2013 was an intoxicating year in film. Filmmakers as diverse as Woody Allen, Steve McQueen, Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze and the Coen Brothers all releasing some of the best films of the year, and in some cases, the best of their careers. Admittedly, my list is limited to mostly films made in the U.S., not because I believe America has a hook on making the best movies, it is due more to my location, timing and release patterns.
My top ten list is actually a top five list. I have been wrestling back and forth, attempting to decide, in what order the remaining films would fall. Subsequently, since I did not want this post to be published in July, I just added them to my Honorable Mentions all which are in alphabecial order.
N0. 1 INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS – Coen Brothers
One of The Coen Brothers best who are spot on in recreating the early 60’s, pre-Dylan, folk scene in Greenwich Village. The lead character is an asshole but Oscar Issac’s performance still makes you care for him. Hell bent on keeping his artistic integrity intact, he comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Musically, Lleywn is stuck between being true to his soul or producing crass lightweight, Kingston Trio, type folk music like the film’s, “Please Mr. Kennedy.” This being the Coen Brothers the humor ranges on the absurdist side of the street. I know some will disagree but this might just be the Coen’s best film since FARGO.
No. 2 NEBRASKA – Alexander Payne
An idiosyncratic yet poignant script along with superb understated performances by Bruce Dean, Will Forte and June Squibb. Dern’s Woody, on the road to Alzheimer, fits right in alongside Alexander Payne’s other little, almost forgotten characters in the American landscape. Woody’s overnight stay at a relative’s home is both revealing and reflective of family relationships many of us just might recognize. Beautifully shot in black and white..
No. 3 WOLF OF WALL STREET – Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese’s wild hilarious ride on the excesses of money, sex, power and greed in the white collar world of Wall Street. As Jordan Belfort, who left a trial of victims in his path, Leonardo DiCaprio is superb letting it all hang out in a ferocious performance.
No. 4 12 YEARS A SLAVE – Steve McQueen
The film is a bit like sledge hammer continuously pounding it into you that slavery is a bad thing, as if we already do not know this. I found it more interesting as a powerful statement on man’s will to survive with his dignity intact under the most horrendous of circumstances. Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb in this true story of Solomon Northrup, a free Black man sold into slavery. Kudos also to Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbinder.
No. 5 AMERICAN HUSTLE – David O’Russell
Filled with, con artists, gangsters, FBI, politicians, and disgruntled women all tossed into the pot in David O. Russell’s twisted plot turning, ambitious tribute to the underside of the American dream. It’s giddy and wild with a wicked smile on its face. Jennifer Lawrence’s tops a quartet of fabulous performances.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (John Wells)
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)
BLACKFISH (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
BLUE JASMINE (Woody Allen)
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Paul Greengrass)
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Jean-Marc Vallee)
ENOUGH SAID (Nicole Holofcener)
FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)
FRUITVALE STATION (Ryan Coogler)
GRAVTY (Alfonso Curon)
HER (Spike Jonze)
MUD (Jeff Nichols)
PHILOMENA (Stephen Frears)
RENOIR (Gilles Bourdos)
SIDE EFFECTS (Steven Soderbergh)
THE BUTLER (Lee Daniels)
THE CONJURING (James Wan)
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Derek Cianfrance)