2013 started out with a whimper and for a long time it looked as if it could be the worst year for movies since 2000. But in the last fourth of the year, directors and studio executives unleashed their most ambitious and boldest works, turning 2013 into being a strong time for cinema. Below are my ten favorite films of the past year.
10. Blue is the Warmest Color/Computer Chess/Mud/To The Wonder/Upstream Color
There were so many great movies in 2013 that I decided to tie five films for tenth place. While none of these pictures is flawless, all break off from conventional storytelling to deliver daring, heart-wrenching, or aspiring tales, a commendable feat in my opinion (and yes, I do realize a few of these movies may get me some heat from fellow bloggers).
9. The Great Beauty
An ode to Federico Fellini, The Great Beauty contemplates over the bleak position of Rome told through an aging author unable to accept the passing the time. The picture is miraculous and surreal portrait that won this year’s Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.
Alexander Payne moves from the Hawaiian beaches to the Great Plains, yet Nebraska shares The Descendants’ keen perception of a dysfunctional family. Filmed in beautiful black and white cinematography, Nebraska feels nostalgic in its viewpoint and like Bruce Springsteen’s album of the same name is melancholic and harmonious of an older generation.
7. The World’s End
Edgar Wright’s comedy may be the outlier on my list, but it’s one of the year’s best pleasures and the strongest of the Cornetto trilogy. Like its predecessors Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End mixes genres but also adds a lot of heart and maturity, providing emotional subtext that’s rare in most comedies today.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese’s wild comic romp is certainly one of the most controversial pictures of the year with some critics accusing the director of glamorizing the subject matters. No matter which way you look, there’s no denying that Scorsese hasn’t lost his edge and this is most energetic picture since GoodFellas.
5. 12 Years a Slave
This harrowing drama could have had the same fate that hit other movies about race (Driving Miss Daisy, The Help), but director Steve McQueen avoids dipping in unabashed sentimentality, instead preferring a brutally real depiction of slavery. 12 Years A Slave is hard to sit through but it’s an experience I shall not forget anytime soon.
4. The Past
While I wouldn’t call Asghar Farhadi’s The Past underrated as it has received positive reviews overall, it’s been overlooked by audiences and award shows overall. Which is a shame because The Past is a deep and intricate family drama that’s almost as good as A Separation and marks Farhadi as a major talent.
3. Before Midnight
The finale of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy features Jesse and Celine entering their early forties, though they’re still the same people we first met back in 1995. Their love is put to the test in Before Midnight, featuring a heart tugging third act that feels completely real and horrifying. The beauty that Linklater achieved with his three movies shows that he’s one of today’s most overlooked and underappreciated filmmakers.
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
Much like Larry Gopnik of A Serious Man, Llewyn Davis is an unlucky guy who goes from misfortune to misfortune. But unlike Larry, Llewyn’s ill fate is due to his unsympathetic nature, showing the difficulty of maintaining artistic integrity in the marketplace. Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterful Inside Llewyn Davis is a poignant statement that reaches deeply in their heart and their strongest movie since No Country For Old Men.
Since Being John Malkovich, Spike Jonze has demonstrated an interest in emotionally frail characters searching for meaning in their lives. her is Jonze’s finest accomplishment that successfully combines sci-fi with romance. Equal parts a commentary of contemporary technology as it is about love, her is funny and tragic, ending on an ambiguous note that is either a bleak or hopeful look at protagonist Theodore’s future. Whatever the case, her is the best movie of 2013.