Posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 by Angie Han
No year in cinema ever shapes up exactly the way we’d expect. In fact, it’d be boring if one did. Still, when faced with the promise of a whole new year of movies, I can’t help try and predict which ones I’ll love or hate. I put my best guesses in list form last year, and I did it again this year.
Now, in the spirit of journalistic integrity (or, less charitably, critical solipsism), it’s time for me to look back at my most anticipated films of 2013 and see just how reality measured up to expectation. Hit the jump to see how great or terrible I was at guessing what’d be my favorite films of 2013.
If you’re short on time, here’s the tl;dr version: Before Midnight, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The World’s End met or exceeded my high expectations; Much Ado About Nothing, The Great Gatsby, and The Heat were fun but fell short; The Wolf of Wall Street, Stoker, and Paradise were disappointments albeit with redeeming qualities.
In all, I was right about 40% of the time. Depending on how you want to look at it, that’s either a really good batting average, or a really bad high school exam score. Make of that what you will when you look over my most-anticipated list for 2014.
Paradise was the wild card on my list last year. I didn’t expect greatness, but as a fan of Diablo Cody‘s other work I was curious to see how she’d acquit herself in her directorial debut. What I got was a shaky comedy that lacked the sizzle of Cody’s earlier screenplays, but that went down smoothly nonetheless thanks to nice performances by Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, and Octavia Spencer. Here’s hoping she’ll fare better next time.
9. The Heat
I was right to expect the pairing of Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock to translate into comedy gold. I was wrong to assume that the film around them would measure up to that same lofty level. Supporting characters felt uniformly one-note, and all the exaggerated Boston accents in the world couldn’t make the setting feel like anything other than a generic Hollywood backlot. (This despite the fact that the movie was actually shot in Boston.)
Visually, Chan-wook Park‘s English-language debut was nothing short of stunning. It’s moody and beautiful, to the extent that you could pause the film at almost literally any moment and have a picture worth framing. And okay, Matthew Goode‘s performance as Uncle Charlie was one of the most disturbingly seductive of the year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much substance underneath that high-shine gloss. Hey, at least I was right about it being better than Spike Lee‘s remake of Park’s Oldboy.
7. The World’s End
Apparently even I had no idea I’d love The World’s End as much as I did. At the time, my explanation for putting this film on my most-anticipated list (at #7) was simply, “Edgar Wright hasn’t made a bad film yet, and I have no reason to believe 2013 will be the year he starts.” I had no idea The World’s End would surpass his earlier work to be the richest and most rewarding of the Cornetto trilogy. In the end, it was my second favorite movie of the year.
6. The Great Gatsby
Baz Lurhmann‘s film lacks the poignancy that makes F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s original novel such an enduring classic, but I’m in the minority of people who liked the movie anyway. If I had to sum up the entire film in one moment, it’d be the one where Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally makes his introduction: George Gershwin‘s “Rhapsody in Blue” swells to a climax as literal fireworks explode, and DiCaprio flashes the killer smile that broke hearts the world over in Titanic. It’s overwrought, obvious, and ostentatiously cheesy, but I found myself grinning ear-to-ear nonetheless.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese‘s Goodfellas is one of my very favorite movies of all time, so I’m disappointed that I didn’t like The Wolf of Wall Street more. As wonderful as it was to watch Leonardo DiCaprio stretch beyond his usual shouty, brow furrow-y, my-wife-is-dead routine (the OD scene is an instant classic), the experience as a whole rang hollow. A tidy moral isn’t required, but after three hours I’d like to come away with something more than, “Quaaludes are a hell of a drug.”
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
I put Inside Llewyn Davis at #7 on my top-10 list after seeing it just once, and I suspect I would’ve ranked it even higher had I found the time to watch it a few more times. But I’ve no complaints. One viewing was enough to tell me that Oscar Isaac made the absolute most of his breakout role, and that the soundtrack (produced by T-Bone Burnett) was every bit as lovely and heartbreaking as I had hoped.
The premise of Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity couldn’t be simpler, but the execution made it one of the most awe-inducing experiences I had at the cinema all year. The long, fluid opening shot alone is worth the price of admission — and that’s saying a lot, since this was a film that demanded you shell out extra for 3D and IMAX. Between this and The Heat, Sandra Bullock had a very, very good year.
2. Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon‘s shoestring take on Shakespeare was a fizzy confection with delightfully unexpected flavors. So why wasn’t it more memorable? Perhaps part of the issue is that some of the original’s plot points simply ring false in a modern setting, especially one with such a low-key vibe. On the plus side, Whedon has a very nice house, Nathan Fillion and Alexis Denisof continue to be funny as hell, and Amy Acker deserves to be a much bigger star than she is.
1. Before Midnight
Before Midnight was both my most anticipated movie of 2013 and my favorite movie of 2013. I liked it so much, I felt compelled to make Richard Linklater‘s (possible) 2014 release Boyhood at the top of my most-anticipated list for 2014. Simply put, I’d say I knocked this one out of the park.