Cody Clarke’s 2013 in Film


Didn’t see too many new movies this year. Only thirteen in total. Mostly just watched older stuff. In fact, I went to the theaters to see old movies way more than I went to see new ones. This was a particularly great year for screenings of classics, here in NYC. BAM devoted a month to all of John Cassavetes’ films, and did a mini Douglas Sirk retrospective too. And Film Forum had King Kong—a staggeringly gorgeous print of it.

The new movies I did see in theaters this year were Blue Jasmine, This is the End, Gravity, and Escape From Tomorrow. Only liked one of those. As such, I doubt I’ll be going to the theaters to see a new movie any time soon.

Of the thirteen 2013 movies I saw this year (four in theaters, nine on VOD or Netflix) I only liked half, so my list is split into two parts. Part one is the good, part two is the bad. Any films marked 2012 were originally completed in 2012, but released theatrically in 2013.

By the way, there were a bunch of 2013 movies I tried on Netflix that I couldn’t bring myself to finish, and tapped out at the 15-minute mark—such as Frances Ha and Computer Chess—but I didn’t feel comfortable putting all those on this list because I didn’t give them a full viewing. Full enough to know I didn’t want to watch them, yes, but not full enough to really pick them apart.

Anyway, here goes. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments section and whatnot.

The Good:


Spring Breakers (2012) | Dir. Harmony Korine | 94 min.

The biggest surprise of the year for me. Never liked a Harmony Korine film before this one. Always found them to be grating and slapdash. This one ain’t like that at all. It’s smooth and meticulous and clever as all hell. Goddamn masterpiece. Best film of the year, by far.

You can read my full review of the film here.



Blue Jasmine (2013) | Dir. Woody Allen | 98 min.

Woody Allen’s made about a dozen movies that are better than this one, maybe more. But I don’t think he’s made another this visceral. The pace is quite odd—the story is repetitive, and uncomfortable in its repetitiveness. But it works for the character—it mirrors her mental state. And by the end of the film, the film is her, and she is the film—not in a Charlie Kaufman meta way or anything, just in vibe. It’s quite remarkable. And Cate Blanchett is a shoe-in for the Oscar. Easily her best performance.

You can read my full review of the film here.



Hell Baby (2013) | Dirs. Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon | 98 min.

The funniest movie of the year. Just a ton of fun. For me, at least. Lennon and Garant’s humor isn’t for everybody. You either watch this and laugh your ass off, or you think it’s the most unfunny thing you’ve ever seen. Gotta be on their wavelength. If you like their other stuff, like Reno 911!, and Terrorist on Flight 77 (my favorite Funny or Die short, by far) you’ll probably like this.

You can read my full review of the film here.



The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants (2013) | Dirs. Steve Durand, Bryan Gaynor, Gavin McInnes | 68 min.

The most clever and enjoyable version of a sorta-documentary yet. By ‘sorta’ I mean that it contains both real scenes and fake scenes. A lot of movies do this for deception—this one does it to maximize fun. It’s hard to explain exactly how it accomplishes this without ruining the journey, so just watch it blind.

This is also the best example of economical filmmaking in recent years. Most movies are way too goddamn long. This one is 68 minutes, and every scene is necessary, and no scene overstays its welcome. Most comedies should be about this long—hey, it worked for W.C. Fields.

You can read my full review of the film here, and my interview with Gavin here.



To the Wonder (2012) | Dir. Terrence Malick | 112 min.

A hell of a surprise. Really didn’t think I’d like this one at all. The Tree of Life was uneven as hell, and from the way this was marketed, it seemed like more of the same. Well, it’s not. It’s lightyears easier to follow, and flows much better. It knows what it is, and doesn’t try to be anything more than that.

I don’t entirely hate Tree of Life, by the way—I feel like there’s a 5-star, 90 minute movie trapped inside it. To the Wonder could use a little trimming too, but really not much. It’s quite solid. Very surprised it got such negative reviews.

You can read my full review of the film here.



Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (2012) | Dir. Molly Bernstein | 88 min.

I’ve been a fan of magician Ricky Jay since I was very little. Magic was the first art form I ever fell in love with practicing. As I got older, I gravitated away from it and towards music and writing, but I still have a strong affinity for it. In its purest form—sleight of hand—it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And this film does a great job of showcasing that.

If all you know of magic is David Blaine and Criss Angel, you’re in for a real surprise with this documentary. Prepare to be dazzled by people you’ve never heard of, almost all of them long dead.



A Band Called Death (2012) | Dirs. Jeff Howlett & Mark Christopher Covino | 96 min.

I love music documentaries where even if you don’t like the music, it’s still interesting. Don’t get me wrong, Death is a great band, but even if their stuff wasn’t my cup of tea, I’d still love them, and be fascinated by their story. If you enjoyed Searching for Sugar Man, you’ll definitely dig this one. Kind of a similar vein. By the way, if you like this one and Sugar Man, check out ‘Tis Autumn, a doc about a brilliantly talented jazz singer long thought to be dead.


The Bad:


John Dies at the End (2012) | Dir. Don Coscarelli | 99 min.

This was almost good. A lot of it really does work, but just as much is confusing and convoluted and falls flat. It’s overstuffed, like a whole season of TV condensed to 90 minutes or something. I think if it had been a show, it would’ve gone down as one of those cult classic, ‘too smart for TV’, ‘cancelled too soon’ ones like Reaper or FreakyLinks. As it stands, it’s just forgettable. I can’t even remember the parts I liked from it, and I didn’t see it that long ago.



This Is The End (2013) | Dirs. Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen | 107 min.

I love all these guys, but this shit just did not make me laugh. I chuckled a couple times, but almost every joke in this movie fell flat for me. On top of that, it’s ugly as sin to look at. It’s just a whole lot of orange.

You can read my full review of the film here.



Upstream Color (2013) | Dir. Shane Carruth | 96 min.

A very clever and interesting sci-fi story, told poorly. The first act is good, but after that, things just fall apart. A perfect example of a movie that feels like it was shot from a first draft of a screenplay, rather than a polished final draft.

I think Shane Carruth is clearly smart and talented, but I don’t think he’s near reached his full potential as a filmmaker, and that’s largely due to him not yet being a good enough storyteller. He’s a great ‘idea guy’, but his implementation of ideas into a story is shoddy. I’d love to see what he’d be able to create with a writing partner deft at story construction.

You can read my full review of the film here.


Sandra Bullock

Gravity (2013) | Dir. Alfonso Cuarón | 91 min.

I really don’t understand what people saw in this movie—or rather, I don’t understand how people didn’t see what I saw. To me, this was a shallow, misogynistic mess—and I don’t throw the M word around lightly. Why there wasn’t massive uproar from feminists over this film, I do not know.

You can read my full review of the film here.



Seduced and Abandoned (2013) | Dir. James Toback | 98 min.

Two rich, clueless, Hollywood douchebags moping over the fact that investors only want to give them five million to fund their dumb idea for a movie, rather than the twenty million they were looking for. Grating as hell. I don’t think I could stand to spend more than five minutes in a room with these guys—unless I were rant-lecturing them on the value of a dollar and the democratization of filmmaking.

You can read my full review of the film here.



Escape From Tomorrow (2013) | Dir. Randy Moore | 90 min.

The cinematic equivalent of adolescent graffiti. A penis drawn on a bench, and nothing more. Randy Moore has nothing of substance to say about Disneyland or the malaise of fatherhood—all he does is address that both things exist, and make stupid, lazy jokes about them that are barely even jokes. And the film is as shoddily made as it is written—student film-esque, in its ugly-to-look-at-ness. It’s rare to watch a movie and be able to tell that you not only can’t stand the art, but probably wouldn’t be able stand the artist, as a person, as well. Seduced and Abandoned and this one fit that bill—they’re both clearly made by insufferable douchebags. Avoid at all costs. This is the worst movie I saw this year.

You can read my full review of the film here.

4 thoughts on “Cody Clarke’s 2013 in Film”

  1. Ya know it didn’t occur to me, but this WAS a great year for revival screenings. Film Forum’s pre-Code festival was a major highlight, as well as the revival of Jurassic Park.

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