As the holidays continue the Whistler Village 8 continues to screen a quiver of sharp flicks like American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Hobbit, Anchorman 2 and The Hunger Games 2, but 47 Ronin, also now playing, "slices but doesn't dice."
Keanu Reeves stars as the leader of a crew of outcast samurai on a mission for vengeance in a typically bland Hollywood retelling of a classic Japanese tale. Amidst flashes of decent action and swordplay cut with heavy CGI and rough "Engrish" acting Reeves actually isn't as bad as you'd expect, he keeps his mouth shut a lot. Rinko Kikuchi's badass witch truly steals what's left of this one.
But enough about that, we need to continue with the Best of 2013 so strap in.
Best drama: The best Hollywood dramas usually come with a dose of hard reality so Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave takes this one. Chitewel Ejiofor (Children of Men) nails the based-on-true role of a free man kidnapped into slavery in 1841 America. Brad Pitt produced 12 Years a Slave as well as World War Z so he's had a pretty outstanding 2013. (See also: Angelina Jolie).
Best Animated: I watch a shitload of cartoons and nothing stands out this year. A couple sequels were watchable (Monsters University, Despicable Me 2) and I'm a sucker for any flick with Snoop Dogg in it (Turbo) but nothing leaped out except The Wind Rises, the latest from Japanese animation titan Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle). It's chock full of dream sequences and complex ideas but, told in Miyazaki's accessible style, the flick works.
Crappiest Animated of the year goes to Planes, which is insultingly derivative and stars suck-ass Dane Cook.
Pushing the Envelope award: Afonso Cuarón's Gravity remixed Hollywood ideas with avant-garde techniques and the result is a film that sheds a look at what the future of the art of cinema may look like. Amidst tech-geek brilliance Sandra Bullock keeps everything human, relatable and a lot closer to home than the outer-space setting would suggest. Runner up is Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, a film memoir that flips all expectations and really pushes the artform. Polley is Canadian too.
"The Real End of the World Looks Like This" award goes to Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, a beautifully shot almost-unwatchable glimpse of Western Civilization and our incessant pursuit of pleasure. Line this one up alongside Sofia Coppula's aforementioned The Bling Ring and 2012's Project X and the message is clear: the kids aren't alright.
Film of the Year: Her and American Hustle both rule and Wolf of Wallstreet is all kinds of badass, but for me the best of the year goes to the Coen Brothers and their early '60s Greenwich folk music flick Inside Llewyn Davis. It's another Coen-esque epic about and outcast's odyssey across a desolate landscape populated by surreal characters and incredible music. Actor Oscar Davis kills it (so does John Goodman) and I suspect this one will only get better with future viewings.
Most Important Film of 2013: Nic Teichrob and Anthony Bonello's film Stand is about Squamish resident Norm Hann's solo Stand-up Paddleboard marathon missions through the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii. Stand examines first-hand what is at risk if we allow foreign-owned supertankers full of tar sands bitumen into B.C.'s North and Central Coast. Beautiful photography and a strong protagonist carry the picture but Stand also informs and inspires. Life is messy once you leave the movie theatre, and it's rarely easy, but the opportunity to stand up for what's right will always be there. In 2014 here's hoping more people take it. Standfilm.com