Best on the Screen and Box: 2013

prattIt is that time of year when it isn’t just the jolly dude in the red suit who is checking a list twice to see who is naughty and nice – bloggers, columnists and reviewers are doing the same. And as a blogger and (albeit amateur) reviewer of films and TV shows, it would be remiss of me not to follow the herd. So, after much soul-searching, forgetting then remembering, debating and deleting, here it is – my top 5 Movies and TV shows of 2013.

BEST MOVIES OF 2013

Note: there are a number of films still to be released in 2013 that I haven’t seen yet that could well end up cracking this list (The Hobbit Part 2, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street etc). These will be considered as part of next year’s list.

5. The Way Way Back: I reviewed this joyous wee film here, and as you probably know if you read my review I fell in love with it immediately. Stellar cast (Sam Rockwell! Steve Carell! Alison Janney! Toni Collette! That bald dude from Community!), a relatable story and a superb script (by Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) – what more can you want? Oh, you want Sam Rockwell busting some moves? It has that too. This was a refreshingly original and low key flick in the midst of block busters and building destruction – and it was a welcome change. More of this please Hollywood, poste haste.

4. Iron Man 3: I was starting to think I might be a little ‘over’ superheroes, then I saw Iron Man 3. I went in with low expectations, since the iron clad man’s previous outing was so dire, but a new director and a fantastic script ensured this restored my faith in my hitherto least favourite Avenger. Another excellent cast (Downey Junior! Paltrow! Kingsley! Pierce!), some utterly brilliant plot twists and an attempt to address the fact that Loki trying to destroy the world in The Avengers may have caused some trauma for Mr Stark/Iron Man – meant this was a far cry from a run of the mill action flick. Marvel clearly knew they had to keep the bar high after the fantastic Avengers, and with the help of Shane Black they ably did that here. Popcorn entertainment of the highest order.

3. Gravity: this ground breaking film is at the top of many best of lists this year – and with good reason. Director Alfonso Cuaron took the word ‘intense’ to a whole new level here, by casting Sandra Bullock adrift in space. Equal parts terrifying, amusing, thought-provoking and life affirming, I left this flick feeling like I had been through the wringer – and on a real journey. And, sad as it is, that doesn’t happen as often as it should at the movies these days. I won’t even get into the technical merits of this film – I know the scientists have had a field day picking holes in this film, but as a lay person I was completely sucked in and didn’t for a second wonder ‘how did they do that?’. The very definition then of an enthralling film.

2. Hunger Games: Catching Fire: I find it interesting that so many critics lauded this film when it was released last month, but it has failed to appear on many best of lists. I wonder if it is seen as ‘less worthy’ because it is a blockbuster aimed at teenagers with pretty people making up 100% of the cast? Maybe so, but you can’t get past the fact that this film was simply superb. It rose above the excellent first outing and packed an emotional punch that was missing from its predecessor.  It also overcame its slightly repetitious storyline – by focusing more on the rebellion incited by Katniss and Peeta’s victory in the previous Hunger Games. Again, a sensational cast here – but full credit must go to a certain trip-prone Oscar winner, who deserves another golden bald dude for the last 30 seconds of this film alone. Jennifer Lawrence won’t get it for this – but she certainly should. Bring on Mockingjay: 1 & 2, I say. (And, for those who care, I am most definitely Team Peeta)

1. Zero Dark Thirty: There was no question that this film would take out the top spot for me this year – despite the fact that it came out way back in February and I could be forgiven for forgetting it. But this isn’t a film I could ever forget. As I said here, the film was robbed at this year’s Oscars due to political grandstanding around its depiction of torture used during the hunt for Bin Laden. I won’t get back into that again here – but will simply say that, based on some incredible direction from Kathryn Bigelow, an insightful and smart script from Mark Boal and a star making turn from Jessica Chastain – this was without a doubt the best film released in NZ this year. To take a story that spanned 10 years, pack it into 157 minutes and have it be totally engrossing throughout, is no mean feat. If you haven’t seen it, please do – it is a movie that needs to be seen and will reward your bravery. Do it, do it now I say.

Honourable mentions: Thor: The Dark World so very nearly made the list (Hiddleston! Laughs! Hemsworth! More laughs!), as did the wonderful Perks of Being a Wallflower, visually stunning Life of Pi and wildly entertaining (despite not bringing the laughs) Man of Steel.

BEST TV OF 2013

Note: I haven’t included the brilliant Season 2 of Homeland on this list as it predominantly screened during 2012, and I have yet to see Season 3.

5. Game of Thrones: I think on the basis of the Red Wedding episode alone, Game of Thrones would have made my list. But that ground breaking episode (which just about broke the internet and twittersphere in a way never seen before) was just one of many in a fantastic third season. Although it could be accused of having simply too many disparate storylines and characters, it still managed to bring these together near the end and create a real sense of urgency and cohesion for the start of Season 4. You never know what will happen on this show (as the Red Wedding proved) and there is something for everyone. The highlight for me will always be little Arya Stark – I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next year. Thank god for my sister’s Soho subscription, is all I can say…

4. The Mindy Project: it took me a little while to fully buy into this sitcom – based on the trials and tribulations of Dr Mindy Lahiri (comedienne Mindy Kaling), but by about episode 4 I was an avid fan. The concept of a 30-something woman trying to find love when most of her experiences and expectations are based on romantic comedies is a very relatable one for me. Add a hilarious (and not terrible to look at) cast – especially Chris Messina and Mark Duplass – some fantastic writing and wacky yet believable plotlines – and Mindy had me hooked. Fingers crossed Four shows more of Mindy in the coming year. I will be tuning in for sure.

3. The Newsroom: I know, I know – didn’t I rant here about how Aaron Sorkin had lost his mojo and that this show was just old plot lines and dialogue reheated and served back to us as something new? Yes I did say all that, but that was before I saw Season 2 😉 Sorkin really came into his own with this season – and was well served by focusing on one long lead plotline (Genoa) which spanned the whole season. There was a little less shouty shouty from Emily Mortimer’s character and Alison Pill also got to show her dramatic chops dealing with a traumatic incident in Africa. So thank you Mr Sorkin for remembering that you can write women well, I really do appreciate it 😉 And for those of you wondering if the show only made the list because my Sexiest Man Alive: TV edition (John Gallagher Jr) is in it – shame on you! (that was only, like, 20% of the reason why it made the list!).

2. The Almighty Johnsons: behold – the best TV show New Zealand has ever produced. Yep – that is the claim I am making and I am sticking to it! Into its third season of hijinks caused by a family of Auckland brothers also being Norse gods – this season delivered some of the most entertaining and amusing hours of TV I saw all year. The cast – led by Emmett Skilton, Tim Balme and Dean O’Gorman – were wearing their characters like comfy sweaters this season, and it showed in their assured performances. Add to that a writing team that paid as much attention to the quippy one-liners as they did the high level (and quite random) plot lines and all you needed was some clever cinematography and decent production values to make this (almost) my show of the year. I am so incredibly gutted that this show won’t be back again – but was at least happy with the way they wrapped things up. If you haven’t seen the show – please go back to Season 1 and give it a crack. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

1. Parks and Recreation: If I happened to find a genie in a bottle, and he happened to grant me the ability to go to Hollywood and work on any TV show or movie in production right not – I would be hard pressed to find a better option than Parks and Recreation. The sitcom – into its 5th season on Four – is the highlight of my TV week. 22 minutes of solid gold comedy. But, it is not just the laughs (which are consistent and irrepressible – thanks mainly to Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman) it is also the heart that this little comedy brings that makes me love it so much. The writers make you care for and invest in their characters so well that you really think you know them – without resorting to cheese or cliche. This is a truly ensemble performance – with different characters given the chance to shine in every episode. Choosing a favourite would be like choosing my favourite niece – impossible. If you haven’t spent time with Leslie Knope and her band of merry misfits, do so now, before its too late…(in case you are interested, my favourite Ron Swanson line of the season, and it was a tough contest, ‘There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk. Which is water that’s lying about being milk’). Big ups to Chris Pratt by the way, who managed to star in both my favourite TV show AND favourite movie this year!

Honourable mentions: it was SO HARD compiling this list and even until the last second I was moving things in and out. Other great TV this year included a second fantastic season of Lena Dunham’s Girls, the brilliant new HBO prison show Orange is the New Black, the highly addictive if slightly implausible Scandal and the criminally cancelled Go On and Bunheads.

Andstufflikethis will be taking a bit of a break over the Christmas holidays, but will return in the new year with my Mini Reviews of all the Oscar fodder. In the meantime, thanks for reading and have a fabulous break!

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One thought on “Best on the Screen and Box: 2013

  1. I wouldn’t fret about Hobbit 2. Despite all the good reviews, I thought this was a fine example of how great acting, amazing special effects, great banter between dragon and hobbit, and a potential cross-species romance doesn’t make up for a COMPLETE LACK OF STORYLINE. $20 I would like back, Peter Jackson – and make it into one movie next time, instead of milking the fans.

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