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
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
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
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
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
The World’s End – Gary King “Defends” Humanity
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
For the past few years, Disney has been slowly regaining their reputation as leaders in the animated features department. The Princess and the Frog, Tangled 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;
- The Lone Ranger
- Movie 43
- Grown Ups 2
- After Earth
- The Last Exorcism Part II
- A Good Day to Die Hard
- Texas Chainsaw 3D
- Battle of the Year
- The Lords of Salem
- Insidious Chapter 2
- Before Midnight
- 12 Years A Slave
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- Short Term 12
- Stories We Tell
- The World’s End
- This Is The End
- The Spectacular Now