Clearly, both Ana and Thea are bananas, and in addition to reading and reviewing obscene amounts of books, we also obsess over multiple television shows, movies, video games, and all other manner of geekery. With that in mind, we needed to create ANOTHER list (we are list makers, yes we are) for our end of the year celebration. We give you our very own BEST OF THE REST (everything that isn’t a book).
I apologize in advance for the length of this post.
Best Movies of 2013
I watch a lot of movies, and I watch a lot of television. It’s actually a shameful amount of film and TV. Here’s my list of favorite films released in 2013:
10. Warm Bodies
One of my favorite books of 2010 came to life in a very funny, heartfelt film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet for the zombie era in 2013. Yeah, the movie isn’t that much like the book – but they are both wonderful in their very different ways. (BONUS: Gotta love the tongue in cheek soundtrack, from Guns n’ Roses’ “Patience” to Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman.”)
9. Man of Steel
I know a lot of people didn’t like Man of Steel, and certainly I can admit that the film has some significant issues. That said, I still enjoyed it very much, and there are some truly awesome high notes: that opening sequence on a dying Krypton, the first time Superman tests his ability and gleefully bounds across a frozen tundra, to name two favorites. Also, Michael Shannon as Zod? BRILLIANT.
8. The Heat
Sandra Bullock + Melissa McCarthy team up and open a can of whoopass on everyone in this hilarious cop comedy. Sure, it’s not a perfect movie, but you gotta love these two very awesome ladies tearing up the screen in a funnier female version of The Other Guys.
7. Pacific Rim
I confess that when I first saw the previews for Pacific Rim – which featured generic transformer-y looking robots punching monsters without any real allusion to the storyline – I wasn’t thrilled. BUT then I saw the more detailed previews that mentioned intriguing things like “Drift Compatibility” and showed some awesome ladies piloting Jaegers and fighting Kaiju – and I was hooked. Pacific Rim is a an action-packed film spectacle that incorporates humor alongside some wacky science fictional elements, and manages to pull it off (mostly). Probably my favorite true summer blockbuster of the year.
6. Europa Report
This one I was not expecting at all. After watching so many subpar true space-based science fiction films this year (Last Days on Mars, I’m looking at you), I had tempered, mild expectations for Europa Report… but WOW did this movie surprise me. Reminiscent of Stephen Baxter’s Titan (except, ya know, it explores the Jovian Europa and not the Saturnine moon Titan), Europa Report at first glance seems to be your standard space exploration gone terribly wrong flick. Well, to be fair, it is that film – but with great visual style, strong performances, and a refreshing lack of sentimentality or cheap scares. I truly loved this movie and hope more people give it a chance (especially now that it’s on Netflix!).
5. Iron Man 3
If Pacific Rim was the rock ’em, sock ’em summer blockbuster of 2013, Iron Man 3 is the superhero movie of the year. THIS has been the Iron Man I’ve been waiting for. Iron Man 3 is deeper exploration of the character behind Tony Stark’s irritatingly glib persona; a superhero struggling with PTSD following the traumatic events of The Avengers. I love that Pepper finally gets some standout moments of her very own in this movie, too, and I take my metaphorical hat off to Jon Favreau for giving us the ONLY acceptable iteration of The Mandarin. Sure, there are some plot holes and annoyances (anyone else ask themselves what Edward Nygma was doing in this universe at the beginning of the film?), but overall? Iron Man 3 totally rocks, and is in this viewer’s opinion the best Iron Man film to date.
4. You’re Next
Forget Insidiuous Chapter 2 (ridiculous) or The Conjuring (SO cheesy and actually sleep-inducing – by that I mean I literally fell asleep in the theater watching it) – the best horror movie I saw this year was You’re Next. It’s a home invasion horror film – except the home being invaded includes booby traps and twists (beyond the usual sadistic strangers wanting to kill people motif that permeates the subgenre). It’s kinda like Home Alone (or that end scene from Skyfall) meets Die Hard meets Ils. Seriously. It’s hilarious and brilliant and scary and features an awesome heroine, and I loved it very much. (Can it be released on blu-ray already?!)
This documentary – the story of Tilikum the Orca who killed his trainer at SeaWorld – is eye-opening, terrifying, and painfully sad. It details the horrific living conditions that led to the whale’s actions (and the subsequent cover-story from SeaWorld). This is an important documentary, and one that I recommend everyone watch (along with The Cove).
You’ve heard all the hype, and it is absolutely deserved: Gravity is the jaw-dropping, heart-in-throat spectacle that I dreamed it would be. Alfonso Cuaron (who has been one of my favorite directors since A Little Princess, Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men) has created a masterpiece with Gravity. It’s a story about adversity and the very human will to survive, encapsulated in the most unforgiving of environs. Yes, the physics isn’t quite right (thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson) but it doesn’t matter because Gravity is so arresting, so achingly well-acted, so visually stunning. If Sandra Bullock doesn’t win all the awards for her – pardon the critic cliche but I think the occasion calls for it – tour-de-force performance, I will be heartbroken. If you splurge at the theater one time this year, do it for Gravity – this is a film that you actually must see in in IMAX 3D.
1. Catching Fire
As much as I loved Gravity, there’s only one film that has inspired me to watch it in the theater multiple times since its release (yes, I am one of those people who watch movies multiple times in the theater): Catching Fire. I loved The Hunger Games with wholehearted abandon, even with its stylistic issues and flaws, but Catching Fire was my favorite book of the trilogy and I had such high expectations for this second film. Thankfully, the movie delivered. Hell, it KILLED it. Jennifer Lawrence is the Katniss of my dreams – her portrayal is the right amount of abrasive and tough-girl, but so expressive and vulnerable at the same time. Her Katniss never once treading into one-note, cliched, martyred hero territory (which, let’s be honest, would have been the case in a less capable actor’s hands). Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta, Woody Harelson’s Haymitch, and Elizabeth Banks’ Effie grow beautifully in this second film – and new additions Joanna and Finn are perfectly cast.
But Catching Fire is really all about Katniss – and I am so full of fist-pumping joy that this film, starring a brilliant, intelligent, capable heroine, is one of the highest-grossing films of the year. THIS is the on-screen heroine I have been waiting for, that I want to rally behind, that I will follow anywhere.
Because what list of mine could just be limited to 10 picks? I also watched and enjoyed the following films very much this year and whole-heartedly recommend them:
- The Purge – A truly dystopian society, and a truly horrific and effective sleeper film.
- Elysium – Though it’s not of the same caliber as District 9, this sophomore film from Neill Blomkamp asks provocative, important questions about immigration, healthcare and human rights via the allegory of a post-apocalyptic, broken world.
- Skyfall – I’m not big on Bond, but Skyfall with creepy Javier Bardem and Home Alone in Scotland completely won me over. More like this, please.
- The World’s End – A surprisingly sad, poignant, but still hilarious end of the world, and to a much-loved trilogy of films. I love that Nick Frost gets to be the real hero in this movie, too.
- Devil’s Pass – Found footage horror is SO passe, but this fictionalized documentary about the Dyatlov Pass incident is surprisingly scary and X-Files-y in the best way. Totally recommended for winter Netflix viewing.
- The moments with Smaug + Bilbo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – because it’s SHERLOCK and WATSON under the mountain, y’all!
- The ending of Frozen – On the whole, this isn’t one of Disney’s finest in my opinion – SORRY! – but I love the message of the movie and the way that it ends so very much. YAY SISTER LOVE!
Best TV Shows of 2013
Ahh, television. Thanks to the wonder of Netflix (and Hulu Plus, and my recently cleaned-out DVR), I have been able to catch up on old shows AND binge-watch new ones. BE WARNED: I have some love-hate relationships with the shows on this list, to be expanded upon in my Airing of Grievances later this week. But I am getting ahead of myself once more! Without further ado, here are my favorite shows of 2013:
10. The Americans
The Americans follows two KGB agents, implanted in suburban America during the crux of the Cold War – this pair is so deep undercover, they hard to know where their loyalties actually lie anymore. The show starts off on pretty cheesy ground, but quickly picked up the pace and wormed its way onto my Must Watch DVR list. Keri Russell steals the show as the tough-as-nails, no-bullshit spy-cum-suburban mom – it is her emotional toughness and resilience that makes The Americans so enticing (in my opinion). I’m excited for season 2.
9. Orphan Black
I have to thank Ana for turning me on to this one, because I certainly wouldn’t have heard of or watched it otherwise. Orphan Black is the story of an edgy street-smart con-artist named Sarah, who assumes the identity of a woman who commits suicide – and who happens to be identical in appearance to Sarah. The rabbit hole goes deeper and darker, though, as Sarah realizes she’s one of many clones – and that someone is killing them off. Actor Tatiana Maslany is AMAZING, playing several different roles to perfection (I have a new woman-crush). Bring it on, season 2!
DEAR SEASON 3 of HOMELAND, there are so many THINGS I want to say to you, so many moments that had me ripping my hair out with frustration and anger… but at the end of the day, I think the show finally did what it should have done long ago. In the end, this season’s twists and its overall arc are brilliant – even if I kinda hated the show at the same time. Suffice it to say, my relationship with Homeland is complicated. I have NO idea what next season will look like, but I’ll be there to give it a shot.
7. Game of Thrones
Need I elaborate on this past season of GoT? The Red Wedding. Enough said.
6. Doctor Who
As with Homeland, I have plenty of feels and issues with this particular cycle of Doctor Who. Beyond the fact that I’m not crazy about Clara (I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll ever warm up to her), the last season as a whole felt weirdly disjointed and superficial, didn’t it? “The Name of the Doctor” episode was a bit of a let down, as was the majority of the Christmas Special (excluding the sob-inducing emotional ending). And yet…despite all my gripes and frustration with Moffatt and the show, “The Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary special was positively amazing (thanks to the combined brilliance of John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith). Truly, Matt Smith is brilliant. I will always remember when you were my doctor, dear Raggedy Man, and you will be missed.
5. American Horror Story: Coven
This is a controversial pick, and I’m sure plenty of folks disagree with me on this one. But for the first time, I felt like American Horror Story lived up to its potential. The third season arc (or third story in the twisted anthology, if you prefer) follows a female centric, multi-ethnic cast – witches and magic workers, who are dying out, and who must fight for their very survival. There are truly horrific and triggering scenes aplenty in this show, including gang rape, acts of terrible torture, racism, and violence. But… it’s also a story about women coming into their power and exerting that power, damn society or anyone who stands in their way. And I respect that.
4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
I’m calling it now: BEST NEW COMEDY OF 2013. From the creator of Parks and Rec comes this goofy workplace comedy set in a Brooklyn police precinct. Why is Brooklyn Nine Nine so good? Because it features smartly written, diverse main characters that include but are not limited to: a black, gay police captain and two female hispanic detectives. It’s a show in which the characters have each others’ backs, despite the ridiculous shenanigans in which they find themselves embroiled. I LOVE THIS SHOW.
3. Parks and Recreation
Of course, as much as I love Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation still holds the top spot in my heart for television comedy. Leslie Knope is the heroine role model that I love and have always wanted – she’s brilliant, resourceful, a great friend, and she doesn’t back down (from waffles or from Councilman Jamm). Whenever I’m feeling down, Parks and Rec is my go-to pick-me-up. This show rocks.
2. The Walking Dead
Talk about a strained relationship – The Walking Dead and I have been through the wringer. Last season was infuriating in its portrayal of female characters (ANDREA!) and its lamentably poor pacing. This year, however, I feel like the show got back in its groove. Higher stakes for zombie action (including a devastating superflu) and dramatic moral dilemmas drive season 4 – this, plus a newly expanded cast of characters make for some good TV. The show wavered into obnoxiousness in 2 of the last 3 episodes, but thankfully the midseason finale put an end to that particular problem (once and for all). I’m very, very excited for the return of The Walking Dead in 2014 – the consequences of the last few episodes are going to be intense.
1. Orange is the New Black
Forget House of Cards (or even my beloved Arrested Development) – Orange is the New Black is Netflix’s best new show. Featuring a central female cast of women of all races and backgrounds, and including a transgender character played by an actual trans actor, Orange tells the story of a yuppie, princess-y protagonist who is sentenced to a year in prison for a criminal act committed 10 years prior. I’ve been a fan of Jenji Kohan’s since Weeds, but in Orange she outdoes that show with her incisive examination of institutionalized racism, homophobia, and privilege. This show is at turns funny, always smart, and more than a little heartbreaking. Though Piper is our main character, the show truly shines with the supporting characters: Alex, Red, Daya and her messed up relationship with her mother, Poussey and Taystee (gotta love their friendship), and, OF COURSE, Suzanne aka Crazy Eyes. Damn, this show is good – I cannot wait to binge watch the next season the moment it is released on Netflix.
The Best Damn Show of All Time: Breaking Bad
I cheated and included 11 shows on this list, but Breaking Bad deserves to be called out as a category all on its own. Never before have I seen a show this tautly written, this beautifully acted, this heartbreakingly tragic and depraved and perfect. Breaking Bad starts as a black comedy of sorts, featuring two inept would-be criminals (ROLL THE BARREL) as they try their hand at making, distributing, and selling methamphetamine with the best of intentions. (In a nutshell: local high school chemistry teacher Walter White is diagnosed with terminal cancer and wants to leave behind money for his family, instead of a spate of impossible hospital bills. Walt thus pairs up with former student/junkie burnout Jesse Pinkman to help with the enterprise. It goes just about as well as you’d expect it to go.) Breaking Bad is the story of an average middle aged man who makes a myriad of bad decisions that change everything. Over the course of its five seasons, the show evolves from a dark comedy, to a crime thriller, to an inevitable descent into violence and tragedy on a Shakespearian scale. Breaking Bad is… well, it’s as flawless and as potent as Heisenberg’s signature methylamine blue meth. I love that this show doesn’t glamorize or idealize the life of a drug kingpin – unlike other antihero shows this year [*cough*DEXTER*cough*] there are real, heartbreaking consequences for Walt’s insufferable ego, his damned hubris, his soul-crushing decisions.
Vince Gilligan, you own my soul. You have since The X-Files, but Breaking Bad is a crystalline work of perfection that is 100% pure; a feat of television drama the likes of which I don’t think I’ll ever see again. Bryan Cranston, you break my heart with your epic portrayal of the most wonderful and most horrible antihero in television history.
I will miss you, Breaking Bad, and I loved every second of the deep, dark trip.
SO that’s it! My favorite Movies and TV shows of 2013. Here’s to an equally exciting 2014!