Best of 2013

Mud

Judging by the date, it’s either already 2014 or the calendar I bought is going in the trash. Either way, nothing is stopping us from holding on to the coattails of 2013 just a bit longer. After dissecting it from every angle, after looking at its trends and patterns, after reveling in its cinematic magic, it’s time to sit back and view it through a week’s worth of hindsight. Here, in one tantalizingly easy-to-use grouping, is our complete review of the best year of movies since the last one. Enjoy blowing off your day job and join us in our low-power time machine.

read more...

2013 reject awards

Another year, another creeping sense of dissatisfaction with the standard awards program. Sure it’s important to celebrate the best of the best of the best in the usual categories, but it all becomes a bit stale when the Oscars will be the dozenth major body to denote a best actor or cinematographer or score. Instead, we offer this alternative: a look at the strongest work of the movie year through the lens of odd trends and pure randomness. To wit, a header image that features our task-master-in-chief Neil Miller wondering if he forgot to send out invitations to the gala (he didn’t). We’re repeating an award from last year because you demanded it, but 2013 gave us enough weird and wonderfulness to fill up a whole new ballot otherwise. Please feel free to make up your own awards in the comments section.

read more...

2013review_deaths

2013 was a grim year to be watching movies. Maybe not in terms of box office grosses or in the output of quality films, but with subject matter, we’ve all been in a morbid mood for the past 12 months. Thanks to 2013, the “apocalypse comedy” is an officially sanctioned genre. This is the End, The World’s End and Rapture-Palooza all milked the end times (and the idea of everyone you’ve ever known and loved suffering a horrific death) for a few yuks. Likewise, the usual crop of award-winners this year is overrun with heroes struggling to overcome their own imminent demise. Where before we might have had an Argo or a Life of Pi in the mix, 2013 brought 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Fruitvale Station and Captain Phillips to the table. Yet in looking at a film specifically through the lens of death can shed new light on something we’ve all analyzed a thousand times over by now. 12 Years a Slave, despite being a step-by-step guide to mutilating an audience’s emotions, has relatively little on-screen killing. The ABCs of Death 2 has, unsurprisingly, a huge amount. The 13 deaths that follow are the year’s best, representing all the many emotions a cinematic demise can produce- grief, disgust, laughter, and even a little cathartic whooping here and there. And keep in mind that “best death” doesn’t necessarily mean “best film,” so the quality of movies may vary. It goes without saying, but spoilers ahead.

read more...

2013review_trailers

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets). Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time.  What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

read more...

2013review_critics

Before Midnight! Gravity! The Wolf of Wall Street! Fruitvale Station! The Great Beauty! Philomena! Frances Ha! Blue Jasmine! Spring Breakers! Nebraska! Dallas Buyers Club! The Wind Rises! Saving Mr. Banks! None of the thirteen critically acclaimed films above are on my list of the thirteen best films of 2013 below. Make of that what you will, but of the whopping 241 new releases I watched this year these are the thirteen that have stuck with me the strongest. That said, I did make a conscious effort to focus on U.S. releases for the list since I have a separate Top 13 for Best Foreign Language films. It’s been a fantastic year in cinema all around, and I could just as easily offered a list twice as long. Keep reading to see what I feel are the thirteen best movies of 2013.

read more...

2013review_comedies

If there’s one movie that speaks most to the sad state of comedy in 2013, it’s The Hangover Part III. It managed to copy the chemistry that made the Wolfpack a household name while evolving into a different animal altogether. The gags were angrier, more aggressive, and they shifted the tone from absurdity to despair. It’s a comedy that isn’t funny (much like The Comedy, which isn’t funny) and it offers some insight into the frustrations offered by modern movie humor. In our obligatory year-end retrospective, we’ve covered horror, documentaries, sci-fi/fantasy, and other categories, but even thinking of 13 movies meant for laughter (let alone the best baker’s dozen) is a difficult task this year because a general pall of mediocrity fogs the genre. The cinema is dominated by comedies that aren’t funny. There were studio efforts (Grown Ups 2, We’re The Millers, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) that fell completely flat, indie standouts (Frances Ha, Computer Chess) that were funny without busting guts, and experimental tinkering (Movie 43) that was just plain terrible. That’s not to say that there were no triumphs, but the amount of whiffs was truly disheartening, and one formula is causing the lion’s share of the problems.

read more...

2013: The YA Invasion Continues

If you hadn’t heard, 2013 is the year that a small indie production called The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring little-known commercial actress Jennifer Lawrence (am I saying that right?) stormed into theaters. In truth, the massive-scale production, bolstered by a months-long marketing campaign (step into a Subway sometime for a District 12 themed sandwich, because nothing screams “we’re actually starving” like footlongs), has earned over $600M worldwide to date, and is expected to reach $800M by the end of its theatrical run. This is also the year that everyone and their producer attempted to find the next Hunger Games franchise and fell completely, utterly flat. Line ‘em up: The Host, Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters and Ender’s Game all tried their hand at making the jump from page to screen, but nothing achieved anything near what Catching Fire created, both in terms of financial success and creative content.

read more...

2013review_scifi

This year promised a number of great original science fiction movies from Hollywood, and then it turned out most of them weren’t even good let alone great — the sort that left us with way too many unanswered questions regarding their plot holes. Meanwhile, in the fantasy genre, we continued to see the studios churning out one YA adaptation after another in the hopes of it being the next Hunger Games (or still the next Harry Potter or Twilight or even Star Wars in the case of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and ironically having no clue how to find the *magic* in the appeal of these kinds of stories. And of course there’s the ever-growing subgenre of superhero movies, which really only disappointed this year because they arrived in the wake of 2012′s The Avengers, not simply because most of the output was sequels (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; The Wolverine) that were merely okay rather than totally awesome. As I’ve noted in the past, I don’t consider Gravity to be sci-fi (even after learning that some tech in the film doesn’t exist yet), but I’ll let it be known that if I were to qualify the outer space thriller, I’d put it in the number 6 slot on account of its gripping visual storytelling and little else. As for another popular choice (one that made a few FSR staffer’s best of lists, as well as our democratically voted top 10), Pacific Rim might have made this […]

read more...

2013: A Year of Girls Behaving Badly

While YA girls have had their fun saving their families from constant supernatural and dystopian peril, a new sort of teenage girl has emerged in cinema, fueled by the age-old mantra of “live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.” 2013 was the year that young women found a different kind of representation in film through characters who took a different approach to life. Without the YA label, there was a decent crop of films centered upon teenage girls who not only lived in the real world, but also experienced real dilemmas (as for realistic, we can get into that later). Free from being the heroine that the people desperately needed and the love interest that some bland boy thought he deserved, these new teenage girls were free to be – and eagerly were – selfish, brutal and unapologetically uninterested in saving anyone but themselves. And why shouldn’t they be? After years of being relegated to the punch lines and stereotypes of the teen comedies that populated the 1990s and early 2000s, then taking up residence in the present day literary dramas, it was time for a change. 2013 was the year of girls behaving badly — and for being portrayed as real people on screen.

read more...

Best Movies of 2013: Staff Picks

Survey any group of 10 to 15 people from different cities around the world about their favorite movies of the year and you’re sure to get some varied responses. So much goes into the accumulation of our favorites in any given year of cinema. It depends upon what is available where we live, what our social circle is talking about and what we have time for on any given Friday night. It also depends heavily on one’s commitment to seeing as many movies as possible, so as to curate a well-rounded list. That last part is what makes the members of the Film School Rejects staff a group whose lists are worth reading: we all eat, sleep and live movies. So our lists, however varied, don’t just represent a few good movies, they are evidence of a year of ups-and-downs. Evidence of blood, sweat and tears shed in dedication to the cause of weeding out the best of cinema 2013. It all leads us here, to our annual Staff Picks. This year, we not only asked our staffers to each provide their five best movies of the year, we have used those lists to create an aggregated list of the Ten Best Movies of 2013. The aggregated list includes not just the lists you’ll see herein, but also that of our lead critic Rob Hunter, whose individual list will be published next week in the Critic’s Picks article. All in all, the staff nominated 31 different films among the best […]

read more...

2013.deepcuts

There are big movies and there are little movies. I mean that entirely in the sense of budget and release, promotion and theatrical scope. In the United States we talk most about our wide studio releases, then homegrown smaller independent films and the big-name foreign imports. But that leaves quality filmmaking to fall through the cracks. Movies that, for one reason or another, no one seems to be talking about. There are overlooked gems, and then there are the deep cuts. The homegrown niche dramas, the Irish horror flicks, the Latin American comedies, the Scandinavian experiments in nonfiction? This year saw some extraordinary unheralded work from abroad, alongside some excellent films that came from unexpected domestic places. Here are thirteen of them.

read more...

Best Foreign Films of 2013

Cinema is a worldwide artform, and as such many of the year’s best and most exciting films often come from overseas. Quality is no guarantee of visibility though as subtitled films rarely get a wide reception in American theaters, and worse, many don’t even make it to our shores until a year or more after opening in their own country. That’s the kind of factor that makes ranking foreign language films a difficult and inconsistent process. I try and go by actual year of release when possible, but for obvious reasons I’m not adverse to including entries that made their U.S. debut this year, too. But these are details… let’s get to the movies! Genre films rarely make “best of” lists like this , but I make no apologies for their inclusion here. Best is best, and if my best happens to include a character named The Queen of Saliva so be it..

read more...

2013review_docs

What a year for nonfiction cinema. The power and the poetry and the perspective of documentaries in 2013 all reached groundbreaking levels. Films are changing minds, maybe some industries, perhaps even eventually some national histories. They’re illustrating imaginations and emotions and memories in ways that expand the mode beyond realism to points of greater truth. We saw things this year that we’ve simply never seen on film before, and we also embraced the very familiar through totally fresh points of view. Whether it was a story of one family’s secret or of the shockingly unhidden yet unexplored travesty of a whole country, or of an investigation into the covert dealings of our own military or of the previously unspoken complexities of a serious issue of medical and moral controversy, the best docs of this year dove deep into the unknown and came out offering astonishing tales and testimonies. Or they blew fiction films out of the water in terms of their cinematic spectacle and narrative creativity, their capability to depict romance and suspense and humor and even a sense of magic. Below are the 13 titles that Nonfics has democratically determined to be the greatest U.S. theatrical releases of the year. Compiled and tallied from the individual lists of columnist Robert Greene and critics Daniel Walber, Dan Schindel and Landon Palmer, as well as Nonfics Managing Editor Christopher Campbell, the selections do well to represent the bounty of varied works we had this year that continue to broaden the scope […]

read more...

2013.bestshortfilms

If you aren’t plugged in to what’s going on with short films, you’re missing out on an insane amount of outstanding entertainment. People talk about how difficult it was to whittle down Best Of lists for features this year (Her or Gravity or 12 Years a Slave?!) but after watching almost 3,000 shorts in 12 months, it feels like the depth of talent is growing in a big way on the small side. As a testament to the medium’s freedoms, more and more feature filmmakers are returning to it. No longer simply a calling card or an early stepping stone, shorts have an undeniable power coupled with an infinite platform that some are just now discovering. They’re also strange to categorize. For some, the internet is a red carpet while for others, it’s a final stop after touring festivals for years. As such, some of the best short films of 2013 were made a couple years ago. The focus is certainly on new projects, but some don’t find an audience quickly even as their magic deserves mention. Plus, there are 2013 movies like Noah that would have made this list, but are now unavailable (in most cases — including Noah‘s — because studios are keeping the work offline in order to have well-earned contractual conversations). But instead of getting bogged down in specifics, please let your mind wander for a short while.

read more...

2013review_horror

Boo. Now turn off the lights, pull your feet in under the covers, and keep reading for a look at our choices for the Best Horror Movies of 2013.

read more...

2013review_filmmaker

If you were talking about Steve McQueen five years ago, it was probably about Bullitt jumping over Nazi barricades on a motorcycle and stealing art from museums. Either that, or you were plugged into the museum scene and had an eye for experimental short films. While you were failing to stop Thomas Crown from pilfering priceless work, you were discovering a new Steve McQueen. The rest of us had to wait until 2008. In the past five years, the new McQueen has translated two decades of success within docent-tinged walls into indie film domination and, now, mainstream emergence without compromise. That’s a simmering, meteoric rise into a cultural place that few filmmakers ever go. The new McQueen was born a year after the old McQueen became Crown and Bullitt, but in a small amount of time, he’s solidified himself as a cinematic voice to take very, very seriously. In other words, if you’re talking about Steve McQueen today, there’s an odds on chance that you’re dissecting Shame or Hunger or 12 Years a Slave.

read more...

2013review_music

This year brought moviegoers an array of music that ranged from uplifting (About Time “How Long Will I Love You”) to depressing (The Great Gatsby‘s “Young and Beautiful”) to catchy (Inside Llewyn Davis‘ “Please Mr. Kennedy”) to nostalgic (Saving Mr. Banks‘ “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”) to just plain out there (Spring Breakers‘ “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”). Whether it was a film about throwing (or attending) the best party of your life or one about intense family drama, the music pushed stories to new heights, whether it was an Alien rapping on the beach or two mothers pushing their children to the breaking point. Film music is no longer just orchestration and catchy pop songs – it is dubstep and bands you would normally hear on the radio taking to the conductor’s stand. Simply put – it is an exciting time for music in film because there are no rules. Now it’s time to relive some of the best music moments from this past year with scores from composers new to the scene and those continuing to churn out groundbreaking music, as well as soundtracks that featured songs from bands and artists who discovered new talents while collaborating.

read more...

Criterion 2013

The Criterion Collection is an ever-expanding accumulation of canonical works of cinema. Yet Criterion’s selections don’t only represent deliberate attempts to construct a pristine archive from cinema’s past, but also force a conversation with cinema’s present. These releases (and the cult of anticipation that develops around them) produces a distinctive contrast between the best of cinema history against the spoils of the current moment. And while 2013 did introduce us to some very good films (three of which made it into the Collection), the best selections of cinema’s past always have a lot of instructive lessons to offer the smorgasbord of cinema’s present. So here are some useful pieces of advice that we think current filmmaking should take from this year’s crop of Criterion releases.

read more...

Discoveries of 2013

It’s late December, and that means two things: your sudden panicked realization that you haven’t completed your holiday shopping, and movie lists. And like every December, FSR is devoting numerous posts to the very best and worst (but mostly best) that 2013 had to offer at the movies. But as movie fans, we don’t only see movies that were released in the year we see them – we might dig into classics and curiosities via online streaming, repertory showings, or simple chance encounters. Year-end lists may summarize the breadth of movies released in theaters throughout the calendar year, but they don’t necessarily reflect the yearly consumption of a dedicated movie fan. To many movie lovers, going to a movie theater can be surprisingly rare, and watching movies follows less of a calendar schedule and works a bit more like time travel: one day you’re in 2013, and the next you’re in 1950s Hollywood, followed by a brief stint in 1980s central Florida, and then back to 2013 again. Furthermore, several distributors (Drafthouse, Milestone, Janus) are increasingly devoting their energy not to releasing new movies, but to reviving under-seen gems. For some of you, 2013 may have had little to do with your movie experience in 2013. So I’ve concocted an alternative year-end list: the 13 (er, 14) most memorable movies I saw in 2013 that weren’t actually released this year. Not necessarily the best, but the movies that most surprised me – the movies that reminded me that no matter […]

read more...

2013review_action

I’ve always been far more partial to action accomplished via choreography than with CGI shenanigans. There’s a place for both, obviously, but I’m more impressed by the agile movement of bodies than I am by the placement of pixels. Unfortunately, fight scenes unassisted by CGI or wire-work are becoming a bit of a rarity these days. That said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with action scenes, big or small, that are created with the aid of technology or that eschew fisticuffs all together for exciting gunplay or vehicular hijinks. This year’s best action films are a mix of all of the above and include both domestic and international movies. What’s not included? Movies featuring superheroes. It wasn’t an intentional slight, believe me, but when it came time to rank which films offered up the most legitimately exciting and visceral thrills the thirteen below beat out the likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and others. Remember, this isn’t a ranking of movies but of the action in the movies, meaning while these aren’t all necessarily great films they do represent the best action to have hit screens this year. To that end, keep reading for a look at our choices for the Best Action Movies of 2013.

read more...
NEXT PAGE  
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
SXSW 2014
Game of Thrones reviews
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3