One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 2013 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 2013.
Well, it’s been a long ride, but we’ve reached the final year of our project. 2013 gave us a visually stunning film set in outer space, as well as a fantastic ensemble piece directed by David O. Russell. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
Her — 9 points
The Wolverine — 8 points
Man of Steel — 7 points
Iron Man 3 — 6 points
Inside Llewyn Davis — 5 points
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — 5 points
The Way, Way Back — 4 points
12 Years a Slave — 4 points
Dallas Buyers Club — 4 points
Nebraska — 4 points
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues — 3 points
Elysium — 3 points
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters — 3 points
Thor: The Dark World — 3 points
The Conjuring — 2 points
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — 2 points
Star Trek Into Darkness — 2 points
This is the End — 2 points
Frances Ha — 1 point
Jodorowsky’s Dune — 1 point
Short Term 12 — 1 point
World War Z — 1 point
The World’s End — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 2013, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
3 (tie). The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
10 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Aaron George at No. 2
Aaron George: We remember when we saw his eye. The gold glimmered, encasing it in a royal frame that only began to wet our appetite. We were waiting, ready to experience his god-like presence. While no surprise, his arrival trumpeted a heaven-like forty minutes that would never, ever be forgotten. All hail the lord under the mountain, all hail his might and majesty, all hail Smaug.
He moved with smoothness and grace in and out of his treasure, only pausing to bulldoze and intimidate Bilbo with his slivery voice. A voice which, while some may say sounds like an angel, angel is too weak a word to describe its beauty. In fact the English language is woefully unequipped for the sheer pureness of Smaug’s sound. His scales glistened, his wings wowed and his incredible intensive invincibility all brought tears to our eyes as we were lucky, no privileged, to spend event a fleeting moment in his presence. To quote the late great Joan Osborne “If God had a name, what would it be?” It would be Smaug, Joan.
Look, what can be said about these movies at this point? You can’t say they’re bad. In fact, they are all excellently made movies. However, in the tall shadow cast by the original Lord Of The Rings trilogy, they are the Sackville-Bagginses of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth odyssey. If you enjoy the lore of Tolkien’s work, then the trilogy, and this film as an extension, are fun trips back to a familiar world. If you don’t, I can see how some would find it drawn out, with too many characters added for no reason and totally devoid of all the heart the originals boasted. In this dragon worshiper’s opinion, The Desolation Of Smaug is the best of the new trilogy. I would have cut down the annoying part of Bard and his dumb family and added more Smaug, however. He is the best dragon to ever grace the silver screen and his inclusion alone lifts this one above the others. In fact I would gladly pay/finance another prequel, this time where we follow Smaug as he lays waste to all in his path: a terrifying and beautiful reminder that we are all Hobbits next to the beauty of a dragon.
3 (tie). Prisoners
10 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Greg Phillips at No. 1
Nick Duke: There are films that you sit down to watch in hopes of being thrilled or entertained. However, there are also films that are uncomfortable to watch, the ones that make you shift awkwardly in your seat. Prisoners might be the most uncomfortable film I’ve seen in years.
It tells the story of two young girls who go missing on Thanksgiving and the subsequent race against time to find where they went and if there’s any chance they might still be alive. Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard play the fathers of the two children, who quickly become dissatisfied with the police investigation. The initial main suspect, a mentally handicapped teen, is released due to lack of evidence, leading Jackman’s character to take things into his own hands. It is here that the film starts to become increasingly difficult to watch, as we see just what lengths these two fathers will go in order to do what they believe gives them the greatest chance of finding their daughters. It forces you to ask yourself if you would go that far to do the same and ultimately, was it worth it?
In addition to Jackman and Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal gives yet another fantastic performance as the police detective leading the search for the two girls. His character is quiet, yet has an obvious rage beneath the surface that sets him as the perfect contrast to Jackman’s outward anger. The plot takes some twists and turns along the way, but ultimately leaves you with a thrilling finale and one of the most skillful ambiguous endings I’ve seen. It’s definitely worth a watch, but it may be one you only visit once.
3 (tie). Frozen
10 points, ranked by 2 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George and Kati Price at No. 1
Kati Price: Disney’s Frozen is one of the best Disney movies of late. I wasn’t a fan of some of the more recent princess films like Brave and Tangled. Frozen is a completely different story, however. Frozen takes us on a magical journey into the world of two sisters who have lost their parents. One sister had a very powerful gift, yet sometimes a curse. She can make things become Frozen. She can make it snow and turn things to ice. This is a fun gift as she and her sister get to play in the snow and build snowmen; until Elsa, the older sister causes Anna to get hurt. After this, Elsa and Anna don’t get to see each other much. When Elsa does get to come out of her room, her gift is revealed to her kingdom and it is not accepted as a gift but as a curse. Elsa runs away and builds an ice castle for herself. This is where the famous Let It Go song, that you have no doubt heard by now, happens. Her sister finds her (and true love along the way), and she comes home where they live happily ever after.
This film is so spectacular as an animated film. The music is some of the best Disney has had and the story line is cute yet very serious at times. (The two sisters lose their parents.) It is just a very fun film. I first learned of this film when I was on vacation in Disney World this past year, but up until I saw the film had no idea what it was about. I never saw a preview or anything. I was very pleasantly surprised at this film. I am also a big fan of Idina Menzel. Like I said I went into this movie with very little prior knowledge so I wasn’t expecting her to be in it, but as soon as she started singing Let It Go, I immediately recognized the iconic voice from things such as her starring role in Wicked.
I know it’s easy to get burnt out on films, especially when they take the world by storm as Frozen has, but I encourage you to see it if you haven’t. You are likely sick of Let It Go by now, but when heard in the context of the film, it is quite moving. If you have seen it, I don’t have to tell you to watch it again because odds are that you own it by now, even if you do not have children (no shame in that). There is nothing I can find to complain about the film itself. My only complaint is about how huge it has become, to the point that it has turned some people off to the film. Obviously, the target audience is small children, especially little girls, but children of all ages – the young at heart and adults with a kid inside included – can enjoy this film. With all its rave reviews, it is no surprise to me that it made it on our list.
15 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Steve Wille at No. 1
Andrew Riche: Although his career has suffered a few up’s and down’s for a variety of reasons, one of my favorite directors in the last decade has been David O. Russell. He started out in the 90’s doing controversial but engrossing comedies in 1994’s Spanking the Monkey and 1996’s Flirting With Disaster, then embarked on studio fare with 1999’s daring and unconventional war film Three Kings. However, Russell sullied his reputation as a collaborator for years due to well-publicized spats with George Clooney on the set of Three Kings and with Lily Tomlin on the set of his existentialist rom com I Heart Huckabees. Those accounts of being a toxic personality along with Huckabees’ mixed reviews led to Russell’s bottoming out as a director when his comedy Nailed had production halted several times in 2008, unlikely ever to be released.
But through the failures that came with the heavy expectations of many fresh, frustratingly creative directors that emerged in the new millennium (some of whom never recovered), David O. Russell bounced back in a big way with 2010’s The Fighter, which earned several Oscar nominations. Despite his intense collaborative nature, Russell is known to get the most out of his actors and actresses, and The Fighter was a perfect example of that as Christian Bale and Melissa Leo both won Academy Awards as Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively. That point was driven home even harder when, two years later, Silver Linings Playbook earned an Oscar nomination for all four acting categories for the first time since 1981. (The only winner was Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress.) Only a year later, Russell became the only director to accomplish this with two different films, the latter being 2013’s American Hustle. Based loosely on the true story of the FBI’s Abscam sting on corrupt businessmen and politicians in the late 70’s, Eric Warren Singer’s screenplay was originally titled American Bullshit before it was later renamed after Russell hopped on board. The story follows two veteran con artists Irving and Sydney (Bale and Adams) who are forced after getting nabbed to work with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) on a major sting operation that goes all the way up to Camden, NJ, mayor Carmine Polito (Renner). Throw in Irving’s foul-mouther wife (Lawrence), a phony Arab sheikh played by Michael Pena, and DiMaso’s no-frills boss played by Louis C.K., and you have a great cast unafraid to take creative chances as the stakes in DiMaso’s case reach the point of no return with severe consequences.
Thanks to Russell’s awesome string of success earning awards and nominations with his two previous films, American Hustle had no problem getting off the ground and finding big names for key roles. Among the primary players, Russell cast a lot of familiar faces from The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook from Amy Adams to Christian Bale to Bradley Cooper to Jennifer Lawrence (The only main actor who had previously never worked with Russell was Jeremy Renner). Russell’s films revolve around two key components that interweave one another in many ways: The prevailing theme in his stories of inner dysfunction and accepting our flaws, and the innate ability to mold well balanced ensembles an eclectic mix of names. In the hands of many others, a movie starring these five men and women who have been well around the blockbuster block on a smaller budget and with little turnaround would be an impossible task, but Russell’s familiarity and liberties for improvisation for different takes lent well to the production of American Hustle. Although it is the most studio-friendly of projects for a personable and emotionally driven director like David O. Russell, I consider American Hustle my favorite of his films, and in his hands as he juggles a wildly talented variety of actors, the film’s outdated content could not have been done any better or with more modern relevance. That may have been the greatest con of all in this film.
24 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Nick Duke and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Andrew Woltman: From the moment you put on your glasses to the moment the end credits come on the screen, you are completely invested in this story. You never know quite what’s going to happen next, and just when you think you know exactly what is going on, Alfonso Cuarón throws you a total curveball. It is aptly called a science fiction thriller, for you will always be at the edge of your seat, and if you’re like me, you’ll be biting your nails in anticipation of the next moments.
Sandra Bullock gives her most powerful performance to date. She displays organic character growth across the spectrum of the film, and gives you a relatable sense of loss and fear. I doubt anyone reading has ever been stranded in space, but I have a feeling this is the most realistic depiction we’ll ever get.
The always welcome (sans Batman & Robin) George Clooney lays all of his cards on the table too. He keeps his calm throughout the situations, shines wisdom though his cool demeanor, and isn’t afraid to try to lighten the mood. Robert Downey Jr was originally cast in this role, but I feel as though Clooney does a little more to make the role his own than Robert could have.
I don’t normally discuss the cinematography of films in my reviews, but it was too notable to ignore in this film. There are shots that last upwards of 10 minutes without cutting. They are absolutely seamless. The camera work on this film is nothing short of remarkable and transcendent of any movie I’ve seen so far. In my eyes, it is a lock for the Oscar.
The visual effects are masterful. For obvious reasons, they couldn’t actually film in outer space, yet if you were to watch this film with the mindset of a person in the 1920’s, you would swear they did. The layout, the earth, the shuttles, the…well everything looks so well crafted, and realistic.
Gravity was my favorite film of 2013, and quite possibly one of the best ever.
That does it for 2013. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see a very special followup project from our panel!