Top 15 Films of 2013

Leviathan_01I know, we’re almost a quarter of the way into 2014, but hey, better late than never, right? Follow the jump to see the films I thought were the best of 2013, in alphabetical order of course. Also, feel free to either agree or disagree with my picks in the comments. What were your favorites of 2013?

The Act of Killing
(Dirs. Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, Christine Cynn)

Act_of_killing_03Rarely is cruelty – true cruelty – examined in such a fantastical, absurd, scary, disturbing, funny and real way. Come to think of it, not since Barbet Schroeder‘s timeless 1974 documentary, General Idi Amin Dada have I felt so haunted and engrossed in watching a sociopath.

All Cheerleaders Die
(Dirs. Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson)

all-cheerleaders-die-2Easily the best popcorn film you haven’t seen. This is a smartly comedic/horror spoof on teen movies and a rather unique take on the lesser spoofed-on subgenre of what I call switcharoo films, in where one character’s body is switched with another’s. A lot of the enjoyment I got from this movie came from not knowing what was going to happen. Even at times where outcomes seemed predictable, it wasn’t. Demand this film be shown in your area right now! You’ll thank me later.

The Battery
(Dir. Jeremy Gardner)

thebattery2Best horror movie of the year – easily.

Best zombie movie of the 21st Century – you bet ya. (Pontypool (2008) and REC (2007) a close second and third).

Best baseball movie in where baseball is actually never seen being played? Unless I dozed off during the scene in Moneyball where Brad Pitt masturbates to a drooling zombie, I’d say Hell yeah!

The Counselor
(Dir. Ridley Scott)

Javier Bardem Cameron DiazThis is not your average crime-thriller. Not even close. It’s script is unconventional to say the least. And yes, it is a wordy opaque film made up of oddly constructed scenes, but at the same time that’s what makes it so God damn brilliant. Well that and the sheer pleasure of watching an extraordinary cast just act the shit out of Cormac McCarthy‘s script. If only every book adapted film featured Cameron Diaz having sex with a car.

Europa Report
(Sebastián Cordero)

europa-report-exorcism-in-spaceSorry, Gravity, This is the best space film of 2013. Don’t let the low budget, found footage presentation mislead you into thinking this is just another straight-to-Netflix generic space disaster movie. That would be a mistake, my Earthbound friends. Europa Report does a fantastic job of recalling on the classics e.g., Alien, Solaris, etc., without ever directly copying them. Great pacing, acting and believable scenarios keep this film zigzaging all the way to its rewarding conclusion.

Future My Love
(Dir. Maja Borg)

FUTURE_MY_LOVE_2I do believe I just saw my very first non-fi-sci-fi film, and boy, is my brain exhausted. Part profile on the outside-the-box steadfast ideologies of futurist/genius, Jacque Fresco, and part insightful poetic exploration of one woman’s journey of heart, mind, and soul, this is one movie that is truly life changing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sustainable non-socially offensive environment to think about.

The Grandmaster
(Dir. Kar Wai Wong)

the-grandmasters-img04Kar Wai Wong? More like Kar Wai Wow! If there’s one thing you can rely on from a Kar Wai Wong film, it’s strong crisp aesthetically pleasing visuals, to which The Grandmaster offers throughout its duration. Perhaps I would be more receptive to biopics – my least of all favorite genres – if they were even half as dazzling or layered as this is. Try watching The Ip Man trilogy after watching this. It’s like switching from a brand new Mercedes to a beat up Nova.

Gravity
(Dir. Alfonso Cuarón)

Gravity-Image-2A visceral 3D theatre going experience like no other, even more so if experiences with dolby atmos. The best use of 3D thus far. A-MAZ-ING achievement in both visual effects and cinematography. Now, as for that re watch on DVD…

Her
(Dir. Spike Jonze)

MV5BMTYxMTEwODk5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkwNjM3MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Not since HAL has an operating system succeeded in having such an impact on me. The magic of this movie is how every aspect seems so normal and believable; the setting, the characters, the technological advancements, the social structures. Come on Spike, just admit it already. You have a time machine, don’t you? Don’t you?

Leviathan
(Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel)

Leviathan_01Get your sea-legs in order before entering this film; they will be tested. Like having just finished swishing about the uncharted twists and turns of the grandest of theme park’s water slides, this engagingly hypnotic out-to-sea surveillance ride had me screaming, “again! again!”

The Place Beyond the Pines
(Dir. Derek Cianfrance)

place-beyond-the-pinesThis is every bit as ambitious as the crisscrossing characters and see-sawing timeline jumps found in the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores PerrosBabel21 Grams), yet unlike those films, Cianfrance takes a refreshing more linear approach to the story. As long as this director continues to work with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Hunger, Shame) and/or incorporate more dogs dancing to Bruce Sprinsteen songs, I’ll always be the first in line for whatever he puts out next.

Prince Avalanche
(Dir. David Gordon Green)

Prince_Avalanche_01A quite comedy of brobastic proportions set in the 1980s.

I like to think of this film as the unofficial reimagining of Super Mario Brothers only without any bad guys, explosions, or princesses. There is a prince, however… sort of. Actually other than the costume design this film has nothing to do with Mario Brothers. But what it is is an actual stylistic throwback to the earlier films of David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls), only this time out there’s a whole lot more humor to be had.

Spring Breakers
(Dir. Harmony Korine)

spring-breakers-james-franco-copyOh yeah, this is why I go to the movies; to feel heartily entertained. This is a Harmony Korine picture that once again lives up to his fastly growing reputation as a provocateur extraordinaire. An advert for Florida beach getaways, this is not. Through exploitive plotting and beautiful cinematography this is is more like being exposed to the true ugliness and exploitative nature of what Spring Break actually feels like, as well as the exposure of some other things as well. Yes, this film is icky, but in all the right places. Spring Break forever, bitches!

Stories We Tell
(Dir. Sarah Polley)

Stories_we_tell_03How many times have you seen or heard the words “Life Affirming” to describe a movie? At the risk of sounding cliché, Stories We Tell is not only life affirming, it’s thorough storytelling as well. Presented through real archival footage, as well as super8 reenactments, Polley’s plot twisting brave and candid truth-is-way-more-interesting-than-fiction story is the stuff most other so-called tell all documentaries wish they had the balls to present.

To the Wonder
(Dir. Terrence Malick)

To-The-Wonder-pic-3-628x356Finally, a definitive film essay on all the simplicities and difficulties associated with the word love. Poetic, powerful, and best of all, wonderous.

Honorable Mentions:

12 Years a Slave (Dir. Steve McQueen)
Before Midnight (Dir. Richard Linklater)
Elena (Dir. Petra Costa)
Funeral Kings (Dirs. Kevin McManus, Matthew McManus)
The Hunt (Dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Dirs. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
Interior. Leather Bar (Dirs. James Franco, Travis Mathews)
Only God Forgives (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
Soul (Dir. Mong-Hong Chung)
Stoker (Dir. Chan-wook Park)

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Categories: Best Of Lists, Features

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