Journal: 2013 in Film Jan 2, 2014 10:37:12 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 2, 2014 10:37:12 GMT -5
A shot from Alexander Payne's Nebraska.
2013 started out a pretty murky, uninspired year, with me not liking any theatrically-released film I saw until March 2013 with the release of Oz: The Great and Powerful. However, from maybe September to December, it was remarkably smooth sailing, with me awarding four stars and A+'s consistently thanks to the number of terrific films that came out during the time. The only issue with that is that I had to leave out a lot of great films that could've really used a place on my list (including one omission that may shock people, given my review). But I still feel that this top ten list of my favorites of this year stands strong and includes not only numerous studio releases but lesser-known independent works people should definitely make an effort to see.
My Top Ten Favorite Films of 2013
1. Fruitvale Station: I contemplated long and hard on what film was going to top my list of favorite films of the year immediately after I saw Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street. I loved every minute of that one-hundred and seventy nine minute endeavor, but since July, I sat firmly with my pick of my favorite film of 2013 Fruitvale Station, a criminally unseen drama by most of the American public. It saddens me how many times I've mentioned this film to friends for them to say "what is that? What's it called? Was it really that good?" Then I tell them about the approach, the angle, and the characters and they can't wait to see it. The film is based on the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), who was shot and killed on New Year's Day 2009 at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland, California after getting caught in the middle of a fight on a crowded subway. He was shot accidentally by a police officer, while Grant was presumably handcuffed and not resisting at all. The film makes an attempt at depicting what exactly happened that day before that shooting, New Year's Eve, showing Grant making future plans with his girlfriend, spending time with his daughter, and simply doing hid diligence to the himself, his family, and the world. A heartbreaking scene comes towards the end during Grant's last interaction with his daughter and promises that they will go to Chuck-E-Cheese early in the new year and buy tons of tokens and get a large pizza (but not for mommy, for she's on a low-carb diet). All you ever hear in the movie is one gunshot, but it's that one gunshot that reminds you that that's all it really takes, silencing those other action films in the background that spew gunfire for fun. This is a master-class piece of filmmaking from first-time director Ryan Coogler, and will hopefully get Michael B. Jordan his first Academy Award nomination.
My review of Fruitvale Station, stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/3788?page=1
2. The Wolf of Wall Street: The Wolf of Wall Street is a film just as good as Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas - a film that has the mind, appearance, and content of a loud, raucous frat-boy party, but the brain and the sense from a wise director and an equally intelligent writer (Terence Winter, respectively). I say this because of their depiction of the film's main character, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), as they don't turn the film into a moralist piece where the writer and director actively campaign to depict the character as a nasty subhuman but allow his actions to lead to his downfall. Furthermore, the excess in the film is greatly appreciated, as it makes the story probably just as wild, if not more wild than it actually was, with all the confetti, money, drugs, hookers, and fast cars you could want. Ultimately, it sounds like a film I'd condemn, but because there is actually a good amount of social commentary (consider the scene where DiCaprio mocks a client on the phone while he is trying to sell penny-stocks), an outstanding performance by DiCaprio that may be the one that seals the Oscar-deal, a blistering soundtrack, and a nonstop, three hour thrill-ride of emotion, excess, and complete chaos. I loved every minute and hunger for a second viewing.
My review of The Wolf of Wall Street, influxmagazine.com/the-wolf-of-wall-street/
3. 12 Years a Slave: Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave blew all expectations out of the water, and I praised his preceding features Hunger and Shame pretty highly, as well as holding them on quite the pedestal. 12 Years a Slave is a deeply effective motion-picture, with incredible devotion to showing the brutalities of slavery, as well as the absence of any kind of better treatment depending on how hard you worked as a slave. This is what sets the film on a whole other level - the absence of any kind of humanity based on work-ethic. The person who picked the most cotton was just as much of a subhuman as the one who picked the least amount of cotton. Slavery social classes were nonexistent. McQueen works with a much larger scale, a bigger group of actors, and a script set over a longer amount of time, but handles the challenge tremendously, as this is an incredible picture that, like many of the films on this list, deserves to be seen and seen again. The worst thing we can do is forget it.
My review of 12 Years a Slave, influxmagazine.com/12-years-a-slave/
4. Nebraska: I've made my love for Alexander Payne's films pretty blatant in the last couple of years, from The Descendants, to Sideways, to About Schmidt, I love Payne's dramas with all my heart. His characters always feel cut from real life and thrown into a cinematic-scenario, and his portraits of their environments are just as vivid as them half the time. Nebraska fits in perfectly with Payne's filmography, following the lives of Woody (Bruce Dern), a senile alcoholic who believes he just won $1,000,000 thanks to a piece of scam-mail he received in the mail. His son (Will Forte) implores him that the letter is fraudulent but Woody wants to travel from his home in Billings, Montana all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his prize. His son plays along, much to the dismay of his mother and Woody's wife (June Squibb), who sees them both as foolish. This seems like a conventional road movie, but the scenes depicting large family gatherings have an incredible earnestness and relatability factor to them. You feel like you're watching a film featuring your relatives, accentuating all their quirks and oddball tendencies right before your eyes. Nebraska also shows a region of America that has been nothing but hurt and abused during the recent economic recession and the black and white videography Payne employs shows this completely. The film is another masterpiece to add to Payne's laundry list of them already.
My review of Nebraska, stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/3948/nebraska
5. Spring Breakers: I've already written a lengthy review and a blog on why I believe Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is one of the best films of the year, and have found myself engaged in several debates in it with friends who either refuse to look at the movie deeper or criticize it for its repetitive, pointless nature. However, I still have one question that needs to get answered by those people, specifically the teenagers I spoke to about the movie. You're likely familiar with the raucous party-flick Project X, which made my pick for last year's worst of the year. Maybe you even liked that film, which was nothing more than a showcase for juvenile behavior and pervasive consumption of alcohol. It was pretty repetitive and pointless, I'd say, but maybe you enjoyed it. If so, why did you like Project X, a film with nothing to say, but couldn't find it in your hard to think a little while watching Spring Breakers. Also, if you say you liked the film because the party scenes were "awesome," congratulations, the film went entirely over your head.
My review of Spring Breakers, stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/3592?page=1
My blog on Spring Breakers, stevepulaski.blogspot.com/2013/12/im-right-youre-wrong-second-look-at.html
6. The Dirties: Much like Fruitvale Station, I'm almost positive many would like The Dirties if they knew what the hell it was. The film, helped distributed and promoted by filmmaker Kevin Smith, follows the lives of two high school film geeks who are making a film about the bullies at their school they nickname "The Dirties." After their short receives poor reception from the class, the two come up with ideas for a sequel. One proposes the idea that in the sequel they actually kill "The Dirties." The other one thinks his friend his joking when he isn't. The film has indie filmmaker tendencies of shaky-camera and choppy editing, but its depiction of the descent into madness after being pushed over the edge is nonetheless gripping and a must-see, especially in current times. For director Matt Johnson's first feature (again, like Ryan Coogler with Frutvale Station), it's an incredibly ambitious step.
My review of The Dirties, stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/3894/dirties
7. Scenic Route: If anything, 2013 was the year of promising debuts and the brother Goetz - Kevin and Michael - are no exception. Scenic Route is a terrific little drama about two characters who find themselves both lost in life long before their car breaks down on a lonely, deserted road. When push comes to shove, instances of sabotage and betrayal become clear and it isn't long before the film transcends from a strong character study into a psychological thriller. The cinematography, acting style, and directing style are also very comparative to Gus Van Sant's film Gerry, another film that utilized long takes and crafty minimalism. Thanks to the great performances by Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, along with an ending that should throw many people off (just think about it, for it isn't that complicated), here's another criminally underrated film of 2013.
My review of Scenic Route, stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/3723?page=1
8. Prisoners: I hunger for great thrillers and Prisoners delivered on every conceivable level for me. At two and a half hours long, the film features incredible cinematography showing the barren and bleak landscape of Pennsylvania, a great performance by Hugh Jackman, an even more fantastic performance by Paul Dano (in a perfect world, Dano would get an Oscar nod for his portrayal of a character confined to the vaguest qualities of a human being), and, finally, just an enticing mystery that takes its time to develop although never feels forced, convoluted, or rushed. The film was released in mid-September and set the bar perfectly for the onslaught of great films to come.
My review of Prisoners, influxmagazine.com/prisoners/
9. Captain Phillips: For a mainstream Hollywood film, Captain Phillips did two incredibly risky things with its premise. For one, it predicated much of its runtime on suspense and uncertainty that rarely seemed to let up, especially during the unpredictable final act where anything went. Furthermore, based on the true story of a ship being highjacked by Somalian pirates, director Paul Greengrass and writer Billy Ray make the bold move at trying to humanize the story of the Somalian pirates, who are born into a life of little redeeming value and must resort to being the enemy for their own survival. It's not enough to make you side for them, but it does provide for a surprisingly sympathetic note and a strong humanization to a group of people so easy to dehumanize. Throw in a probably some of the best editing I've seen all year and you have number nine of my favorites from this year.
My review of Captain Phillips, influxmagazine.com/captain-phillips/
10. Mud: Jeff Nichols' Mud remained my favorite film of 2013 from the time I saw it in May to July when I saw Fruitvale Station. Now, the film is number ten on my list of favorites - just shows how much something can change in the matter of months. Mud, however, is a terrific coming of age character study, on par with the year's other releases of the same genre such as The Kings of Summer and The Way, Way Back. Mud is grittier, though, and provides for a bleaker outlook on life than the aforementioned films. Jeff Nichols, the director of 2011's sleeper-hit Take Shelter, concocts a more straight-forward picture here, but also welcomes harsher themes such as family struggles, adolescent bonding, and the complexities of being young and unsure, only to be burdened by a serious issue that you have no control over. This is yet another winner for Matthew McConaughey, who continues his long-line of great films, not to mention one that made me seriously contemplate the adventures I had with close friends as a kid (see my review below).
My review of Mud, influxmagazine.com/review-mud/
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Blue Jasmine, Clear History, Dallas Buyers Club, Drinking Buddies, Frances Ha, and Gravity.