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The Black Hole Presents: Top 15 of 2013

Hi. It’s me. Don’t lets make a big deal out of this. Senior year has been demanding even more time from me.

2013 was sort of all over the place. Granted, my experience is influenced by the fact that I was in London for the first few months of the year, and was privy to some movies that weren’t gonna make it stateside quite yet. I’m pretty sure I saw Trance well before all of y’all. That being said, it wasn’t that strong. And then the summer sucked! For every Iron Man 3 or The Worlds End, we got 3 Hangover Part IIIs, Grown Ups 2s, or The Purges. It all picked up in the end though, and the slew of awards films ended up being one of the strongest in recent memory. So strong that it is pretty difficult to say which film is the frontrunner for Best Picture.

I know I missed the train for all the year end lists, but I managed to catch a cab, and then a jet ski, and then a stage coach, and I might have been parachuting as well, and I made it to the party just in time for the Oscars tonight (which I won’t be watching, cuz senior year). The point is, here are The Black Hole’s picks for the best movies of 2013.

RUNNERS UP: SPRING BREAKERS (For… reasons), STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (For that Sherlock guy), ELYSIUM (For Neil Blomkamp on a big budget), TRANCE (For Danny Boyle’s infectious style and its twisty, twisty plot), THE GREAT GATSBY (For the lesser half of Leo’s banner year), ONLY GOD FORGIVES (For that fist fight and those colors), THE COUNSELOR (For it’s rejection of mainstream cinematic tropes and McCarthy’s sensationally lurid script)

15. THIS IS THE END: While not the best or funniest end of the world comedy to come out in 2013, This is the End coasted high on the chemistry of it’s cast and it’s enjoyably meta nature. It’s always fun to see A listers take the piss out of each other. It’s all fun to see them die.

14. MAN OF STEEL: Yeah, Man of Steel had problems. Tons. It’s completely humorless, unnecessarily violent, and maybe it shits all over the source material. I don’t know. But the good of Man of Steel far outweighed the bad. I still appreciate how it treated Superman’s origin as a sci-fi movie rather than a superhero movie. I love how it spent a hefty amount of time on Clark’s struggle to reconcile the lessons of his two fathers. And Michael Shannon is incredible in it.

13. PRISONERS: In what was maybe the best performance of the year, Hugh Jackman was utterly convincing as a father willing to do unspeakable things to locate his kidnapped child. It would have been so easy to turn his character into a heartless villain or a cliche, all American hero, but Jackman’s talent, along with a brilliant screen play, smartly capitalized on the relatable nature of his actions turning him to a sympathetic monster and providing him a hell of an arc.

12. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE: Damn it, Jennifer! Just damn it! Why do you have to be so good in everything that do you? Catching Fire wisely jumped on what was good about the first Hunger Games and did away with a lot of its problems. No shaky cam bullshit here. No dodgy CGI. The script, direction, acting, and world building are all much more confident, further drawing us into this violent landscape.

11. THE WORLD’S END: The superior of the two end of the world comedies, the final installment in the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy tackled Invasion of the Body Snatchers action and suspense, while taking the opportunity to provide Simon Pegg with what is arguably the best character of his career. Hilarious, exciting, and surprisingly thought provoking and touching, The World’s End brings this odd trilogy to a close with flying colors.

10. IRON MAN 3: Robert Downey Jr. and Shane Black should just make every movie together from now on. Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man movie, and the best Marvel movie that isn’t The Avengers. Everything in it works wonderfully.

9. AMERICAN HUSTLE: DAMN IT, JENNIFER!!! Maybe David O Russell is losing his touch, what with him making a movie every year now, but damn if he still can’t rivet a viewer with his brutally straightforward dialogue, his great direction of actors, and his slick sense of style. But seriously, DAMN IT, JENNIFER!!!

8. STOKER: You know it’s a strong year where this ends up in the back half of my top 10. Park Chan Wook’s first foray into the English language was a delicious slice of Hitchkockian bravura, teeming with menace and full of secrets just waiting to be dug up. Hell of a soundtrack as well.

7. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: It’s Joss Whedon. It’s Joss Whedon’s friends. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most enjoyably daffy comedies. How could this possibly not be an absolute riot?

6. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: Paul Greengrass sure knows how to make a convincing thriller. With a revelatory performance by newcomer Barkhad Abdi and the always great Tom Hanks in the title role, Captain Phillips side steps its obvious pitfalls and becomes a well balanced tale of survival on both sides. Great stuff.

5. FROZEN: I feel like the current hysteria around Frozen only has to do with it’s popularity as a good time at the movies right now. Once it inevitably wins its Oscars and fades from the public’s immediate consciousness, only then will we really be able to grasp how good this movie really was. Taking the Disney princess formula huge leaps and bounds forward with its imperfect heroines, modern day approach to romance, and powerful message of self acceptance over conformity, it heralds in what is hopefully a new era of dominance from the house of mouse. And yeah, “Let It Go” is a bonafide showstopper.

4. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: It has never, I repeat, never been so enjoyable to spend three hours watching good actors behaving so incredibly bad. In the first hour, Leonardo DiCaprio and friends do more depraved, fucked up shit than in most movies altogether. A flat out hilarious comedy, a biting commentary on the stock trade and Wall Street in general, it’s one of Martin Scorcese’s boldest, wildest films. It’s also one of his very best!

3. 12 YEARS A SLAVE: It’s impossible to deny the raw power of this movie. Like Schindler’s List, it impeccably captures a dark time in history and doesn’t shy away from showing us the brutal details. Masterfully acted and beautifully shot, it’s an effecting piece of film the likes of which hasn’t come out in some time.

2. PACIFIC RIM: Hell yes, Pacific Rim is in my top three. No other movie this year was as unapologetically enjoyable in its quest to deliver on exactly what it promised, in this case, giant robots vs. giant monsters. Anyone could have made this movie cool, but throw in a filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro with a real love for fantasy and science fiction, and what you’ll get is positively revolutionary, an action movie for the growing global complex, where the heroes are multi national, where the setting isn’t in America, and where people of all creeds and dispositions are given a chance at heroism. On top of this, it never forgets why the audience is there, and heaps on the awesome moments one after the other. A movie where using an oil tanker as a baseball bat isn’t the coolest moment is a movie worth celebrating.

1. GRAVITY: But yeah, Gravity gets my top vote, for more or less the same reason Avatar did a few years ago. Were there, objectively, better movies in 2013? Most definitely? But did any of the people who made those movies invent a whole new way to make movies? No. They did not. Visually, Gravity is one of the most jaw dropping experiences I’m likely ever to have in a theater. The first time I saw it in theaters, every muscle in my body was tensed up, so utterly absorbing and believable was Alfonso Cuaron’s filmmaking. And while the gripes about the story are true to an extent, it is still told with grace and is still possessed of a soul. In a year full of memorable (for better or worse) movies, Gravity managed to out do them all in its first 15 minutes. The rest of its run could have just been a coast. And it wasn’t.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yqAoaB4PSo  

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 10

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

This is the last post. Did you guess what was coming? You get cookies!

Cloud Atlas!

Oh boy!

I knew I was in for something pretty nuts when first I sat down in the theater. About half way through, I knew what I was seeing was probably one of the best movies of the year. By the end, I knew it was one of the best movies I had ever seen! What the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer did with David Mitchell’s novel, itself a brilliantly original piece of work, is nothing short of astounding. Six separate stories, all told concurrently, with the same cast playing different roles in each. Oh, and each actor plays different races, ages, and even genders. Sound ambitious? That’s because it is!

The remarkable thing is that there is a veritable smorgasbord of genres and elements being thrown at the canvas here. You would think that there would be a veritable war taking place on the screen as these various styles all compete with each other. What’s remarkable is that there is no conflict at all. In fact, there is harmony, with one style informing another. Doors closing in one story coexist with doors opening in another. Death in one story heralds life in another. Comedy mixes effortlessly with drama mixes effortlessly with action mixes effortlessly with romance. And so it goes.

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The cast all do stupendous jobs juggling their six roles. Sometimes they are front and center in one story. Other times they are nothing more than a cameo in others. The visuals are striking and inventive; the depiction of a far future Korea look sick and the images of 1970s San Francisco conjure up the best of films from that era.

Really, though. Even if Cloud Atlas weren’t the masterpiece that it is, it would probably have still made this list, because the scope and ambition of what it is trying to accomplish is just too damn gobsmacking! Put it to you this way! In London, me and my flatmates watched a lot of movies in our downtime at home. When we started watching Cloud Atlas, they were hooked pretty quickly! By the time we were done, they were all like, and I quote, “This movie is fucking great!” Movies like this come around ever so rarely! Thank god I was alive for this one!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 9

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard!

It goes without saying that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is my favorite working actor. Lately though, I’m starting to cool on him. It’s just been awhile since he really wowed me like in Mysterious Skin or (500) Days of Summer. I’m wondering if he’s just coasting on his stardom now, or if he’s just biding his time.

This is what I felt like before I saw Looper. And then I saw it. And… wait, you need me to spell this out for you?

Looper is an ingenious, twisting, witty, super violent slice of science fiction from the mind of Rian Johnson, who is the guy who basically put JoGo on the map to begin with. A labyrinthian time travel yarn to rival 12 MonkeysPrimer, and… why not, Back to the Future, Looper deals with heady themes about identity, fate, and whathaveyou, all wrapped in a bonecrunching action movie.

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JoGo is surprisingly against type here. Sure he’s charming, handsome, and rocks a badass gun. But he’s also arrogant, sexist, and a total friggin’ jerk! It’s a great change of pace for him, and hopefully he continues to explore that side of him. Bruce Willis is just as hardened a badass as we expect a gun toting character played by Bruce Willis to be. But he’s also a tortured soul on a mission that tests him and drives him to despicable acts. Emily Blunt is a great warming presence as the women who quickly realizes that she has more to do with the chaos than she thought. And Jeff Daniels is just awesome!

The action is bloody and brutal, the dialogue stings, and it looks just sick for a micro budget like this. It is a wholly original, bold vision from guys who could have very easily done something soulless but guaranteed to be a hit. They didn’t. Thank God!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 8

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard!

Drive came out of nowhere and floored me! Here was a director I had only heard about fleetingly and the guy from that dumb Nicolas Sparks movie that everyone loved for some reason. And it was an artsy fartsy take on a pretty standard crime story. It didn’t look all that. And then everyone who saw said it was basically sex, and I’m almost dangerously impressionable, so of course I went and saw it. And what I saw was not artsy fartsy. it was not a pretty standard crime story. That guy from that dumb Nicolas Sparks movie that everyone loves was really friggin’ awesome!

Drive is a so good because it doesn’t ever try to over complicate it’s deceptively simple story which provides more than enough avenues for Nicolas Winding Refn to allow his characters to breathe and exist. Ryan Gosling’s Driver seems to be the bleach blonde male version of Lisbeth Salander, but he is anything but a cyborg. He’s a super cool, seemingly detached wheelman, who is capable of mind boggling brutality when those he cares for are threatened. And let’s be real, when it’s Carey Mulligan who’s threatened, and a seriously intimidating Albert Brooks who’s doing the threatening, who would stomp on a dude’s head until it’s just a puddle of mush.

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Oh yeah, the violence in this movie is almost obscene in how graphic it is. It comes in spurts and never lasts long, but it stays with you long after the movie is over. I haven’t looked a straight razor the same way since I saw this film. Blood. Oh, sweet jesus, the blood!

But it’s director Refn’s act of mashing up all kinds of different genres and aesthetics that makes the Drive the memorable piece of work that it is! It’s very old fashioned, evoking the crime thrillers of a bygone era like Bullit and Dirty Harry. It’s also exceedingly modern, with all its sheen and pizzaz. It’s very european, with its techno-pop soundtrack and eclectic color palette. And yet it’s also very american, with its cast of lowlifes and fleet of muscle cars. It’s a mutant of a movie, but it’s a wicked brew of all kinds of awesome that, through some otherworldly alchemy, becomes something unforgettable.

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 7

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard! 

There are probably better movies than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on this list. Certainly, there are movies more worthy of being on this list than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. But, there is not a single film on this list, or so far this decade, that meant more to me than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. 

As an ending, it hits all the notes that a finale must hit. It’s rousing, epic, intimate, touching, funny, and looks great. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint all turn in their best work of the series, bolstered by brilliant supporting work from the likes of Ralph Finnes, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, and Matthew Lewis. Alan Rickman brought the house DOWN as he dealt beautifully with Snape’s big moment.

But in terms of what I felt, where my mind was, and all that, the impact of Harry Potter 7.2 cannot be adequately expressed. Harry Potter, as a story, and as a person, were probably one of, if not the, biggest pop culture element of my childhood had bowed out of the picture with this final installment. And I know I’m not alone in the world when I say that. It was a devastating, yet uplifting moment, seeing the Hogwarts express pulling away for the last time. It was a bitter but sweet final page in a huge chapter of my life. I mean, when was the last time you waited by the door for a new book from Amazon to arrive and then locked yourself in your room and didn’t leave until it was finished. When was the last time that a movie came out that caused you and all your friends to drop everything, dress up, and wait in line for midnight screenings, after which they took to facebook bemoaning the death of their childhood. Being the kid who grew up with Harry Potter, let me tell you that being wrapped up in all the mania was really cool.

So, yeah. That’s why Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is on this list. Forget that it is impeccably made, superbly acted, and exciting beyond belief. It marked an important part in my life, and I will always hold it in the highest regard because of that.