2013: The Year in Reviews
Themes of hope, survival and faith in a year of cinematic trauma
From a National Catholic Register article
By Steven D. Greydanus
Top to bottom: This Is Martin Bonner (Monterey Media); 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight); Gravity (Warner Bros).
2013 was a year of cinematic trauma and stress, full of harrowing, at times also exhilarating, survival stories, many on the abyss of the sea or even the void of space.
Rather than fighting to overcome evil and save their worlds, like the heroes of blockbusters of other recent years (The Avengers; The Dark Knight Rises; Harry Potter; Avatar), this year the protagonists of one film after another fought simply for the hope of getting out alive and returning home: Gravity; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; Captain Phillips; 12 Years a Slave; All is Lost.
The travails of African-Americans throughout U.S. history, from slavery to segregation to the Civil Rights era to today’s creeping police state, were highlighted in a remarkable convergence of films — 12 Years a Slave; Fruitvale Station; Lee Daniels’ The Butler and the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 — while the apartheid era and its downfall were portrayed in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Unlike past race-themed films with white heroes and black supporting characters (e.g., Amistad, Mississippi Burning), the protagonists in these films were all black (possibly excepting 42, in which Harrison Ford was at least the costar); the first three were also from black writer-directors.
It was a banner year for women on the big screen. Earlier this week The Hunger Games: Catching Fire starring Jennifer Lawrence surpassed Iron Man 3 at the U.S. box office, becoming the first female-led top-grossing film of any year since perhaps The Sound of Music in 1965. The domestic top 10 includes Disney’s Frozen, with its sister princesses — an almost unheard-of Hollywood animated film with two leading ladies — and Gravity starring Sandra Bullock, who also costarred with Melissa McCarthy in the crude action-comedy hit The Heat.