The Top 10 Films of 2013

January 15, 2015


This is the last piece of the puzzle and then I’m caught up to 2014. Check out the top 10 films of 2013 after the jump.

  1. Philomena

What looked like an exceedingly simple, odd-couple style character story from the outside ended up packing a powerful tale of history, repression, appearance, and forgiveness. Director Stephen Frears didn’t allow any gimmicks or tricks to obfuscate the focus on the story of the disgraced journalist played by Steve Coogan and the kindly old British woman played by Judi Dench.

  1. To The Wonder

After exploring all of life in his previous film, director Terrence Malick turned his eye to a modern setting for the first time in his oeuvre. The result was no less lyrical and spiritually-focused than Malick’s previous works, due in large part to the continued brilliance of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, but the story of love, family, and nationality in our current age felt slightly more repetitive than those other works.

  1. The Wolf of Wall Street

Film is not a binary canvas where the art of depiction equals condoning actions and that truth is central to director Martin Scorsese’s deep dive into the Wall Street culture of the 1990s. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance exuded greed and decadence while remaining blisteringly funny, especially in the category of physical comedy. The highs were high and the lows were grimy lows as Scorsese took his time to ensure that the emotional weight of every selfish decision was understood and felt as a blow to the characters and human nature as a whole.

  1. Iron Man Three

This might be my favorite of the Marvel films to date (I would have weigh this versus the larger scope of 2012’s ‘The Avengers’). While Robert Downey Jr. has understood and embodied Tony Stark from his first second on screen, director Shane Black finally paired RDJ’s energy and performance with a story that took Tony to interesting places emotionally and pitted him against a bad guy that wasn’t just reverse Iron Man. The story worked in ways that made sense and didn’t just feel like convenient plot advancement and as a result the final, multiple Iron Men finale was giddy fun that finally mixed the correct amount of non-Tony characters into the proceedings.

  1. Gravity

Director Alfonso Cuaron had all of the latest and greatest visual and special effects at the tip of his fingertips in telling the straightforward, but harrowing story of surviving the confining vastness of space. Low on characters (this is basically a two-character story starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) and dialogue, but packed with the jaw-dropping beauty and terror of space. The visual metaphors of birth, evolution, and survival were sometimes a bit too thuddingly obvious (much like the all-too-frequent crescendos in the film’s score), but they never took me out of the moment or off of the edge of my seat.

  1. 12 Years a Slave

This film pointed an artistic spotlight on a difficult time and truth in American history and came away with more than just a simple moral lesson about how slavery is bad. Instead, director Steve McQueen observed how selfishness leads to indifference, which leads to inaction and when inaction is propagated by an entire nation, the result is inhumane. Not an easy film to watch because it didn’t settle for easy or pat answers to difficult questions, but it was all the better as a result.

  1. Upstream Color

As a follow-up to his heady, logic-heavy, time-travel knot of a film called ‘Primer,’ director Shane Carruth made a better Terrence Malick-style film than Terrence Malick made in 2013. And that is high praise coming from a Malick film lover like me. More concerned with emotions and striking a deep-seated feeling in the audience than it was with spelling out the meaning of a plot, this film was a powerful look at the shared experiences that lead to the deepening of relationships.

  1. Much Ado About Nothing

I can’t say that I’m much of a Shakespeare man, but that is precisely why Joss Whedon’s adaptation of ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ using the original dialogue, was so perfect for me. Shot using gorgeous black and white photography over the course of 12 days on location at Whedon’s house using a cadre of his actor friends, the film was a great study in the power of using movement and blocking to communicate dialogue, ideas, and ultimately a complete story. Funny from beginning to end with a great performance from the charming Amy Acker.

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis

My favorite living directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, were back in the saddle with a musical set in the folk music world of New York in the early 1960s. In typical Coen fashion, the film told a dryly quirky story of life with no epic climaxes or pay-offs; it just is and the characters just are and it flows so effortlessly. It’s hard for me to describe exactly why their style appeals to me so much, but there was intentionality in composition to every frame and a refusal to force a specific viewpoint on the audience while also presenting many themes to be explored by the flawed humans living their lives in the film.

  1. The World’s End

The capstone of director Edgar Wright and his actor/friends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “Cornetto trilogy” was not as surprising as ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and not as flat-out hilarious as ‘Hot Fuzz,’ but there was a maturity to ‘The World’s End’ that kept me thinking about the film long after the runtime ending and I stopped laughing at its brilliance. Nostalgia is so powerful and prevalent in my generation and often we can let it identify us instead of learning and growing and finding our identity in something that will last. It’s odd to find so much depth in the story about five friends coming together to spend a night drinking at 12 pubs, but there were so many facets to this gem of a film and the themes of nostalgia only got deeper as things got crazier in the world of the film. It’s hard to say why all of the pieces fit so perfectly in this film, but all of the different elements to the story came together in a way that was poignant and moving and something that only Wright/Pegg/Frost could have achieved.


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