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Film Feature: 13 Films That Define 2013

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Including films that achieve the correct button-mashing combo to earn fancy kudos and are positively lauded, there are only a select few from the whole bunch that have the significance of “definitive.”

These are films that transcend ownership of marquee space, or their critical importance with film niches, and take on a wide cultural significance. Such happens to a point in which these movies now help outline our exact understanding of an entire year of film itself. These are the films that are created from specific thematic trends from all of our culture, or in some historical cases, became trends themselves.

From the paranormal parody of “A Haunted House” to the controversial “Wolf of Wall Street,” here are 13 films that best define the movie year that was 2013.

A Haunted House

1. “A Haunted House”

Hide as one may try from junky horror spoofs that aim to abuse the clever imbalance of low budget filmmaking with multi-million audience appeal, the “Paranormal Activity” spoof concept appeared in at least four different films in 2013. Complete with CCTV insert perspectives, visits from non-helpful psychics, and usually racist depictions of ethnic maids, these films included “30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Scary Movie 5,” and “Paranormal Whacktivity.”

The most popular of the batch was “A Haunted House,” co-written by and starring Marlon Wayans, as directed by Michael Tiddies. Admittedly, “A Haunted House” is vacant comedically, but that did not stop domestic viewers (who put this film at second place opening weekend, trailing behind “Zero Dark Thirty”) from giving the film a $40 million domestic haul. This one at least opts to use accomplished comedians for its jokey sequences (Nick Swardson, David Koechner, Cedric the Entertainer, and Affion Crockett) as opposed to the celebrity “Mad Libs” route of “Scary Movie 5,” the only other “Paranormal Activity” parody to hit wide theatrical release. In true fashion to the scary easiness that is making a low budget film, but sending it out to a multiplex audience paying $12 to see the movie “A Haunted House 2” is scheduled to open March 28, 2014.

Spring Breakers

2. “Spring Breakers”

The Super Bowl of pop culture’s hedonism is given quite a look with Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, a pop art acid trip aimed and ready to fire against the expectations within its MTV-viewing audience’s gaze. As 2013 marked the latest public maturation ceremony of former teenyboppers to women of Hollywood’s industry of sexuality, (with Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana’s ascension into her latest identity), such also means confused applause for “Spring Breakers,” which pours booze, drugs, and bikini bods on the squeaky clean images of involved actresses and former residents of the Mouse House, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.

Its overall intent may be shrouded in its own unique haze of weirdness, but “Spring Breakers” is nonetheless an unparalleled piece of neon-lit pop cynicism, especially in a year where the acts of Miley Cyrus still shock viewers into the state of providing her invaluable free publicity. On an even smaller scale, it is also the first and only time a person with gold teeth might be given a serious-face “For Your Consideration” push, as James Franco earns with his non-human thug Alien, a strange unofficial impersonation of internet rap deity RiFF RAFF.

This Is the End

3. “This Is the End”

Film celebrated its survival of Mayan mistake 2012 by turning 2013 into the year of the apocalypse, with casts of either ensembles or lone wolves placed intimately in circumstances involving the destruction of Earth as it is or was known. Amongst star-studded movies like “Oblivion,” “After Earth,” and “The World’s End” to name a few, the most wholly entertaining of the bunch is Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s “This Is the End,” a directorial debut from the “Pineapple Express” writers. Treating the apocalypse as the main event of a star-studded party, “This Is the End” graduates Goldberg & Rogen from King Apatow’s school of bromantic manchild comedy, while also providing viewers an experience that is playfully meta about what they may imagine these performers’ off-screen personas to truly be. In the end, Rogen & Goldberg round up their bash (with appearances from James Franco, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Kevin Hart, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd and more) with a dedication to friendship, not their own celebrity. A special sequence involving the creation of a “Pineapple Express 2” trailer shows all the more that while they may be amused by pot humor, cussing, and general outrageousness, Rogen and company are dedicated first and foremost to the crafting of a good story.

Man of Steel

4. “Man of Steel”

In 2007’s “Superman Returns,” Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane received a Pulitzer Prize for her piece “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” which in all actuality must have been the screenplay we now know as Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” (no, I could not resist making this reference). Arriving in the fallout of 2012’s “The Avengers’” massive box office domination, “Man of Steel” showed how a flying handsome man with a cape and a few smirks was no longer a pioneer in superheroism.

Snyder’s film indicated the current shape of the lucrative superhero genre especially post-“Avengers,” and its failure as bad expensive movie allowed viewers to witness what is becoming so damning about these inflating superhero films. In particular, audience members who expressed concern in social media about a third act assault on dear old Metropolis at least reckoned awareness to the numbing blandness of immortality that feeds numerous superhero franchises. The same can also be said somewhat for “Man of Steel’s” grotesque product placement, in which Superman fights some villains in an IHOP, and later inside a Sears. Consequently, while audiences may have felt more active awareness about the elements of this subgenre with “Man of Steel,” they were still buying tickets. Domestically, the film took in $291.1 million dollars, which was 43.9% of its worldwide total of $662.8 million.

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