Top Films of 2013

In preparation for the Oscars, presents, my 2nd Annual Top Films Blog!

I will countdown my personal top 10 with a little blurb about each. Remember this is not an objective attempt at "the best films of 2012" as much as a subjective list of my favourite films of the year. But I do have pretty darn good taste in movies. I will then list the 5 that just missed the cut, my 5 choices for family films, my top 5 superhero movies of the year and my picks for some of the top Academy Award categories.

Disclaimer: I have not seen every film of the year, so this is certainly not an entirely formed opinion. But I did watch 63 films that were released in 2013... so...anyway... here we go.

Disclaimer 2: May include some spoilers. Read on at your own risk!

10. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The general consensus seems to be that people enjoy this second installment of "The Hobbit" more than the first part. Unlike them, I enjoyed part 1, but agree that part 2 stepped it up a bit. I am totally biased in this selection because The Hobbit was my favourite book as a kid and I read it with my daughter before the first film came out. Peter Jackson is mainly using the book as a skeleton from which to tell a story with many changes that ties in better with the LOTR trilogy. I'm cool with that, I like the additions and changes, it makes the films something different than the book was. I love the character Bard in this film in particular, a man of honour and integrity. Plus, it was just a whole lot of fun!

9. The Croods

My favourite animated film of the year. What can I say? The whole father/daughter storyline really got to me (sniff, sniff). The story was such a great concept and the characters were developed well. It was engaging and I've seen it about 5 times and would totally watch it again and love it again! All Grug wanted was to keep his family safe, but his teenage daughter, Eep, feels trapped by all her Dad's rules. In the end Grug is willing to sacrifice himself to both protect his family and to give them the freedom they are longing for... it's pretty fantastic!

8. Nebraska

This is the last film I saw, which sometimes means I rank it higher than I should. I'm pretty confident this film belongs in my top 10 though! Bruce Dern really earned his Oscar nomination in this one as Woody. A husband and father who has mainly been distant and disengaged. His son, David, played by Will Forte who also does an excellent job, agrees to take him on a road trip to Nebraska to collect the $1,000,000 that Woody thinks he has won in a publishers sweepstakes. Along the way David learns a lot about the Father whom he really never knew. You can't help but to fall in love with Woody yourself as you get a glimpse into the story of a man who finds himself finally engaged and pursuing a dream after years of seeming like he had no dreams left.

7. Oz: The Great & Powerful

Such a great prequel to the Classic which tells the tale of the Wizard's arrival in Oz. A thoroughly entertaining film! Two messages had me hooked though. First of all, they are able to confront violence through non-violent means and win!! Secondly, through the entire movie runs a theme that says, "Being good is better than being great!" or "Goodness is better than Greatness"!!! Those "true rebel" elements are enough to make this one of my favorite's of the year!

6. 42

This film is the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball. Let me just say that Harrison Ford not receiving a "Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role" nomination for this film is a huge oversight!! (Why the Academy Awards seem unable to remember films that come out early in the year is beyond me!) This film shows some of the brutality of racism and the obstacles that Jackie needed to overcome to break the race-barrier in sports. Jackie was certainly strong enough to 'fight back', but had to learn to be strong enough to not fight back. Such a great film! Certainly a True Rebel tale of courage and wisdom.

5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I was truly blown away by this film. I've read all the books. There were no real surprises. The film makers though did such an amazing job of capturing the growing momentum towards social change and confronting injustice that happens in this fictitious future world. The corrupt Capitol and it's tools of oppression create the perfect villain as a group of 'victors' from the impoverished districts attempt to rise up, while oppressed themselves, to fight greed and tyranny. Katniss is becoming a great literary and film symbol of standing against oppression, just like she is for the people of the districts. I had to go see this one in the theatre twice because it so inspired me.

4. 12 Years A Slave

An absolute brutal film that is not for the faint of heart.  This film is a nice package. There was a blog that rightly pushed back a little. You're not going to see a movie "70 Years A Slave" anytime soon about someone who is born a slave and dies a slave. But it is based on a true story and certainly doesn't pull many punches about the horrid reality of slavery. This movie really exposes the commodification of people and the dehumanization involved in treating people as property. For me it demands that we realize that this practice is CURRENT and PRESENT. IT HAPPENS TODAY!! All of our humanity is at risk if we do not engage is a solution to this problem! (Strong language and content warning!)

3. The Way Way Back

The biggest hidden gem of the year! This story is about Duncan and the summer than changed everything. Duncan meets a couple of people during a summer with his Mom and her boyfriend who begin to help Duncan understand that he has value, has a voice and can engage his own life! As a youth mentor, this film hits me in all the right places. Every Duncan needs those people in their life who believe in them and help them know that they are not alone and they are loved!

2. Elysium

My science fiction pick of the year! Great science fiction doesn't really tell us about the future but helps us to explore the truth of the present.  Neill Blomkamp (Writer, Director) did that with "District 9" and now again with "Elysium". This film in particular explores the injustice in the  'access' of the wealthy to basics (like healthcare) that not everyone is granted access to. Then you add in spaceships and futuristic technology and stuff blowing up and you pretty much get AWESOMENESS as a result! (Strong language and content warning!)

1. Dallas Buyers Club

This is exactly the type of film that engages my emotions. Based on the true story, bull rider and general red-neck hick Ron Woodruff finds out that he is HIV positive in Dallas in 1985. While the main storyline is a great battle between people who are wanting to STAY ALIVE vs. the FDA and pharmaceutical companies who are trying to make a profit. The part that filled my heart was seeing Ron go from fear of the gay community to learning to embrace, build friendships and love the very people who he used to marginalize and belittle. A powerful tale about the transformation of the human heart. McConaughey and Leto are both amazing in this inspiring and heart-breaking tale. (Strong language and content warning!)


THE NEXT FIVE: (Films that just missed the cut)

Her - While I was critical at the concept of someone falling in love with a computer, the film develops this romance in very believable fashion.

The Wolf of Wall Street - Fantastic acting. Strong language and content warning but shows the grotesque nature of excess.

Captain Phillips - The entire movie is well done but so much more worth it to get to the last 5 minutes where Tom Hanks masterfully portrays the emotional release of someone who has faced great trauma with calmness and wisdom.

The Bling Ring - Another hidden gem. This movie follows a group of youth who begin to rob celebs homes while they are away. A great commentary on wanting to participate in the 'Hollywood Dream'. The question came to mind whether stealing a bit of excess was less moral than those who accumulated it in the first place.

Gravity - It's rare that a film makes me feel anxious, but this film did just that. I'm holding my breath again just thinking about it!



Oz: The Great and Powerful - Perhaps not for the youngest children because of intense action, my kids really enjoyed it and we were able to discuss the themes I mention above.

The Croods- see above

Frozen - Disney flips the script slightly on this one. "True Love" was not about love at first sight or about a "prince" who came to the rescue. True love can be found here in two sisters who are willing to sacrifice for one another. Awesome music too!

Despicable Me 2 - Lot of laughs, lots of fun! Gru is a great character to centre a franchise around. And who doesn't love the minions?

Monsters University - So rare for a Pixar film to be only 5th on my list. I see that as more of a testimony to how great the other films were than any criticism of Monsters U. I thought they were able to take the same "Monster" world and put a great new spin on it so that it felt like a completely new story!



Iron Man 3 - Tops my list mainly because of the relationship between Tony Stark and the kid, Harley. Great villain, great action, it is sad that this will be the final installment of Iron Man as a stand-alone character in film.

Wolverine - A dark tale (almost got an R rating). Wolverine has too really confront the pain of his 'immortality' and what it means that he will see all those who he loves die while he lives. Hugh Jackman has helped to create one of the greatest heroes in film history in my opinion.

Kick-Ass 2 - Strong language and content warning. I enjoyed this film way more than I thought I would and maybe more than I should.. that's all I will say about that.

Thor: The Dark World - The "Avenger Universe" for Marvel just keeps cranking out some of the greatest super-hero films.

Man of Steel - Easily the best Superman movie ever made. It is difficult to re-make Superman and make it feel like a new story but I think they did pretty much the best job any one could.



Best Picture - Dallas Buyer's Club - obviously, since I put it #1 in my list.

Best Director - Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Animated Film - The Croods (even though I know Frozen will win)

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role - Sandra Bullock - Gravity - Although it needs to be said I have not seen most of the nominated films in this category

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role - Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyer's Club - As much as it pains me to not vote for Leonardo DiCaprio who is amazing again in The Wolf of Wall Street. It is a travesty that Leo doesn't have an Oscar yet! This is actually an incredible group of nominees this year and I think Bruce Dern and Chiwetel Ejiofor also had Oscar-worthy performances.

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role - Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle (with a shout-out to Lupita Nyung'o in 12 Years A Slave)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role- Jared Leto - Dallas Buyer's Club (with a shout-out to Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street)

Cinematography - Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)


That's it for this year's movie blog. Feel free to post your own choices in the comments!

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