My Favorite Movies of 2013

As promised last week, the month of Best-of lists has dawned on us. After starting out with my favorite books of 2013 last week, I’m looking at my preferred movies of the year today.

In the movie industry, the trend of releasing comic book and YA adaptations as well as sequels continued with original movies taking a back seat. I mostly watch American movies, so my list will focus heavily on films produced in the US. Unlike with my booklist, this list will only feature movies released in 2013. So, let’s get to it!

I’ve written about my favorite movie of the year, The Spectacular Now, at great length before, mostly in my recap of the Zurich Film Festival. It is a real, charming and well-made coming-of-age movie. The Spectacular Now is being released on DVD and iTunes on January 14, 2014 in the US. The European release date remains unknown. I’m definitely looking forward to rewatching the story of Sutter and Aimee.

At the beginning of year, Don Jon and The Way, Way Back were two of the movies I really wanted to see. They did not disappoint. The directional debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a wonderful and unconventional romantic comedy with great actors. “The Way, Way Back” shows the awkwardness of being young and how to deal with adversity, insecurity and change.

One of the biggest surprises of the year was Now You See Me, a highly entertaining heist movie featuring magicians and illusionists. It’s fast-paced, stylish and occasionally a bit far-fetched. But unlike other movies released this year, it is also very innovative and refreshing. The cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco as illusionists, Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent as detectives as well as Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. They do a fantastic job. Of course one can balk at some of the unrealistic ideas, but all in all, Now You See Me embodies everything a movie should be.

Gravity, the most successful original movie of the year, is a visual masterpiece. Alfonso Cuarón manages to create a haunting sense of dread and despair with his sweeping shots of the vast universe. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney do a good job in this drama, but the star of the movie is the presentation of outer space. Paired with an extremely effective soundtrack including the use of silence, the visual brilliance of the piece shines through at all times. If this movie is still out in cinemas near you, you should try and catch it on the big screen!

As far as the aforementioned adaptations and sequels go, I thoroughly enjoyed the second instalment of the Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. My in-depth review can be found in this post. I also enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness due to the chemistry between its leads Chris Pine and Zachary as well as the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as their enemy.

Honorable mentions go to two movies I haven’t been able to catch yet, but which I’m looking forward to watching.. The new Coen brothers movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, has earned great reviews. The story of the young folk singer played by Oscar Isaac, who is desperately trying to make in New York, sounds intriguing and early reviews have been positive.

And last but not least is The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I’ll only be able to see the movie this Sunday, but my friends at the Uncanny Bookclub have released a whole bunch of posts about the second part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Check them out here! Trusting their judgement, I’m pretty sure I’m going enjoy the second part even more than the first one, which I loved.

I’m excited about the movies 2014 will bring. Studios have lined up another batch of YA adaptations (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars) and sequels (The Avengers 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). But there’s also going to be a new Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), David O. Russell (American Hustle) and Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel) movie coming out. Hopefully, we’ll also see new and exciting filmmakers enter the scene with original screenplays.

So, what were your favorite movies of the year? Which ones are you looking forward to on DVD? And which movies were among your disappointments?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Please also like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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Why Coming-of-Age Movies are the Best

On Monday, I saw “The Way, Way Back” at the Zurich Film Festival. The well-made and entertaining movie reminded me once again of why the genre of “Coming-of-Age” movies is my favorite.

According to the ever reliable Wikipedia, the term “Coming of Age” can refer to a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. This places the main protagonists of these movies in the age bracket between 15 and 25. In today’s post I’d like to highlight some of my favorite movies in the genre and show why I love this particular group of films.

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The Joy of going to the Cinema

I’ve written in-depth blog posts about books and video games a few times in this spot, so it’s time to take a look at the next fantastic form of entertainment: Movies and more specifically, watching them in a cinema. Summer is a weird time for movie fans. On the one hand, Hollywood normally goes all-in and releases their summer blockbusters with gigantic marketing budgets and a whole lot of name recognition. On the other hand, the weather outside is so beautiful that sitting in a dark room staring at an admittedly large screen doesn’t seem so attractive. With clouds making their first appearance in Switzerland after two weeks of clear sky, my friends and I took the opportunity to watch the heist movie “Now You See Me”.

I’m glad to say the quality of the movie experience in Switzerland has improved in the last few years, with ticket prices becoming slightly more affordable. Watching the well thought out illusions and tricks the magicians / bank robbers pulled off in the film on the big screen, made think about my appreciation of seeing movies at the cinema. The atmosphere of the surroundings is an important part of how I perceive and rate a movie after seeing it.

Star Wars – Episode 1 in 3D didn’t suddenly turn JarJar Binks into a less annoying character, but the big screen brought Anakin’s race to a whole new level compared to watching it on TV. With the special effects becoming more spectacular and complex with every passing year, movie theaters still are the best stages for movies to work their magic. The spectacular superhero movies, some of which I loved (Avengers, Iron Man, Batman by Nolan) and some of which I found rather poor (Man of Steel, Toby Maguire’s Spiderman), are still best viewed in the darkness of movie theaters including their bombastic sound environments.

Of course, it is not only the technical advantage which make going to the cinema one of my favorite pastimes. The habit of getting friends together, ready to see what kind of story the director and writers have planned out and how the actors will bring their characters to life, already gives the build-up to the movie a sense of excitement and wonder. And then, as soon as I’m sitting in my comfortable (depending on the theater) seat, the ad and previews commence. The trailers are one of the most important part of my cinema experience. They get me into the right mind set and show me a glimpse of what’s yet to come. It also signals the time to turn off your cellphone, making the cinema one of the only places nowadays where people actually are disconnected for 90 – 120 minutes. After the movie ends, it continues with discussions about the movie, especially if it was either spectacular or spectacularly bad and looking up actors and actresses on IMDB, making the movie stick with me for longer. I still remember the worst movie I saw in the cinema, while I couldn’t say which one was the worst I’ve seen on TV.

Unfortunately, living in a small country with a tiny movie market also means some of the smaller independent movies don’t make it here. Mostly this concerns coming-of-age movies or dramedys, which are loved by critics at Sundance. However, these films also transfer best to the small screen and are not the movies most of my friends enjoy. So I guess I can just wait for the DVD or iTunes release. Four of the top five movies I’m most looking forward to this year belong in this category: Don Jon, Joseph Gorden-Levitts directional debut; Short Term 12, with the stunning Brie Larson as the lead; The Way Way Back and The Spectacular Now, two coming-of-age films capturing the imagery I enjoy so much best. The only blockbuster I’m still waiting to come out is Thor 2, which will hopefully add another entertaining milestone to the Avengers movie universe.

How about you? Do you prefer watching movies at home or at the movies? Which movies are looking forward to? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to like, subscribe and share!

Sincerely yours,
Albert