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The Most Memorable Movie Moments Of 2013

by The Playlist Staff
December 24, 2013 12:40 PM
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Post Tenebras Lux

Plot Points, Pacing And Other Peculiarities
Most Enigmatic Opening
We called Carlos Reygadas’s enigmatic “Post Tenebras Lux” “strange, wtf and baffling” earlier this year, but called it a must-watch. And six months later that still stands. It opens with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous toddler's dream, playing in a field by herself surrounded by their many dogs and also a pack of cows while lightning streaks across the sky and thunderclaps boom ominously in the background. Shot at the end of the magic hour, it eventually fades into an eerie purple blue darkness that leaves the child on her own and unattended. It’s bizarre, beautiful and set the stage for one weird, but deeply engrossing movie. The adventurous need to give it a watch.

Most Promising Opening To A Terrible Movie
For a second, we thought that Sam Raimi's "Wizard of Oz" reboot, "Oz The Great And Powerful" might actually be kind of fun: there's a lot of love and craft in those opening fifteen minutes or so as James Franco's con-man flees a dust-bowl circus in a balloon. Beautifully shot in black and white, it feels like Raimi, and Franco, are actually engaged in the material, and seems to set the character up nicely. Even Zach Braff is kind of palatable! Sadly, once he arrives in Oz, the film turns into a garish "Alice In Wonderland"-aping candyfloss nightmare.

Best Twist
Superhero movies haven't generally been noted for their unpredictability, but damn it if we weren't knocked down by the reveal in "Iron Man 3" that our hero's arch-nemesis The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) was actually a drink-sodden, narcoleptic actor (and former rent-boy!) called Trevor Slattery. Taking one of Marvel's most feared villains and turning him, quite literally, into a joke, is maybe the ballsiest thing in a Marvel movie to date. And thanks to an uproarious performance from Kingsley, it was enormously funny as well.

Best Gag
So it's not a joke per se, nor a one-liner from "Anchorman 2" (which we're valiantly trying not to spoil), nor Melissa McCarthy referring to curtains as "window blankets" in "The Heat," but the "Please Mr. Kennedy" song and scene from "Inside Llewyn Davis" had us all howling throughout, with its pitch-perfect skewering of pop-folk novelty songs, delivered brilliantly by a game Justin Timberlake, a ludicrous Adam Driver and a beneath-his-dignity Llewyn (Oscar Isaac). And like all the truly great gags, it's funny because it means something beyond the punchline: this is Llewyn's personal hell, and the place that he'll even damn himself to a lifetime of obscurity just to avoid.

Most Shocking Moment
When Joshua Oppenheimer met Anwar Congo and captured his frank, even boastful confession about his thousands of killings, he knew he had something important on his hands. Congo takes the filmmaker up on the roof of an old office building—now a shop—and conscripts his buddy into playing the victim, winding a wire around his neck and demonstrating the best technique for garrotting, a much less bloody and messy affair than beating. Watching him reenact the murders is gruesome and shocking, but it’s the little dance he does afterward, with a wire loosely roped around his own neck, talking of the substances he uses to erase the memories that creates that cognitive dissonance that creates a queasy juxtaposition that “The Act of Killing” reveals so well. It’s not manipulative in any way, just starkly revealing, and deeply, morally and spiritually unsettling. Oppenheimer just lets this moment unfold, bearing witness on our behalf to this shocking moment. Also: every other moment of "The Act of Killing."

Most Insanity-Inducing Image
The delirious mindfuck extravaganza that is Ben Wheatley's "A Field In England" boasts many, many unsettling moments, but the point at which we genuinely worried the mad bastard might actually have succeeded in sending us insane was when Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) emerges from the tent (from which nothing but agonizing screams have been heard for quite a while) in grotesque slow motion, deranged and hogtied, as the music (Blanck Mass' "Chernobyl") crescendos to an almost unbearable pitch. The clip no doubt loses some of its power out of context—though it's still gonzo and weird and brilliant—if you haven't seen the whole film yet, but are intending to, don't spoil it.

Tensest sequence
In a year of Survival Narratives, which basically live or die (heh) on how well they communicate a kind of edge-of-your-seat tension, the most palpitatingly uncomfortable we've been all year (without the boon of "Gravity" 's 3D, we'll say) was actually towards the end of Denis Villeneuve's noir-styled, potboiler-plotted "Prisoners" *SPOILER* as a seriously wounded Jake Gyllenhaal drives a dying child (who literally has poison coursing through her veins) to a hospital. There's a similar scene, featuring another poisoned child, Matthew McConaughey and a motorbike in "Mud," but it was the "Prisoners" one that actually had us urging "Come on, come on, come ON" at the screen.

Frances Ha

Best Single Edit
Outside of, we don't know, "2001," single cuts don't get the same attention that single shots do, but they can have just as much impact. The editing of "Frances Ha" by newcomer Jennifer Lame is a huge part of what makes the film so successful, and the cut from Greta Gerwig's delighted reaction to a tax rebate in the mail to her walking out of the bank is perfectly timed, laugh-out-loud funny, and says so much about being in your twenties and living from paycheck to paycheck.

Runner-Up: The absolutely gonzo jump cut in “Anchorman 2” that interrupts Ron Burgundy and co. mid-hysterical laughter and cuts to another take of the news team standing there silently. We can’t even imagine what kind of sleep deprived editing session might have spawned this inspired choice but we would have loved to have been there for it.

Most Convenient Plot Device
We're not logic Nazis: we're happy to give a film a little latitude for the sake of moving a plot forward. But the seams of the reshot third act in "World War Z" are so poorly stitched that it stopped the movie dead in its tracks. The screenwriting all-stars of Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard and Christopher McQuarrie had a tough task on their hands to salvage the film (and for the most part, do an admirable job), but kicking off a set-piece with a zombie who, in a twist that makes no sense on absolutely any level, has been napping quietly in a cupboard for about four hours of a flight from Israel before waking up and going in search of a breakfast of brains, is a solution that stinks of "Will this do? No? But the cameras are rolling…"

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  • Me34 | January 6, 2014 11:06 AMReply

    If Redford, Blanchett, Lawrence, Hanks for "Saving Mr. Banks", Bullock, Whitaker, Isaac and/or Franco get nominated (or any of the possible combinations of that), Streep is way too far from being the worst.

  • FP | January 2, 2014 4:15 PMReply

    Wow, so many excellent takedowns of the risible films like MUD, SECRET LIFE OF WALTER, OUT OF THE FURNACE, COUNSELOR, WAY WAY BACK, while properly underlining Redford's cathartic expletive, Edge-of-Your-Seat PRISONERS, eyes aplenty in CANDELABRA, and GREAT BEAUTY's far more impressive party scenes. Hadn't even made that 'Great' connection, but as always, so right on target. Surprisingly worth the 8 pages of FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION ads. Well done and thank you.

  • Soren | December 30, 2013 7:11 PMReply

    When a person complains the sex scenes in Blue Is The Warmest Color are too long, I ask myself why are they not bothered that several of the scenes from that same movie are very lengthy. The café scene is almost 15 minutes long yet there are no complainst. Then I realize how prudish and how scared of sex on the big screen so many people are. Maybe a bit less watching movies and a bit more experiencing life would help?

  • kindred spirit | December 30, 2013 10:37 AMReply

    Not sure how this missed the list but one of the best scenes of the year for me comes early in AMERICAN HUSTLE - when Bale and Adams form their partnership, London Associates, and the montage played against "I've got your number" as they fall madly in love, is in short: PERFECT. They have some of the best on screen chemistry I've seen all year, and it's just a great compilation of scenes.

  • Erik | December 28, 2013 5:04 PMReply

    Best final shot? James Gray's THE IMMIGRANT. Breathtaking, gorgeous, stunning... And by a mile !

  • Liam | December 27, 2013 8:02 PMReply

    My gosh, I disagree SO MUCH.

  • boda | December 23, 2013 12:06 PMReply

    it is a good article

  • Candra Aditya | December 21, 2013 12:26 PMReply

    You guys didn't get a chance to watch Snowpiercer yet. Evans deliver some amazing, creepy monologue towards the end of the movie. And the movie is better than over-the-top Gravity.

  • LOlZ | December 20, 2013 6:59 PMReply

    See ya on your drive by tmw, pal.

  • Alissa (Ha, give me a break) | December 20, 2013 1:18 PMReply

    Lol, hilarious Alan. If The Playlist is a house that puts up new decorations each day, Alan is the guy who claims to hate each one of them and yet everyday after work drives by to see what new decorations went up.

  • Jeff G. | December 20, 2013 12:01 PMReply

    Drake's Cameo is probablt due to in some of his early songs Using and praising Will Ferrell films and movie characters. Particularly Ricky Bobby,Or maybe they were filming in Canada and helps with crossover appeal?

  • Oliver Lyttelton | December 20, 2013 7:07 AMReply

    More complex minds, of course, are amused by reading every word of a movie website that they profess to hate, and then endlessly posting comments on it.

  • Gerard Kennelly | December 20, 2013 2:04 AMReply

    i have been posting comments about At Any Price on sites like this all year

    it is my favourite movie of 2013

    i was afraid nobody else saw it

    but a lot of people love this site
    and this article will inspire them to search for /and watch it

    dennis quaid has never been better /more fearless on screen

    mcconaughey /hanks will more than likely win best actor
    but Quaid deserves it

  • Lucille | December 19, 2013 10:34 PMReply

    I agree with all of these, although I think for "Best Final Shot" The Bling Ring should have been in there, Emma Watson turning to the camera and talking about her website was truly chilling and captivated the entire essence of the film I thought.

  • James | December 19, 2013 8:43 PMReply

    The final portion of The Counselor is actually set in London, so it's logical that it was shot there. The first two thirds, set in Texas, were all shot in Spain, but I think they did an amazing job of selling it as the US.

  • James | December 20, 2013 12:30 PM

    Interesting, I didn't know so many interiors and other scenes were shot in the UK. Still, the recognizably London bits that I noticed were all for scenes actually set in London, as far as I remember. I'm an American who's usually bothered by one location obviously subbing for another, like all the movies that used to film in Vancouver, with mountains visible in the background, and try to pass it off as cities nowhere near mountains. However nothing stood out to me in The Counselor. I'll have to see it again though to be sure. And I think the Ciudad Juarez exteriors and the exterior airport stuff with Penelope Cruz was also Spain.

  • Ade | December 20, 2013 8:03 AM

    The first two thirds were mostly shot in the UK too, except the Reiner party exterior,the cheetahs, the septic tank and the wireman. All Brad Pitt's scenes were shot in London.

  • Travis Bickle | December 20, 2013 1:58 AM

    the sex scene was too silly
    but the brad pitt bolito scene was easily one of the best of the year

  • Leigh Richert | December 19, 2013 3:46 PMReply

    In "Gravity", in regards to the dead guy you talk about, he's brains were not "sucked out". That's one of the stupid myths about space that "Gravity" so beautifully shows is NOT TRUE. What happened to the dead guy was that he got hit in the head with satellite shrapnel that was going REALLY fast, then he froze. No "sucking". If there was sucking, his head would not have stayed so intact...nor would have the rest of his body, or anybody else in the space shuttle who were shown frozen but still intact.

  • El Hanso | December 19, 2013 3:43 PMReply

    Come on. If you write as a collective, Playlist Staff, try not to manipulate the collective's divisive opinion on a film by suggesting there's a right(er) opinion to be had. Re: The good half/bad half stuff regarding "Stoker."

    But thanks for singling out "Ginger & Rosa." Seriously underrated and underseen that movie.

  • NewYorker | December 19, 2013 3:39 PMReply

    my 20 favorite movie moments of 2013 are defently
    1-james franco sucking the gun like it was a dick lol in Spring Breakers
    2-Kane Hodder ripping Derek Mear's skull out of his body in Hatchet 3
    3-Hugh Jackman with balls on his chin in Movie 43
    4-Dwayne Johnson beating the shit out of the convicts in Pain and Gain
    5-Loki turning into Captain America in Thor: The Dark World
    6-Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano's cat fight in Fast and Furious 6
    7-the Bus Scene in Man Of Steel
    8-the whole fight scenes in Grown Ups 2
    9-the News Team Anchor brawl in Anchorman 2
    10-Johnny Knoxville getting his dick stuck in a vending machine in Bad Grandpa
    11-Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting in Escape Plan
    12-Matt Dillion torturing poor frodo aka Elijah Wood in Pawn Shop Chronicles
    13-the end credit scene in The Wolverine
    14-Michael Shannon scene with James Franco
    15-Chloe Mortez making those girls throw up in Kick-Ass 2
    16-Chloe Moretz using her powers to destroy Portia Doubleday & Alex Russell in Carrie
    17-Josh Brolin cutting up Sam Jackson's throat in Oldboy
    18-James Franco and Danny McBride arguing about who gets to cum in This Is The End
    19-Nathan Fillion calling himself an ass in Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing
    20-the axe fight scene between Sylvester Stallone and Jason Momoa in Bullet To The Head

  • Gerard Kennelly | December 20, 2013 1:56 AM

    my 10 favorite movie moments of 2013
    01-customer appreciation day -- At Any Price
    02- Julian saves the girl --Only God Forgives
    03-bilbo meets smaug --Hobbot Desolation of Smaug
    04- gosling calls from the strangers house --Place Beyond The Pines
    05-Hugh Jackman paul dano hammer --Prisoners
    06-Michelle Rodriguez Gina Carano's cat fight --Fast Furious 6
    07-tell him come down and stop me --The Iceman
    08-the med exam --Captain Phillips
    09-Chloe Moretz using her powers to save judy greer --Carrie
    10-axe fight Stallone Jason Momoa --Bullet To The Head

  • Dan | December 19, 2013 3:37 PMReply

    I'm a bit disappointed, I was looking forward for this year's best movie moments by ThePlaylist for some weeks now. I liked better the way you did it on previous years (enlisting the movie moments themselves, or like you did the Music Moments and Action Sequences this year). This was harder to read, and a much less interesting format for me.

    Still, congratulations on all your other lists, they are great.

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