As you might well imagine, my on-screen moniker, the Supreme Being, inspired like everything else on our site by that finest of cinematic masterpieces, Time Bandits, has been cause for a certain amount of confusion. Because when contacting the Supreme Being with an angry missive/heartfelt compliment/prayer that one doesn’t die in a horrible threshing accident, one doesn’t typically ask of oneself, “Yes, but to which Supreme Being shall I send this?”
The result? The actual Supreme Being checks its (that’s right, along with being a non-corporeal entity of both infinitely large and infinitely small size, the actual Supreme Being is a non-gendered not-thing) email and, finding an angry, vindictive screed to the effect that the creator of all things including itself must have its head permanently stuck up its own ass to have negatively reviewed the best movie of all time, Man of Steel, followed by another damning it to the blackest pits of hell for having praised Spring Breakers, wonders just what in the name of heck is going on.
Meanwhile, I, a relatively typical human being, am awoken in the middle of the night by a blue bolt of psychic lightning blasting apart my consciousness with the miserable, heart-breaking pleas of a billion hopeless souls, and wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have ordered last night’s pad kee mao “Thai spicy” after all.
Long story short, pretty soon me and the Big Being find ourselves chatting over a steamy pot of green tea about the vagaries of existence and exchanging mis-sent emails/psychic prayer blasts, when what topic should naturally come up but our favorite movies of the past year. No surprise, Senor El Supremo is a lifelong fan of the flicks.
What follows is my list of 2013 favorites, plus a few words from the non-definable, non-time-constrained, infinite perpetual motion machine of all that is, was, and will be, the Supreme Being.
Unlike those movies, Sightseers had no discernable budget, no ad campaign, no fancy-pants critics mentioning it come year’s end. All it had was a script, actors, and a director, the ever more fascinating Ben Wheatley, who put their all into a very weird and evil little movie.
A new couple takes a trip in a camper. They see the sights. Buy a big pencil. Kill some annoying people. And do this in the form of a comedy. A very funny, very dark comedy. It deserves your attention.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Loved this one. Watching you nutty humans off each other, well, it’s equal parts depressing and hilarious to a non-corporeal, unlocatable-in-space/time superbeing such as myself, and to see that crazy dualism realized on-screen with such panache, well, let me just say I ‘pulled an Ebert’ and went through two boxes of Goobers watching this one.”
Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is a masterpiece. Did he top it with Gravity? Did he make a movie one might think upon for years to follow? Did he go deep into the perplexities of the human psyche? No. Not at all. But he did make one hell of a ride. In space!
Gravity makes the list for its look and its feel—its direction, cinematography, and the almost entirely animated universe it plays out in. Watching Gravity one is sent into the horizonless void of space and spun in circles for 90 minutes in a way I’ve never seen before. And that, as they say, is something.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Space–the final frontier my ass! Wait’ll you humans figure out dark matter. Oh man! That’s going to be a laugh. So anyway, Gravity? Thing is, never cared for Speed, never got into the Bullock. But watching you blow up your own spacestations? Never gets old. Though seriously–that bit where Clooney floats away? Not how it works in space, you dumb apes. And I should know. I invented it. And apes too.”
Beginning with a subtle, erudite variation on Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus paradox, John Dies At The End is a multi-faceted, philosophical tour de force of—
Oh, fuck it. John Dies At The End is a madhouse of lunatic comedy and horror and the Supreme Being knows what else. It riffs on Cronenberg and zombies and parallel universes and, to be honest, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make a damn lick of sense, but I’m certain that doesn’t matter.
There is a drug called the sauce. It will make you see things. Things as presented by Don Coscarelli, the director of Bubbo Ho-Tep. What more do you need?
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Now this is what I’m talking about. Here’s a flick that asks hard questions, that makes bold guesses, and the damnedest thing about it? Twenty-seven percent of this movie is exactly true! Yeah! Dig it. And the sixty-three percent it gets wrong? The real deal is way freakier. I’m telling you, dark matter? Only the beginning. Wait’ll the sentient octopusses show up. Shit. I’ve said too much.”
Normally I wouldn’t include a made-for-TV movie in a best movies of the year list, but Behind The Candelabra wasn’t intended for HBO; HBO was the only outfit who’d take it. The major movie studios all passed. “Too gay,” they said. Which is insane. Steven Soderbergh’s final movie (or something; did he actually retire? Does anyone know for sure?), written by The Fisher King scribe, Richard LaGravenese, is better than almost everything I saw in theaters this year. And it’s shot by Soderbergh (as usual), so you know it looks better than just about anything else too.
It tells the story of young Scott Thorson’s relationship with aging Liberace. As such, it tracks a familiar tale of new love, familiarity, a face-lift to ensure both parties resemble one another, and eventual estrangement. As the absurdly flamboyant Liberace, Michael Douglas gives what has to be his career best performance, and Matt Damon is great as Thorson. It’s a shame neither one will be up for an Oscar. This thing would have raked in the cash if it’d played theatrically. The studios are nuts.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Hollywood calls a movie ‘too gay!’ Priceless. You want to talk ultimate secrets of the universe, look no farther than Liberace’s sequins, my friends. I hid something special in all that wonderous glittering. Truth be told, I’m Liberace’s biggest fan. And Soderbergh? He’ll be back with more movies. Or else.”
Part three of writer/director Richard Linklater and co-writers/stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s ongoing series exploring a couple’s curious relationship. In this episode, they’ve been married for years, they have kids, they’re deep into their relationship, and cracks are showing all over. Or are they? Are their arguments portents of an impending break-up, or the natural letting-off of steam leading to a strengthened union? I think it could be read either way. Or both ways.
This is the darkest and most intense of the three movies, some say the best, though I’m partial to the first one. Put together, these three movies (and presumably more to come) are growing more and more complex and interesting.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Love it. Watching you humans rattle around inside your own heads is a pleasure. It’s all kangaroos and paper clips in there, you know what I mean? And few flicks get at the granola the way this trio does. Weirdest thing is, I didn’t dig the second one so much—until I saw the third one. Ties it all up. Then leaves it hanging so you want more. Neat trick.”
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is without a doubt making a statement, or many statements, about teenagers and sex and guns and alcohol and American society in general, but I’ll be damned if I’m certain what those statements are. Which I’m okay with. What I am certain of is that this movie is not like other movies. I don’t know what it’s like. It’s a Skittles-colored fever dream of girls gone wild for spring break. It is a mirror for us to peer into, and to run screaming from. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Best version of a Britney Spears song ever. What more can I say? Pass me those cookies, would you?”
One of the most criminally overlooked movies in ages. In a year filled with money-gobbling effects films that ran the gamut from insulting to moronic to boring to just unbelievably insipid, that the one genuinely awesome summer movie was deemed a failure by critics too dumb to see past their own assumptions is hard to fathom. Director Gore Verbinski knocked this one out of the park.
A very, very loose remake of Dead Man, The Lone Ranger is weird and funny and mysterious in all the best ways. It is, perhaps, a bit bloated and outrageous, but honestly, when I saw it in the theater, I was with it from start to finish. Verbinski packs a lot into this movie, yes, but it all fits together. It’s got purpose. It’s even got something to say. I’m afraid you’ll have to put a tiny bit of thought into divining what that something is. It’s worth it. Defy moronic critics. Check this one out.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “It’s times like this, when Man of Steel makes a fortune and The Lone Ranger gets run out of town on a rail, that I want to wipe my hands of this whole ‘creator of everything’ business and maybe just settle down somewhere nice and out of the way, plant some lettuce and cucumbers, and watch the grass grow. Know what I mean?”
A restrained and devastating movie about the ways slavery dehumanizes slaves, their owners, and everyone else in any way involved with this peculiar institution. McQueen’s style is minimalist. He lingers on faces. He allows scenes to stretch out. He wrings emotion from simple tableaux he won’t let you turn away from.
This is as far from an overwrought, weepy, saccharine Hollywood “issue picture” as one could get. The finale scene is so understated you might be surprised to find yourself crying. All of the performances, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor’s, are outstanding.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “Slavery. I mean, just, wow. Gotta hand it to you humans; you’re sadistic little bastards. Want a tip? Check out this crazy great movie. Might learn something about yourselves.”
I wish I’d seen this one more than once, and had a few years to reflect. The story of a folk musician in ’61 trying, or just as often not trying, to make it. He loses a cat. Plays a couple shows. Drives to Chicago. Pisses off everyone he encounters. Joel and Ethan Coen have made one of their very best movies, and they’ve done it with a plotless, low-key character study that wouldn’t have been out of place released in 1972. This one’s going to go on resonating as time passes. It’s powerful stuff. Outside of my number one choice below, no movies this year have stuck in my head as much as this one.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “In my book, nothing they ever do will top Barton Fink. You want to talk writer’s block, try creating all that ever was or will be. It’s no wonder you end up with so much goddamned space in the universe. But the bits with the cat? Great stuff. I could tell you a thing or two about cats. Ties in with dark matter and the rise of the octopusses. But I won’t. Tell you, I mean.”
A visually and pyschologically original journey into the psyches of two people emptied out by a mysterious, universal power (let’s say), who must reconstruct who they are both in relation to one another and to the world at large. I have never seen a movie like Upstream Color. It’s disturbing, hallucinatory, soulful, and beautiful. The last third unfolds almost wordlessly. It’s a movie the meaning of which every viewer must decide for themselves, yet the story is in no way vague or unfocused. Every second of it is imbued with purpose. I am in awe of writer/director/actor/everything-else-on-this-movie Shane Carruth’s accomplishment.
The (actual) Supreme Being: “I don’t want to spoil anything for you—and I’m talking about the ultimate truths of reality here, not that Rosebud was a sled—but I’m keeping my eye on this Carruth character. Why? Because Upstream Color reveals too much about what it all means. The inner workings. The fundamental underlying tapestry of consciousness. Worms and pigs and the secret sounds of music hidden deep within it all. Guy’s elbowing in on my turf. Might have to have a word. Still, great flick. And I’ve seen them all. Literally. I’ve literally seen every movie ever. There any tea left?”
It’s been a strong year for movies, and thems is my picks. Sad to say I missed a few that people loved (The Act of Killing, for example), but I’ll catch up in the new year. As for the actual Supreme Being, it assures me that 2023 is really going to blow up, movie-wise. “It’s like 1939 and 1974 and 1992 had a drug-fueled threesome, and 2023 is their psychedelic lovechild. You won’t see anything like it until 2169 rolls around, and by then you’ll all be dead. So live it up, humans. Live it up.”