The Movies of 2013*: One-paragraph reviews
*third third only
*feature-length only


Well, I thought we might get out one more time to see one of the great-looking artsy films in theaters this month or watch one of the movies we impulsively picked up at a Blockbuster fire sale but maybe year?

In theaters:

Gravity (2013): Tell you what: space has just lost a lot of its attraction. But my opinion? It's as good as everyone's said. Sandra Bullock will be getting an Oscar nomination. And sitting close to the screen with 3D glasses? Awesome. I jumped and gasped when pieces of the ISS flew past me. And it was not a cheap thrill. It was part of a real and dangerous world. But seriously: I don't really need to go into space anytime soon.

Ender's Game (2013): If you haven't read the book, I say watch the movie first. The novel is so rich and deep. The movie necessarily simplifies, but I think it does a good job. Hard to say though as I know the novel fairly well (not great---I'm not ready for a tv-based Ender's Game Trivia shootout---just fairly well). But I did enjoy the movie and was even moved a couple times and now I really really want someone to attempt to bring Shadow of the Hegemon to the screen (big or---maybe better---small). It'll never happen of course (Peter and Valentine, necessarily, were underdeveloped; no Achilles; your first-movie lead has no role), but it would be cool. The other effect the movie had on me was a deep desire to reread Speaker for the Dead. Of course, you can read any of these books yourself.

The Muppet Movie (1979): I'm not employing hyperbole when I say that this was one of the greatest movie-theater experiences of my life. I've watched this movie a handful of times in my life---most of them in adulthood, most like---but I've listened to the soundtrack HUNDREDS of times. After graduating from high school, for some reason I bought the tape and it was on regular rotation the year before and the year after my mission when I logged endless commute hours driving from Tehachapi to Bakersfield and back. I know these songs as well or better than all other songs in the world. I don't know if I go through a week without singing lines from "Rainbow Connection" or "Movin' Right Along" or "Can You Picture That?" or "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along or "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday" or "The Magic Store." The DNA of this movie has merged with my own DNA and I'm some sort of Muppet hybrid. Anyway, seeing it with an audience of adults who laughed at the Hari Krishna jokes and kids who laughed at Miss Piggy beating up badguys was a joy. I nearly wept for some reason when Big Bird said he was heading to New York City to try to break into public television. Holy smokes, this was great. I need a theater to do a singalong next. I mostly kept myself from singing along today, but not entirely.

Frozen (2013): Given the hype around this movie, I expected more. My bad. Still. Pretty good. Both Lady Steed and I agreed that sometimes the voices didn't seem to be coming out of the mouths on the screen. The songs were more Broadway than Disney and I don't think they'll age well. The character design was off at times. And while I'll give props for playing against some Disney-fairy-tale tropes, they played into others twice as big. So overall a win, but nothing to start an Oscar campaign over.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): We went 3D on this one in order to get the higher frame-rate projection. The first movie was a headache to watch---the camera moved to quickly to make out anything. Everything was blurred. The higher frame rate solved this problem, though it did introduce the too-real problem. I don't really care how closely the movie followed the book; I liked the movie. Not a great movie like the LotRs tended to be, but perfectly enjoyable. It is getting a bit ridiculous how no dwarf can die though. Just saying.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013): First, it must be said again and again, Jennifer Lawrence is the real thing. A star. And not for today, but I suspect she would prove to be one of the all-time greats. That final look at her face is what Hitchcock said[citation needed] is the greatest special effect: the human face undergoing emotional change. I liked this movie better than the first, which is remarkable when you consider the books started (in my minority opinion) merely okay and got worse. Good writing, pacing, casting. And Jennifer Lawrence.

At home:

His Girl Friday (1940): Although as rapid-fire and funny as I expected, I did not expect how dark it was. With constant undercurrents of crime and war and corruption, it's not a film that can be dismissed as pure fun. (Not that there's anything wrong with pure fun.) I have to admit I wasn't able to fully enjoy it as a movie because I was too busy studying how it---especially its dialogue---was crafted. It's not just speedily delivered---it's complicated and tightly rigged, that dialogue.

Waitress (2007): I didn't like what was done with music and I thought the medical details were a bit sketchy and that old Joe wasn't consistently imagined. Which might sound like a lot, but the film is pretty astonishing all the same. Keri Russell has true star charisma dialed into a small, small space now I really need to see Austenland). The writing was sharp in the way we associate with Diablo Cody or Quentin Tarantino, but it's a bit more honest and believable. I particularly was intrigued by the protagonist's imagining of pies. That's something I can learn from.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960): Sure it has some "flaws," but seriously: is there a more fun movie to watch with your family? I mean really? And frankly, some of those flaws could just as easily be taken as lessons in innovative storytelling. No need to connect the obvious dots, friend.

The Cheat (1915): After recognizing the pirate captain in Swiss Family Robinson, I went to IMBd to look him up. Of course: Bridge over the River Kwai (which I've never seen but have seen enough famous scenes from). But it ends up that Sessue Hayakawa was a major Hollywood star of the silent era. And this is the film that made him famous. Made him a major romantic lead. Before America got all racist against Asians and stuff. But if this is a preracist film, holy moly, I would hate to watch a racist one. (Note: I actually saw the 1918 rerelease version of the film.)

The Amazing Adventure (1936): Apparently the version I watched was the American cut, trimmed twenty minutes from the British original. Which is a shame, because I kept thinking that editing was absolutely amateurish and that a bit more room to develop would have served the characters well. Not that more minutes could fix the generally bad writing or flaky directing, but it wouldn't have hurt either. Anyway, that said, this movie is proof that Cary Grant can carry a film. Even with all its flaws, I rather enjoyed this mess. I would have loved to've seen him in vaudeville.

A Night at the Opera (1935): No chaos like Marx Bros. chaos. By the way, have you ever noticed that Chico in a gypsy costume looks a lot like Fred Armison? Fred Armison needs to do a Chico. Anyway, the crammed-cabin routine gets funnier every time I see it.

The Iron Giant (1999): Little Lord Steed's been bugging to watch this movie for a week. Large S started by saying it would be too scary and wanting none of it to wanting to watch it. Big O recalls liking it. All three spent much of the movie covering their faces or hiding under tables or leaving the room. Clearly, we're not ready for Jurassic Park yet. As for me? Well. No movie makes me sob like The Iron Giant makes me sob.

Elf (2003): A true holiday classic notwithstanding its third-act collapse (and absurd view of picture-book publishing), Elf may be the most important movie I've seen in the last ten years by virtue of introducing me to Zooey Deschanel's voice.

When Harry Met Sally... (1989): I see why everyone loves this movie so much. And like Casablanca that it references, it's so loaded with lines I just know, even though I've never seen this movie before. The interstitial interviews were more daring than they seem and worked quite well. Overall, so nice to see a good romcom. It's been a while.

The Indian in the Cupboard (1995): Wow. Intrusive score, poor acting, weak script. Not sad I missed this last time around. The kids really wanted to watch it though (don't ask me how they found out about it) so I complied. Alas, alas. Not Frank Oz's finest work. Some classid 90s hair on display though. So that's fun.

Sleepwalk with Me (2012): I've been wanting to see this movie since I heard some thing with Mike Brubiglia and Ira Glass on NPR when it came out. It was in a Berkeley theater at the time, but we weren't able to work it. How does it stand up to his radio work? Pretty well. It's a good movie, to be sure. When it ended, I blurted, "That's the end???" with three question marks and so I guess I'm left a tad unsatisfied, but now I want to see My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. So no too unsatisfied.


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) 2x: Such a well crafted movie from the words to the blocking. The closest thing I can think of to a complaint is the sometimes flexible sizes of things. A chicken, for instance, shrinks when a fox holds it.

A Bucket of Blood (1959): I'm happy to report if you can get 14yrolds past the opening few minutes, they totally dig this movie.

Monsters, Inc. (2001): Interesting this time to see how the storytellers dealt with Boo's scaring. It's not entirely consistent, but I've seen this movie so many times and never noticed before.

Now You See Me (2013): It's a hyper-hyphy heist! It's a crazy-cool caper! It's a lot of fun to watch! It also strains credulity. It features a cheap twist, logical holes, some really absurdly bad moments of screenwriting (I'm looking at you, romance, but not only you). Ultimately, it just kind of pissed me off. I can see why teenagers like it, but I'll not be watching it again.

Romeo and Juliet (1968) x2: I'm getting a bit tired of this. Haven't seen the new one (haven't heard much good), but I'm hoping for the best.

Corianton (1931): Is this a bad movie? Oh, yes. As bad as everyone says? Certainly. Was it worth watching? Oh, yes. Will I watch is again? Quite possibly. Were the costumes as sexy as Orson Scott Card suggested? Much more so.

Gentlemen Broncos (2009) x2: I love this movie more than I did at first. And it's terrific when discussing metafiction. But man is it weird.

The Princess Bride (1987) x2: I am enjoying teaching this book so much. And the movie never gets old.

Black Orpheus (1959): I can't say I really watched this. So much dancing I can't stay focused. Especially when showing it to a class that can't go five minutes without a shoving match. . . . That said, the last half hour is pretty cool, watched without other people.

A Christmas Story (1983): I never saw this movie through as a child, but it's now a seasonal favorite. I'm glad.


  1. .

    Holy crap. Why isn't Moon here? It was one of the best!

  2. .

    Answer finally uncovered: because you watched a year later, dingbat, closer to when you asked the question: http://thmazing.blogspot.com/2014/04/feature-length-films-of-2014-quarter-one.html