HULK’S TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2013

You'll never guess what's at #1.

LIKE YOU, HULK ADORES MOVIES.

AND EVERY YEAR AT THIS TIME WE GET TOGETHER TO TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES WE ADORED. THAT IS IMPORTANT TO MENTION BECAUSE SOMETIMES WE FORGET THAT THE INTENDED PURPOSE OF ANY TOP TEN LIST IS CELEBRATION; THE INCLINATION TO RECOGNIZE THE MERITS OF A GIVEN FILM AND PLACE IT INTO SOME SORT OF GRAND, IMPORTANT CONTEXT... BUT, PERHAPS UNDERSTANDABLY, THINGS OFTEN CAN GET A LITTLE MESSY. PEOPLE NATURALLY START TO COMPARE AND CONTRAST NOT JUST THE WORTH OF THE MOVIES THEMSELVES, BUT THE TASTE OF THE PERSON CELEBRATING, WHICH OFTEN LEADS TO READERS WONDERING ALOUD "How could you forget [INSERT WHATEVER MOVIE THEY REALLY LIKED]!!!!" THIS IS OFTEN INEVITABLE BECAUSE A NUMBER OF HIGHLY WORTHY FILMS WON'T MAKE THE CUT DUE TO SHEER NUMBERS ALONE. HECK, THERE ARE EVEN FILMS BEING LEFT OFF HULK'S PARTICULAR LIST THAT HULK COULD WRITE ENTIRE ARTICLES ABOUT CONCERNING THEIR GREAT WORTH.

SERIOUSLY, THE FACT THAT SOME OF THE FOLLOWING FILMS ARE ONLY GETTING HONORABLE MENTION IS ABSURD, FROM THE SHEER AUDACITY AND ASSURED MANIPULATION OF THE CINEMATOGRAPHY IN STOKER, TO THE LURID INSANITY AND PICASSO-PLOTTING OF JOHN DIES AT THE END*, TO THE UNDER-APPRECIATED AND OLD-FASHIONED ACTIONER THAT IS THE LAST STAND, TO THE UNEXPECTED, NON-STOP HILARITY OF THIS IS THE END, TO THE MASTERFUL TACT OF THE PURE GENRE TRASH IN SIDE EFFECTS*, TO THE ENTHRALLING EVOLUTION OF AUDIENCE ROOTING IN YOU'RE NEXT, TO THE THANKFULLY COMPETENT AND SMALL-STAKES WONDER OF THE WOLVERINE*, TO THE UPROARIOUS AND WAY-MORE-THOUGHTFUL-THAN-PEOPLE-REALIZE IRON MAN THREE, TO THE UNEVEN, YET UNPARALLELED EXPLORATION OF BASIC HUMAN DIGNITY IN NEBRASKA, TO THE UNRELENTING TENSION AND EMPATHY AT THE HEART OF CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. MAKE NO MISTAKE, TO NOT INCLUDE THESE MOVIES IS LUDICROUS. AND THESE HONORABLE MENTIONS DON'T EVEN INCLUDE THE LEGIONS OF FILMS HULK MISSED DUE TO HAVING A CRAZY SCHEDULE (FROZEN. ONLY GOD FORGIVES. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR. ETC). AND ON TOP OF THAT, ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES HULK SAW THIS YEAR WAS CHEAP THRILLS** AND IT WILL HAVE TO COUNT FOR NEXT YEAR WHEN IT IS ACTUALLY RELEASED. TO THINK THAT THIS LIST ALMOST DIDN'T INCLUDE THE WEIRD LITANY OF FILMS THIS YEAR WHERE HULK HAS SOME KIND OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST (BUT DON'T WORRY, AS ALL CONFLICTS HAVE BEEN MARKED WITH A * INDICATE KNOWING OR HAVING WORKED WITH CREATIVES INVOLVED, OR MARKED WITH ** TO INDICATE DRAFTHOUSE AFFILIATION, OR MARKED WITH A *** TO INDICATE AN OBVIOUS ONE OF A CREATIVE HAVING DONE A BOOK INTRODUCTION). IN THE END, THESE MOVIES SIMPLY NEEDED TO BE INCLUDED. TO OMIT THEM WOULD BE ITS OWN KIND OF DISHONESTY.

JUST SO YOU KNOW, THE RUN-ON, EXPLORATORY NATURE OF THE PARAGRAPH ABOVE HAS AN INTENDED POINT: HULK WANTS TO CONFIRM THAT THERE IS INDEED A WORLD OF MOVIES TO BE CELEBRATED BEYOND THIS LIST. BUT SINCE RANKING IS THE CHARGE AT HAND, IT IS RANKING THAT HULK SHALL DO.

HERE'S HULK'S TOP 10 LIST, STARTING AT #1...

1. THE WIND RISES

HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN THE WIND RISES? MIYAZAKI IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S CINEMATIC TREASURES; A FILMMAKER WHO HAS EXPLORED DEEPLY PERSONAL HUMAN EMOTIONS BY CONJURING UP FANTASTIC WORLDS BEYOND OUR IMAGINATION. HE'S A FILMMAKER WHO HAS STRIVEN TO BREAK DOWN SIMPLICITIES OF PROTAGONIST / ANTAGONIST STRIFE IN ORDER TO BETTER CAPTURE THE INNER CONFLICTS AT THE HEART OF OUR LIVES. FUCK, HE GAVE US TOTORO. AND WITH HIS FINAL BOW HE COULD HAVE GIVEN US SOMETHING GRAND ALONG THOSE FAMILIAR LINES. SOMETHING SOFT, HUMANE AND POSSIBLY FUZZY... INSTEAD HE GAVE US SOMETHING FAR MORE COMPLICATED. THE WIND RISES IS NOT ONLY MIYAZAKI'S FIRST TRADITIONAL WESTERN-STYLE EPIC, BUT IT IS ALSO HIS FIRST MOVIE IN THE REAL(ISH) WORLD. HIS SUBJECT? A YOUNG AVIATION ENTHUSIAST BORN IN PRE-WORLD WAR II JAPAN. YOU CAN GUESS WHAT THE FILM SUBSEQUENTLY GETS INTO, BUT THROUGH THIS MORALLY COMPLEX PRISM OF MILITARIZATION, HE EXPLORES THE ETHICAL AND PERSONAL COSTS OF ARTISTRY ITSELF, ALONG WITH ALL THE DESTRUCTIVE ENDS IT CAN BRING (IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THE METAPHORICAL SIDE TO ALL THIS). AS A "LAST WORK" IT IS STRANGELY REMINISCENT OF YEATS' POEMS SAILING TO BYZANTIUM AND BYZANTIUM, WHEREIN THE AUTHOR LOOKS BACK AT HIS VERY EXISTENCE WITH A CONFLICTED STATE OF LONGING, DISSATISFACTION, APPRECIATION, RESERVATION AND YET NECESSARY ACCEPTANCE THAT ALL THOSE EMOTIONS ARE PART OF THE SAME THING. WHICH MADE IT THE KIND OF WORK THAT WAS POWERFULLY RESONANT, SO ZEROED IN ON THE FEARS OF PERSONAL ARTISTRY, THAT IT GAVE HULK AN HONEST TO GOD EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. AT ANY POINT IN OUR LIVES, STORYTELLING CAN HAVE SUCH IMMEASURABLE POWER TO SHAPE OUR MINDS. AND THE DISPLAY OF SUCH POWER, TO THIS HULK, MAKES IT UNDOUBTEDLY THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR.

1. SPRING BREAKERS (TIE)

BUT YES, WE HAVE A TIE FOR NUMBER ONE. SORRY, HULK KNOWS IT'S CHEATING. BUT SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN THERE ALSO BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN SPRING BREAKERS? THE FILM WAS AS WILD, UNAPOLOGETIC AND STYLISTICALLY DIVERGENT AS ANYTHING WE'VE SEEN IN YEARS. A FILM THAT MINES THE SPECIFICITY OF SPRING BREAK SUBCULTURE AND SOMEHOW TURNS IT INTO A LYRICAL TONE POEM ON THE REVERSALS OF GENDER, POWER, DESTRUCTION (FOR A BETTER ARTICULATION OF THOSE IDEAS CHECK OUT LADONNA PIETRA'S GREAT ESSAY ON THAT AND MORE). HULK HONESTLY BELIEVES THAT KORINE HAS BEEN ONE OF AMERICA'S MOST MISUNDERSTOOD FILMMAKERS FOR YEARS, SO IT'S NO SURPRISE HE JUST FINALLY MADE SOMETHING THAT A LARGER AUDIENCE COULD TAP INTO. HULK COVERED HIM IN DEPTH EARLIER THIS YEAR, BUT FOR ALL THE PUBLIC ASSUMPTIONS OUT THERE, HE REALLY IS A GUY WITH SOMETHING TO SAY; HE JUST GOES ABOUT IT IN OBLIQUE WAYS. HE GOES BEYOND THE MERE SURFACE JOYS OF DISNEY-GIRLS-GONE-BAD AND FRANCO'S PITCH-PERFECT PERFORMANCE AS THE UBER-DEGENERATE ALIEN AND INGRAINS THEM RIGHT INTO THE FABRIC OF THE FILM'S COUNTER-INTUITIVE CONSTRUCTION. IT'S A FEVER DREAM. IT'S A HYMN. IT'S A BRITNEY SPEARS VIDEO ON ACID. AND EVEN THEN IT STILL DEFIES CATEGORIZATION. KORINE SOAKED UP ALL THESE ODD AND SPECIFIC INFLUENCES AND SLID THEM BACK TO US IN THE FORM OF SOMETHING UTTERLY TRANSCENDENT.

1. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (TIE)

HULK HAD THOSE TOP 2 FOR YOU AND THEN HULK WENT AND SAW THIS CHRISTMAS DAY AND EVERYTHING WENT OUT THE WINDOW. SORRY. BUT SERIOUSLY. HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN THE WOLF OF WALL STREET? FOR PETE'S SAKE, MARTIN SCORSESE ARGUABLY JUST MADE HIS BEST FILM IN 20 YEARS. IT'S ASSURED. UNFORGIVING. HILARIOUS. SCATHING. AND BEST OF ALL, IT'S NOT A LARK. THIS ONE IS PURE COMMENTARY. ONE THAT GOES FAR BEYOND THE OBSERVATION OF HOW WE ALL GET CAUGHT UP IN CYCLICAL GREED TO BECOME AN OUTRIGHT (IF REFLEXIVE) SOCIETAL TAKEDOWN. TO WIT: EVERYONE SAYING THE MOVIE DOESN'T "MORALIZE" ITS CHARACTERS ENOUGH, THAT'S LITERALLY THE POINT. THESE PEOPLE BEHAVE LIKE THE SCUM OF THE EARTH AND THEN SOCIETY DOESN'T PUNISH THEM SO WHY SHOULD THE MOVIE DO THAT DRAMATICALLY? THAT WOULD BE NOTHING BUT A LIE. SURE, THESE GUYS ARE "FUNNY," BUT THEIR HUMOR IS THAT OF PERPETUAL VICTIMIZING. AND SOMETIMES PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THAT WHEN YOU MAKE THE MOVIE ITSELF PUNISH THE CHARACTERS THEN YOU'RE ACTUALLY LETTING THE AUDIENCE OFF THE HOOK (WHAT ELSE WOULD THAT ENDING BE ABOUT?). THE FILM IS REALLY JUST MIRROR; A COMPLETELY ACCURATE DEPICTION OF THE LUDICROUS NATURE OF CAPITALISM AND EXCESS, BUT INSTEAD OF MERELY POINTING THE FINGER FOR US, IT ALSO CONDEMNS OUR ENAMOR WITH SAID EXCESS (AGAIN, THE ENDING). WHEN YOU SEE HOW THE FILM IS REALLY OPERATING, YOU REALIZE IT ISN'T "NEUTRAL" AT ALL. IT'S PRACTICALLY SPITTING ACID. ALL OF THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN REMARKABLE, BUT THEN YOU HAVE TO ADD THE FACT THAT LEONARDO DICAPRIO GIVES HIS BEST PERFORMANCE EVER. WHICH IS SOMETHING HULK KEEPS SAYING BECAUSE THE GUY IS GETTING BETTER WITH EVERY MOVIE. HERE HE EXPLORES THINGS WE NEVER EVEN KNEW HE HAD (INCLUDING ONE PHYSICAL COMEDY SEQUENCE THAT'S AN ALL-TIMER). BUT THE THING HULK JUST CAN'T GET OVER, BEYOND THE BRILLIANCE OF THE THING ITSELF, IS HOW THE WOLF OF WALL STREET IS ESSENTIALLY A PERFECT IN-YOUR-FACE FUCK-YOU MOVIE FROM A 71 YEAR OLD MASTER. IF THIS WERE MADE BY A 27 YEAR OLD WE WOULD BE HAILING IT AS A NEW CINEMATIC PARADIGM... SIMPLY PUT: LONG LIVE THE KING.

1. THE WORLD'S END (TIE) ***

OKAY. OKAY. HULK KNOWS. A FOUR WAY TIE IS A RIDICULOUS. ESPECIALLY FOR A MOVIE THAT MANY SEEMED TO LOVE, BUT WOULD STILL BE SUCH AN UNLIKELY CHOICE FOR SUCH NOBLE #1 DISTINCTION. BUT IF WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE POTENTIAL VALUE OF MOVIES THAT OPERATE WITHIN A SYSTEM OF EXPECTATIONS, AND THEN ARGUE THAT THE BEST FILMS ARE THE ONES THAT TRANSCEND THOSE EXPECTATIONS, THEN HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN THE WORLD'S END? IT IS THE COMPLETE EMBODIMENT OF THE TROJAN HORSE. A PUB-CRAWL ROMP THAT DOUBLES AS ONE OF THE MOST STARK AND COMPLEX EXPLORATIONS OF ALCOHOLISM, FIDELITY AND ADULTHOOD IN RECENT MEMORY. AND IT HIDES IT ALL RIGHT IN PLAIN SIGHT. HECK, IT EVEN TOOK SOME TIME AND REFLECTION FOR HULK TO REALLY SEE IT FOR WHAT IT WAS. ANCHORED BY SIMON PEGG'S DEFLECTIVE, MAD-CAP AND ALTOGETHER REMARKABLE PERFORMANCE AS GARY KING, THE FILM HAS THE COURAGE TO REALLY TAKE ON THE BLISTERING SHAPES OF ALCOHOLISM AND SOBRIETY - IT JUST SO HAPPENS TO EXPLORE THEM THROUGH THE USE OF NON-STOP GAGS AND BATHROOM CHOPSOCKY. SOUND RIDICULOUS? OF COURSE NOT. IT'S THE WITHNAIL TRADITION OF ABSURDIST METAPHOR. IT'S THE LOST WEEKEND VIA INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. IT'S LEAVING LAS VEGAS VIA THE TERMINATOR. AND UNLIKE SO MANY OTHER DRUG / ALCOHOL FILMS THAT JUST USE DRAMATIC SCARE TACTICS, THIS ONE DOESN'T HOLD OUR HAND AND MORALIZE. LIKE WOLF OF WALL STREET, IT CHASES TRUTH THROUGH REFLECTION... TO USE AN APT PHRASE: IT SHOWS US OUR "BLANK."

1. FRANCES HA (TIE)

FUCK! EVERYTHING WAS ALL SET AND HULK HAD THE BEST FOUR FILMS OF THE YEAR ALL PICKED, BUT THEN HULK THOUGHT BACK TO EARLIER THIS YEAR AND THE INCREDIBLE IMPACT THAT THIS FILM HAD. SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN FRANCES HA? IT'S A FILM THAT UNDERSTANDS REAL LIFE IS MUCH LESS ABOUT VANQUISHING ENEMIES, EXTRACTING REVENGE OR SAVING THE WORLD. IT'S A FILM THAT UNDERSTANDS THAT OUR MEANINGFUL STORIES ARE MUCH MORE INTIMATE THAN THAT. OUR HEROISMS ARE MORE SMALL AND MUNDANE. OUR DIGNITY IS MORE PRECIOUS AND FRAGILE. BUT FROM THAT SMALLNESS AND RICH OBSERVATION, IT KNOWS HOW TO REACH BACK OUT AND FIND SOMETHING SO MUCH BIGGER. IT UPHOLDS THE FACT THAT LOVE AND FRIENDSHIPS ARE REAL THINGS THAT EXIST IN THIS SILLY WORLD OF OURS. AND THEY REALLY DO MEAN EVERYTHING. AND IN THAT RESPECT, FRANCES HA IS UNDENIABLE.

1. UPSTREAM COLOR* (TIE)

OKAY, OKAY. HULK KNOWS. A SIX WAY TIE IS STUPID. SORRY. IT WASN'T PLANNED, BUT THIS WILL MAYBE MAKE MORE SENSE WITH FULL DISCLOSURE. MANY ASKED WHY HULK NEVER WROTE ABOUT THIS FILM, BUT IT WAS A SIMPLE MATTER OF SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE AS HULK KNOWS SOME OF THE CREATIVE PEOPLE INVOLVED. SO HULK WASN'T EVER GOING TO WRITE ABOUT IT OR INCLUDE IT ON THIS LIST... BUT, WITH THAT DISCLOSURE OUT OF THE WAY, HOW CAN HULK NOT INCLUDE IT? SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN UPSTREAM COLOR? NEARLY A DECADE AGO, CARRUTH DIDN'T JUST THROW US FOR A LOOP WITH PRIMER, HE DID THE UNTHINKABLE AND MARRIED THE TEXT AND STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION INTO HIS OUTWARDLY-SPIRALING STRUCTURE OF STORYTELLING (AS COUNTER-INTUITIVE AS YOU'D IMAGINE AND STILL THE MOST STAGGERING THING ABOUT THAT FILM). FEW KNEW WHAT TO EXPECT THIS GO ROUND. MANY IMAGINED MORE OF THE SAME WITH SOMETHING CEREBRAL AND CRYPTIC. BUT REALLY, HE CAME OUT WITH AN EVOLUTION. IN SOME WAYS, UPSTREAM COLOR IS MORE DIRECT AS TO ITS INTENTION OF PLOTTING, BUT IN TERMS OF ITS EXPLORATION OF HUMAN EMOTION IT PRACTICALLY FEELS... INFINITE. PICK YOUR GRAND THEMES: A FILM ABOUT LOVE AND LOSS. A FILM ABOUT TRAUMA AND RECOVERY. HECK, IN SOME WAYS IT FEELS LIKE THE PERFECT EXPLORATION OF MEDICAL MISDIAGNOSES (WHICH HULK CAN TELL YOU ARE A BIG DEAL). IT JUST EXPLORES THESE IDEAS IN AS INVENTIVE AND ELECTRIC A WAY AS YOU CAN IMAGINE. SO IF WE'RE GOING TO CARE ABOUT CINEMA. IF WE'RE GOING TO CARE ABOUT PUSHING IT FORWARD AND EXPLORING THE MYRIAD OF WAYS WE CAN EXPERIENCE THOSE SILLY THINGS WE CALL "STORIES," THEN THERE IS NO ARGUING WHAT A FILM LIKE THIS REPRESENTS.

1. GRAVITY* (TIE)

YEAH! ANOTHER ONE! BUT COME ON! HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN GRAVITY? IF CINEMA IS REALLY ABOUT THE POWER OF EXPERIENCE, THEN NEVER HAS THAT EXPERIENCE SEEMED SO... EXPERIENTIAL. WE WERE TAKEN INTO SPACE TO ABSORB BOTH THE WONDER OF THE COSMOS AND THE PURE VISCERAL TERROR IT CAN BRING AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE. AND THESE EMOTIONS WERE FULLY REALIZED THROUGH CUARON AND HIS TEAM REACHING THE ABSOLUTE PINNACLE OF CRAFT. WE'RE TALKING HITCHCOCKIAN CONTROL HERE. EVERY BIT OF FRAMING. EVERY BEAT. EVERY CUT. EVERY MOMENT OF SILENCE. EVERY OVERWHELMING MUSIC CUE. ALL PERFECTLY FORMED TO TERRORIZE AND ALLEVIATE YOU WITH OPERATIC RHYTHM. BUT PLEASE DO NOT THINK OF THIS FILM AS "JUST" A THRILL RIDE. EVERY BIT OF THE SAME CRAFT SERVES AS A CRYSTAL CLEAR EXPLORATION OF DEATH AND REBIRTH IN PURE SYMBOLIC TERMS. IS IT SIMPLE IN ITS CLARITY? SURE. BUT IT'S ANYTHING BUT SIMPLE IN TERMS OF ITS MEANING AND IMPORT. BETTER YET, IT'S ALL GEARED TOWARD THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF HAMMERING HOME THE EXPERIENCE FIRST. AND IF WE GO TO THE CINEMA TO EXPERIENCE THAT WHICH WE NEVER COULD, IF WE SEEK THAT WHICH TRANSPORTS US, THEN NO FILM DID THAT BETTER (AND FOR MORE PEOPLE) THAN GRAVITY.

1. 12 YEARS OF SLAVE (TIE)

HULK WAS GOING TO WRITE ABOUT THIS ONE, BUT THE PERFECT CLARIFICATION OF WHAT THIS MOVIE ACHIEVED AND WHY IT MATTERS WAS ALREADY WRITTEN BY DAVID SIMON. HERE'S THE MOST IMPORTANT PART (BUT HULK HIGHLY ENCOURAGES YOU TO READ THE WHOLE THING HERE).

I emerged thinking precisely the same about this remarkable work. This film didn’t cheat our national history. It didn’t allude to horror, nor did it revel in it. It marks the first time in history that our entertainment industry, albeit with international creative input, has managed to stare directly at slavery and maintain that gaze. Everyone who had anything to do with this film getting made — from the producers, to director Steve McQueen, and the committed, talented cast — should sleep tonight and every night knowing that for once, the escapism, bluster and simple provocation that marks a good 95 percent of our film output has been somehow flanked, and subversively so. These people have told a hideous and essential story about our nation’s great and longstanding sin with such calm and clarity that if we accept the film on its actual terms, rather than through the cluttered prism of our own racial and political sensibilities, only two kinds of folk will emerge from theaters. The first will be at last awakened to the actual and grevious horror in which the black experience in America begins. Efforts to achieve this in the past — The “Roots” miniseries on television, or a few halting and veiled attempts in feature films to imply the desperation of terrorized human chattel — came down the road a piece, but none dared the entire emotional journey. For ordinary Americans willing to confront our history without equivocation and vague allusion, this film will prove a humanizing and liberating journey. This much truth can grow an honest soul. And for those still desperate to mitigate our national reality at every possible cost, this film will be an affront. It is not intelligently assailable by anyone, though the racial divide and resentment that still occupies our national character a century and a half after abolition will prompt certain creatures to pull at threads, hoping against hope. Mostly, those who want to pretend to another American history will just avoid the film or the discussion that ensues.

1. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (TIE)

UGH... BUT HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS? THE COEN BROTHERS HAVE ALREADY PROVEN THEY ARE THE GRAND MASTERS AND YET WITH EVERY FILM THEY KEEP SEEMING TO SHOW ANOTHER SMALL SHADE OF THEMSELVES. THEY'VE FLIRTED WITH IT BEFORE, BUT THIS FILM IS ACTUALLY A MUSICAL, AND DESPITE-THE-LACK-OF-FOURTH-WALL BREAKING, IT IS AS TRUE A MUSICAL AS THE MEDIUM HAS EVER SEEN. FOR EVERY MUSICAL NUMBERS SERVES AS A HEARTRENDING RENDITION OF WHAT A CHARACTER COULD NEVER EXPRESS. LLEWYN MAY GUARD HIMSELF ADMIRABLY THOUGH HIS NIGHTMARISH TREK THROUGH THE 60'S FOLK SCENE, BUT YOU CAN MAKE NO MISTAKE WHEN THE SONGS COME OUT OF HIM. THIS IS A STORY ABOUT GRIEF. LOSS. PASSION. JOY. AND ALL THE OTHER THINGS WE CAN NEVER SEEM TO HOLD ONTO. LIKE LLEWYN, THE FILM HIDES THESE THINGS. ALL OF IT UNSAID. ALL OF IT LACED UP IN PRE-HISTORY. FROM THE GORFEINS (LIKELY) BEING MIKE'S PARENTS. TO THE TRAGIC HISTORY OF WHAT THEIR MUSIC MIGHT HAVE MEANT TO THEM. THE GRIEF HANGS OVER EVERYTHING. ULTIMATELY, IT JUST HELPS CLARIFY HOW INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS IS REALLY A FILM ABOUT BAD TIMING. THE FILM'S PLOT IS MIRED IN MISSED COMMUNICATIONS. GOOD DEEDS GONE WRONG. AND THE MAKING OF MANY WRONG CHOICES FOR WHAT SEEMED LIKE THE NECESSARY CHOICE AT THE TIME (THE ROYALTIES SCENE, DEAR GOD). AND IT'S ALL MADE SO REMARKABLY CLEAR WITH THE FILM'S END, WHEN LLEWYN BOTH FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY MISSES THE SPOTLIGHT BY A SINGLE PERFORMANCE. MODELED AFTER THE GREAT DAVE VAN RONK, OUR LLEWYN WAS SIMPLY DYLAN BEFORE DYLAN. AND LIKE MOST OF THE COENS' WORK, IT ECHOES THE DARKLY HILARIOUS KAFKA QUOTE THAT "THERE IS HOPE, BUT NOT FOR US." AN IDEA THAT IS AT ONCE FUNNY AS IT IS HEARTBREAKING. AND AFTER WEEKS OF LISTENING TO THE SOUNDTRACK IT'S AMAZING HOW MUCH OF THIS INTENT COMES TO THE FOREFRONT. AN INTENT, MADE ALL THE MORE PAINFUL BY MATT SINGER'S POSTULATION THAT THE FILM IS A SUBCONSCIOUS EXPLORATION OF THE COENS IMAGINING LIFE WITHOUT ONE ANOTHER... YEAH, OOF. IT'S A PAINFUL THOUGHT. SO PAINFUL IT ONLY SERVES TO SPRING UP THE IRRATIONAL HOPE WITHIN HULK THAT WILL BOTH LIVE FOREVER.

1. SHORT TERM 12 (TIE)

BUT HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN SHORT TERM 12? WHEN HULK SAW THE FILM BACK IN MARCH, HULK HAILED IT AS A MASTERPIECE. AND HULK WAS CERTAIN THERE COULD BE NOTHING BETTER THAT WOULD COME OUT THIS YEAR. HOW COULD THERE BE? IT WAS THE KIND OF HAUNTING, PERSONAL STORY THAT MOVED HULK TO TEARS CONSTANTLY (WHICH IS NOT THAT EASY TO DO). MILES AWAY FROM BEING CLOYING OR FORCED, THE FILM REALIZES ITS EMOTION THROUGH GENUINE SORROW. EVERY PERFORMANCE JUST HITS YOU SQUARE ON. BRIE LARSON AND JOHN GALLAGHER JR. ARE PERFECT. EVERY ONE OF THE KIDS IN THIS FILM ARE PERFECT. BUT PERHAPS, ABOVE ALL ELSE, THE FILM IS SO EMOTIONAL BECAUSE IT IS ACCURATE. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO MAKE THIS KIND OF MOVIE FOR YEARS. TRYING TO CRAFT THAT INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF KIDS AND TRAUMA IN A WAY THAT ACTUALLY WORKS. SO POWERFUL IS THE SUBJECT MATTER THAT IT CAN EASILY SLIDE INTO MANIPULATION. SO DELICATE IS THE ORGANIC BALANCE IT REQUIRES THAT IT CAN GET BLUDGEONED AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE. THERE IS JUST SUCH A SPECIFICITY WHEN IT COMES TO THE TRAUMA AND PSYCHOLOGY OF TROUBLED KIDS AND IT IS ONE THAT DOESN'T REALLY CONFORM TO MODES OF CINEMATIC LOGIC. IT ONLY CONFORMS TO THEIR OWN MODES OF INTERACTION AND THE DEPTH OF WHAT THEY CAN HIDE. THIS IS THE FIRST FILM THAT GETS HOW THESE KIDS OPERATE. HOW THEY TURN THEIR DESTRUCTIVENESS INWARD. THERE'S NO POSTURING. NO PRETENSE. SHORT TERM 12 JUST GETS IT. WHAT HULK SAID BACK IN MARCH JUST GROWS MORE TRUE WITH EVERY PASSING DAY: THE FILM IS A MASTERPIECE. IT PROVES THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A SMALL MOVIE, FOR IT IS A FILM AS EXPANSIVE AS THE HUMAN HEART.

1. THE ACT OF KILLING** (TIE)

HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN THE ACT OF KILLING? IF WE ARE EVEN GOING TO PRETEND THAT MOVIES ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING, THAT THEY CAN GO BEYOND THE MERE POSITIVE EFFECT ON ONESELF AND GO ON TO MAKE SOME KIND OF TANGIBLE, SOCIAL DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD, THEN WE MUST CELEBRATE THE FEW MOVIES THAT ACTUALLY MANAGE TO DO THAT. TO EVEN EXPLAIN WHAT THIS FILM IS IS DIFFICULT. HULK JUST LIKES TO SAY IT'S A FILM ABOUT EMPATHY ITSELF. IT'S JUST THAT THE EMPATHY HERE INVOLVES A NATION THAT COMMITTED HORRIFIC GENOCIDE AND WAS GLORIFIED FOR DOING SO (THE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE OF THE SUBJECTS IN THIS FILM IS NEARLY UNPARALLELED). AND SO THE TACT USED BY THE DIRECTOR JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER IS AN ALTERNATIVE ONE: HE ESSENTIALLY TRIES TO REMOVE THE ARTIFICE OF UNDERSTANDING BY GETTING THE GREATEST OFFENDERS OF THESE GENOCIDAL ACTS TO BUILD EVEN MORE ARTIFICE. WHAT HAPPENS IS ALMOST INDESCRIBABLE. AND IN THE PROCESS IT EFFECTIVELY BLENDS THE LENS OF DOCUMENTARY, PERFORMANCE AND STORY INTO ONE GENUINE AND SEAMLESS APPROACH. IT IS DOWNRIGHT REVELATORY. AND IT WORKS BECAUSE EVERY MOMENT OF THIS FILM IS SO DEDICATED TO THAT CRITICAL GOAL OF UNVEILING TRUTH. BEYOND ITS EFFECT ON THE SUBJECTS AND HOW IT SHINED A LIGHT ON A GENOCIDE FEW IN THE WESTERN WORLD EVEN KNOW ABOUT, THE FILM HAS SUBSEQUENTLY BEEN RELEASED FOR FREE IN INDONESIA AND GONE ON TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT SOCIAL IMPACT. LIKE DAVID SIMON SAID ABOVE "THIS MUCH TRUTH CAN GROW AN HONEST SOUL." AND IF WE ARE GOING TO MEASURE SUCH IMPACTS, HOW CAN THE ACT OF KILLING NOT BE THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR? ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS THE ONLY FILM THAT REALLY, TRULY MEANS ANYTHING TO THE BETTERMENT OF THE WORLD?

1. HER (TIE)

BUT HOW CAN THERE BE A BETTER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAN HER? MOVIES, FOR ALL POSSIBLE SOCIAL IMPORT, ARE MOSTLY THESE PESKY NARRATIVE THINGS THAT JUST SO HAPPEN TO GO ON AND LIVE IN OUR HEARTS, MINDS AND SOULS. AND NO FILM WENT INTO EVERY PART OF HULK QUITE LIKE THIS ONE (DON'T FORGET THE GROIN!). JOKES ASIDE, IT'S EVERYTHING CINEMA SHOULD BE. IT'S BEAUTIFUL. HEARTFELT. GENRE-TRANSCENDING. PERSONAL. UNIVERSAL. FUNNY. AND EVEN UNFORGIVING. IT'S EVEN A GREAT EXAMPLE OF TRUE SCI-FI: BOTH A CAREFUL PROGNOSTICATION ABOUT OUR IMMEDIATE FUTURE AND A PERFECT REFLECTION OF OUR SOCIETY AT THE GIVEN MOMENT. BUT MOST REMARKABLY, LIKE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND IT IS A FILM THAT HAS SOMEHOW MANAGED TO CHARACTERIZE THE VALUE AND INTRICACIES OF MODERN ROMANCE, ALONG WITH THE ARCHAIC, UNIVERSAL NEEDS AT THE HEART OF IT. IF THERE WERE ANY LINGERING DOUBTS THAT SPIKE JONZE IS ONE OF OUR GREATEST FILMMAKERS, IT IS WHOLLY ERASED WITH THIS FILM. BEYOND MERE PRAISE, THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE AIR WITH THIS ONE. THERE IS AN ELECTRICITY ABOUT IT. IT IS THE MOVIE OF THE MOMENT, AND YET A MOVIE OF THE EONS. IT'S WHAT WE HOPE FOR WHEN WE GO TO THE MOVIES. IT'S WHAT WE HOPE FOR WHEN WE TRY TO MAKE THEM.

* * *

SO YOU PROBABLY GET THE JOKE BY NOW.

BUT LIKE PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING HULK TRIES TO DO, IT'S NOT REALLY A JOKE. FOR IF THERE'S ANY YEAR THAT MAKES THE RELATIVE COMPARISON OF A FILM'S WORTH SEEM ALL THE MORE WORTHLESS, IT'S THIS ONE. THIS IS THE YEAR THAT BROKE HULK'S WILL TO EVEN TRY A TOP TEN LIST. AND YES, HISTORY IS FICKLE SO WHO KNOWS WHICH OF THESE MOVIES WILL ACTUALLY GO ON TO BE REMEMBERED AND CHERISHED, BUT ALL HULK KNOWS IS RIGHT NOW HULK IS LOOKING AT SUCH A WILDLY DIVERGENT ARRAY OF MOVIES WHICH ALL SEEM TO PERFECTLY ENCAPSULATE WHAT IT IS THEY'RE TRYING TO DO. AND THAT MIGHT BE ALL THERE IS TO IT, REALLY. FILMS ARE AT THEIR BEST WHEN THEY DO WHAT THEY'RE TRYING TO DO. TO COMPARE THEM JUST MAKES IT ABOUT WHATEVER YOU VALUE MOST. HULK GETS THAT THAT IS THEORETICALLY WHAT TOP 10 LISTS SHOULD BE ABOUT THEN, BUT WHAT COULD BE A GREAT WAY OF EXPRESSING CINEMATIC PURPOSE FROM A PERSONAL PLACE MOSTLY JUST TURNS INTO NOTHING MORE THAN A GAME OF ART-AS-IDENTITY POLITICS.

MORE TO THE POINT, WHAT IF IT'S ALL VALUABLE?

WHAT IF YOU LOOK ACROSS THE SPECTRUM OF GREAT CINEMA AND SUDDENLY A PERFECT, TRANSFORMATIVE GENRE FILM FEELS NO MORE OR LESS VALUABLE THAN A FILM THAT DUTIFUL EXPLORES SOME ASPECT OUR TRAGIC HISTORY? WHAT MAKES A FILM THAT DEFTLY EXPLORES OUR SCIENTIFIC POSSIBILITIES BETTER THAN SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU LAUGH FOR DAYS? IT'S THE VERY IDEA OF COMPARISON ITSELF THAT CAN'T HELP BUT TURN A TOP TEN LIST INTO A COMPLETELY SILLY THING. LIKE YOU MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE EVEN NOTICED HULK'S TOP 10 WAS ACTUALLY A TOP 12. OR THAT THAT ONE OF THE YEAR'S BEST FILMS, BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, WASN'T RELEASED IN AMERICAN THEATERS. OR PERHAPS THE SILLINESS IS A META ONE BECAUSE HULK KNOWS SOME OF YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE FLOW OF THE LIST ABOVE AND THINKING IT'S REALLY 1A, 1B, 1C AND SO ON (HINT: IT'S NOT). IT'S ALL PART OF THE SAME JOKE. WE CAN HAPPILY DEBATE THE MERITS OF WHETHER OR NOT A FILM HAS ANY MERIT AS TO ITS INTENTION, BUT GREAT MOVIES ARE ALWAYS, EFFECTIVELY, TIES. AND IF OUR GOAL WITH LISTS IS IN ESSENCE TO PROVE THE WORTH OF SOMETHING, THEN WHY MAKE ANY KIND OF DIVISION THAT'S SO INHERENTLY PROBLEMATIC? WHY WOULD WE USE A SYSTEM THAT WOULD INSTANTLY LOWER A FILM BELOW ANOTHER JUST BECAUSE IT'S THE "SECOND BEST" OF THE YEAR? ISN'T THAT LUDICROUS?

HULK WORRIES WE DO THIS BECAUSE WE HAVE SPORTS-ORIENTATED MINDS, BUT HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT NO, IT'S NOT REALLY LIKE SPORTS AT ALL. AND KEEP IN MIND THAT HULK LOVES SPORTS, BUT THOSE ARE FEATS OF DIRECT ATHLETIC COMPETITION, WHERE COMPETITION IS REALLY THE ENTIRE BASIS OF THING TO BEGIN WITH. BETTER YET, SPORTS IS ALWAYS DEPENDENT ON A LEGITIMATE SCORING SYSTEM. COMPARATIVELY, PUTTING GREAT MOVIES AGAINST EACH OTHER IT SOMETIMES FEELS MORE AKIN TO TAKING YOUR KIDS, GIVING THEM KNIVES, THROWING THEM INTO A PIT, AND SEEING WHO SURVIVES ("My kid was the fifth one dead! Yay!!!"). AND IF THAT METAPHOR SEEMS RIDICULOUS THEN HOW COME LISTS ALWAYS START FIGHTS? HOW COME THEY NEVER SEEM TO REALLY HELP, BUT INSTEAD BREED DIVISION AND "I can't believe you left so and so off your list!" OR "How can you think so and so is better than the so and so I like!" AND PLEASE UNDERSTAND, THIS ISN'T TO POINT FINGERS AND PUT HULK ABOVE THIS BEHAVIOR EITHER. THE INSTINCT TO DO SO IS COMPLETELY WITHIN HULK TOO. IT'S PART OF A NATURAL UGLINESS, THE WORST DEMONS OF OUR NATURE, BUT THAT'S NOT GOING TO STOP HULK FROM ASKING HOW COME WE DO THIS TO GREAT MOVIES? WHY DO WE ALWAYS ERR TOWARD THE DIVIDE WHEN WE SHOULD BE TRYING TO ASSEMBLE THEM INTO A RICH TAPESTRY? WHY DO WE REFRAIN FROM LANGUAGE THAT HELPS COLOR AN AMAZING CINEMATIC YEAR? WHY DO WE JUST ASSUME THIS COMPETITIVE INSTINCT IS PART OF THE RIGHT WAY TO DO THINGS?

BIGGEST QUESTION OF ALL: WHY DO THOSE SILLY SUPERCUTS OF "THE YEAR IN CINEMA" OR WHATEVER ALWAYS SEEM TO DO A BETTER JOB OF CELEBRATING MOVIES THAN ANY SINGLE TOP TEN LIST THAT HULK HAS EVER READ?

IF EVERYTHING HULK TRIES TO DO IS IN THE NAME OF THE JOY OF MOVIES THEN EVEN ATTEMPTING A TOP TEN LIST IN A YEAR LIKE THIS JUST FEELS SO DAMN UGLY. HENCE, THE LARK YOU SEE ABOVE AND THE RANT WHICH HAS FOLLOWED. HULK SAID IT IN HULK'S VERY FIRST COLUMN HERE AT BADASS: MOVIES ARE GIFTS. AND IF YOU'LL ALLOW HULK TO STUMBLE INTO ONE LAST CLUMSY METAPHOR HERE, HULK WOULD ASK YOU THIS: WOULD YOU RANK ALL OF YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS AND THEN PUBLISH THAT LIST FOR ALL YOUR RELATIVES TO SEE? HULK KNOWS IT'S NOT A 1:1 LOGICAL COMPARISON, BUT THE SPIRIT OF THE THING FEELS RIGHT. WOULD YOU CONSIDER SUCH A CHRISTMAS PRESENT LIST TO BE A "CELEBRATION" OF ALL YOU HAVE JUST RECEIVED? WOULD IT MAKE YOUR RELATIVES FEEL BETTER? IT'S NOT THAT GREAT MOVIES ARE ABOVE CRITICISM OR ABOVE REPROACH... IT'S JUST THAT LIKE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS, THEY FEEL LIKE THEY'RE ABOVE BLIND, NEEDLESS COMPARISON.

LIKE YOU, HULK ADORES MOVIES. SO IF YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE (OR HECK, EVEN YOUR MOVIE) IS ON THIS LIST WITH A LITTLE #1 NEXT TO IT? THEN YEAH, HULK IS LEGITIMATELY CALLING IT THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR.

BECAUSE IT DESERVES IT.

<3 HULK

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