Pop Off: 2013 movies in review
I used to hate January for being the worst time of the year for movies. Mid-winter movies are worthless, even the ones that creep into passable quality won't matter three months from now because nobody will remember them. But with awards season underway and with Oscar contenders receiving nationwide expansions, it's like 2013 never ended. Let's take a look back at the year in movies.
Coming off of 2012, the best year for movies in my lifetime, I expected this past year to be a downgrade. For a while, I thought that downgrade was going to be much steeper. 2013 was riddled with cinematic atrocities. "The Host," "After Earth," "Movie 43," "The Lone Ranger," "Grown Ups 2," "47 Ronin," any one of the movies could qualify for the worst movie of all time. In fact, I would pin that title on "The Host" without hesitation. It was also a big year for disappointments, led by "Man of Steel." Even the good movies didn't make as much of a splash as expected. "Monsters University" and "Elysium" received much more discussion before release than after. Thankfully, December proved to be the saving grace with an onslaught of excellent dramedies, a genre which is growing in popularity and quality. The is the first year where I would say the five movies nominated for Best Picture: Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes were stronger than the five nominated for Best Picture: Drama. It was also a fantastic year for horror films, at least critically. And as painful as it is to admit it, "One Direction: This Is Us" winning a weekend in August may spark a comeback for concert and tour films.
If there was an award for the most important film of the year, that would likely go to "Gravity." After years of lukewarm reception to 3-D among the public and critics alike, Alfonso Cuaron's spacewalking thriller proved that it was more than a gimmick for visual effects. It was the first movie I've heard people recommend watching exclusively in 3-D; not even "Avatar" or "Life of Pi" could claim that.
In terms of trends, my arch nemesis, the sequel, is proving stronger than ever. None of the five highest grossing films of the year were original, and we are now getting sequels and prequels beyond the usual five-year continuation window. There were nine years between "Anchorman" and "Anchorman 2," and 74 years between "The Wizard of Oz" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful." With the success of the Marvel films telling multiple stories in one continuity and the "Fast and Furious" series showing no signs of slowing down, serialization may be on the rise. Originally used in magazines, a serialized stories would be told over the course of a year or so, with a different chapter in every issue. With film franchises no longer afraid to stop after a trilogy, that soon may be the new normal. But in order to continue a series, there needs to be a good first installment.
Looking back at the top 100 highest grossing films of the year, it's hard to find any that would fit that role. I can't see a series being made out of "2 Guns," "Now You See Me" or "Turbo." There also wasn't any defining character of the year, one that seeped into pop culture beyond the screen. There was no Joker or Katniss Everdeen, except for in "Catching Fire," which didn't get nearly as much buzz as its predecessor. If extended storytelling is where Hollywood wants to go, hopefully they'll plant some strong seeds in 2014.
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