Tuesday, 31 December 2013

NerdTech's Film of the Year 2013!

It's been one year, give or take, since this site randomly turned into a movie blog for no reason. The first stuff on here was the 2012 Film of the Year awards so, naturally, we're marking our first anniversary with the 2013 awards!

The rules are the same as last year: this is not the best films of the year, it's the films that had the biggest effect on me - be that emotional, exciting, hilarious or terrifying. The best film I saw this year, objectively speaking, actually is on this list - but, because it's an intentionally subjective list, it barely made it into the top 3.
Gut reactions are the order of the day.


5: Iron Man 3 - Shane Black

It's been a pretty crappy year for blockbusters. Star Trek was fun but, in retrospect, indefensibly stupid; Man of Steel was a boring, self-serious mess; and GI Joe was just plain terrible. Even Pacific Rim, much as I loved it, peaked too soon and sagged at the end. Thank Odin, then, for Marvel.

Of their two offerings this year (three if you count Agents of SHIELD) Iron Man 3 was the clear winner. Shane Black made a superhero movie that breaks all the rules and never does what it's supposed to; at once both a part of the Marvel universe and its own crazy thing.
Iron Man, the guy in the suit, is barely in it - his biggest villain, likewise - and somehow that's actually to the movie's benefit. Black's film goes out of its way to be different, and the result is a fresh and unusual take on an overplayed genre. Even if it did upset a few people.

Many franchises this year split their fanbase down the middle, and Iron Man was no exception. Man of Steel and Star Trek both delighted and disgusted fans in equal measure. But where they caused divisions with their plotholes and problems, Iron Man 3 did it on purpose, with a pitch-perfect reveal that flipped everything on its head.
It's that mischievous nature - true to the comics yet completely subverting them - that earns it a place on this list. The fact that it also has a great script, brilliant action, and is often really funny is just the polish on this shiny metal suit.

Read the full review here!


4: Monsters University - Dan Scanlon

I can't say I was thrilled when I heard that they were making a prequel to one of my favourite films. Prequels tend to be a Bad Idea - I can't think of the last one that actually lived up to the original (X-Men: First Class maybe, but that's actually more of a reboot).
And, if we're being honest, MU can't match the pure magic of Monsters Inc. either. But it's different enough and funny enough and, as it hits its final act, clever enough that it never actually matters.

At first glance it's a pretty generic collage movie story, but the specifics of the film and its world make it far more unique and, more importantly, flat-out hilarious. Every moment of the film boasts a joke of some kind - be they tiny visual puns in the background or huge set-piece gags - and every single one lands.
It's Pixar's funniest film but, in true Pixar fashion, they don't let that get in the way of the great characters and their surprisingly heartfelt story. If nothing else, it's great that it keeps surprising us, even though we already know how it ends.

It's quite possible that Monsters University would have made this list merely for being the funniest film of the year but then, in a final act as dramatic as it is unexpected, it cements itself as one of the year's absolute best.

Read the full review here!


3: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Peter Jackson

For a number of reasons - including Christmas, and something you'll see in a moment - I still haven't finished my review of The Hobbit. Because I don't want to spoil that review, which will be up first thing next year, I'll keep this brief.
Just know that, even though I've given it the same ranking, Desolation is the film we all hoped An Unexpected Journey would be - a lighter, less serious tale than Lord of the Rings, but still recognisably set in the same world. Middle Earth is alive again, and everything from the characters to the locations has the depth and texture that the first Hobbit seemed to lack.

But none of that is why it's on this list. It's on this list for Smaug, and that's all you need to know.

Full review soon!


2: Gravity / Rush - Alphonso Cuarón / Ron Howard

This second position was originally going to go to Gravity alone; but then I crashed my car. Suddenly I'm jumping out of my skin every time I see break-lights, and Rush is very much at the forefront of my mind.
Since then I've been trying to rank them properly - to figure out which is better - but it's an impossible choice. Rush is probably the better film, but Gravity is the more powerful experience, and they both work so perfectly. In the end I've decided to cheat: my number 2 goes to immersive, beautiful, terrifying white-knuckle movies. Both of them.

They're very different films, of course. One is a true story that spans years, with a bunch of characters and a lot of talking; the other is a very fictional day-long story, with barely four characters and minimal dialogue. Also one of them happens in space.
But, as I'm lumping them together, they're actually more similar than they might appear. Both films are about their characters' single-minded determination to reach a goal - being World Champion and not dying respectively - and the horrific events that get in their way. By dragging us intimately through their stories, and by getting incredible work from the actors, they both make us care and feel for characters we normally wouldn't, either because we know nothing about them or because they're kind of awful.
The biggest similarity, though, is that they're both just flawlessly executed. Even though Howard uses a thousand shots where Cuarón might use three, every single one of those shots is necessary, meaningful and stunning to look at; and every one propels the film at a breakneck pace. Neither director wastes even a moment.

Despite their huge differences in story and style, these two share a spot because they're both transportive, breathless, powerful movies. And they both scared the shit out of me.

Read the full Gravity review here!
Read the full Rush review here!


1: Wreck-It Ralph - Rich Moore

All my favourite animated films seem to centre on unlikely friendships. Sully and Boo, Lilo and Stitch, Wall-E and Eve, Hogarth and the Giant, Hiccup and Toothless, even Wallace and Gromit. It was probably inevitable that Ralph and Vanellope would jump straight onto that list, too.
What wasn't inevitable is that they would do it with such style.

I don't just mean that it looks gorgeous - though it certainly does, with brilliant design work and ingenious game-like animation - but also the flair with which it pulls off its story. We're rapidly plunged into not one, but a whole handful of worlds, each with their own rules and textures. Characters feel fully-rounded from the first moment they appear. The main villain is somehow set up without us even knowing that there's meant to be one.
It's all just so clever and assured!

Cleverest and most assured of all, though, is how emotional things get. It's very funny the entire time - the whole cast is made up of comedians - and yet it choked me up again and again. That central pairing, for whatever reason, grabbed my heart as only animated odd-couples seem to do.
Often that emotion would come at the expense of scale but here, even at its most quiet and private, this film is never afraid to go big. When it all reaches its tremendous, apocalyptic climax everything, from those intimate emotions to the wonderful designs to tiny ideas we didn't know were important, collide to create an ending both huge and wonderfully personal.
The defining moment of the cinematic year, for me, was when a big dumb guy holding a cookie chanted a totally meaningless mantra, and somehow made it mean so much.

Wreck-It Ralph was the first new film I saw in 2013 - and nothing topped it. Honestly, nothing even came close.

Read the full review here!