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January 15, 2014

11

Top 10 Films of 2013

by Franz Patrick


Below are my choices for the Top 10 Films of 2013. It must be noted that the list may change slightly if I happen to come across great movies I had missed prior to this post. The same rule applies to all of my annual Top 10 Lists. In other words, my lists are updated continually. My hope is to provide alternative movies that are absolutely worth seeing that may not or will not necessarily appear on “Top Critics” picks. Underneath each picture is an excerpt from my review which can be found in the archive with the exception of Vinterberg, Linklater, and Franklin’s works in which the entire reviews will be posted within two weeks. In the meantime, dive in and, as always, feel welcome to let me know what you think.



American Hustle
David O. Russell

“…its overarching theme: desperate individuals who will do just about anything to procure better lives. It is irrelevant whether the word “better” is defined by money, celebrity, love, or improving the community. It is about a person who embodies a dominant motivation and how he or she clashes and struggles, forming partnerships—tenuous and durable—along the way if necessary, to get to an endpoint. The whole dance is ruckus fun…”



Yossi
Eytan Fox

“…it is about a grieving person but the material commands a quiet dignity throughout. A typical dramatic climax in which a character breaks down and causes a scene while expressing deep-seated rage and a well of regret is absent. Instead, it focuses on Yossi’s attempts in covering up what it is clearly there and a slow but reluctant reincarnation of a walking dead, a man who is enslaved by his identity rather than he taking ownership of it and living…”



Kokuriko-zaka kara
[From Up on Poppy Hill]
Goro Miyazaki

“…I see a lot of movies every year but only about a dozen—maybe less in some years—are able to move me in such a way that they force me to think about how I am living, to ask questions like if I am okay, and whether I like where my life is going. It is a shame that many people prefer to see overt enchantment, especially when it comes to animated movies, rather than experiencing and striving to find the magic in the unexpected.”



Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón

“…My favorite scene involves Dr. Stone howling and barking like a dog. A lesser performer who does not completely understand the character might have refused to perform the scene. After all, it probably looks stupid on paper or it might look plain silly on screen. I loved that Bullock did it and committed to it completely. To me, it is the character’s defining moment—forget the sad revelation about her past, how much she values her solitude, and how no one is waiting for her at home. Give us an alternative to convey a character’s mindset—something fresh we can chew on…”



Before Midnight
Richard Linklater

“…An extensive fluid shot of [Jesse and Celine] strolling around a breathtaking European city while philosophizing, jesting, and yearning are gone. Instead, the picture is divided into five pieces: the airport, the ride to the market, the early dinner with their host and some friends, the walk to the hotel, and the big fight. Each scene builds on top of one another, the whole day of trial culminating in the last five minutes. When the camera begins to pull away from the couple, I knew it would not happen but I wished anyway that it would stay—even for only a minute more…”



Jagten
[The Hunt]
Thomas Vinterberg

“…If this film had been a lesser screenplay, the story would have revolved around the issue of whether or not the main character had touched the little girl. By providing us enough evidence that Lucas is likely to be innocent, the material has more time to focus on a more important issue: the way a community responds to an accusation and how word-of-mouth twists, bends, and distorts reality…”



Bless Me, Ultima
Carl Franklin

“…The film is not about religion even though the central character is a Catholic. It is about spirituality and the story weaves in coincidences, faith, and mysticism to create a fabric of childhood memories that is magical and vibrant. And with my experiences, having been raised in a Catholic household and environment, I found that a lot of the feelings—the fears, the curiosities, the questions—ring true. I still have my memory of a curandera coming to visit my grandmother’s house, the area rural at the time—over summer vacation to help rid someone of an evil spirit…”



Mud
Jeff Nichols

“…it is about the main character’s loss of innocence. Before meeting and getting to know Mud, Ellis has a very clear idea of what love is: staying together no matter what. Observe very closely how he handles the news of his parents’ highly likely separation. Compare that to a scene late in the picture which involves a conversation between a father and his son. Sometimes love is letting go…”



Antiviral
Brandon Cronenberg

“…[coruscating] with originality so vivid that although its images and concepts are downright disturbing, I found myself unable to stop staring at it. It is science fiction on the surface, horrific just underneath, and darkly comic in its core. It is a most relevant satire of our celebrity-obsessed culture. Here, ‘following’ one’s favorite stars on Twitter or Instagram is not enough to quench the thirst. No, fans must feel a connection—a molecular connection—by housing viruses their idols have or had…”



The Spectacular Now
James Ponsoldt

“…Some scenes are so authentic, I could not help but notice the actors not wearing any makeup at all. Somehow, that made me feel closer to the picture and I suspect others are likely to feel the same. It has been only a year since Stephen Chbosky’s wonderful ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ so I did not expect to encounter such a fresh voice about young adults so soon. It is a most wonderful surprise.”

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. GaryLee828
    Jan 15 2014

    I like “The Hunt”, “The Spectacular Now” and “Gravity” a lot. I liked “Mud” but honestly think it’s a little overrated. It just isn’t as interesting to me as it was to others. I mean it’s good, but just not great. I thought “Take Shelter” was much better. I may have to check out “Antiviral”.

    Reply
    • Jan 15 2014

      “Take Shelter” is a very good movie but I felt like I liked it a whole lot more because of the acting rather than the story (though that aspect of the picture is still interesting). With “Mud,” I feel like it’s more well-rounded. I cared about what would happen to all of the characters and the arc is more laid back/less noticeable. It’s a subtler film.

      Definitely check out “Antiviral.” While it did not go as deeply as I would have liked given a wonderful premise, it gets extra points for being one of the boldest and most original movies of 2013.

      Reply
      • GaryLee828
        Jan 15 2014

        Okay, I will see if I can find it; if you don’t hear me mention it at some point in the near future, remind me if you think about it.

        Reply
  2. Jan 15 2014

    Interesting! I haven’t heard of a lot of these, but I think i’ll try to check out The Hunt & From Up On Poppy Hill! Nice to see you have Before Midnight on there. I was really impressed by the film, hoping to the 2 previous films soon. I am surprised to not see 12 Years A Slave on there, but I can understand why Her (as you mentioned before somewhere haha). Nice list man!

    Reply
    • Feb 2 2014

      I like that you started with “Before Midnight.” That’s sort of like me–only I started with “Before Sunset” back in 2005… which sounds about right because I was in high school then. I didn’t know there was a prequel at the time so when I finally saw “Before Sunrise,” it made the whole thing extra special. You have great movies to look forward to.

      I cannot recommend “From Up on Poppy Hill” enough. I’d love to know what you’ll think of that and “The Hunt.” Just give me a heads up when or if you make a post.

      “12 Years a Slave” is about 12th or 13th on my list. It’s so tough because I know that that is a great movie. But I really felt compelled to include lesser-known titles on my list. Maybe I should start making an “Grand Jury Prize” or something after posting my Top 10. There’s an idea!

      Reply
      • Feb 2 2014

        Ahhh that’s interesting. Well that is good to hear! Yes i’ll let you know if I do write one up, as I saw on twitter, you’ve also been drowning with school work. I saw The Hunt is on netflix though so I’ll at least watch it :D

        Yeah I noticed that and was meaning to ask you how are you able to watch these lesser known films? I was guessing you watched them online or a local theater? For me the only way I could imagine watching the lesser known films is driving over to Berkeley.

        haha there you go!

        Reply
  3. Jan 17 2014

    Brilliant list! I particularly dig the inclusion of Yossi, a nice little picture with real heart and soul. Great job.

    Reply
    • Feb 2 2014

      “Yossi” just broke my heart and then some. I knew when I saw it during the first half of 2013 that it will absolutely be on my Top 10… I just didn’t know it was going to be that high. I was very torn between placing “Yossi” as #1 or #2. I thought it was just that good.

      Reply
  4. Jan 19 2014

    Franz,

    I’m sorry that it took me a while to write a response, and that I haven’t been commenting much in recent months. As you know, I always look forward to your list.

    Immediately, I must say the movie I was most happy to see on your list was “From Up on Poppy Hill”. It’s a wonderful movie, and romantic in the best sense. You’re right that people tend to expect and demand too little from animated movies. “Poppy” is rare, and I wish more people would see it.

    “Mud” was very, very close to making my top ten. While I think I’d prefer “Take Shelter” in a head-to-head match-up, “Mud” is great, too. I have a weak spot for movies that engage seriously with the perspectives and feelings of young people, and this movie is a great example of how to do it right. McConaughey is pretty much invincible these days, but the real standout to me was Tye Sheridan. He had to carry much of the film, since our understanding of Mud was filtered through his romantic idealism.

    Naturally, I was delighted to see your inclusion of “Before Midnight” and “The Spectacular Now”, as they were my #2 and #3, respectively. I am in awe of what Linklater/Delpy/Hawke have done with the Before series, which feels both so cinematic and so completely “true”, perfecting the use of body language, callbacks and unforced, naturalistic acting and dialogue to tell so much about these characters.

    As you could see from my Mubi ranking, I really liked “The Hunt”. The Danes are excellent at this kind of melodrama (think several of Susanne Bier’s movies), and I don’t use “melodrama” as an epithet. However, it was something of an “in the moment” gut-punch experience for me, whose emotional effect has faded somewhat over time. I know I liked it, but I had to remind myself to make sure it didn’t slip too far down my best-of list. If I was to quibble with anything, I’m not sure if I entirely bought the way the leader of the child care center handled the accusations when she confronted Lukas. She could have asked more questions instead of jumping to conclusions. But, of course, that would have made for a very short and very boring movie.

    With the benefit of a few months’ hindsight, I’d say Gravity is a film I”admire” more than “love”. The opening scene is fantastic, and Cuaron really captures the existential anxiety of being lost in space, but some of the writing took me out of the movie. That said, I can’t complain. I want Hollywood studios to take a chance on more risky projects like this one.

    Reply
    • Feb 2 2014

      Jørgen,

      There’s never a need to apologize for not commenting. I understand we all have things going on outside the internet and sometimes life can get pretty crazy. I appreciate you reading!

      I’m glad we agree on “From Up on Poppy Hill.” I think out of all the movies on this list, it is the one that I’d love for people to check out. It may seem like any ol’ animated movie (hand-drawn at that!) but I really am convinced that it’s something special. I thought I was in for something fun but what I got out of it was something more rewarding.

      You know, I actually prefer for McConaughey to be nominated as Best Actor for “Mud” than “Dallas Buyers Club.” But—what the heck—both are good performances. I don’t think he should win (he might, I guess) but he does deserve recognition for a good year. As for Tye Sheridan, you’re right—he had to actually act real emotions and thoughts to make the character meaningful instead of just being a kid and trying to look cute. I think Jacob Lofland is as good (and actually stronger in some scenes) as Neckbone. I love that name. Haha.

      I liked that you pointed out the woman in charge of the school. In my review of “The Hunt,” I pointed her out as being one of the more compelling characters to watch. I loved that she didn’t quite handle things the way she should have. For me, her mistakes could’ve been made by a whole lot of people and I think that’s a part of the package, the way the community responded to the allegations. I felt bad for her at times and yet, I must admit, there were times when I wanted to strangle her. lol

      I think we responded differently when it comes to “Gravity.” I was just… in awe pretty much the whole time. I’m crossing my fingers come Oscar night. I want to see the clip of her howling. That was such a random thing to have happened in the movie and yet I thought right then and there that it was perfect. Blanchett was really good in “Blue Jasmine” but I don’t think Bullock taking it is impossible.

      Reply

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