To close out the old year, I’m doing something new: listing my five favorite movies of 2013. I don’t see as many films as I used to, but I’m still a fan and here—in no particular order—are five films that made me glad I bought a ticket:
QUARTET: Dustin Hoffman made his directorial debut with this film about an aging opera diva who leaves her elegant London flat for life in a home for retired musicians. The setting is lovely—a pastoral English estate where the brilliant Maggie Smith comes across three people she was once close to—one of them being the great love of her life, played by Tom Courtenay. He gives a wonderful performance as the ex-husband who loved her passionately and now hates her with equal vehemance. How these people work out their past, present, and future is by turns funny, sad, and quite moving.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD: What do people do when an asteroid headed for earth is going to blow it to smithereens, and no one is going to escape the ultimate end of everything? Some see it as a chance for non-stop orgies, some go after the loot they’ve always wanted, while others just keep on doing what they’ve always done. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley are neighbors who meet for the first time when the end is only three weeks away. The two go on a road trip: Steve wants to return to his high school sweetheart and Keira wants to get back to her family. The trip changes both of them, leading each to a new sense of what, finally, is really important. There are interesting character turns by William Petersen, Derek Luke, and Martin Sheen, and oh, yes, there’s a dog. This is a tender tribute to humankind, and a fine way to spend your movie money and time.
THE WAY, WAY BACK: A fourteen-year old named Duncan (played by Liam James) is made to go on a summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her awful boyfriend (Steve Carell), a man who seems to find infinite ways to tell Duncan that he’s a loser. Duncan grabs a bike and pedals away each day to a water park, run by a very cool guy (Sam Rockwell) whose sense of humor and subtle wisdom about the heartaches of adolescent boys gradually helps Duncan get a sense of himself as a capable person, one who might have a chance at happiness.
OBLIVION: I’m not a sci-fi fan, but I loved the look of Oblivion and I got hooked at the beginning by the memories that linger after memory has been wiped clean: who is the woman who disturbs our hero’s dreams? Tom Cruise is the hero who gets to solve the mystery of his lost love and, in the process, also uncovers the earth’s real enemy.
42: I knew who Jackie Robinson was, but knew very little about his life, and this film told me that story. There are fine performances by several people, especially Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey (the man who signed Jackie Robinson to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers), and Nicole Beharie as Rachel, Robinson’s wife. It’s great to see scenes that capture the incredible athleticism of Robinson—joyfully at work playing ball, hard to see what he had to endure as the first black player in the all-white major leagues, and truly satisfying to go with him on the journey that would change the sport forever.
Tune in next time to learn about my good, bad, beautiful and sad movie experiences of 2013.