Oh 2013, you so crazy! Yet again we have another year where all the best films were released in the last two months, leaving myself to make a mad dash to see everything I could with as little time as possible. Naturally, a few films fell through the cracks. My biggest regrets for 2013 were missing out on J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, featuring Robert Redford on a boat and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, featuring Bruce Dern on land, these are how I categorize films. Aside from that I liked a lot of what I saw and look forward to sharing my picks with all our Spambot fans.
Honorable Mention (So many!)
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyer’s Club
The World’s End
Last year’s winner for Best Actor (Mads Mikkelsen) at Cannes and the Danish submission for Best Foreign Langauge Film at the upcoming 86th Academy Awards, The Hunt is electrifying. Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a kindhearted employee at kindergarten. Struggling to get his life back together after a messy divorce, Lucas is tested when he is accused of exposing himself (aka pullin’ a Michael Jackson) to a little girl. The thrill of The Hunt is in Mad’s Mikkelsen’s heart breaking portrayal of a man who has been ostracized by everyone he knows. The Hunt tackles some uncomfortable material with stirring boldness. The Hunt is on!
Free Willy ain’t got nuthin’ on this. Blackfish is a prime example of how films can change the world. I had no idea that such cruelty against animals and disregard for animal trainers had been going on for public display. What’s remarkable is the effect this controversy has had on SeaWorld since being brought to the mainstream. Events and Artists have cancelled dates and appearances at the water park and protests seem to spring up every week. On top of all that, Blackfish excellently capturing the hardships of some of the most majestic creatures around today. Even more majestic than Ecco the Dolphin.
I may not care much for Gravity’s floaty emotional arch but damn, what an eye-popping treat for the eyes. Special effects have never been used more creatively or convincingly than in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Gravity is one of the most thrilling moviegoing experiences I can recall. The concept alone may forever scare off aspiring astronauts from space travel. I guess you could say Cuaron really “Shot for the stars?”
One of the funniest films of the year is unfortunately one of the longest (your move Judd Apatow). Much in the vein of Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street is a tale of excess and greed with Scorsese’s trademark snarky humor on an epic crime-drama scale. Leonardo DiCaprio is oozing with sleazy charisma in his best performance to date. My only problem is the film’s unruly length. Wolf of Wall Street is close to being a masterpiece, but exhausts the audience with its three-hour runtime. It may be a near miss but when it hits, oh boy, does it hit. The Lemmon Quaalude scene? Best. Drug Scene. Ever.
Winner of “Best Documentary” at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival, The Crash Reel is extreme sport’s answer to the documentary Head Games. The Crash Reel is the story of snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who was Shaun White’s biggest rival until a tragic 2009 accident left him with permanent brain damage. The film follows Pearce’s journey to recovery and the young snowboarder’s coming to terms with his disability. Additionally, the film explores the dangers of other extreme sports and the injuries they have caused. The Crash Reel will make your heart do a 360… Which may kill you.
This gripping bio-drama was the darling of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, yet as we enter award’s season i’s been swept aside for bigger prestige pictures. Many believe it’s because of the film’s controversial depiction of police brutality, which is ridiculous considering it’s all true. The film depicts the last day of Oscar Grant’s life before he was accidentally killed by an aggressive BART police officer. Grant is depicted as a struggling ex-con, gunned down in the midst of trying to turn his life around. Michael B. Jordan plays Grant with touching sincerity in a film that simply depicts people trying to make it in a difficult world. Beautiful.
If you’re an artsy, twenty something trying to make a living as some kind of artist (aka you never want to make any money) you can relate to this film. Greta Gerwig charms the pants off audiences as ditzy dreamer Frances in one of director Noah Baumbach’s best films. I loved the humor, the stylized black and white, and the music. What a charming surprise. “Modern Love! Modern Love!”
Easily my biggest surprise of 2013. The trailers looked generic, the performances looked flat, another by-the-numbers throw away thriller. Then the reviews came in, and they weren’t just good, they were glowing. Next thing you know I’ve just witnessed the most suspenseful mystery-thriller film since Zodiac, which coincidentally also starred Jake Gyllenhaal. Following a grieving father (Hugh Jackman) and a dedicated cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) after a mysterious child kidnapping, Prisoners takes twists and turns so intense it’ll make you puke. But damn, puking has never felt so good.
The perfect love story for the 21st century, Her feels of its era, which is amazing considering it takes place in the future. The sci-fi elements of Her would make any classic sci-fi novelist proud with its powerful themes of discovering one’s humanity even in a digital age. Even stronger is the relationship between Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore and Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha. I laughed, I cried, I lived.
You never know what you’re going to get when a new Coen brother’s film is released. Something funny? Something sad? Something funny and sad? Inside Llewyn Davis captures all of the above with colorful characters and an immersive atmosphere. Though I think it’s what the Coen brothers don’t tell the viewer that gives the film such staying power. “What does this mean? What does that mean?”. The answers aren’t important, it’s what the viewer decides to take away from the questions. Inside Llewyn Davis is the Coen brothers at their best.