Best films of 2013: #20-11.
Honorable Mentions: Mud, The Spectacular Now, Nebraska, Frances Ha
20. THE CONJURING
A classic horror film with top notch scares and a tense, frightening plot will always get the better of me, and with THE CONJURING, it is easily one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. Outside of it’s bone chilling techniques and torturing long sequences, the film itself is done with precision and quality. James Wan is a master of the scary, and add in great performances from the always reliable Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Lily Taylor, this is an exception horror film that’s irresistibly terrifying.
19. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
You can always appreciate Tom Hanks and the kind of work he brings to the table, but the last scene with him breaking down in the infirmary is easily his best work as an actor. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is more than just pirates taking over a ship. It brings upon the ideals of American success, the dreams the world has for itself, and what it takes for people to get a sense of that ideal. It’s a tense, fast pace adventure with excellent performances from Hanks and first timer Barkhad Abdi. Overall, it’s an achievement to execute a film like this that provides an ample of opportunities to twist and create subjectivity, but Paul Greengrass is so much better than that.
A documentary like BLACKFISH is so important because it promotes change. The waves that this little film has created is enough motivation for documentary filmmakers to truly believe that their film can create a difference in our saddening society. Following the story of Tilikum, an orca taken from its habitat and placed in captivity at Sea World, and the trainer that was killed by Tilikum, it reveals the blanket of secrets and dark antics the “family-fun” corporation has consistently performed to keep the money coming in. Animal captivity is a tragic situation that deserves more discussion, and BLACKFISH has become the fuel in what should become the blazing fire.
17. AMERICAN HUSTLE
Though I feel this film doesn’t deserve a Best Picture win, it is still, in my opinion, one of the best films of 2013, mostly because of the top notch performances that surround AMERICAN HUSTLE. You can’t get a better cast than this, and each provide a flawed and deeply infuriating character that keeps you glued to the screen. The plot is insanely complex, and if you miss one scene, your most likely lost, but it’s a sight to behold. David O. Russell continues his impressive streak of modern America folklore, bringing out the ugliness in our humanity, but dazzling it with a touch of love and… Jennifer Lawrence.
16. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
There’s nothing like a Coen Brothers’ film, and with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, the story about a man wrapped within self-loathing and pity, is beautiful, unflinching, and daring, especially with how the character unravels. There’s much to be said about success, and how we define exactly where we want to be. But it’s clear where we all don’t want to be, and with Llewyn, it seems that’s the only place he wishes to be at, hurting those that he encounters, and pushing away any possible form of progress from himself. Anyone pursuing a career like show business know the difficulties of climbing that steep mountain, but Llewyn refuses to take that climb, and somehow expects to reach the peak without breaking a sweat. He’s the definition of talent without passion, skills without drive, and it’s heartbreaking to watch, but also expected. Add that with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and well, you got a great film.
15. LABOR DAY
Though not widely released until January 31st, catching this film at Telluride, and having a small release in 2013, it’s a classic love story executed finely by Jason Reitman. These are one of those films that don’t deliver some insane technique or brilliant writing. In simplistic terms, it’s a romance based on pure love and chemistry. Nothing more, nothing less. Most of LABOR DAY occurs in a house, so all we see are these characters, in dying need of love and care, embrace each other, though from the outside, it’s a criminal taking hostage of a family. It’s such a moving film with tear-jerking moments, and if anything, it’ll make you crave peach pie afterwards.
14. THIS IS THE END
We all expected this film to have great lines, brilliant improv, and a lot of fun to poke at their own supposed selves, but the greatness of THIS IS THE END is that it takes a wild turn into a religious-infused apocalyptic dread, and the way we see everything unfold gives you assurance that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have much more talent than we give them credit for. The cameos help, that ridiculous cast really helps, but what works here is the utter ridiculousness that continually raises as the film progresses, knowing that what they sold the audiences on (lots of barking at each other, playing themselves) would eventually get old. It’s a smart and well-crafted film that is laugh out loud hilarious. One of the best ensemble comedies in recent memory, it’ll be something that we watch years down the road.
13. FRUITVALE STATION
A heartbreaking and gut-wrenching experience, FRUITVALE STATION exclaims to its audience the unfairness in which lives are lived based solely on culture and stereotype. But more than that, it’s a tragic story about a young man trying to remake his life, doing the right thing, and to unfortunately not see how those drastic decisions would’ve played out. First time writer-director Ryan Coogler takes this story and doesn’t fine tune it or mess around. He takes that one fatal day and speaks volumes with it, raising its quality and its ability to speak for many issues without taking a stance on all of them. With it’s final scene bringing me to tears, it’s a film that can be a intricate moving piece to real African-American films in today’s society.
12. ENOUGH SAID
Sometimes, simple works best. Nicole Holofcener’s ENOUGH SAID is exactly that, and what’s so great about it is that it’s centered around great characters, not necessarily great story. James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus work magically together, having the audience to believe that these are real relationships, brought in with our human flaws and our uncontrollable behavior. It’s a love story, but not between male and female, but between families, friends, and that subtle feeling of loss and trying to replace it with something imperative. It’s a hilarious script with plenty of touching moments, and it deserves more attention.
11. THE KINGS OF SUMMER
This is a film that I’ll show my kids, and no, not because I want them to run away and build their own house deep into the woods to escape my utter dread and embarrassment (which really could happen), but because of its ability to resemble innocence in youth, and the meanings and sacrifices we make as we continue to grow older. THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a hilarious, well written film that entails the journey of a boy who hates restriction, but more so, unhappiness, and we can find unhappiness right around the corner. Dealing with our problems head on is the act of maturity that we all must face, and the film greatly exhibits both sides of execution. The characters are loveable but also flawed, and what we see here is a classic coming-of-age story with some of the best improved scenes you’ll see this year. Not forgetting Biaggio, easily one of the most memorable characters in 2013, THE KINGS OF SUMMER will definitely be one of those films that I watch every year and appreciate what it represents: defiance in youth.
*Tomorrow will be the BEST FILMS OF 2013 #10-1.