Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 10 Films of 2013

1.  HER



Spike Jonze wrote and directed this meditation on the nature of love, attachment, and loss.  Joaquin Phoenix gives another award-caliber performance as Theodore Twombly--as does Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha, for whom he falls.  Jonze made a wonderfully bold filmic choice in how he depicted their sex scene.  With music by Arcade Fire.


2.  FRANCES HA



Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's neo French New Wave film.  Click here to see why I loved it so much.


3.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS



One of the Coen brothers' most beautifully and meticulously crafted films. I loved that they stayed true to their main character.  It's a portrait of the artist as an inflexible soul with tunnel vision, unable to evolve with the world around him, which is on the cusp of a colorful cultural revolution.  All of which is reflected in the luminously muted water-colored cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel.  With a wonderful soundtrack produced by T-Bone Burnett.


4.  AMERICAN HUSTLE



A wildly entertaining movie from director David O. Russell, who adapted a screenplay by Eric Warren Singer.  Everyone's outstanding, but Christian Bale blew me away.  The opening scene in which he applies his toupée and meticulously arranges and sprays his comb-over brilliantly encapsulates the film--it depicts his vulnerability and his deceit at the same time, in a story about the American dream; i.e., re-inventing oneself. Terrific 70s costume design from Michael Wilkinson, awesome hair and make-up,  and an outstanding source music soundtrack (including Duke Ellington's "Jeep's Blues") to rival any Scorsese film, curated by Danny Elfman.


5.  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET



Leonardo DiCaprio is at his best in Martin Scorsese's latest, an audacious, kinetic take on a true story (and in that sense a companion piece to American Hustle), but Matthew McConaughey steals the show in his chest-thumping cameo.  Leo's "cerebral palsy" and twisted phone cord scenes are the most hilarious I saw this year.  An inspired adaptation by Terence Winter from Jordan Belfort's book.  And of course it has a great soundtrack.


6.  12 YEARS A SLAVE




Steve McQueen's talent as a director truly emerges in this film, skillfully adapted by John Ridley from Solomon Northup's memoir.  McQueen's frequent collaborator Michael Fassbender gives his most amazing performance to date as the twisted master of Chiwetel Ejiofor's Northup, a character who loses his freedom, but never his self or his dignity.  All of the tech credits are stellar, but I recall being particularly impressed with the film's sound design.



7.  THE COUNSELOR



One might call this film Mexican Hustle.  A 75-year-old Ridley Scott shows himself to be at the height of his directorial powers in this movie from a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy.  Click here for more of my appreciation.


8.  GRAVITY



Alfonso Cuarón's 3D film (co-written with his son Jonás Cuarón) is unique, if not deep, and shows us space as we have never before seen it.  Its 12-minute opening shot without a cut is breathtaking.  Click here for my post on the film.


9.  BEFORE MIDNIGHT



Director Richard Linklater's latest collaboration with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (the three wrote the script together) is a genuinely gutsy and honest depiction of the vicissitudes of a long term romantic relationship. Warts and all.


10.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS



This film makes my top 10 for two reasons:  Paul Greengrass' visceral documentary-style direction and Tom Hanks's heartbreakingly realistic depiction of a man post trauma.  Click here for my post on the film.


RUNNERS UP:  Nebraska, The Great Gatsby, Pacific Rim, Mud, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Grandmaster, Rush, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Dallas Buyers Club, Out of the Furnace, Short Term 12.

TOP FOREIGN FILM:  The Great Beauty.

TOP DOCS:  Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, Dave Grohl's Sound City, Morgan Neville's 20 Feet from Stardom.

TOP TV:  Top of the Lake, Rectify, Breaking Bad, Louie, The Returned, Homeland, Girls, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Masters of Sex.


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