That Was The year, That Was – Episode VII
Well, here we are again. How was 2013 for you? As you might expect, I spent most of it in a cinema. 65 new movies made it onto my viewing list in the twelve months just concluded (plus the 'final cut' of The Wicker Man, of course), but I shall break with tradition by not troubling you with a full list of the films involved.
On the whole it felt like a pretty good year, with no massive disappointments and a few unexpected gems appearing. A diverse year, too, with general trends being hard to discern – or then again perhaps I just haven't been paying enough attention as usual.
So, without further ado, onto the Lassie awards for 2013 – mostly broken down by genre, this time round.
Comedy: I still don't find most modern comedy films especially amusing, but there were a few this year that raised a chuckle. Anchorman 2 and Alan Partridge both lived up to considerable expectations, but managing to do that while being extremely funny and also telling a resonant and quite affecting story was Edgar Wright's The World's End. Hopes for his collaboration with Marvel Studios on Ant-Man have duly been raised.
Action Movie: I would always feel bad if I had to give this to a film which Jason Statham didn't appear in. Luckily he is in Fast and Furious 6, albeit only for a few moments right at the very end. It's quite easy to sneer at the F&F franchise but these are generally supremely well-crafted pieces of entertainment. The death of Paul Walker last December was, of course, a tragedy, but it would equally be a shame if that caused the end of this particular series.
Documentary: Not quite as good a year as 2012, but a few gems, and it was actually quite difficult to make a choice in the end. My criterion here is the extent to which the film manages to make an unpromising topic interesting – and by this standard a great film about an elderly restaurant owner sneaks it over a great film about homicidal whales. So the Lassie goes to Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, with an honourable mention for Blackfish.
Science Fiction: Now, does Gravity actually count as SF? A difficult question and no mistake. I'm not entirely sure it does, but then the boundaries of this particular genre have always been fiendishly difficult to determine. Anyway – there were a number of decent, smart SF films in 2013, Elysium, Oblivion, and Robot & Frank amongst them. (Upstream Color would also definitely be on the list had I actually understood it.) In the absence of Gravity, I would – perhaps controversially – give the award to Ender's Game, a thoughtful and accomplished film which didn't seem to make much of an impact on its own merits.
Fantasy: Again, where do you set the borders? I tend to lump all the superhero movies in here, too, which makes things even more confusing. Anyway – I did enjoy Pacific Rim very much (borderline SF, I suppose), and also Man of Steel, but – it's like the glory days of the column all over again! – it would be perverse not to recognise the scale of Peter Jackson's achievements in the second Hobbit film, a definite improvement over the first one.
Drama: Now I think Gravity should go in here... but enough already. Other 2013 dramas I particularly enjoyed included A Late Quartet, Wadjda, and Trance. However, the best non-spacesuit related drama of the year for me was Rush, a gripping story rivetingly told.
Biggest Disappointment of the Year: Strong temptation to plump for Star Trek Into Darkness here, but to be honest I was always expecting it to be a let-down. However, this uncoveted prize goes to World War Z, quite simply because of the chasm in quality between the source novel and the movie. The prospect of a sequel is not a cheery one (unless, of course, it features much more of Peter Capaldi reprising his role as 'WHO Doctor').
Worst Film of the Year: Not that many candidates this year, but some real stinkers in there – including After Earth and – bang up to date – 47 Ronin. However, just edging both of these out was the truly woeful A Good Day to Die Hard, not least because of the way it slimes the reputation of a once-mighty franchise.
Best Film of the Year:Gravity. Whatever genre it belongs to.
Awix's Choice: The coveted prize for my favourite film of the year, however, goes to one which I even I admit has some serious and quite bizarre flaws in it (the BBC's Mark Kermode described it as a 'complete failure'). Nevertheless, I found it to be an exhilaratingly deranged piece of work and am looking forward to seeing it again – it is, of course, Cloud Atlas.
What of 2014? Not many absolutely huge releases in prospect, though I suppose The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the final Hobbit film qualify. There is of course a new Christopher Nolan film to anticipate, plus the troubled Fast & Furious 7 (something for most people in one or other of those, I suspect), not to mention what promises to be an off-the-wall offering from Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy. However, it's the unexpected pleasures which make spending most of your time in the cinema such a rewarding pursuit. Stay tuned.