It is January, folks! Which means we have just concluded the long but rewarding run that is award season, and rewarding it was. Typically, this means that the general movie-going public and the selected members of the Academy will be focused on the year's "best" films. With the revelation of the Oscar nods only two weeks away, there is mad speculation on what is in and what is out. For those selected few who make it in, it is a special time indeed; however, they are not by any stretch of the imagination the finite "best" films of 2013, for this past year was indeed a good one for movies. In case you may have missed any of them, and hopefully you did not, here is a short list of just a few of the great movies that likely won't be seeing any of that hot, Oscar action come March.
5.) You're Next
Talking more specifically, 2013 was a good year for horror movies, laying claim to three of the top four most profitable films of the year. Movies like The Purge, Insidious: Chapter 2, and The Conjuring, which set a record for the largest opening of an original R-rated horror movie, lit up box offices throughout the year and none, perhaps, more tasteful than Adam Wingard's You're Next. With a nice balance of black humor and good, ol' fashioned slicing and dicing, not to mention the aid of a couple witty nods to classic horror films such as John Carpenter's Halloween, this film shines not only as a bright spot for horror movies of 2013, but for horror movies within the past decade.
4.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Usually I do not include movies that are based off of popular young adult novels in my "Best of" lists; however, I feel I must make an exception for the exceptional adaptation of the 75th Annual Hunger Games. Not only is there significantly less shaky cam this time around, but virtually everything has been improved upon from the disappointing original. From the writing, which now has Katniss trying to adjust to normal life all the while suffering PTSD from having killed kids in the games; to the introduction of enticing new characters; and basic character development, most notably the increased presence of Donald Sutherland as President Snow which helps the audience more to identify a face to the evil and ultimately help round out the story arc. Everything about this standout sequel is vamped up to exciting new levels, only to leave you wanting more.
3.) The World's End
Move over, The Lord of the Rings, there's a new king on the throne. Britain's own Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (aka Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg) top off their Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy in intoxicating fashion with the long-awaited The World's End. In keeping with common themes throughout the trilogy like non-genealogical bonding and being true to yourself, World's End is a bolder step with higher-end special effects and a larger, talented assemble. However, it maintains the wit, humor, and charm fans have come to expect out of the Cornettor films. The jury is still out on where exactly this new installment will rank among the previous Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz installments; regardless, the crew's take on the science fiction is just as fun and infectious.
Again, 2013 was a good year for movies and one actor in particular is both a cause as well as a benefactor of the effects. Remember what I said about award season? For the next couple months there will be a lot of talk about Matthew McConaughey's Oscar-worthy performance in Dallas Buyer's Club. Not taking anything away from his terrific accomplishment there, McConaughey gives an equally inspired performance as the title character in the quirky, Southern charmer Mud. Reese Witherspoon also gives one of her more earnest performances in a long while as Mud's love interest while co-star Tye Sherridan shines as a young romantic who takes it upon himself to fight for true love.
1.) Fruitvale Station
Much like Mud, what makes Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station so special are the performances. Michael B. Jordan gives the performance of his young career as Oscar Grant III, a former drug peddler in the Bay Area trying to turn his life around for the sake of his girlfriend and young daughter. While ultimately heart-wrenching, the film boasts some of the most realistic performances from one of the best assemble casts of the year, including two terrific supporting recitals from Melonie Diaz as Oscar's girlfriend and Octavia Spencer as his mother. Despite all the heat Coogler's film is taking from critics who claim that the events are drastically skewed in order to win audience favor (when aren't they?), its emotionally tugging performances are enough to make this not only one of the best overlooked films of 2013, but one of the best period.
There you have it. Come March 2nd and you are sitting at home on your couch watching Ellen Degeneres and she introduces all of the nominees for Best Feature through the power and majesty of musical number (let's be honest, is it ever anything else?), just remember that those films are not the only films worth of being called "The Best of 2013."