Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Top 5 Favorite Films of 2013

Nebraska - photo crop 2

#1  –  Nebraska

Two years ago, director Alexander Payne finished in the #2 spot for my favorite film of the year with The Descendants, but this year he took top prize with Nebraska, a father-son road movie that won me over in practically every way, including its story, its feel-good tone, the acting of Bruce Dern and (unbelievably for me) Will Forte, its black-and-white photography, and the overall filmmaking prowess of Payne. The final movie I saw of 2013, and without a doubt the best.

#2  –  Gravity

A sight to behold on the big screen, that I wish I’d seen in 3-D when I had the chance: never before have I watched a film set in outer space that made me feel like I was actually there. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts left stranded after their shuttle is destroyed by debris, and we spend the entirety of the film stranded alongside them…literally lost in space. What impressed me most, along with the cinematography and the work of Bullock, was the story, and how it could keep a movie about two people floating miles above Earth so tension-filled and full of surprises.

#3  –  The Way Way Back

A small film that came and went without much hoopla, but to me deserved a lot more attention than it received. A single mom takes her introverted 14-year-old son to a Cape Cod beach house for summer vacation, where he gets a job at a local water park and soon, with the help of a cool and understanding staff, comes out of his shell. There’s obviously more to it than that, and if you’re like me and love independent comedy-dramas that are fun and sentimental (such as Away We Go and (500) Days of Summer), then this should be right up your alley.

#4  –  Oblivion

I have no idea why so many people and critics disliked and disparaged this movie…I thought it was a whole mess of sci-fi fun, starring Tom Cruise as a high-tech security guard on an empty, war-ravaged Earth, who watches over gigantic fusion generators that supply power to human survivors transplanted to a Saturn moon. I know that sounds kinda dull, but it’s not; I thought it had a great apocalyptic story and look, some truly unexpected twists, and solid work again from Cruise. Strangely enough, this is the only one of these five films that I’ve seen more than once (at the time I wrote this, at least).

#5  –  42

To me, a  lot of baseball films I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot) seem to come up short when it comes to game realism, whether it’s on the field or off. 42 had all its bases covered in that regard, and did a wonderful job of re-creating the look and feel of baseball in the 1940s. The story centered on Jackie Robinson’s first year playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and how he and team owner Branch Rickey (well-played by Harrison Ford) handle the abuse and backlash from players and fans when Robinson becomes the first African-American player in the major leagues. An interesting and well-presented look at an important chapter from baseball’s past.

Three Other Favorites That Just Missed the Top 5

Side Effects

Blue Jasmine

Enough Said

10 comments on “Top 5 Favorite Films of 2013

  1. oneluckiegirl
    5/14/14

    I have yet to see any of those! But a few are on my list! Did you review any of them on your site?

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/14/14

      Just two: Oblivion and, from the ‘Three Other Favorites’ section, Side Effects. I own all five of those Top 5 on DVD, so at some point when I get the damn things out of storage, I’ll review ’em. In the meantime, click here and here to check out those two reviews, if your interested!

  2. robbinsrealm
    5/15/14

    I haven’t seen Nebraska. I have never really been a fan of Bruce Dern. I thought Gravity was heart pounding; I am very happy Cuaron won Best Director. I loved 42, and have seen it several times; both my parents were Brooklyn Dodger fans, so I heard many stories about Jackie Robinson, when I was growing up.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/15/14

      What’s interesting is, I’ve never been a fan of Will Forte, and I thought he was really great in Nebraska, so maybe you should give Dern a try in this and see what happens. And that’s cool your parents were Brooklyn Dodgers fans…and it would be really cool if they were able to see Robinson play at Ebbets Field!

  3. robbinsrealm
    5/15/14

    My grandfather took my mother all the time to Ebbets Field to watch The Dodgers play. My father met Robinson, along with a bunch of other kids, while they were waiting for the players to come out, when they were leaving the park, after a game. My father told Jackie he was his favorite player and Robinson winked at him; years later my father met Sharon Robinson at a charity event where she was signing copies of her book, and told her what a thrill it had been to meet Jackie, and how it was one one of his most cherished memories from childhood. She was a very nice woman, and my father got me an autographed copy of her book, which I still have.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/15/14

      What a great story…I would’ve loved to have seen a game at Ebbets Field, and had the chance to meet some of those players. I did meet Duke Snider once, long after he’d retired, at a college baseball game back in the 1980s. And that’s a nice book to have on your shelf, too.

  4. Popcorn Nights
    5/15/14

    Great to see Nebraska up there – I enjoyed that a lot. I’m afraid I haven’t seen #3, #4 or #5 yet but have Oblivion sitting around at home, at least. I enjoyed Away We Go a lot so have high hopes for The Way Way Back.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/15/14

      I try to get as many people to see Nebraska as I can…glad you liked it, too. Looking forward to seeing your review for The Way Way Back…and you’re aware that I’ve put my refund policy on hold indefinitely, right?

  5. grandrapidsgirl
    5/15/14

    Fascinating list! Enjoyed the short, fun format and hope to see the ones I haven’t yet! Amen on Nebraska, Gravity and Oblivion!

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/15/14

      Cool! Just two more to go, and both now available on cable pay channels! Keep me posted if you see them…thanks Julie!

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 158

From the Monolith: 86

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 4
1940s – 11
1950s – 22
1960s – 30
1970s – 22
1980s – 24
1990s – 5
2000s – 10
2010s – 30

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 27
Comedy – 33
Crime – 9
Documentary – 1
Drama – 16
Horror – 28
Martial Arts – 0
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 14
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 19
Western – 6

Movies by Rating

10 star – 9
9 star – 19
8 star – 23
7 star – 22
6 star – 14
5 star – 15
4 star – 16
3 star – 11
2 star – 15
1 star – 11
0 star – 3

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