Hello everyone, and welcome to my not-so-punctual list of the best films that I saw throughout the year 2013! For a second consecutive time, I ventured out to Toronto, Canada for a predictably lauded TIFF experience – once that you folks have likely recognized as one of note given my discussion of many a worthwhile film. As always, the films I saw last year – regardless of a scheduled 2014 theatrical release – are eligible by default for this list’s consideration. So, without further adieu, I now present to the list you’ve been (or haven’t been) waiting for!
NOTE: While everything I’ve reviewed already has been paired with an excerpt from said reviews, let it be known that I still feel the same way about each of these films with the exception of 12 Years of a Slave, of which has grown on me since my initial viewing of it. That being said, click on the images to read my full-length reviews (where applicable)!
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (dir. David Lowery) | The Broken Circle Breakdown (dir. Felix van Groeningen) | The Conjuring (dir. James Wan) | Drinking Buddies (dir. Joe Swanberg) | Drug War (dir. Johnnie To) | Fruitvale Station (dir. Ryan Coogler) | Short Term 12 (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton) | Side Effects (dir. Steven Soderbergh) | Stranger by the Lake (dir. Alain Guiraudie) | Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth)
An emotionally authentic, moreover refreshingly honest adaptation of the titular Tim Tharp novel, The Spectacular Now isn’t so much cloying as it is rife with eye-opening relatability, very likable leads and ample chemistry among them. Although Sutter’s (Miles Teller) attempted drowning of innumerable insecurities are a bit too familiar for guy his age in the coming-of-age scene, it’s the film’s highly-gratifying third-act payoff that allows an already wonderful film to culminate even more wonderfully.
“… Of course, we all know that Richard Phillips lived to tell the tale, however the beauty of Captain Phillips lies ceaselessly within its ability to put us in his shoes as taut unpredictability looms at every possible turn. From an all-deck search for a “missing” crew to one of the better hostage scenarios to ever be recreated on film, Captain Phillips holds its cards close to its chest in the eyes of those not familiar with the source material.”
As I apologize for my initial lukewarm reception of the film, 12 Years a Slave‘s strengths rest assuredly and solely on the performance-heavy as well as technical proclivity benchmarking it. A subjectively familiar if admirably heartrending affair, Steve McQueen’s latest deserves a spot on this list for a boldness of narrative unrivaled by predecessors.
“As a unified whole, the film decidedly sidesteps propaganda to embrace an accessible, frequently hard-hitting emotional underbelly. Tapping into the psyche of the affected civilians at its core, A Touch of Sin is a fine example of solid, region-centric storytelling that asserts its strengths over that which the more critical could – and will – predictably gripe about. Whether you do or don’t condone the jarring violence permeating each bout of conflict resolution, A Touch of Sin‘s presentational confidence and effectiveness transform it into an identifiably engaging effort, even despite the issue of segmented narratives varying in terms of the strength of their parts.”
“From a meticulous attention to detail to the wide-reaching if consistently enjoyably absurdity of its first two-thirds, the Cornetto Trilogy’s third and final installment serves as a solid testament to apt singular filmmaking. For what it’s assuredly worth, Frost, Pegg and Wright have successfully produced a trio of films that deserve to be revered for as long as they have and will be. While not as strong in comparison to its two predecessors, and forgive me for belying my introductory mission statement, The World‘s End very competently and even endlessly engages thanks to all of the proverbial puzzle pieces being present and fitting perfectly into place…”
“Rife with highly engaging debauchery of quite literally all kinds, The Wolf of Wall Street is something of a modest masterpiece, Scorsese’s technical proclivity doing wonders in aiding what’s an agreeably vivacious retelling of such a story. Remarkable performances further aid the film’s loudmouthed immodesty, DiCaprio’s ever-present conviction once again solidifying himself as one of the best in the business. Although its drug-addled shenanigans and stock broker swindling runs its course, The Wolf of Wall Street certainly scores a heap of points for its distinctly energetic narrative personality.”
“A predictably incisive and well-acted character study, Blue Jasmine is yet another high point in Allen’s often illustrious career. Purposefully uncomfortable as it engages via Jasmine’s tragically infectious egotism, the film all-too-competently paints a portrait of such an awfully affected individual. As simple yet intelligent the proceedings may be in their focus on Allen-esque, seriocomic humanism, Blue Jasmine is hands down one of the most thoughtfully constructed films of the year, endlessly thriving thanks to a great cast and far from slack artistic sensibilities.”
“As an inspired, musically-inclined and tonally flawless character study, Inside Llewyn Davis is more than merely another modest triumph for the brotherly duo of auteurs at its helm. Rife with era-specific charm and general engagement, this deservedly lauded entry into 2013′s canon is accessible, relatable and even timely in the best of ways. Although he’s noticeably his own worst enemy, there’s no denying our inclination to join Llewyn on his less-than-fruitful pursuit of the slightest semblance of fame.”
“…Before Midnight is the pinnacle of authenticity, passion and sophistication within the realm of romantic drama. Laughs are had and tears fall, but Jesse and Celine are – to me – forever cinema’s greatest contemporary couple. With movingly expressive bits of dialogue and interaction remaining seemingly infinite, the film paints a gratifying portrait of this complicatedly miraculous relationship while ending a cinematic legacy on the highest note…”
“A near perfect exercise in cinematic humanism and social commentary, Her is aptly and ceaselessly emotional viewing at its finest. Intelligently conceived and executed as its barely sci-fi trappings never once hinder the story it tells, the film’s inherently evocative nature is intoxicating and borderline overwhelming in the best possible way. Excellent performances further accentuate the already lovely and relatable narrative, Johansson and Phoenix’s regular interplay remaining particularly authentic as the state and true nature of their relationship come into question as you’d expect them to. As its strong suits exist to thoroughly captivate and not once turn viewers off, Her is hands down the best film of the past year and for good reason.”