As I did in 2012, it’s time to do a quick wrap-up of the year in movies, with the requisite top 10 list, some awards, some notable things, etc. To quote myself: I should say though that I only saw about 80 releases from 2013. So this isn’t some definitive “Best of 2013″ list, because how can I know unless I’ve seen all of what 2013 has to offer? I haven’t. These will be my personal favorites from what I did manage to see, and I think I saw more than a typical amateur filmgoer, but less than a respectable critic. And that’s pretty much what I am as a person — more than an amateur, less than respectable.
What haven’t I seen? You name it — POST TENEBRAS LUX, A TOUCH OF SIN, SHORT TERM 12, MUSEUM HOURS, THE GREAT BEAUTY, BEYOND THE HILLS, SOMETHING IN THE AIR, ENOUGH SAID, LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, THE WIND RISES… see what I mean? Way too much I didn’t catch up with. And last year, I caught up with a film in March that I belatedly added to the list. So this may change.
2013 TOP TEN
1. BEFORE MIDNIGHT — Not that it’s really grown in my estimation since I saw it back in May. It’s just that no other movie I saw since was able to match it in terms of raw, visceral honesty. This film is about real human connection and the struggle to cement the identity of a relationship within a time and place. Every time I see BEFORE SUNRISE it gets better, but this film stands on its own as a brilliant portrait of a marriage. Not that I would know, or anything.
2. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR — I just can’t shake that performance by Exarchopoulos. It’s radiant, and this film — if anything (though it is so much more) — is a testament to how engrossed an audience can be by world-class acting.
3. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS — A delicate, skipping record. You can almost hear the hisses and pops of the vinyl in each cut of the Coens’ imagery; but this is more than a nostalgic glimpse at ’60s folk music: it’s a portrait of the artist as a young malcontent.
4. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET — I spent my review praising DiCaprio’s towering movie star performance, but this is also high-wire entertainment on every level, with a heaping spoonful of licentious satire to boot.
5. DRUG WAR — Electricity on film.
6. FRANCES HA — So keenly observed and trenchant that you forget just how laugh-out-loud funny it is. Too bad for Gerwig she had to act in the same year as Exarchopoulos.
7. ALL IS LOST — I can hardly believe it got made, let alone distributed and so widely seen (and loved). Redford is good, but the storytelling is the star here. A shame this won’t get any Best Screenplay attention because of its lack of dialogue, but the way each of Redford’s obstacles are approached, tackled, and overcome is specific, creative, and surprising. Chandor is the real deal.
8. THE GRANDMASTER — So I did eventually see the Chinese cut on Blu-ray, and despite its improvements in structure and characterization, it didn’t have the impact it had on me in the theater. Nevertheless, this was one of my favorite big-screen experiences of the year. Nobody composes a shot like Wong.
9. SPRING BREAKERS — Certainly not for all tastes, but with 2013 spending so much time exposing the American Dream, this is the film that had the best handle on it; and ten months later I still can’t forget its visual style and the impact of its few miraculous setpieces.
10. GRAVITY — A lot of pieces written on this said “You MUST see it in 3-D; you’re missing out entirely if you don’t see this on the big screen in 3-D!” but it’s nearly impossible that all of these writers saw it in both 2-D and 3-D to make the comparison. How do they know it wasn’t effective in 2-D? Similarly, I can’t know what it was like in 3-D, but my big-screen 2-D experience was surely memorable and invigorating — and still communicated Cuaron’s storytelling themes with clarity. [EDIT on Jan 14: I’ve now seen GRAVITY in 3-D as well, and while the visuals do look even better, the movie is still essentially the same experience — terrific, simple entertainment, with a problematic screenplay]
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut — But See Them Anyway: THE ACT OF KILLING, UPSTREAM COLOR, THE WORLD’S END
Flawed, But Underrated or Underseen — Give These Films a Chance: CRYSTAL FAIRY, AFTERSHOCK, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, THIS IS THE END, COMPUTER CHESS, OLDBOY, IT’S A DISASTER, 2 GUNS, STORIES WE TELL, THE CONJURING
And now for my personal Oscars. I have no name for these awards. The Jokers? The PJH awards? The Zachs? Now taking suggestions…
Best Director — Joel & Ethan Coen, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Best Actor — Leonardo DiCaprio, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Best Actress — Adèle Exarchopoulos, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Best Supporting Actor — James Franco, SPRING BREAKERS
Best Supporting Actress — Lupita Nyong’o, 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Best Screenplay — [tie] J.C. Chandor, ALL IS LOST / Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig, FRANCES HA
You won’t see any Worst list from me for several reasons. I didn’t see most of the crap that came out because I don’t have to and I don’t want to. So aside from some pieces of dogshit I happened to see for one reason or another, my 10 Worst List would be the list of 10 movies I hoped or thought would be good enough for me to spend time watching the whole thing. Also, why be a hater. Also, why devote time to that stuff. Also, why rain on other people’s parades. If you liked STOKER or AMERICAN HUSTLE, then that’s great — we go to the movies to enjoy them, so who am I to tell you not to enjoy them (even if they suck, haha).
So that’s that; please add comments to the comment section with anything I forgot, overlooked, got wrong, or otherwise. Or you can always find me on Twitter (@TwinCinema). Thanks for reading Private Joker’s Head. Let’s see what 2014 brings us…