Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Best of 2013

So, as summer turned to fall and the movie year seemed like it would fulfill its promise of disappointment, I anticipated this post and writing a snarky year end round-up, something with a title along the lines of The Best of October thru December, 2013. However, as the calendar year churned to its conclusion, and even the sandbagged awards bait movies seamed slacker than normal, I found myself struggling to come up with the standard 10 films to toast, a charge which usually involves weeding. Instead, I offer 9 films which rose out of the black void that was the passing movie year. Of the lot, two were actually released in the year's first half, one isn't technically a movie, and, somewhat dishearteningly, they were all made by established filmmakers. I haven't seen quite as many movies this year and titles like The Hunt, and Ain't Them Bodies Saints are some of the major blips on my radar, and I will amend any titles to the list when applicable. So without further ado here are, in alphabetical order, the best films of 2013:
Paul Greengrass turns another recent news story into a thrilling nail biter, with an assured performance from Tom Hanks and an incredibly engaging one from newcomer Barkhad Abdi
Frances Ha
Excellent trendy film from Noah Baumbach featuring superb black and white photography and an incredible self-styled performance from Greta Gerwig.
The mesmerizing, sustained shots and Sandra Bullock's beautifully expressive performance are the stars of Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller.
The Coens take on the early 60s Greenwich Village folk scene to great avail, really honing their peculiar brand nicely. The music, cinematography, and Oscar Isaac performance are all superb.
Another empathetic, humanistic portrait from Alexander Payne, who returns to his home state and spins a story about folks he knows like the back of his hand. And what an overdue opportunity for Bruce Dern, which he absolutely nails. If pressed, my pick for film of the year.
The kind of potentially icky schmaltz that the Hallmark Channel was made for, but in the hands of Stephen Frears, Steve Coogan, and Judy Dench it is a kind of incredible and moving amalgam.
A good old fashioned thriller, unassumingly and sure handedly directed by Stephen Soederbergh.
Jane Campion's unconventional and stirring miniseries was as involving as any feature film released this year.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, back together for the fifth time, craft a hilarious and thankfully non-moralizing picture on greed and excess, which features some of the most memorable scenes of the year.