a whole make you feel as if you’re really there at the BBC in 1963. It’s fantastic and great for Doctor Who fans and newbies alike. I dare you not to shed a tear at the end.
NOTA BENE: For the real Who experience, follow it up with the excellent DW 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor. It’s a stellar 90 minutes of television.
3. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Film, Japan, directed by Sion Sono)
I saw this movie as part of TIFF’s (The Toronto International Film Festival) Midnight Madness lineup, and I can say with absolute certainty it is one of the most fucking insane films I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s essentially a movie about making movies, but is at once a touching homage to filmmaking, as well as a totally batshit cauldron of humor, violence, gore, and childhood innocence. Descriptions can’t do this movie justice, just fucking see it. It’s…totally bonkers and brilliant.
NOTA BENE: Drafthouse Films has bought the North American rights and is slated to release it in 2014, so do whatever you can and go check this out in a theatre. It’s most fun with a group.
4. Jodorowsky’s Dune (Documentary, USA, directed by Frank Pavich)
I hope you’ve heard of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Chilean-born filmmaker behind such beautifully insane works of art as El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre, but even if you haven’t, this movie will make you a believer. It’s a documentary about the making of Jodorowsky’s epic and wildly metaphysical version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which would have come before Star Wars and changed the landscape of science fiction filmmaking forever. Jodorowsky narrates most of it and like a cinematic shaman is totally captivating to watch, and the imaginings of what his film (which involved the likes of Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger, and Salvador Dali) would have looked like are mind-blowing. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
NOTA BENE: This doc being made spurred Jodorowsky to team up with his long-time collaborator for the first time after over 20 years to make a new film, La Danza de la Realidad, which is also wonderful.
5. Goblin Live (Concert Tour & Live EP)
If you’re a horror fan you should know who Goblin is. If you don’t (and obviously not a horror fan) they are the band behind the soundtracks of Dario Argento’s most famous films, such as Suspiria, Profondo Rosso, and Tenebre, as well as Romero classic Dawn of the Dead (among many others). This year marked their first North American tour as well as the release via Death Waltz Records of a new live EP. And it. Was. Fucking. Awesome. I never thought I’d see them live, and through the beneficence of Beyond Fest I got to, and it was equal parts face-meltingly badass and sweetly nostalgic. They sound excellent and tight as a group, and the set list was everything fans could want. The live EP sounds beautiful and is a must-own for anyone remotely interested in the films of Argento or the music of this legendary group.
NOTA BENE: Currently their tour is slated to go on hold in December to return in the UK in February, so don’t miss out! And tell them you want them near you, so we can keep getting more Goblin in our faces. For melting.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (dir by the Hawkins Bros, indie filmmaking at its finest), Witching & Bitching (new horror insanity from Alex de la Iglesia), and The Sacrament (Ti West’s new horror film & I think the best in his already-excellent career)
Josh Ethier, Producer/Editor/Mark Fisher in Almost Human
No specific order.The Body, “Christs, Redeemers”Listening to The Body is not easy. But it is worthwhile, if you want to see just how far the medium can be pushed. Their previous album “All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood” was my introduction to them, and “Christs, Redeemers” pushes into even darker sonic territory. The glorification of noise as violence. Standout track, “Bearer of Bad Tidings”Batillus, “Concrete Sustain”Batillus are two things. First, a Doom band, and second, an Industrial band. A fine example of either classification, and a standout as both. Slow, crushing, and dissonant, with Sabbath inspired grooves and Jourgensen inspired wails. This year’s “Concrete Sustain” saw the culmination of those two styles into one, singular beast. Standout track, “Beset”.Deafheaven, “Sunbather”I’ve been following these guys since Deathwish put out their debut LP “Roads to Judah”, and with two years between the two (reissuing their earliest demo, and a split with fellow San Franciscans Bosse-de-Nage), I had hoped for the best. “Sunbather” delivers on every account. As one of the foremost “BlackGaze” bands, they’ve perfected their shimmering, fuzzy, delay-driven, wall of sound approach to Black Metal, and the end result is their finest album to date, and one of the best of the year. Standout track, album closer “The Pecan Tree”.Oranssi Pazuzu, “Valonielu”When describing Oranssi Pazuzu’s newest album to a friend, I said “It sounds like Filosofem era Burzum on an early Neurosis\Pink Floyd kick”. If any of that makes sense to you, you need to hear the album as soon as possible. This was the last album to make my list, coming to it pretty late in the game, but it blew my mind. Equal parts prog rock, black metal, post metal, and sound design, it needs to be heard to be believed. There are moments of crushing doom, and moments of soaring thrash. The best song on the album is the 15 minute closer “Ympyra on Viiva Tomussa”, which encapsulates everything that came before it into one crushing, rhythmic summation.Carpenter Brut, “II”If you’re a fan of genre films, you need to be listening to Carpenter Brut. A French Electro band that draws its influences from Horror\Giallo films (Their first EP “I”), and 80’s DTV Action films (This year’s “II”), they somehow encapsulate the feel of the movies we love into dance music. I’ve been listening to this EP once a week since it came out. Standout track, “Looking for Tracy Tzu”.
Joe Begos, Writer/Director of Almost Human
1- Gravity– This is the type of flick that you watch and walk out thinking WHY THE FUCK AM I STILL MAKING MOVIES?!?! A super simple plot with some of the most tense sequences I’ve seen in a LONG TIME. The entire movie is ONE GIGANTIC SET PIECE with some of the most confident direction of any movie this year. Saw this 3 times and it held up every single one.2- The Wolf of Wall Street– The fact that a three hour long movie about a stock broker made it this high on my list should tell you all you need to know.3- All is Lost– A 2 hour movie starring only Robert Redford and taking place completely on a boat with zero dialogue sounds pretty fucking terrible but this one knocks it out of the park. JUST WATCH IT.4- Spring Breakers– The director of Gummo hires the DP of Enter the Void to shoot his hard R crime and drug filled spring break movie starring James Franco and Selena Gomez. Thanks, Megan Ellison!5- Maniac– What could have been a cheap crash grab shit remake turns into one of the best horror movies of recent memory. Elevating the source material is an amazing display of technical virtuosity that we rarely, if ever see in a dirty grungy low budget horror. We need more filmmakers approaching these kinds of movies with this much ambition and craft and the balls to keep it this graphic.6- The World’s End– I’m convinced Edgar Wright can’t make a bad movie.7- You’re Next– If you were to look at a one sentence logline of this flick, you would assume it’s another generic home invasion flick. Instead we get a carefully constructed horror movie that builds to numerous moments that make you want to scream FUCK YES to whatever screen you’re watching it on.8- Blue Jasmine– The fact that Woody is able to pull such an awesome fucking performance out of ANDREW DICE CLAY of all people is enough to justify this on any top ten. The ridiculously good script and killer performances that round out the rest of the movie are just gravy as far as I’m concerned.9- Ninja: Shadow of a Tear– Hands down, the best action film of the year. Fight scenes that make you break out in laughter because YOU HAVE NO OTHER REACTION FOR HOW AWESOME IT IS make this ridiculously rewatchable. I’ve already seen it 3 times and typing this out makes me want to watch it again RIGHT FUCKING NOW.10- John Dies at the End– Any year that has a new Don Coscarelli movie come out is a good fucking year in my book. Coscarelli proves he’s still got chops with this absolutely insane low budget interdimensional drug fueled horror comedy. My only issue with it? I wish there was more Clancy Brown. Coscarelli is another director I’m convinced CAN’T make a bad movie.TOP 5 FESTIVAL MOVIES:Blue RuinWhy Don’t You Play in Hell?The StationWe Gotta Get Outta This PlaceThe Sacrament