10 Noteworthy Film Moments of 2013

14 Submitted by on Mon, 06 January 2014, 16:05

2013 was a very interesting year in film. Plenty of disappointments, plenty of huge achievements and one or two just plain bizarre entries which made for, while not a perfect year, a fascinating one. Now, I could simply do a top ten best films or bottom ten worst films list like any other site would (and believe me, I’m tempted), but instead I decided to do something different… and by “something different” I mean “something somewhat lifted from The AV Club” (don’t be surprised if a few moments from that list show up here, for the record). That being said, this list isn’t going to simply be the “best” moments of 2013. “Noteworthy” doesn’t necessarily mean all of these scenes are worth praise or will receive any. The main objective here is to break down 10 scenes (in no particular order) that I felt were worth mentioning, whether to be lavished with admiration or chastised profusely.

Now, before we dive in, a few pieces of note; 1) the thoughts expressed here are merely my own and don’t reflect the opinions of Chris Cox, Brian Salisbury, Luke Mullen, any of the other interns or anyone else of note that produces content for OneOfUs, 2) this list will contain a few bits of SPOILERS, but I will try my best to not go into full on detail and 3) while I have seen a rather large amount of films this year (over 100, in fact), this isn’t a comprehensive list, so if I didn’t mention a scene from a film you enjoyed, I apologize… but not really.

The Wolf of Wall Street – Leo, Jonah and the Lemmons

The Wolf of Wall Street is pretty much a three hour look into the debauchery of the 1%… which is what makes it so much damn fun. The character’s darkly comedic vulgarity and total lack of consideration for (most) others is really what nails down the black grizzled heart of the film. No moment exemplifies this quite like the one where Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill take Lemmons, the supposedly strongest type of quaaludes in existence. The way DiCaprio shows off his physical comedy skills borders on Buster Keaton level of dedication to his craft. Plus, his attempts to stop an equally inebriated Hill helps hammer down one of the film’s major points; that the excess of this Wall Street life style might be fun during the ride, but it will ultimately lead to your undoing.

Movie 43 – Hugh Jackman Testicle Reveal

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Here’s what I’m talking about in terms of horribly noteworthy. Movie 43 was not only one of the year’s worst films, but it set a new record for worst film to feature WAY too many genuinely talented people. So, the main reason this moment from the very first sketch is featured here is because it’s a giant harbinger of things to come. Seeing actors as respectable and gifted as Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet perform material this one note and juvenile set standards for the rest of the film at a very low level… and with each sketch, Movie 43 proceeds to continuously set the bar lower and lower. So for that cinematic landmark of depressingly subpar standards for talent, it’s only fair that this moment deserves mention, even if I do feel dirty while doing so.

This Is The End -  The Crater to Hell Opens

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This Is The End might not be the most polished film to be included on this list, what with its very clear stretches of improvisation and lack of a traditional narrative. Yet, that’s all part of what made it one of the more unique and hysterical curiosities of 2013. No scene better illustrates this than when the crater opens outside James Franco’s house, leading to celebrity themed carnage. From the start where Michael Cera gets violently impaled by a fallen street lamp to Jay Baruchel failing to catch David Krumholtz before he falls to his death, the entire sequence establishes the total lack of restraint directors/writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have in terms of how gruesome the deaths will ultimately be and the general tone the film will take, in that the apocalypse itself is taken seriously while the humor comes from these moronic celebrities trying to survive it. Plus… it’s just really damn funny. “It’s too late for you, you’re in the hole!”

Before Midnight – The Fight

2013 was a great year for cinematic squabbles. The Spectacular Now, American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, the list goes on. Yet, none of them really stack up to Before Midnight, which builds its entire third act around an argument between its two leads. Now, I’ve made my love of this film known before and all the reasons I adore it really do come to a head during this particular confrontation. The conflicting character motivations, the down to earth conversations, the development of these characters in ways not shown in the previous two films, etc. All of these things come to their ultimate conclusion in this very long argument, which has more intensity and nail biting suspense than most of the action heavy fights in 2013′s summer blockbusters. Why? Because there’s far more emotional investment. Even if the worst result of it is merely that a couple gets divorced, the couple in question is one we’ve grown to love over nearly 20 years, from their first meeting as young lovers to their rekindled spark of love as more experienced adults to their current point as frustrated parents. It’s so beautifully crafted and makes the characters earn their ending. Also, it’s hard to beat a line like “Kissy Kissy, Titty Titty, Pussy *snore*.”

Man of Steel – Pa Kent Loves That Damn Dog

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Man of Steel was one of the more divisive films of 2013. Some praised it as a rebirth for the legendary superhero that presented him for a new generation. Others felt like it was a failed attempt at presenting Superman as a traditional messianic figure who ultimately comes out hypocritical during the cataclysmic third act. One element that remains a particular source of argument is the film’s reinvention of Pa Kent (as played by Kevin Costner). His desire to keep Clark’s powers a secret was one of the bigger points of contention. Such a desire was displayed in the big tornado scene, where Pa sacrifices himself to rescue the family dog rather than have Clark do it. Personally, this was where the film lost me. Sure, it looks beautiful and I appreciate the attempt, but it just felt so overdramatic, particularly when Costner lifted up his hand to tell Clark to stop. It seemed to conflict with the film’s attempt at giving Superman a more grounded reality, only for it to continue from there once the third act rolled around. Still, I’ve heard some compelling opposing opinions from defenders and don’t begrudge them their love… and I hope Batman vs. Superman lives up to their hype.

12 Years A Slave – Patsey’s Proposition

12 Years A Slave is probably the most emotionally raw film of the year. It tests one’s endurance as a viewer to not walk away as images of men and women being whipped, beaten and raped remind us of events that have tarnished America’s past with a giant blemish. However, the moment that really hit hard for me merely involved two people talking. When Patsey asks Solomon to take her life in exchange for mere silver she stole from their master’s home, it sells just how awful their existence could be on a very psychologically haunting level. The desporation in Lupita Nyong’O's voice as she pleads for her suffering to end brings home just how much she hates merely living a single day of this existence and the reactions on Chiwetel Ejiofor’s face are of unflinching horror that ultimately become all the more affecting when the Patsey continues to be abused later on. It’s a simple scene, but it reveals so much hopeless terror in both characters that haunted me long past the point where I left the theater.

The Lone Ranger – Train Chase Finale

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The Lone Ranger was one of the year’s biggest bombs, both critically and commercially. The tonal whiplash, awkward racism and bloated running time turned most people off of this Disney produced bomb. And it deserved every single bit of that failure in my opinion, as I still consider it the worst film of 2013. Yet oddly, the film has a few defenders, chief among them being celebrated filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino and the few other defenders of the film site the ending train sequence as a huge highlight that showed off director Gore Verbinski’s masterful talents for set piece direction and to some degree I can see it. The way the big finale is executed on a technical level is quite well done, with all the train cars colliding and an explosive ending that I could really admire… if I cared about any of the characters involved. Seriously, I have no investment in this exciting action sequence when it involves very thinly developed villains and a couple of heroes that really haven’t earned their titles. Ultimately, that’s what I wanted to spotlight about this scene; no matter how technically proficient an action scene is, the characters still have to shine through enough to keep an audience’s interest, especially with a two and a half hour running time. Oh, and [insert train wreck joke about The Lone Ranger overall here].

Gravity – Sandra Bullock Accepts Impact

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Gravity is one of the best technical achievements of the year. This is blatantly obvious. The techniques created by director Alfonso Cuaron in terms of use of computer generated imagery to give the allusion of being in space are jaw dropping, especially in 3D. That all being said, I think people don’t give nearly enough attention to how powerful it is on an emotional level. The film captures the terrifying loneliness of space, but also provides some of the more beautiful emotional responses I’ve seen in quite some time. Sandra Bullock works as the every human, depicting the genuine dread one would have in a situation this intense. This is best demonstrated in the film’s climax. Bullock accepts her potential fate in such a poignant manner that it feels scarily grounded in reality (which is why I consider Gravity to be both one of the best sci-fi and horror films of the year, if not thee best). The scene really sells how invested the audience can be in her as a character and drives the film to its gorgeous ending. And if Bullock wins the best actress Oscar, I’d fully support it… especially if she threw out the one she got for The Blind Side.

The World’s End – Gary King “Defends” Humanity

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The World’s End has many similarities to the previous Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost collaborations Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s unavoidable to not draw parallels between the characters Pegg & Frost play in all three or the little easter egg references to various different running gags in the Cornetto Trilogy (as the team has dubbed it). However, what sets The World’s End apart is its far more dour ending. Shaun has shades of a downbeat ending with the way Frost’s character turns out, but nothing gets darker than the post apocalyptic destruction of Earth’s technologies. Yet, what saves the ending from being a total drag is the final confrontation between Pegg, Frost, Paddy Considine and the disembodied voice of The Network (wonderfully voiced by Bill Nighy). It’s a tremendous moment that both brilliantly cements the bullheaded nature of Pegg’s character Gary King as a stubborn ass that sticks to his guns and provides some sci-fi satire that has shades of Douglas Adams, yet is still in keeping with the tone that was established by the previous films. I’ve heard some negative response to the dark turn the film took, but I personally found that entire finale to be a hysterical way of poking fun at technological dependance without ever seeming preachy and tying into the film’s themes of humanity and finding your place in the world… or universe in this case.

Frozen – Let It Go

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For the past few years, Disney has been slowly regaining their reputation as leaders in the animated features department. The Princess and the FrogTangled and Wreck-It Ralph were all great films that showed how Disney was taking their usual archetypes and updating them into emotionally honest and just plain enjoyable efforts for the 21st century audience. That being said, Frozen is the first film they’ve done that’s perfected that modernization. Setting up the traditional princess narrative and subverting it at every opportunity, Frozen presents a complex and three dimensional relationship between its lead sister characters Anna and Elsa, which evolves and changes in ways that some live action films could only dream of accomplishing. The center piece scene that’s gotten so much attention is the show stopping musical number Let It Go, which deserves every single bit of praise it’s been lauded. The number not only works as a powerful character moment for Elsa as she destroys the shackles that have kept her closed off from the world her whole life, but also serves as a harbinger for the unruly extent of her powers that sets up the heart of film’s climax. Plus, Robert and Kristina-Anderson Lopez’s song is just so damn catchy. You can’t help but get into the spirit of the scene once it starts blaring.

Well, that’s my list. It’s a shame I couldn’t see some of the bigger awards films (Her, Inside Llewyn Davis) to concoct a full on Best Of list… ah what the hell, here are my best of and worst of lists anyway;

Worst: 

  1. The Lone Ranger
  2. Movie 43
  3. Grown Ups 2
  4. After Earth
  5. The Last Exorcism Part II
  6. A Good Day to Die Hard
  7. Texas Chainsaw 3D
  8. Battle of the Year
  9. The Lords of Salem
  10. Insidious Chapter 2

Best:

  1. Before Midnight
  2. 12 Years A Slave
  3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. Gravity
  5. Short Term 12
  6. Stories We Tell
  7. The World’s End
  8. This Is The End
  9. The Spectacular Now
  10. Frozen

Written by

Thomas Mariani is a born geek, with a bit of nerd mixed in here & there. A native of the (less) swampy parts of Florida, Thomas has always been a fan of films, television & other sources of media ever since he was a child, having been raised on Jim Henson, Star Wars and the basic cable cartoons of the ’90s & ’00s. He already has experience writing and podcasting about pop culture, which you can read/listen to on sites like Widescreen Warrior, TvTalk, Horrornews.net and Doc Rotten or on Twitter as @NotTheWhosTommy
  • Darkman220

    Worst
    1. Inappropriate comedy
    2. Movie 43
    3 Spring Breakers
    4 A Haunted House
    5. The Last Exorcism Part 2
    6. Identity Theft
    7. The Lone Rangers
    8. 47 Ronin

    • Brian_Salisbury

      Spring Breakers is a really interesting phenomenon. It’s on several Best Of and Worst Of lists simultaneously. Personally, I’d put it on a Favorite of 2013 list but not necessarily a Best Of 2013 list. Certainly wouldn’t call it one of the worst of the year. But again, that’s just me.

      • Darkman220

        To me Spring Breakers is on my worst of list because of the short repeat scenes they keep on showing bugged me, I hated the soundtrack and the movie lost its message when half the stars left the movie

  • JoWoCo

    The Lemons scene has made me laugh harder than anything else I seen or read this year. It was purely genius how it was shot and pulled off. I just loved it. Its a big reason why Wolf is my number one film of 2013.

  • rickdidaz

    I feel that if Pa Kent had saved another person instead of a dog that scene would’ve been a bit more meaningful. I can see somewhat of the reason for not allowing Clark to go, as a car landing on him and him just shrugging it off would make people realize that he has super-strength.

    • Brian_Salisbury

      I disagree, but then I like dogs more than most people

      • Scott Johnson

        Did you notice though that Pa Kent saved a dog that was black and brown, yet when they cut to Ma Kent alone, she has a white and black dog? So in the end, that save was for nothing.

        • rickdidaz

          So the next day the dog looked in the trash, ate some chocolate and died? God damn it!

  • Lucy Six Morris

    many thanks for reminding me of my most regretted moment of the year – giggling when Jackmans balls retracted. that means I found part of Movie 43 funny. I know it was just that one little bit but I will have to carry the shame for a long time

  • Michael Giustini

    It’s also important to mention that Let It Go is also amazing because it is sung by one of the greatest vocalists working today: Idina Menzel. I can’t think of anyone else who could have sung that song with as much power and confidence as Menzel.

  • Eric Sansoni

    The characters in Lone Ranger were far better acted, fleshed out and developed than the characters in most other action movies this year. Better than in Iron Man 3, Wolverine, the godawful Thor (worst special-effects sequel since MIB II) and the great-looking Pacific Rim, full of laughably unlikable, annoying and poorly acted characters. Was the paper-thin Viper lady from Wolverine or Guy Pearce’s laughable TV-movie villain in IM3 somehow more threatening than the fantastically detestable villains played by Nolan Bat trilogy alums Fichtner and Wilkinson in Lone Ranger? They were some of the best villains in a pulp movie since Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt. Like in Star Wars, the Lone Ranger writers remembered that you have to show why a character is villainous through their actions, not simply have them pay lip service to it with an “evil” speech here and there. Casting great actors who give great, pitch-perfect performances that nail the essence of the characters doesn’t hurt either.

    Let’s continue the comparisons to some other 2013 action movies. The characters in the Hobbit were largely overwhelmed by the special effects, except for the effective female elf Tauriel. Star Trek had an interesting villain but the soap opera-level melodrama between Kirk, Spock and Uhura flopped badly. World War Z was more of a “you are there” experience movie than one that relied on character development or depth. G.I. Joe 2 was an utter disaster in storytelling on every level, amateurish and painful to watch. Joe rated lower with critics than Lone Ranger, so I’m not sure why it didn’t make the worst list. Man of Steel is the only 2013 action movie with as equally good a focus on character as Lone Ranger. Of course Gravity is a cut above all of these and is one of the best films of the year bar none.

    I’m sure Tarantino likes Lone Ranger because it was a fantastically well-directed film. The imagery Verbinski created was as beautiful and compelling to watch as it was effective at establishing mood and setting and telling a story. The camera work and editing style was brilliantly crisp and clear, a welcome Spielbergian look in an often pitiful age of Michael Bay ADHD editing and talentless non-action directors at the helm of films like Wolverine who make confusing, choppy sequences like the early city shootout and chase in Japan. The Lone Ranger was also a marvelous love letter to the Western genre, and a far more thrilling and inspired one than, for example, the listless Back to the Future Part 3.

    Like Man of Steel, this was one of the few action movies of the year to truly define and develop its main hero, put him on a journey and show how he becomes a changed man by the end of the film. Depp’s Tonto was likewise a far more fleshed-out and resonant character than a lot of his other comic performances including Jack Sparrow and the Mad Hatter. There is quiet poignancy in how he struggles against seeing his Indian heritage slip away into history. Absolutely I would cut out some of the extraneous scenes, like everything with Helena Bonham Carter’s unnecessary character, but the flaws in the movie are minor compared to most other films in the action/adventure genre this year.

    As for accusations of racism, LOL, r u serious, bro? The only people I’m prejudiced against are ones who cry wolf about non-existent “racism,” which does nothing but trivialize and marginalize real instances of racism. If anything, this movie showed the Indian tribes in a hugely positive light and generated overwhelming sympathy for them. It could be criticized only for giving an unbalanced portrayal in clear favor of the Indian side.

    • NotTheWhosTommy

      Man, look. I get that you liked the movie, but comparing it to a bunch of different summer blockbusters from this year isn’t really that fair. At the end of the day, all the films on this list (and all the films I watch in general) were judged based on how I felt about them on their own terms. Other critical opinions really didn’t matter into it. By the logic you present of “well other critics said something like this, so you should think this way”, I would have mentioned Upstream Color… but I didn’t like that movie much either. I can’t think of everyone else’s opinions when putting together a list based completely on my own perspective. And from my perspective, The Lone Ranger is a total dud that gave me no joy whatsoever and bored me for the vast majority of its long running time.

      But that’s just me.

  • merwanor

    I loved The Lone Ranger, and I don’t get why it got so much hate. Not the best movie this year, that award goes to The Hobbit, the desolation of Smaug. But much better than many other movies, for instance Iron Man 3, that made a mockery of the source material. The Lone Ranger at least made tribute to the source material, and the ending scene was awesome. The music and everything just clicked.

  • NegPrimer

    I actually found the ending of The World’s End to bear a striking similarity to Mass Effect 3′s ending, and took it as a parody of that.

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