By Benjamin Lane
Happy New Year, everyone! 2014 is looking to be a pretty good year for movies, although it’s nothing compared to what 2015 has in store, but regardless, it’s time to count down my ten favorite movies of 2013. Keep this in mind though as you read my list: I didn’t see every film released in 2013. I am not a licensed critic, so I only saw the movies my theater got, so, unfortunately, you will not see movies such as The World’s End, Nebraska, Philomena, Lone Survivor, 12 Years A Slave, or Her among others on this list. I will see them, and when I do, they may be some of my ten favorites of the year, but this is a list of the ten best of the year that I saw in the year. So, without further ado, let’s kick things off with a few honorable mentions. Movies that I feel this list would be incomplete unless they are mentioned.
RUSH – Ron Howard showcases his extreme talent in Rush, a movie about Formula 1 racing that has barely any racing in it at all. This is a character study, driven by two award worthy performances from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl. This is top tier sports film making.
THE CONJURING – I have to mention The Conjuring, not only because it came the closest of all these to actually making my list, but because it was the only horror movie this year to actually scare me. James Wan is one of the finest horror directors working today. This one really gets deep under your skin.
DON JON – I am writing this list on New Years Day. Don Jon released on blu ray yesterday, I bought it yesterday, and watched it for the second time since theaters. With that, I can’t tell you how much it pains me to leave it off my list. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s potential as a filmmaker is showcased with this raunchy yet sweetly ending little gem. I loved it.
ELYSIUM – Sure, District 9 was better, but who cares? This was a full throttle action ride that barely ever let up. I still remember my blood pumping from sitting through Elysium.
FROZEN – I really, really, really, really wanted Frozen in my top 10. I think it’s the best original Disney animated film since maybe The Lion King. It’s that good.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG – This was it. This was what I wanted An Unexpected Journey to be. It knew what it was, it started off strong, and never slowed down. And how about that dragon? My God, that dragon.
THE TOP 10
(The Pop Spot)
11.) THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS
I call this the pop spot, because this is the film(s) that didn’t quite make the list, but is much better than being an honorable mention. I knew that this would be a tie. Both of these films did exactly what they set out to do, and they were equally fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence shines once again as Katniss under Francis Lawrence’s direction in Catching Fire, and in the opposite film J.J. Abrams’ typical visual flare shines once again with a stellar Benedict Cumberbatch. These are certainly two of the best movies of the year.
10. THIS IS THE END
The best straight up “comedy” of the year for sure, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg make their directorial debut with This Is The End, and it wasn’t a problem for me to put it on my list. Hysterical, offensive, vulgar, edgy, but never mean spirited, I side with Richard Roeper that this is one of the best comedies of the 21st century.
9. SIDE EFFECTS
I still think Rooney Mara should get an Oscar nomination for her role in Side Effects. She got one for Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo. Why not here? She’s terrific. Steven Soderbergh, one of the best directors out there, announced this will be his final film. If it’s true, it’s sad. But he went out with a bang.
To call Gravity a masterpiece is a bit of an understatement. This movie marks a new era in film making. This is one of the best directed movies I’ve ever seen. Expect a Best Director win for Alfonso Cuaron. Also Sandra Bullock for Best Leading Actress. She’s dynamite. Forget the script problems. This is a massive cinematic spectacle.
7. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
Paul Greengrass is a master at bringing real life tragedies to scarily realistic cinema feats. It’s happened again with Captain Phillips, certainly one of the year’s best films. Greengrass films with claustrophobic elegance that drops you right into the situation. But it’s not all Greengrass’ show. Tom Hanks gives a great performance, even for him, and the last few minutes showcases what may be the best bit of acting he has ever done. Oh, and let’s not forget newcomer Barkhad Abdi. Give that guy an Oscar nod as well.
6. THE SPECTACULAR NOW
People need to stop forgetting about this movie. I’ve read many lists and so few of them feature this one. I loved it. Literally. Every minute of this movie had me sold. James Ponsoldt pulls great performances out of Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who I still think should get an Oscar nomination. She was terrific. Too bad the Academy won’t recognize this beautiful film.
5. AMERICAN HUSTLE
It’s talky, wacky, zany, and tremendous fun. It’s David O. Russell working at his best. The director of Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter combines the casts of Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter as Oscar candidates Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence are joined by the likes of Jeremy Renner, Louis CK, and even Robert DeNiro! This is an excellent period piece that is pitch perfect.
4. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
Talk about a movie. If you haven’t seen The Place Beyond The Pines, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it. I will just say this is a movie that hasn’t escaped my mind since I’ve seen it. It sticks. Ryan Gosling gives a dynamite performance, Bradley Cooper does terrific work, and Dane Dehaan further proves his potential as a good actor. This is a towering achievement in film making.
3. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Martin Scorsese proves he can get away with almost anything. Some Academy members heckled him and Leonardo DiCaprio at their screening. Oh well. Proves the film is great. This is maybe the most controversial, edgy, and polarizing film Scorsese has ever done. It’s also the funniest. It’s maybe the best time at the theater I’ve had all year.
You thought I had forgotten! Not a chance. I saw Mud early in the year and when I did I knew it would be on this list. This seems to be the one no one saw so no one mentions. Matthew McConaughey is electric as the title character, who becomes involved with two young boys who find him hiding on an island. This is a new classic, one that will live on for years and years to come. It’s like a new Stand By Me. Something of a modernized Mark Twain novel. It’s a coming of age story that actually works. Writer/director Jeff Nichols proves with this, Shotgun Stories, and Take Shelter that he is a force to be reckoned with.
This is the one. I’m sorry if you don’t agree with me, but this is my list. I adore everything about Prisoners. It wasn’t easy to sit through, at all, but it was a movie that when I left the theater I sort of started seeing the world a different way. I looked at people differently. I starting worrying about where my kids were and I don’t even have kids! This is a child abduction movie that gets it all right. Top notch performances are in full effect here. Terrance Howard and Viola Davis are stunning. Paul Dano is effectively creepy and Melissa Leo nails her shockingly important role. If Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman do not get recognized at the Oscars, it will reaffirm that I was right in losing hope in the Academy. Denis Villeneuve, the director, nails every shot. Perfect framing and angling. My favorite cinematographer Roger Deakins shoots the film with such depressing color tones it’s gorgeous. This is indeed the best film I’ve seen all year and I wish more critics would recognize it as such.
Thanks everyone for taking your time to read my list! I spend a good deal of time putting this together and I would really appreciate feedback, whether it be positive or negative. Comment below and tell me your favorites! Thanks again, and let’s get ready for another great year in 2014!