2013: Overwhelming quality, powerful suckage

Amy Adams and Christian Bale star in "American Hustle."
January 12, 2014

Typically, there is a tipping scale for the end-of-the-year list. In certain years, there is a strong list of top contenders. In others, there's an equally robust list of bottom dwellers. But this past year in cinema can be marked by both overwhelming quality and powerful suckage. There are some prestige films that have no right being near the top of anyone's list (Disney's deplorable revisionist history "Saving Mr. Banks") and others that were misunderstood or overlooked diamonds in the rough (the dare-to-be-different "Iron Man 3" and Matthew McConaughey's other great performance in "Mud").

So let's take out the trash before we put the polish on 2013, shall we? Remember that these were all films that made it to local theaters in the past year.

The bottom

10. Carrie: I never expected this to be a blockbuster, but I thought that in the hands of a strong female director, this useless copy-paste pic could scare up more than this bloody Band-Aid over the equally rotten sequel.

9. Identity Thief/ The Heat: Melissa McCarthy, a genuinely amusing lady, picked a pair of pathetic pics to further her onscreen career. "Thief" showed us the lasting bonds of friendship that emerge between criminals and their victims, and “Heat” demonstrated that ladies can star in buddy action flicks that are as generic and flat as those with the fellas.

8. A Good Day to Die Hard: It's been 25 years since the groundbreaking original was released, changing action film forever. Sigh. Ironically, the series died soft and whimpering.

7. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Warm Bodies, The Host, Beautiful Creatures: All of these flicks were aiming to take the torch from the 'Twilight' series, but it's the audience who got burned.

6. The Lone Ranger: Bloated, violent, and Kemo-sloppy.

5. Movie 43: A cinematic tombstone for a number of A-list actors.

4. After Earth: The Smith Family Robbing Some (but only some, as crowds rightfully rejected this nepotism parade.)

3. The Internship: The fact that it was a nonstop advertisement for Google did not bother me. The fact that it was billed as a comedy and contained no laughs did.

2. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: Watch the humor vanish right before your very eyes!

1. Grown-Ups 2: Remind me to put my year-end list in a spreadsheet that would automatically populate this space with whatever Adam Sandler “comedy” is defecated each year. I'm pretty sure that's how he creates his "scripts."

The best

10. Dallas Buyers’ Club: In a role that did not feel like a cheap casting stunt, an emaciated Matthew McConaughey reminded us why he matters as an AIDS-stricken rodeo rider during the mid-80s scare.

9. Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks proves once again why he is an actor and not merely a movie star. Director Paul Greengrass uses his shaky-cam with a purpose, capturing every pitch and roll of the waves to keep the audience as off-balance and unprepared as the film's leads.

8. All is Lost: Thematically similar to “Gravity,” this risky film puts a septuagenarian protagonist (Robert Redford) in a near-wordless film that still manages to say everything it needs to without a sentence being uttered.

7. The Wolf of Wall Street: Not the epic “Goodfellas of Money” many were hoping for, but perhaps the most bold, brash collaboration between the 71-year-old (!) director and his 39-year-old (!) muse yet.

6. Blue Jasmine: Woody’s prolific pen continues to to be catnip for actors, allowing them to give across-the-board great performances (dramatic actor Andrew Dice Clay, ladies and gents!) and a peek into the lives of fascinatingly damaged people while still managing a light touch.

5.This is the End: A riotous ode to friendship, weed and the apocalypse, “End” featured a list of celebs taking stabs at their images, but it never felt like an inside joke, and we all got an invite to this raucous party.

4. Pacific Rim: I’m not sure what some were expecting when they walked into a film that touted giant robots battling giant monsters, but as a child who grew up on a diet of “Godzilla” creature features, “Rim” delivered all that I could wish for and more.

3. American Hustle: Those who dismiss this as “Scorsese Lite” should give it another spin and view David O. Russell’s shell game with an unbiased eye. It is far more than just a shout-out and is solid enough to stand tall on its own terms, as it explores fear and self-loathing in America.

2. 12 Years a Slave: A film that will resonate for years to come and should be required viewing in history classes to demonstrate an ugliness that is often glossed over. It also contains some of the most powerful performances of the year.

1. Gravity: Those who were only able to witness this in 2-D on a standard screen only got about half the movie. This was moviemaking as an “event,” and used all the technology at its disposal to give us not merely a night at the movies, but a cinematic experience.

There are a few films that I reviewed (but they did not appear locally) that desrve honorable mentions this year, including: “Blue is the Warmest Color,” “Blackfish,” “Mud,” and “Fruitvale Station.” Many of them are available on DVD or streaming, and deserve the viewings they receive.