[tps_title]Allyson Johnson’s Top 10 Films of 2013[/tps_title]
This year was outstanding for film which made figuring out a top 10 list mildly stressful considering my “best of” list currently hold 17 positions. I wish I could have mentioned movies such as Wadjda, Pacific Rim, Fruitvale Station, Iron Man 3, The Sapphires or Blancanieves, but there were simply to many good films and we just don’t have the space to mention them all.
10. Rush (Directed By Ron Howard)
I never expected this film to end us as one of the years most underrated but here it has. It has exciting directing by Ron Howard, a sports rivalry story that managed to outdo its predecessors and brought a fresh, exhilarating feeling to the story and noteworthy performances by the two leads Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two Formula 1 race car drivers. Hemsworth and Bruhl have electric chemistry and the two, Bruhl especially, bring dynamics and layers to these characters that are unexpected in a sports film. It’s an absolute joy to watch and I left the theater with my expectations completely blown.
9. Short Term 12 (Directed By Destin Cretton)
This film has been resting in the back of my mind ever since I saw it, never fully leaving my top ten ever since viewing it back in September. It’s a beautifully, intimate film with a showcase performance by Brie Larson as Grace, a young woman battling inner demons while helping other kids-not much younger than herself-battle their own. The script very easily could have veered into a much more “soapy” direction but with the nuanced and easy performances by Larson, John Gallagher Jr. and fellow standout Keith Stanfield as Marcus the script is never allowed to go down the road. A dark story with some very sad moments, it isn’t without it levity which makes it such a gem of a film. This easily could have been a film to simply pass over but with the strong performers, the directing by newcomer Destin Cretton and the heartfelt, respectful way that they told the story helped elevate it into one of the must watch films of the year.
8. Gravity (Directed By Alfonso Cuarón)
To describe this move in a word: life. This movie is about perseverance, about overcoming physical odds, about overcoming grief and mourning and the belief that nothing is worth it, it’s about the strength of the individual, the human condition, and how to live you need to breathe. I adored this film and it’s a testament to how strong of a year this is that it’s all the way at number eight. Sandra Bullock was stunning as Ryan Stone, equipping the character with charm, resolute mindfulness and vulnerability. The visuals are incredible with Alfonso Cuarón proving yet again why he’s one of the most innovative and visually alluring minds in Hollywood. Watch for the last fifteen minutes alone where the elements do their all to take Bullock’s character out, as Steven Price’s score accompanies her, and we are privy to see onscreen the personification of the human spirit.
7. Frances Ha (Directed By Noah Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach is typically a hit or miss for me. I loved The Squid and the Whale but held nothing but contempt for Greenberg so I didn’t quite know what I was getting while watching this film but I’m so glad I did. Greta Gerwig and Baumbach have created a special little film about a woman in her mid-twenties who despite her age doesn’t feel as if she’s fully grown yet; she hasn’t learned yet how to be a successful adult. This struck a nerve with me as I’m sure it did with many others. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that so fully and truly captured the anxiety that those in their twenties go through. At 22 I identified with almost everything she worried about. Her best friends commitments differing from her own and the strange, alien loss she felt for them, the need to be doing creative work that stimulates you all the while realizing that bills are real and you can’t rely on a debit card forever, that making new friends isn’t easy once you aren’t forced into it. Gerwig is effortless in the role and with a joyous dancing scene through the middle of New York reminiscent of Jean Luc-Goddard this film is a must see for any young woman anywhere who’s thought twice about a decision they’re about to make.
6. Mud (Directed By Jeff Nichols)
Don’t let anyone fool you: Mud is a fairytale. People liken it to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn due to notions of boyhood dreams and coming of age but what they’re forgetting is the absolute undercurrent of magical realism that seeps into this film. Tye Sheridan (who is fantastic) leads the film as a young boy who isn’t happy in his current home life. His parent’s fight and his dads distant so when he and a friend meet a mysterious man, stranded on an island, named Mud (played by Matthew McConaughey in my favorite performance of his this year) he latches on. In Mud he sees someone he idolizes, someone who seems worldly and rugged, who’s fighting tooth and nail for the woman he loves. He doesn’t see the flaws, the criminal underneath it all and by the end even after he’s had a moment of disillusionment, we can’t help but buy into the fairytale Mud as well. Jeff Nichols frames each shot as if he’s taken a page out of a picture book, befitting a story so besotted for the pages of them.
5. Before Midnight (Directed By Richard Linklater)
This series has broken me apart, stapled me back together and then ripped me open all over again. It’s an emotional, beautiful, all-encompassing rollercoaster of a trilogy that defines it’s sub-genre as some of the best in cinematic history. Never, has a character study been done to such a degree of complexity and subtlety. In Before Sunrise we meet fresh faced Celine and Jesse and we “ooh” and we “awe” as they rapidly fall for each other during a romantic night in Vienna and then watch as they tentatively part ways. In Before Sunset we see as ten years later they run into each other again, a little less naïve but just as spirited and are left with one of the best executed ambiguous endings as the line “Baby, you’re going to miss your plane” followed by “I know” are muttered. By Before Midnight I cannot name another fictional movie couple that I’ve ever had nearly as much investment in so to see these two characters tear at one another is unsettling. Fans of the films feel as if we’ve grown with the characters so to watch the nearly half hour long fight scene play out it painful. The script smartly never lends itself to one characters sympathies, rather has us dividing them with each sentence. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have never been better and simply put, it’s a master class on filmmaking and how sometimes, ultimately, less is more.
4. Blue is the Warmest Color (Directed By Abdellatif Kechiche)
This film is complex, it’s beautiful, it’s intimate, it’s heartbreaking and it is so utterly real. It feels as if we’re watching up close (literally at moments due to Abdellatif Kechiche’s style) as a young woman, Adele, discovers herself, loses herself, and then slowly recovers the pieces that are missing. It’s one of the most accurate depictions about how first love can be all consuming, to a detrimental degree. It shows the insecurities of a young woman without making them look vapid, it shows how love and sex are often intertwined, how attraction can stop you dead in your tracks. This is Adèle Exarchopoulos’s film without a shadow of a doubt as she plays Adèle with such excruciating honesty that you can’t help as if you’re peaking in on moments that aren’t ours to see. She’s shows the audience the effects of loneliness and self-doubt as well for the first half being a constant wave of movement, no matter what action she was partaking in. It was a love story to adolescence and the harsh reality of growing up.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis (Directed By the Coen Brothers)
I don’t think there’s a better example this year of a “complete” film then that of the Coen Brother’s recent venture. There’s nothing to question about this film, it simply is. The atmosphere is perfectly crafted: the dreary filter to the hues of brown and gray that Llewyn is constantly cast in help signify the way he sees the world. It’s Llewyn’s odyssey into another man’s fame in its most simplistic forms. The songs are memorable, Oscar Isaac gives a star turning performance. Becoming the character to such a degree that it’s easy to forget that he’s acting at all. Isaac manages the trick of being a step ahead of his character, knowing his wants and motives way before the audience has caught on. John Goodman and Carey Mulligan give hilarious supporting performances. This film easily could have been my number one (and I may regret its third tier placing soon), it’s storybook narrative and it’s wealth of tone helps catapult this film into one of the most memorable of the year.
2. The Worlds End (Directed By Edgar Wright)
Undoubtedly my personal favorite of the year and the one that will endure the most re-watches. We the third installment of the unofficial “Cornetto Trilogy” Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have delivered their best outing yet. The Worlds End is a Trojan horse of a movie: it dresses itself up as funny, buddy comedy about drinking and debauchery and alien invasions and then right and final third mark it hits you over the head with an emotional wallop. Gary King is possibly my favorite character this year for the amount of nuance he has. He’s irritating but lonely, shallow but broken, lively and unruly but in the end tragic. He’s a victim of nostalgia and alcoholism and it’s that revelation that brings to life what a wonderful film Wright and co. have created. Wright has a confidence now in his stylistic choices and it shows as one fight scene to one exposition scene fit seamlessly together, or how the choreography of each fight scene emulates an elaborate dance where each character has his or her own partner. The acting is top notch with Simon Pegg giving the performance of his career as well of the best performances period of the year and Nick Frost shows us all once again that he’s full of surprises. This film is about growing old and looking back and in the end, deciding how to move forward in life-it just so happens it can make us laugh too.
1. 12 Years a Slave (Directed By Steve McQueen)
This is exemplary filmmaking at its finest, where all of the pieces and cogs have come together to make a finely tuned working machine. Its film that reels you in, puts you through the ringer, and spits you out leaving you dazed and disoriented, but for the better. The entire cast is stellar from the leads to the brief cameos, the ensemble works together effortlessly. The story is heart wrenching, it’s difficult to sit through but it’s what film is supposed to be about. Watching 12 Years a Slave was a visceral experience; time stood still, I didn’t search for snacks, subtly check the time, or look around the theater, my eyes were glued to the screen as each and every minute passed. The film’s importance is inarguable and the beauty is overwhelming with Steve McQueen’s artful eye. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o & Michael Fassbender all turn in awards worthy performances, with Ejiofor finally getting the role his talents deserve. This year was a year about humans and how they fight and this movie shows that no matter how broken a being is, physically, mentally, emotionally, sometimes the only instinct left intact is to take that step, breathe in and out, and hope despite all of it being taken away.