2013 was another remarkable year in film. Tony Stark dominated an Iron Man movie, Superman soared again, Fast Six proved physics don’t matter, James Franco hosted a post apocalyptic slumber party while Simon Pegg and friends drank through theirs, the White House was attacked twice, Don Jon made “internet history” a scary term, The Conjuring made clapping even scarier, Tom Cruise saved the world again, The Terminator helped Rambo escape from prison, Leonardo Di Caprio threw epic parties, Ethan Hawke pulled double duty starring in one of the year’s worst films and one of its best, Bradley Cooper did the same, You’re Next made plastic animal mask great Halloween costumes, while Gravity made everyone hold their breath.
Out of the 170 (give or take a few) films I saw this year, here are my 10 favorite. In no particular order…..
Inside Llewyn Davis
Oscar Isaac’s magical performance turned a simple film about a struggling folk singer into a cinematic treat. The performances were great but the music is what makes Llewyn one of the year’s best. Llewyn’s one part charming, two parts tragic personality is what makes him such a compelling character. You feel for a guy who’s trying everything he can to make a living while simultaneously shooting himself in the foot. Llewyn losing it at the dinner party is one of my favorite scenes in 2013 – it’s funny, emotional, sad, and uncomfortable at the same time.
We all know the story of Oscar Grant, the young man who was fatally wounded New Year’s Day 2009. But nobody knows anything about Oscar. The film gives some insight into who Oscar was and the circumstances that lead to his death. Michael B. Jordan gives a phenomenal performance and continues his campaign as one of Hollywood’s best young actors. Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer are awesome as well and anchor an emotional ending that won’t leave a dry eye in the house.
If slasher films aren’t your thing, maybe this movie was under your radar. The plot sounds vaguely familiar – a family away on vacation is terrorized by killers blah, blah, blah. Thankfully You’re Next injects a few new ideas that keep it from being a carbon copy of previous horror films. Director Adam Wingard brilliantly holds shots after characters walked out of frame to show someone (or something) move in the background. Those shots make you think someone could jump out at any moment, and sometimes they did. After you watch it, you’ll never look at plastic animal mask the same……or axes.
Short Term 12
Heartwarming, smart, funny, heartbreaking, and delightful are all adjectives I’d use to describe Short Term 12. The film is about the kids at a foster care facility as much as it’s about the staff who works there. There are moments that will make you laugh until your side hurts and moments that will make you cry one of those real ugly cries. Brie Larson showed she’s more than just a comedic actress and the world was introduced to a promising young actor named Keith Stanfield – I hope to see him onscreen again soon. The best part of Short Term 12 is the film opening and ending with two amazing stories.
12 Years A Slave
Solomon Northup’s incredible story of how he was sold into slavery for 12 years is brought to life by director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame). We’ve seen films about slavery before, but nothing with as much heart and realism as 12 Years A Slave. If the Academy gave an award for Best Villain, Michael Fassbender would win in a landslide. Lupita Nyong’o and Chitewel Ejiofor give such incredible performance that I’m sure everyone will be able to pronounce their name correctly by March 2, 2014. 12 Years A Slave is a film that’s tough to watch but demands to be seen.
From its strange premise to Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant performance, Her is unlike anything we’ve seen in cinema. It’s a beautiful film that tells a tender story about a man who falls in love and can’t help who he’s falling for. Spike Jonze creates a digitally infused future that’s the perfect backdrop for this love story. The film’s sincere discussions about love and relationships are lightened by the scripts sense of humor, but the ideas linger long after the movie is over. Her will make you think about where we are headed as a society and how will technology shape our ideas about relationships.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Who knew a Leonardo DiCaprio’s on a three hour coke rage would make a good film. Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, Wolf is NSFW force of nature that serves as a cautionary tale of American greed. DiCaprio gives arguably his best performance to date and shows why he’s one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Watching DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler have a battle of snarky wits on a yacht was everything I hoped it would be. Margot Robbie wins the award for The Most Beautiful Actress Nobody Knows, but she’ll be a household name before 2014 is over.
Before Midnight, one of the most honest films about relationships is a beautiful end to a trilogy that spanned 18 years. Jesse and Celine’s love story is simple yet compelling. There’s not a lot of filler or the usual love story tropes we see in Hollywood, just two people discussing their relationship. Following Jesse and Celine has been a blast. Sad to see it end.
Hands down Fast Six was one of the best times I had in the theater. The film is an adrenaline rush from start to finish and has one of the best post credit scenes in a long time. A franchise that began as a story about criminals stealing car parts has turned into a super team that’s saving the world from nuclear bombs. Luckily, the films are so entertaining that nobody cares. All people want from their Fast movies is action, action, comedy, and more action. Fast Six had all that by the truckloads and by the time the credits rolled, all people wanted was more. Bravo Fast & Furious. Bravo.
Director Alfonso Cuaron and Sandra Bullock teamed up for the most visually stunning film since 2009’s Avatar. Make no mistake; Gravity’s story is paper thin – there’s just not a lot going on there. That’s not to badmouth the movie, but a statement about how amazing visuals and Sandra’s performance were. Sandra was a one-woman show up there in space and was able to keep everyone’s attention while Cuaron worked his magic to keep the tension high for 90 minutes. Richard Branson can thank Gravity for me cancelling my space trip. There’s no way I’m going now.
Honorable Mentions: Spring Breakers, Rush, Blackfish, Terms and Conditions May Apply, Kings of Summer, Drinking Buddies, The Spectacular Now, Frozen, Blue Jasmine, Don Jon.