Last but not least, here is the list of MY PICKS for the best films of 2013. The Oscars are soon, and only a few on my list are represented, though that should not stop YOU from appreciating them, too…
10. DRINKING BUDDIES
Joe Swanberg’s ode to the “work wife” is quietly genius in its examination of the relationship between friends and lovers, and the complications when those people collide. The old “grass is greener” adage is tested to sweetly agonizing results. Olivia Wilde is raw and powerful, and her chemistry with Jake Johnson is palpable.
9. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Premise-wise we are treading familiar ground — adolescents fighting to the death — but we’ve come to expect more of our sequels. Catching Fire feels like a piece to a greater whole, pushing the spark that is Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss ever closer to the flame of war. This is a film of mental battles and psychological warfare. Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman trade barbs while Woody Harrelson continues to capture attention with his dynamite performance.
Here’s the thing: I have to see all of the animated films released in a year, regardless of merit. I have two small children that, like me, love cinema. Unfortunately, that is no accounting for taste (trust me, I am trying to avail them of this…), so believe me when I recommend one. Frozen is a classic Disney story complete with dead parents and a heroine harboring a deep secret. With a dynamic soundtrack by Christophe Beck, Robert and Kristen Anderson- Lopez, the indelible voice of Idina Menzel, and the surprisingly astute princess performance by Kristen Bell, Frozen deserves shelf space (or disc space…) right alongside Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast.
Alfonso Cuaron redefines the thriller film and offers a window into the mind of a woman with nothing left to live for, that finds the willingness to overcome. Its breathtaking imagery and slow burn make up the most exciting film of 2013.
Woody Grant is on a journey to collect his supposed winnings with his estranged son on a road trip from Montana to Nebraska. Alexander Payne’s best work, filled with dense landscapes and curmudgeonly characters, is a treastise on a dying man’s life. It’s a symphony presented by Bruce Dern’s Woody and observed with perfection by Will Forte’s David Grant.
5. 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Sometimes the atrocities of truth contain more horrors than those we can imagine, and this true story of Solomon Northup’s capture and forced servitude is truly disturbing. Chiwetel Ejiofor captures the pain and disappearing hope in his eyes as the years tick by, and by the time he meets Lupita Nyong’o’s Patsey, he has very little hope left in him. She is used for her beauty and sweetness and strength, and Northup can only look on as each of these are robbed from her. Steve McQueen’s hold on imagery is unmatched: Solomon holds on to his violin as he holds onto his former life, and when he plays that sweet instrument, it cries out in pain. By the time the credits roll, there is some sense that this story never really ended, and we still have work to do.
4. THE GREAT GATSBY
I worship at the altar of Baz Luhrmann, but I accept that he is not for everyone. I also do not think it is fair to judge a film by the original source material or film that has come before it, and what Luhrmann does here is submerge us in a world of debauchery and excess, and creates something entirely new. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance that I found more interesting than his awarded turn in The Wolf of Wall Street. Gatsby’s need for Daisy is juvenile, and the whole film is presented as a fever dream of a young man in love. It’s fluff and candy until it all stops and the morning after is a shock of desolation.
3. BLUE JASMINE
I examined Cate Blanchett’s award-winning performance here, but it is only one part of the fabulous whole that makes this Woody Allen film one of the year’s best. The ensemble cast was my vote for best of the year, with spectacular performances from Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K., and Andrew. Dice. Clay. For realz. Andrew Dice Clay. There really are very few characters to like here, and that is precisely what makes Blue Jasmine so interesting. You watch a film for 90 minutes, and yet, you care what happens to them.
Who knew that the best film about interpersonal relationships would be about a man and an operating system? Except, it isn’t. This film is more about the human characters than the buzzy, sultry OS. Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams give two of the best performances of the year, and kudos to Spike Jonze for continuing to challenge the definition of relationships and communication.
As if there was ever any doubt about my number one. See my blog post about it here. I sung Matthew McConaughey’s praises, but I should also mention the superb Tye Sheridan and his ability to carry us through the film on his quest for the meaning of love. Please see this gothic fairytale if you have not.
** 2013 was a very strong year for film. Left off of this list are wonderful honor mentions like: The Wolf of Wall Street, Despicable Me 2, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Philomena, Prisoners, Fruitvale Station, The Way Way Back, Monster’s University, Enough Said, and Short Term 12. And American Hustle (Ha, ha, ha…just kidding on that last one.) Please see all of these films and make your own decision!!
Check back on Thursday for my tribute to the Razzies, as I present my list of the 10 worst films of 2013…