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Friday, February 28, 2014

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013 (10-1)

10. Mud
        Writer/director Jeff Nichols favors stories with a bit of grit, rurally set tales of omnipresent danger and the gumption that results. They're not exactly kid-friendly places, which is exactly why his 2013 take on Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn works, both narratives wholly embracing the rough and tumble road that some young boys must traverse on the way to manhood. Tye Sheridan stars as Ellis, a son of a breaking (present tense of broken) home who freely roams the rivers and terrains of small, small town Arkansas. It's here that he finds the titular Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a mysterious hermit, living in a boat saddled surreally between two trees, whose hidden plight slowly reveals itself to young Ellis. Wonderfully acted by all on board, and presented in gorgeous, earthy tones and images, Mud is a film about growing up in a big, busy world, one wherein adults pretend to have the answers, but are really just fumbling around like the rest of us. A sweet and true meditation on learning the ropes the hard way, and coming out the better for it.

9. Gravity
        Writing about Gravity feels kind of superfluous at this point, but maybe it always was. This is, after all, a film whose visceral impact cannot by conveyed with words; it must be experienced. You know the story by now: Dr. Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, is thrust violently out into space's infinite expanse, and must fight to survive. Alfonso Cuarón's first film since Children of Men is a passion project that took the innovator years to create, producing all new technology and techniques to bring his star-studded, star-set thriller to life. Gravity is a testament to the unique power of the medium, an ideal counter-point to any film fan who would argue that intellect is the focal point of terrific filmmaking. There's nothing brainy about that feeling it puts in your gut, or the way that it rips air out of your lungs, or in that disorienting experience of leaving the theater, and realizing you're still on earth. It's pure SPECTACLE, spelled-out in all caps.

8. Captain Phillips
        A word of advise: make sure to wolf down all of your popcorn within the first fifteen minutes of Captain Phillips, because after that you'll need your hands to grip your armrests. Adrenaline junkie/director Paul Greengrass' latest splits its perspective right down the middle, allotting time to both the Somalian pirates who hijacked the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, and the ship's ill-prepared crew. The man behind United 93 has an amazing way to applying documentary-style realism to his films chronicling true-life events, the work of cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and editor Christopher Rouse ratcheting up the tension with positively merciless abandon. Then there's Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, one of America's biggest screen icons pitted against a guy who was driving a taxi before being cast in the film, each delivering head-spinningly brilliant performances as a pair of combatants tasked with fighting their respective bosses' battles. Even now, almost half a year after my eyes first met the film, I can't shake Hanks' final scene, easily the most astounding two minutes of acting we saw last year. I can still feel the bullets of sweat on my temples.

7. Prince Avalanche
        In which David Gordon Green picks himself up, and gets back on the horse. The director, who made his name on a string of thoughtful indies before being drafted to helm Pineapple Express, was coming of a couple of critical and financial bombs, The Sitter (which I have not seen) and Your Highness (which I deeply wish I hadn't seen). He relocates his muse with Prince Avalanche, a precious little gem of a movie starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a couple of road workers assigned the comically monotonous job of repainting highway lines on a wildfire-ravaged highway in late-80's Texas. Hirsch, one of America's most criminally under-used screen actors, is great in the film, but Rudd does him one better, playing against type as a tense, bookish man with doubts and insecurities that could be spotted from a mile away. They are alone for the vast, vast majority of the film, and the way that their relationship ebbs and flows from scene to scene is a marvel to watch, the flick's subjects of rumination including love, responsibility, self-definition, and friendship. Green even takes time to observe the nature surrounding them, helping us feel their seldom-discussed isolation, all set to Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo's sublime score. Those requiring motion and excitement in their film-going experience might not be as thrilled by the picture as I am; Prince Avalanche is about as small as it gets... and about as good as it gets, too.

6. The Spectacular Now
        If there's one unifying theme between my favorite films listed 7-4, it's the sense of sweetness that they all share. Perhaps the sweetest of the bunch is The Spectacular Now, the story of hard-partying High School senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), and Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), the nerdy girl that serves as a shot in his arm. Yes, these are tired trappings, but the honesty and delicacy with which director James Ponsoldt observes them is miraculously detailed, and magnanimous in earned emotion. Granted, it would all fall apart if the film didn't have two of the year's finest performances on hand, Teller a ball of vivacious charm and inescapable demons, Woodley an affectionate dream girl with interests and autonomy all her own. Each learns habits, both constructive and detrimental, from each other, one of the most sharply-observed movies about romance's first rumblings I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. It's a flick worth swooning over.

5. Frances Ha
        We're not really used to seeing writer/director Noah Baumbach go this easy on us. Creator of such 'the world is a cold, dark place' movies as Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale, and Margot at the Wedding, Woody-Allen-waking-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed first showed a chink in his considerable emotional armor with 2011's Greenberg, but nothing could have prepared us for this. Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a woman in her late 20's attempting to make it as a dancer in New York whose flightiness and general immaturity come to embody an entire generation of young adults... my generation, that is. But this time around, Baumbach isn't as interested in judging his protagonist as he is in celebrating her liveliness, teasing her about her faults, and finding her a cozy place to call home. Captured in gloriously grainy black and white, scored and edited in a manner that clearly calls to mind Godard, Truffaut, and other French New Wave luminaries, Frances Ha is a delectable experience, a brilliant encapsulation of young women in the year 2013, and an ideal showcase for the irrepressible Gerwig. Both this and Prince Avalanche are on Netflix Instant Watch right now; what the heck are you waiting for?

4. Nebraska
        Before I saw Nebraska, I had yet to witness an Alexander Payne movie that I felt lukewarm about;  Oscar's poet laureate of American misfits had only made films that I either loved (Election, Sideways) or met with scorn (About Schmidt, THE DESCENDANTS [in all caps to ensure you feel my rage]). Apparently nothing has changed. Payne's latest stars Bruce Dern as an aging boozer on a mission to retrieve a million-dollar prize promised him by the kind of spam mail that most people feed directly to the recycling bin. Bob Nelson's brilliant script pokes endless fun at midwestern lifestyle without ever succumbing to bitterness, eliciting genuine knee-slappers in between moments of wistful longing, and painful truth. The glacial pace with which Payne and editor Kevin Tent saddle the film perfectly befits the slow-moving subject and lifestyle at hand, as does Mark Orton's playful score, and Phedon Papamichael's sumptuous, Oscar-nominated, black-and-white cinematography. No 2013 film paired belly-aching laughs with tender, unavoidable truths quite like Nebraska, a trip into the past with a perfectly calibrated ratio of salt to sugar. 

3. Dallas Buyers Club
        How's this for a passion project: a screenwriter struggles for 20+ years to research, create, and pitch a true-story screenplay, endless talent drops in and out before a pair of actors sign on (Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto), and are immediately tasked with dropping A TON of weight. I'm not one to allow backstories to affect my evaluation of a final product, but the motivations and affections behind the creation of Dallas Buyers Club are right there on screen from start to finish, the hugely emotional journey of a heterosexual good-ol'-boy thrust, by necessity, into the role of an AIDS-pandemic Robin Hood. Shot over the course of an ultra-brief 25 days and deprived of any rehearsal time or artificial lighting, DBC tip-toed through a mine field in order to become one of the year's most affecting movies, its ship steered by McConaughey's master-class, career-reshapping turn. This isn't an AIDS message picture or a gay rights message picture; it's s flick about one man doing everything that he can to survive, and the lessons that he learns along the way.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street
        Love or hate The Wolf of Wall Street, there's still a certain uneasiness with its content. Are we celebrating these actions by showing them in this light? Are we appropriately observing the countless lives Jordan Belfort either damaged or destroyed? Is this subject really worth three hours? Is this really the type of movie that you're allowed to 'love?' After two times watching the film and hours of considering it, I've come across these four answers: no, no, yes, and yes. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the best performance of his career as the aforementioned Belfort, a stock broker with a lust for life (see: drugs, sex, and general excess) that spurred on the creation of an entire brokerage firm of swindling thieves. As an enormous fan of both The Departed and Hugo, I can't help but be annoyed by all of the 'easily his best film since Goodfellas' discussion, but it's certainly Martin Scorsese's most lively since that gangster epic, each frame teeming with the very electricity and sin that's made him one of the finest filmmakers of all time. An endless cavalcade of laughter and debauchery with a few patches of wise reflection sewn in here and there, The Wolf of Wall Street guns it up to 120 mph, ignores all traffic signals, cuts off everyone in its way, never says 'sorry', and never takes its lead foot off the gas. And god bless it.

1. 12 Years a Slave
        Sorry to be so predictable, but it's hard for me to see an argument in favor of another film as 2013's best. 12 has the immediate leg-up as the year's 'most important' film from the get-go, but it's what the picture actually does with said trappings that really takes it to the next level. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free man of color who is drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in the antebellum south, and must scratch and claw not just to escape, but to survive. British director Steve McQueen captures here what a bajillion other American filmmakers should have thought to chronicle beforehand: an honest-to-goodness, no-holds-barred, stomach-turning take on the deplorable institution that, by and large, helped build the U.S. from the ground up. The Oscar-nominated acting on hand is worthy of all praise (the aforementioned Ejiofor, as well as Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o in the supporting categories), but the technical elements on hand are just as impressive. Academy award snubs for cinematographer Sean Bobbitt and score maestro Hans Zimmer stand as some of the most egregious of the year, all while the editing, costume design, screenplay, sound, and production design constantly coax the most ridiculous of superlatives. This movie could be about a man eating a sandwich, and the talent involved would still likely prompt celebratory hosannas, but thankfully it's not; 12 Years a Slave offers us a never-before-seen tour through the horrors of our nation's single greatest crime, and the power of its impact is enough to level skyscrapers.

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013:

Other End-of-2013 Movie Articles:
The Fourth Annual Elwyns (If Hype Starts Here was in charge of the Oscars)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013 (25-11)

25. In a World...
        Sometimes it's less about how much you bite off, and more about how you chew it. Lake Bell directs, writes, and stars as Carol, an aspiring voice-over professional struggling to crack into the male-dominated industry. It's a modest offering, but Bell delivers it with warmth and humor, poking fun at Hollywood's rampant self-obsessiveness without ever being disingenuous to her many three-dimenionally written characters. It's a charmer through and through.

24. The Hunt
        One of this year's Best Foreign Feature nominees, The Hunt tells the story of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a seemingly warm-hearted elementary school teacher who is vaguely accused of molestation by one of his students. The ostracizing that follows reaches far beyond mere suspension from his job, and comes to threaten everything in the man's life, all while we wonder at the truth. Writer/director Thomas Vinterberg knows just how to string us along, dolling out facts at appropriate times, keeping us tantalized by the mystery while subsequently exploring the society's vast array of reactions. The ending knocks The Hunt down a couple pegs for me personally, but both the film's initial set up and slow-burning center are things to be reckoned with.

23. Frozen
        Disney's surprise mega-hit caught everyone by surprise this winter by slowly amassing nearly 400 million dollars state side, and it's not hard to see why. The story of two princesses (Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel), two hunks (Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana) and a talking snowman (Josh Gad) is stocked with a bevy of throwback-style Disney musical numbers, the roster lead by Menzel's powerhouse centerpiece Let it Go. When the film isn't playing out like a broadway production, however, it finds clever and heartening ways to subvert genre expectations, expanding the mold rather than breaking it. The animation is top-notch too, making Frozen a treat in just about every sense of the word.

22. Philomena
        Philomena is a story about a mother (Judi Dench) on a search for her long-lost son, filled with fish-out-of-water humor, leering oppositional forces, and out-and-out melodrama. In other words, it plays like a 50's film that hopped in a time machine, flipped the switch forward 60 years, and then gunned it to 88 mph. Credit writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for knowing exactly how hard to push their agenda, eliciting genuine emotion from their audience in a way that most modern films wouldn't dare to even attempt. It's a film with its heart on its sleeve, Dench delivering a note-perfect performance as a woman who bumbles with the utmost grace. The welcome return 'The Weepie'; bring some tissues.

21. Iron Man 3
        Five years in, and Marvel Studios still has yet to make a bad movie (though Thor: The Dark World sure toed the line, didn't it?). Iron Man 3 stands proudly as one of their very best, our old pal Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) again forced to use his considerable intellect and gargantuan piggy bank to save the day from corporate greed (Guy Pierce) and funny accents (Ben Kingsley). The franchise debut of writer/director Shane Black, this third installment is a gloriously unruly affair, opening to the sounds of Eiffel 65's I'm Blue, sending Tony on an impromptu road trip, and pulling off a twist that delighted know-it-all audience members and infuriated dedicated comic book fans. It's two straight hours of throwing caution to the wind, a rollicking, funny, energetic romp that features some of the finest action sequences the studio has dreamed up yet.

20. Before Midnight
        I feel like a jerk for having this one so low on my list, the latest installment in Richard Linklater's magical Before series, but Jesse and Celine were just so damn hard on me this time! As always, the love birds/sparing mates set to endless discussion while walking around in gorgeous european locations, but the spark of fresh/forbidden love is nearly all gone, replaced with the type of resentments that build over time in... you know... real relationships. Credit everyone involved for the bravery it took to pull this thing off in earnest, especially Julie Delpy, whose performance here might be her best in the series. Is Before Midnight of a quality that merits a higher ranking than this? Absolutely. Is there something poignant and powerful about watching the deterioration of romance with razor-sharp attentiveness, and refusing to look away? Totally. Am I a baby for favoring the moony-eyed opening chapters over this one? Probably.

19. Drinking Buddies
        Wait... Olivia Wilde can act? The actress has always been easy on the eyes, but even the token 'hot girl' character with which she's continuously saddled occasionally seemed out of reach. What a surprise then, to see her inhabit Kate so fully, a lively, charismatic, soulful, and unnervingly natural performance that will hopefully re-write the book on her career. Her every-girl character works at a brewery where she flirts and is flirted with mercilessly, though her interactions with fun-loving Luke (Jake Johnson) feature more than a little tension. Both are already spoken for, but when the two of them spend a weekend away with their partners in tow, fault lines begin to shift. The chemistry that Wilde and Johnson share glues your eyes to the screen as this 90-minute charmer plays out with a breezy realism that's awfully difficult to pull off. 

18. Enough Said
        I have yet to see any of Nicole Holofcener's films besides Enough Said, but on this evidence alone, I'd describe her as a thinking-person's Nancy Meyers. Sure, the film is stocked with the very type of furniture-cataloge aesthetic that you'd expect, but don't get too fussy; the posh amenities and vein discourses are constantly revealing aspects of Holofcener's wonderfully fleshed-out characters. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a divorced 40-something with a daughter about ready to jet off to college who finds herself falling for a schlubby sweetheart named Albert (James Gandolfini). For such a modest film, Enough Said has a lot on its mind, from the unique relationships that mothers have with daughters, to wealth and the expectations that it brings, and (most importantly) the way that the opinions of others can come to distort your own. The leads are utterly fantastic, 

Louis-Dreyfus turning a potentially shrewish character into a warm, funny, flawed individual, while Gandolfini's mellow, old-soul warmth almost radiates off the screen. A lark to be sure, but a thoughtful, observant, warm-hearted lark at that.

17. Monsters University
        Pixar might be down, but they're not out yet! Sure, Monsters University can't quite stand next to the studio's decade-plus string of classics, but it's worlds superior to the likes of Cars 2 and Brave, an ecstatic entertainment with an eager-to-please energy that's difficult to resist. Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) begin what we know (from Monsters Inc.) will be a fortuitous friendship on all kinds of the wrong foot, but are forced to team up in the titular school's annual Scare Games if they want to remain enrolled. The voice work is top-notch as always, newcomers Helen Mirren and Charlie Day livening the proceedings, and the animators expand the world of the original with a texture and vividness that would have been technologically impossible 12 years ago. There's even a fantastic message for young minds tucked into the fold, disposing of the tired 'you can do anything you put your mind to,' in favor of emphasizing individual strengths and weaknesses, and knowing how to better oneself through them. Up, Toy Story, Wall-e, and Finding Nemo might not have invited MU to sit at the grown-ups table, but it's having an absolute blast eating with the big kids.

16. Her
        The film that finally takes online dating to the next level, Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a kind-hearted but mopey introvert who develops a romantic relationship with his recently purchased sentient operating system, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Spike Jonze debut as a feature film writer is an intricate affair, bringing up all sorts of questions about romance, addiction to technology, the imminent future, and what it really means to be alive. Phoenix, alone for much of the film's runtime, imbues his sad-sack character with an odd charm, his scenes opposite Amy Adams feeling impossibly lived-in. Just don't let the myriad of ideas on hand distract you from the sublime craft, from Hoyte Van Hoytema's sumptuous cinematography, to K.K. Barrett's Oscar nominated production design, to Arcade Fire's lovelorn score. Her is a think-piece that rattles around in your head for days afterward, a love story that openly questions what the heck a love story actually is.

15. The Great Beauty
        The Great Beauty is a ridiculously lofty title, the kind of moniker that gains you instant attention, as well as free-flowing mockery if the flick doesn't live up. Thankfully, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's film prompts no such scorn, playing out like a Federico Fellini film transplanted into the year 2013. Toni Servillo plays the wonderfully wise pessimist Jep, an aging writer deeply entrenched in the high-life party scene who ruminates on his past, and the world around him. Those requiring a sensical plot to enjoy a movie will be left out in the freezing cold; this is a surreal affair, a richly detailed meditation that hops liberally from one thought or image to the next without ever looking back. The film appears set to take home the Best Foreign Feature Oscar this sunday, and more power to it.

14. All is Lost
        How is it possible that I deeply appreciated this one-man show, but didn't especially like the one man? Trust me, I'm still trying to figure it out. Robert Redford's stoic performance might not be my cup of tea, but the things that J.C. Chandor does behind the screen completely cancel out any complaints I might otherwise wager. The movie opens with our unnamed protagonist experiencing nautical trouble that steadily increases through out the film's runtime, his yacht floating all alone in a vast and threatening ocean. The dialogue here is few and far between, Chandor creating something of a procedural in which mother nature throws one curve ball after another, and 'our man' has to fight like hell to bat them away. Certain scenes and images are enough to rattle your bones, somehow melding the rules of silent film into an action adventure with ideal results. Remind me not to go sailing on my own.

13. Prisoners 
        Stop me when you've heard this one before: a young child goes missing in a small town, and after law enforcement proves inept, it's up to the bereaved father become an vigilante, and save the day by any dastardly means necessary. So Prisoners might not have the most unique trappings of all time, but the way that it goes about its business is nearly masterful. Hugh Jackman, whom I've always found to be something of a one-note performer, arrives at his ideal one-note character, and rages ferociously for over two hours, a slew of other great performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Paul Dano rounding out a thoroughly talented cast. Their coach ain't half bad either; Denis Villeneuve, the director behind 2011's sinisterly brilliant Incendies, is a maestro with tension, your hands balled up into sweaty fists for nearly all of the film's elongated runtime. And then there's Roger Deakins, that deity of camera work who passed up on the Coen's latest in order to turn this film into a positively endless feast for the eyes. Who needs to reinvent the wheel when you can drive like this?

12. Spring Breakers
        By far the strangest walk from the theater to my car that I experienced in 2013, Spring Breakers is a brazenly irresponsible rush that hits the body like a drug in the veins. The premise is simple and familiar: a slew of attractive women party hard on warm beaches and ample booze, but what madman director Harmony Korine does with these trappings just about knocks your head off. By the time the film is over, every rule of normal story-telling lays shattered on the ground, vigorously tossed aside in favor of machine gun-toting piano ballads and mobsters played by Gucci Mane. As far as nutritional value is concerned, Spring Breakers might as well be a bag of Bugles, but since when was spring break about eating well, and cleaning up after yourself? The film rages like a wild beast, powered equally by Korine's unflinching bombast, and James Franco's almost-as-absurd-as-it-is-awesome white trash rapper, Alien. As soon as I got off the ride, I wanted to get on again.

11. Inside Llewyn Davis
        The Coen's latest has been described as an ode to human failure, and who better to tell that particular story that Joel and Ethan? The titular troubadour, played by Oscar Issac, is on a mission to make it in the early 60's Greenwich Village folk scene, though the universe is whole-heartedly against him. Perceived opportunities take Davis on a voyage to Chicago, the movie's surreal sequencing and logic finding the singer in the center of a unique type of odyssey, stuffed with enough symbolism to keep the picture on your mind for days. As always, the movie is packed with killer supporting performances, and the way in which the filmmakers recreate the entire world of five-decades-old New York is a dreamy marvel. A near-musical packed with beautiful songs of yearning and regret, ILD is replete with the brothers' signature dark humor, but this particular shade of melancholy is a new look for them, and they wear it well.

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013:

Other End-of-2013 Movie Articles:
The Fourth Annual Elwyns (If Hype Starts Here was in charge of the Oscars)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013 (40-26)

40. Man of Steel
        I like to reserve the bottom spot on this list for something goofy; in 2010, it was the corny bliss of Step Up 3D, and last year, the hilariously fool-hardy The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 occupied the slot. This year we've got Man of Steel, Zach Snyder's impossibly dunderheaded take on Superman's origin story. From action sequences of preposterous mass destruction and invisible heroism, to innumerable and ludicrously heavy-handed Clark Kent/Jesus comparisons, MoS prompted about twice as much face-palm incredulity as the next closest 2013 offering, and I kind of love it for that. Just don't think I'm actually saying it's good.

39. Star Trek Into Darkness
        The ultimate woulda-coulda-shoulda movie of last year, the sequel to 2009's brilliant Star Trek reboot suffers mightily for hewing its story too closely to that of the previous film. That said, we still love this cast, and J.J. Abrams can direct a mean action sequence (rocketing through the debris field, anyone?). The film is also a joy to look at, every aspect of its aesthetic looking pricey and gorgeous. Here's to hoping there's a more original tale on hand the next time we go trekking, but lord knows our eyes are in for a treat regardless.

38. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
        It's one of the rarest things in all of movie-dom; a flick that should actually be a little bit longer. Ain't Them Bodies Saints is just such a film, a swooning, melancholy take on the old west with tremendous performances by Ben Foster and, especially, Rooney Mara. It's kinship with Badlands and other films of the ilk is impossible to ignore, but the picture ends just as things are getting juicy. Still, ATBS is a pleasure while its on screen, and I for one have the utmost faith that obviously talented director David Lowrey will come out with a full-course winner some time in the near future.

37. Pacific Rim
      In a world riddled with false advertising, Pacific Rim made good on its goofily awesome promise; giant monsters vrs. giant robots, go! It might not be Guillermo del Toro's most impactful film, but its over-sized zaniness is sure to bring out the 10-year-old inside all of us, and a few of the towering throw-downs rank among this year's finest action sequences.

36. Blue is the Warmest Color
        Winner of the Palme d'Or at 2013's Cannes film festival, Blue takes its sweet time and revels in the small moments of which life largely consists. The story of young french woman coming of age and embracing her sexuality certainly isn't for everyone, its three hour runtime and mesmerizingly graphic sex scenes sure to turn off an audience member of two. Too bad they're missing out on Adèle Exarchopoulos, an unnervingly natural performer who's expressive face and unique character ticks carry the film.

35. Blue Jasmine
        Much ink has been spilt on Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine, which made me that much happier when Sally Hawkins snuck up and stole a supporting actress nomination. Woody Allen's 2013 update of A Streetcar Named Desire is positively loaded with great performances, from the two aforementioned nominees on down to Alec Baldwin's smooth sleaze, and Andrew Dice Clay's two-scene masterpiece. The Woodman knows how to get the best out of his performers.

34. The Conjuring
        How I would have loved The Conjuring if I hadn't already seen director James Wan's previous film, Insidious. The two almost serve as identical twins, the former taking the more classical approach, while the later prefers fun-house trickery to tell essentially the same tale. As a result, this incarnation might not feel as fresh, but watching Wan do his best William Friedkin impression is still a blast, and certain moments and images will have you gasping and jumping out of your seat. It's something American movie screens have been sorely lacking for years now; horror with class.

33. This is the End
        The easy winner of this summer's Apocalypse Comedy Showdown (sorry, At World's End!), the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg puts a broken mirror up to the Judd Apatow fraternity, and laughs like hell at what it sees. Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Rogen himself lead a deep cast of comedians all playing warped, self-serving, repugnant versions of themselves to hilarious effect. Michael Cera may steal the movie in the early goings, but inventive gags like Pineapple Express 2 and The Exorcism of Jonah Hill ensure that the laughs don't stop until the credits roll.

32. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues...
        Why do I feel like the only one who likes this movie? The long-anticipated return of Ron Burgundy and friends might not have lived up to its masterful predecessor, but what movie could? The sequel does an amazing job of maintaining the spirit and energy of the original, an endless stream of jokes that might not all land, but the ones that do hit like atomic bombs. If I had it my way, this wouldn't be the last we ever saw of the Channel 4 News Team.

31. Lone Survivor
        Lone Survivor is less a traditional movie than it is an experience. Based on the book Marcus Luttrell wrote chronicling the true-life event, the film follows four Navy Seals who find themselves in an impossible situation while on a mission to assassinate a Taliban leader. Director Peter Berg places you right in the middle of the action, bullets whizzing by your ears, the pain of falling from extreme heights almost palpable. What Lone Survivor lacks in subtlety and plot, it more than makes up for with intensity and visceral grit.

30. Oz the Great and Powerful
        Remember when we all thought that a Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland was just what the world needed? It took a few years, but Oz finally makes good on that film's failed promise of candy-land visuals, sweeping scope, psychedelic undertones, and a touch of darkness just around the edges. The film's trio of stellar actresses (Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Wiesz) all have a ball delivering deliciously gaudy performances, and director Sam Raimi keeps the eye-candy coming at a steady clip.

29. Now You See Me
        Holy cast, Batman! Now You See Me might not be the deepest piece of entertainment I've ever seen, but with the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mélanie Laurent and more, it's never less than a total blast to watch. Helmer Louis Leterrier wants nothing more than to maintain a zippy speed and crisp aesthetic, allowing his actors to do the rest. The welcome return of the big cast capper.

28. Don Jon
        Given his hitrecord project and allegiance with some of Hollywood's finest directors, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Joseph Gordon-Levitt knows how to make a movie, but this is still an awfully impressive maiden voyage. He tells the story of a porn-addicted meat-head (Gordon-Levitt) who falls for a tall drink of water (Scarlett Johansson) and learns a thing or two about romance in the process. Johansson is a gem in the film, and even if Gordon-Levitt's skills as a writer occasionally fail him, his grasp on tone, pace, style, and visuals is impossible to deny.

27. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
        When the first filmic installment of The Hunger Games exploded in spring of 2012, it bettered even the most outlandish expectations, and pegged the franchise for 'Next Big Thing' status. Catching Fire grows perfectly into the role, expanding on the world of the first, laying the groundwork for what looks to be one hell of a two-part finale. I still might prefer the first flick, but with Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss on the prowl, and this creative team in her wake, the odds are ever in favor of this franchise.

26. Fruitvale Station
        The true story of the late Oscar Grant's last day on this earth isn't exactly an easy watch, first-time director Ryan Coogler employing fly-on-the-wall minimalism to bring us close to his protagonist. Michael B. Jordan is just fantastic in the lead role, a flawed individual with a charisma that's impossible to ignore, though Octavia Spencer is almost his match as the concerned mother. Few 2013's films could match the emotional impact of Fruitvale Station's closing frames, tugging liberally at heartstrings while prompting fiery indignation all the while.

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013:

Other End-of-2013 Movie Articles:
The Fourth Annual Elwyns (If Hype Starts Here was in charge of the Oscars)