It’s been a few days now since I posted my picks for best films of the (here), and I have to say it was one of the hardest lists for me to put together in a while. Granted, I find that living in the city has giving me better access to movies than ever before, but I’d also much rather pass on that thought, and just consider that 2013 was a really damn fine movie year. Thing is, it’s ironic that so many of the movies that I was most anticipant for this year turned out to be….kind of stinkers. So for that reason, I’ve decided to write a little ditty about five films that didn’t make the cut for me this year, but had the potential to be truly great! Granted, I don’t go out of my way to see a lot of bad movies so I’m sure that these five movies I’ve listed here aren’t the cream of the crop of crap that came out this year, but I feel that me and plenty of other film geeks out there will admit that these films were blemishes on what was an otherwise sparkling year for cinema, mainstream, independent, and otherwise.
Why it had Potential: Guillermo del Toro has been one of the most sought after directors since the 90s now as well as one of the most respected (He turned down offerss to direct The Chronicles of Narnia and Star Wars: Episode VII), so the news that he was releasing his first film since 2008 was reason to get excited enough. Plus, it was a giant monster movie, and anyone familiar with the Mexican director’s work know that he’s a pro at creating amazing sequences with Lovecraft-esque monsters in it. Pacific Rim really sounded like it could of been the summer’s surprise sensation (and arguably it still was).
What Went Wrong: Granted, this was by no means a bad movie. It was a fun summer excursion that had good directing and special effects, and definitely had a strong appeal towards our generation that grew up loving monster movies and anime. It’s just that after Guillermo del Toro’s five year hiatus from the directing chair (which was due to circumstances beyond his control), I think we all wanted something a bit better from the man who brought us the super-fun Hellboy movies, and the masterful Pan’s Labyrinth. The film was ultimately disposable, and also had a particularly weak and half-assed third act, and the emotional scenes in it all fell embarrassingly flat.
How it Should of Worked: It just doesn’t seem like it was del Toro’s project overall. It’s very plausible to envision that after his plans to direct At the Mountains of Madness got shut down that he went on to direct the next available project, and it was ultimately something that turned out to be underwhelming. Fans of the director can rest assured, however, that the film was a box office success, and will give del Toro plenty of lee-way with him making films the way he wants to make them from now on.
Only God Forgives
Why it had Potential: The film Drive proved to be a near instant cult-hit upon it’s premiere back in fall 2011, and the cinema world became similarly excited to hear that director Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling would soon be re-uniting for a follow up project. Telling the story of a crime syndicate in Bangkok, and promising to be ultra-eerie and violent, Only God Forgives appeared to have the potential to be another artfully-tinged neo-noir just like Drive.
What Went Wrong: It was booed at cannes, and met with plenty of bad reviews upon it’s official release. Granted, a lot of the criticism towards the film might stem from the fact that it is Refn’s follow-up film to Drive, but it’s also hard not to acknowledge that this film does still share a lot of that film’s trademarks, and does them in a far less effective way. Drive had plenty of Lynchian elements to it as well as a consistent tone, and so does Only God Forgives. It just that this film doesn’t feel as cohesive or as intriguing as it’s predecessor, and instead it gives viewers a very messy plot, that has plenty of violence and depravity, but lacks good character development or story progression to make us give a damn. Also, the surreal elements actually go into overkill in this film, with several scenes that seemed to be intended to be evocative, simply coming off off as pure WTF moments instead.
How it Should of Worked: Refn just needed to have a better idea of what he was trying to say, and how to say it. I feel that crime fiction has the potential to uncover a lot of rich themes, and it’s clear that Only God Forgives is trying to touch on things such as good vs. evil, and bad parenting. Also, Refn should have used the film’s unsettling tone to build up more momentum, and mystique towards the characters. The film’s mood was absolutely incredible, and it’s actually best described as hellish. In a way, the film may have even worked better if it explored more of it’s horror elements.
To the Wonder
Why it had Potential: Terrence Malick is arguably one of the most visionary and talented filmmakers when it comes to capturing images. Shrouding this film in mystery throughout it’s production, and then referring to it as a “romance” were certainly enough to get people interested after Tree of Life (which I kind of thought was kind of a failure as a movie, but that’s another story). Also…I have no objections with anyone who wants to see a movie simply to see Olga Kurylenko’s face!
What Went Wrong: Honestly, I don’t know where to start. Just like Tree of Life, Malick utilizes a very experimental narrative, only this time it’s more broken and aimless than ever before. What’s worse, the film was sexless, and relegated it’s two leads into walking dolls of maudlin emotion and zero chemistry. If you’re going to make a romantic film that’s trying to be both transcendent and relatable, then why would you leave out sensuality, or human beauty? Maudlin, corny, and often unintentionally funny, and you have the year’s best example of a revered filmmaker falling into unadulterated self-parody.
How it Should of Worked: Well, one area I did like about the film was that it seems to have a mindset in the 50s. Granted, this made the film’s sensibilities dated, but it also seemed to recall melodrama from the time period. Had Malick realized this, then maybe he could of made a melodramatic film that was self-aware of it’s flaws, and it might of actually worked….might of.
Why it had Potential: “Oh shit! The guy who wrote Kids is making a movie starring Disney channel starlets, where they do drugs, have sex and commit crimes, and James Franco is gonna play a bad guy and talk like a wigga. I am so fucking down with this shit, homie.” -random internet blogger after hearing about Harmony Korine’s latest project
What Went Wrong: God, I cringe whenever I see a 2013 top ten list that included this piece of dogshit, as it just shows that some people will eat up anything just if it’s pretentiousness is ostensible enough. Harmony Korrine has made a deplorable and shallow feature-length music video, that happens to think it’s a stark piece of subversive social commentary. An exhausting editing style, terrible dialogue, and a script that seems to have been penned by a drugged-out film school freshman makes Spring Breakers my personal pick for worst film of the year.
How it Should of Worked: For one, it really needed to have more of a plot, and less of this whole “liquid” narrative. The idea of having a group of attractive young college students being attracted into a world of crime is actually interesting, and if Harmony Korrine had enlisted the help of a renowned crime fiction writer (my personal choice would have been a comic book writer like Ed Brubaker or Brian Michael Bendis), then maybe he would of made a film that was as deep as it was visceral.
Man of Steel
Why it had Potential: Since the Dark Knight came out in 2008, comic book fans and critics alike have been awaiting another superhero movie that’s as intelligent, well-crafted, and crowd pleasing as that one (with all respect to The Avengers, X-Men: First Class, and The Dark Knight Rises). Many of us were thinking that Man of Steel would be the one though, as Nolan would be producing it, and it promised to be a unique and modern origin story for the Superman mythos. Throw in some trailers that looked absolutely gorgeous, and you have the perfect concoction for making my most anticipated film of the summer.
What Went Wrong: I’m gonna be blunt: Zack fucking Snyder! At a time Snyder seemed to be one of Hollywood’s brightest new talents, as his Dawn of the Dead remake proved to be surprisingly potent. Unfortunately, the director has since demonstrated that he’s clearly a style-over-subtance filmmaker, and directs Man of Steel with no sense of nuance, and it eventually deteriorates into Michael Bay-esque spectacle with a final half that’s basically just one long and tedious action sequence.
How it Should of Worked: The little things in the movie that could of made it work (Clark Kent’s status as an outsider, his relationship with Lois Lane and Krypton) should of had far more attention. Instead, they were glossed over so that Snyder could get onto the next bloated action set piece. Nolan and co. should have enlisted a much more able-bodied director who has a real taste for human drama. It’s actually enticing to imagine what Darren Aronofsky could have done with this film.